1. Declare mucormycosis an epidemic: Centre to States
It will lead to all such cases being reported to the govt.
The Union government has asked the States to declare mucormycosis, the fungal infection being reported in COVID-19 patients, an epidemic.
In a letter to the States, Health and Family Welfare Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said declaring the black fungus infection seen in COVID-19 patients an epidemic would lead to health facilities screening for it and reporting all such cases to the government.
“A new challenge in the form of a fungal infection, namely mucormycosis, has emerged and is reported from many States amongst COVID-19 patients, especially those on steroid therapy and deranged sugar control. This infection is leading to prolonged morbidity and mortality amongst COVID-19 patients,” he stated.
Rajasthan, Telangana and Tamil Nadu have declared it an epidemic. Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said black fungus had claimed 90 lives in the State so far. Eight people had died of the infection in Haryana, which has reported 316 cases. Rajasthan has 100 patients, while Tamil Nadu has reported nine cases.
Mucormycosis Fungal Infection
- Mucormycosis is also called Black Fungus or Zygomycosis and is a serious but rare fungal infection caused by a group of molds called mucormycetes.
- Types of Mucormycosis:
- Rhinocerebral (Sinus and Brain) Mucormycosis: It is an infection in the sinuses that can spread to the brain. It is the most common in people with uncontrolled diabetes and in people who have had a kidney transplant.
- Pulmonary (Lung) Mucormycosis: It is the most common type of mucormycosis in people with cancer and in people who have had an organ transplant or a stem cell transplant.
- Gastrointestinal Mucormycosis: It is more common among young children than adults, especially premature and low birth weight infants less than 1 month of age, who have had antibiotics, surgery, or medications that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness.
- Cutaneous (Skin) Mucormycosis: It occurs after the fungi enter the body through a break in the skin (for example, after surgery, a burn, or other types of skin trauma). It is most common among people who do not have weakened immune systems.
- Disseminated Mucormycosis: It occurs when the infection spreads through the bloodstream to affect another part of the body. The infection most commonly affects the brain, but also can affect other organs such as the spleen, heart, and skin.
- It occurs through inhalation, inoculation, or ingestion of spores from the environment.
- For example, the lung or sinus forms of the infection can occur after someone inhales the spores from the air.
- Mucormycosis does not spread between people or between people and animals.
- It usually occurs in people who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness.
- It occurs through inhalation, inoculation, or ingestion of spores from the environment.
- General symptoms are one-sided facial swelling and numbness, headache, nasal or sinus congestion, black lesions on nasal bridge or upper inside of the mouth, fever, abdominal pain, nausea and gastrointestinal bleeding.
- Disseminated mucormycosis typically occurs in people who are already sick from other medical conditions, so it can be difficult to know which symptoms are related to mucormycosis. Patients with disseminated infection in the brain can develop mental status changes or coma.
- Diagnosis and Testing:
- Healthcare providers consider medical history, symptoms, physical examinations, and laboratory tests when diagnosing mucormycosis.
- If suspected of the infection, healthcare providers collect a sample of fluid from the respiratory system or may perform a tissue biopsy.
- In tissue biopsy, a small sample of affected tissue is analysed in a laboratory for evidence of mucormycosis under a microscope or in a fungal culture.
- It needs to be treated with prescription antifungal medicine to prevent mucormycosis and other mold infections.
- Often, mucormycosis requires surgery to cut away the infected tissue.
- Prevention and Cure:
- There is no vaccine to prevent mucormycosis and it is difficult to avoid breathing in fungal spores because the fungi are common in the environment.
- For people who have weakened immune systems, there may be some ways to lower the chances of developing mucormycosis.
- These include avoiding areas with a lot of dust like construction or excavation sites, avoiding direct contact with water-damaged buildings and flood water after hurricanes and natural disasters and avoiding activities that involve close contact to soil.
- Early detection can prevent loss of eyesight, nose or jaw through clinical intervention.
|Mucormycetes Mucormycetes, the group of fungi that cause mucormycosis, are present throughout the environment, particularly in soil and in association with decaying organic matter, such as leaves, compost piles, and animal dung.Several different types of fungi can cause mucormycosis and belong to the scientific order Mucorales.The most common types that cause mucormycosis are Rhizopus species and Mucor species.They are more common in soil than in air, and in summer and fall than in winter or spring.These fungi are not harmful to most people but for people who have weakened immune systems, breathing in micromycetes spores can cause an infection.|
2. China completes Tibet highway
It enables greater access to remote areas along disputed border with Arunachal Pradesh
China has completed the construction of a strategically significant highway through the world’s deepest canyon in Tibet along the Brahmaputra river, enabling greater access to remote areas along the disputed border with Arunachal Pradesh in India.
The highway, official media in China reported this week, took seven years to complete and passes through the Grand Canyon of the Yarlung Zangbo river, as the Brahmaputra is called in Tibet. This is the “second significant passageway” to Medog county that borders Arunachal, the official Xinhua news agency reported, directly connecting the Pad township in Nyingchi to Baibung in Medog county.
The highway will reduce the distance between Nyingchi city and Medog from 346 km to 180 km and will cut the travel time by eight hours.
The project, undertaken by the China Huaneng Group, required an estimated investment of over 2 billion yuan (around $310 million), Xinhua reported.
The construction, which began in 2014, is part of a wider infrastructure push in border areas in Tibet. In November, China began work on a strategically important railway line — its second major rail link to Tibet after the Qinghai-Tibet railway that opened in 2006 — that will link Sichuan province with Nyingchi.
That project was considered important enough for President Xi Jinping to officially launch it, as he called it “a major step in safeguarding national unity and a significant move in promoting economic and social development of the western region”.
Zhu Weiqun, a senior Party official formerly in charge of Tibet policy, was quoted as saying by state media that the railway will help “transport advanced equipment and technologies from the rest of China to Tibet and bring local products out”. He said, “If a scenario of a crisis happens at the border, the railway can act as a ‘fast track’ for the delivery of strategic materials.”
The first segment of the line within the Sichuan province, from Chengdu to Yaan, was completed in December 2018. Work on the 1,011-km section from Yaan to Nyingchi will be finished in 2030.
Another part of the border infrastructure push is the construction of new civilian settlements, along with the expansion of existing smaller hamlets, along border areas, some of which lie in disputed territories claimed by India and Bhutan, to strengthen China’s control over the land.
In 2017, the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) government launched a plan to build “moderately well-off villages” in border areas, under which 628 “first line and second line villages”, referring to those right on the border and others in remote areas slightly further within, would be developed in the prefectures of Ngari, Shigatse, Shannan and Nyingchi, along China’s borders with India, Bhutan and Nepal.
An investment of 30.1 billion yuan (about ₹30,000 crore) was announced for the project, covering 62,160 households and 2.4 lakh people, and includes plans to resettle residents to live in the new settlements.
Last year, satellite images emerged showing a new village called Pangda built 2-3 km into what Bhutan sees as its land. On January 18 this year, another village built 4-5 km into what India sees as its territory in Arunachal was seen via satellite images. Indian officials said this land has been under China’s effective control since 1959 and there were military barracks there earlier.
The civilian settlements, along with the new infrastructure connectivity, are seen as aimed at bolstering China’s control over the areas.
Tibet Uprising of 1959
- From 1912 until the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, no Chinese government exercised control over what is today China’s Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
- Many Tibetans insist they were essentially independent for most of that time and have protested what they regard as China’s rule imposed after the People’s Liberation Army occupied TAR in 1950.
- The Dalai Lama’s government alone ruled the land until 1951. Tibet was not “Chinese” until Mao Zedong’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) marched in and made it so.
- This has often been described by the Tibetan people and third party commentators as “a cultural genocide”.
- The unsuccessful Tibetan Uprising of 1959, in which Tibetans rebelled in an attempt to overthrow the Chinese government, led to the fleeing of the 14th Dalai Lama to India.
- Tibet is a region on the Tibetan Plateau in Asia, spanning about 2.4 million km2 – nearly a quarter of China’s territory.
- It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups.
- Tibet is the highest region on Earth, with an average elevation of 4,900 metres. The highest elevation in Tibet is Mount Everest, Earth’s highest mountain, rising 8,848 m above sea level.
Aftermath of the 1959 Tibetan Uprising
- Since the 1959 Uprising, the central government of China has been steadily tightening its grip on the Tibet.
- In Tibet today, there is no freedom of speech, religion, or press and arbitrary detainments continue.
- Forced abortion, sterilisation of Tibetan women, and the transfer of low-income Chinese citizens threaten the survival of Tibetan culture.
- Although China has invested in infrastructure improvements for the region, particularly in Lhasa itself, it has also encouraged thousands of ethnic Han Chinese to move to Tibet resulting into demographic shift.
- The 14th Dalai Lama, continues to head the Tibetan government-in-exile from McLeod Ganj, a suburb of Dharamsala, India which coordinates political activities for Tibetans in India.
- Dalai Lama advocates increased autonomy for Tibet, rather than full independence, but the Chinese government generally refuses to negotiate with him.
- Periodic unrest still sweeps through Tibet, especially around important dates such as March 10 to 19 – the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan Uprising.
Sino-Indian Conflict Over Dalai Lama
- Apart from the border disputes, another major irritant for China has been over the Dalai Lama, who enjoys a spiritual status in India.
- China considers Dalai Lama a separatist, who has great influence over Tibetans. It must be mentioned that Dalai Lama gave up his support for Tibetan independence in 1974, and only wants China to stop repression against the community.
- Former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to provide all assistance to the Tibetan refugees to settle in India until their eventual return.
- The Government of India has built special schools for Tibetans that provide free education, health care, and scholarships. There are a few medical and civil engineering seats reserved for Tibetans.
- While India’s role in the rehabilitation of Tibetan refugees has been criticised by China, it has drawn praise from international bodies and human rights groups.
3. Will act within 7 days of request, says MHA on FCRA accounts
10 NGOs had moved HC over operationalisation issues
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) informed the Delhi High Court on Thursday that it would release authorisation certificates to operationalise the FCRA (Foreign Contribution [Regulation] Act) bank accounts of non-government organisations (NGOs) within seven days of receiving a request.
The court was hearing a petition moved by 10 NGOs that their foreign contribution account in the State Bank of India’s main branch in Delhi be operationalised.
Even if an NGO had applied before the earlier deadline of March 31, the accounts were not operational for want of an FC6C certificate. After NGOs moved court, the deadline was extended to June 30.
The SBI said on May 17 that “out of the total 22,598 active FCRA associations, 17,611 entities (NGOs and Associations) approached SBI for opening of FCRA accounts”. It claimed that it had opened accounts of 78% of the applicants.
“There is a difference between opening an account and operationalising it. The SBI opened the account but it cannot function till the bank receives an authorisation certificate from the ministry,” said NGOs’ lawyer Abishek Jebaraj.
The Ministry also gave a relief to NGOs whose registration was expiring between September 29, 2020 and May 31,2021. They had to apply for renewal of certificates or registration by May 31, which has now been extended to September 30.
Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020
- Provisions of the Bill:
- Prohibition to accept foreign contribution: The Bill bars public servants from receiving foreign contributions.
- Public servant includes any person who is in service or pay of the government, or remunerated by the government for the performance of any public duty.
- The FCRA 2010 also bars certain persons to accept any foreign contribution. These include: election candidates, editor or publisher of a newspaper, judges, government servants, members of any legislature, and political parties, among others.
- Transfer of foreign contribution: The Bill prohibits the transfer of foreign contribution to any other person.
- The term ‘person’ under the Bill includes an individual, an association, or a registered company.
- The FCRA 2010 allows transfer of foreign contributions to persons registered to accept foreign contributions.
- Aadhaar for registration: The Bill makes Aadhaar number mandatory for all office bearers, directors or key functionaries of a person receiving foreign contribution, as an identification document.
- In case of a foreigner, a copy of the passport or the Overseas Citizen of India card for identification is required.
- FCRA account: The Bill states that foreign contribution must be received only in an account designated by the bank as FCRA account in such branches of the State Bank of India, New Delhi. No funds other than the foreign contribution should be received or deposited in this account.
- The person may open another FCRA account in any scheduled bank of their choice for keeping or utilising the received contribution.
- Restriction in utilisation of foreign contribution: The Bill allows the government to restrict usage of unutilised foreign contribution. This may be done if, based on an inquiry the government believes that such person has contravened provisions of the FCRA.
- Reduction in use of foreign contribution for administrative purposes: The Bill proposes that not more than 20% of the total foreign funds received could be defrayed for administrative expenses. In FCRA 2010 the limit was 50%.
- Surrender of certificate: The Bill allows the central government to permit a person to surrender their registration certificate.
- The government may do so if, post an inquiry, it is satisfied that such person has not violated any provisions of the FCRA 2010, and the management of its foreign contribution has been vested in an authority prescribed by the government.
- Prohibition to accept foreign contribution: The Bill bars public servants from receiving foreign contributions.
- Purpose for Amendment:
- The annual inflow of foreign contribution has almost doubled between the years 2010 and 2019, but many recipients of foreign contribution have not utilised the same for the purpose for which they were registered or granted prior permission under the FCRA 2010.
- Recently, the Union Home Ministry has suspended licenses of the six (NGOs) who were alleged to have used foreign contributions for religious conversion.
- Many persons were not adhering to statutory compliances such as submission of annual returns and maintenance of proper accounts.
- Such a situation could have adversely affected the internal security of the country.
- The new Bill aims to enhance transparency and accountability in the receipt and utilisation of foreign contributions and facilitating the genuine non-governmental organisations or associations who are working for the welfare of society.
- The annual inflow of foreign contribution has almost doubled between the years 2010 and 2019, but many recipients of foreign contribution have not utilised the same for the purpose for which they were registered or granted prior permission under the FCRA 2010.
- Issues Involved
- The Bill would impact the livelihoods of workers associated with the small Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and lead to the killing of the entire social sector as caps on administrative expenses would make it impossible for even the bigger NGOs to perform.
- It will severely impact collaborative research in critical fields in India as organisations receiving foreign funds will no longer be able to transfer them to small NGOs working at the grassroots level.
- The government aims to control the NGOs which engage in dubious activities. However, by failing to recognise the diversity of NGOs, which include world-class organisations that are recognised globally, will crush their competitiveness and creativity.
- It is also incompatible with international law.
- The United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on protecting human rights defenders says that no law should criminalize or delegitimize activities in defence of human rights on account of the origin of funding.
- The Bill also fails to comply with India’s international legal obligations and constitutional provisions to respect and protect the rights to freedom of association, expression, and freedom of assembly.
- The amendments also assume that NGOs that are receiving foreign funds are guilty unless proven otherwise.
|Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 2010 Foreign funding of persons in India is regulated under FCRA act and is implemented by the Ministry of Home Affairs.Individuals are permitted to accept foreign contributions without permission of MHA. However, the monetary limit for acceptance of such foreign contributions shall be less than Rs. 25,000.The Act ensures that the recipients of foreign contributions adhere to the stated purpose for which such contribution has been obtained.Under the Act, organisations are required to register themselves every five years.|
4. Sri Lanka Parliament passes Bill on China-backed Port City
Tamil MPs raise strong objection to the legislation
The Sri Lankan Parliament on Thursday passed a controversial Bill on laws governing the China-backed Colombo Port City, with a majority of 149 legislators — in the 225-member House — voting in its favour.
The development comes after the Supreme Court suggested certain amendments, following over a dozen petitions challenging the Bill that political opposition and civil society groups said “directly affected” Sri Lanka’s sovereignty. The government accepted the amendments, pre-empting the requirement for a two-thirds majority or a referendum for passage of certain clauses, as per the apex court’s determination.
The $1.4-billion Colombo Port City was launched in 2014 during the previous term of the Rajapaksa government, when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the island nation. The mega infrastructure project is currently being built on land reclaimed alongside Colombo’s iconic sea front, while environmentalists and fisher folk opposed the move. The Ranil Wickremesinghe –Maithripala Siripala administration too went ahead with the project, vowing to develop it as a financial hub. Following their return to power in November 2019, the Rajapaksa administration sought to expedite construction work as well as a legal framework for what promises to be a tax haven for foreign investors.
In a two-day debate in the legislature, culminating in Thursday’s vote, government MPs defended the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill, pointing to potential foreign direct investments —up to $15 billion — and prospects for job creation. The ruling side has a two-third majority in Parliament.
Legislatures from Opposition parties, including the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (United People’s Front) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) challenged its provisions that they said infringed upon the country’s sovereignty, gave the governing commission overarching powers, and immunity from Sri Lankan law, and threatened to create a “Chinese enclave”.
Some of the strongest attacks on the Bill, during the debate, came from Tamil MPs. Legislator and former Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran on Wednesday asked the government if its stated policy of striving for ‘One Country, One Law’ meant “Chinese law”. Intervening in the debate, Tamil National People’s Front Leader Gajen Ponnambalam on Thursday said Sri Lanka had gone too close to the U.S. in the Cold War era, prompting India to back and train Tamil militant groups. The “China-centric” Rajapaksa administration was again challenging the geopolitical order in the region, he said. Observing that the “Tamil nation” had paid a heavy price the last time Sri Lanka made such choices, he said he opposed the Bill for that reason. Tamil National Alliance MP M.A. Sumanthiran said the Supreme Court had made merely “cosmetic changes” to the Bill, while its fundamental character remained unchanged.
Accusing the government of giving away part of its land to China, the Jaffna legislator said: “You say so much about [Tamil] Eelam, but this is Cheelam, [referring to China and Eelam, the Tamil name of Sri Lanka]… and it is Cheelam that you are enacting in your own laws, when you don’t have jurisdiction over that territory.”
Rise of Chinese Influence in Sri Lanka
The relationship between India and Srilanka predates history. But for the past few decades, the relationship is slowly deteriorating. In 2009, the end of the civil war and the elimination of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was good news for governments of Srilanka and India. Besides, the good news, India had already declared the LTTE as a terrorist organisation, but domestic compulsions — with its allies in Tamil Nadu openly supporting Prabhakaran – forcing it to go for secret operation to destroy LTTE. But unfortunately, with the end of the civil war, India is now slowly losing its momentum and is now on the brink of losing Sri Lanka to China.
Geopolitical importance of Sri Lanka
The Sri Lanka position is strategically location at the center of the Indian Ocean region. Such a visibility over the centuries, attracted the attention of great powers emerging in or venturing into the country seeking to establish its influence. Currently, the rising powers of India and China are seeking to shape the region to advance their strategic interests, with Sri Lanka once again been caught up in a diplomatic game.
Chinese presence in Sri Lanka
The presence of Chinese officials and military officers are not secret. Besides, the huge financial help, China is offering the country by sending an army of workers is welcomed by the Sri lanka. Chinese workers are everywhere, from shopping malls to factories. Many of them are learning to speak Sinhalese. Factories, hotels, bridges even in the performing arts theatres, Chinese faces are regular phenomena. The importance of the such visuals should never be taken for granted. Over a period of 12 years (2005- 17), Beijing has poured over 15 billion dollars into projects in Sri Lanka. Besides, the Chinese Ambassador conveyed an unambiguous message to India, which views Chinese presence in Sri Lanka as an intrusion in its immediate sphere of influence. For India, this is a discomforting situation and bad development. Indian foreign policy has heavily dependent on time-tested and historical links. But over the period of time, there is a sense of thinking among Sri Lankans that India failed to see and respond to various demands and began to compare with the scale and speed of help Beijing is offering.
But, it is common to hear Sri Lankans are unhappy and disgruntled about the invasive and intrusive attitude of China. Many artists have an impressions of future Colombo tell Sri Lankans that it will rival Singapore. It will bring more investments, tourism, employment and economic well-being. This can be seriously tempted for a common man and political parties.
India- Srilanka Relationship
Apart from historical ties, India is Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner, while Sri Lanka is India’s second largest trading partner in the South East Asia. India accounting for 21 percent of Sri Lanka’s total imports and one third export destination for Sri Lankan products. In tourism, Indian visitors make the largest single group having a share of 21 per cent. In the investment field, India is among the top five foreign investors in Sri Lanka. Trade between Sri Lanka and India has grown rapidly after the entry into force of the Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement in 2000. The value of bilateral trade increased fromUS$658 million in 2000 to US$ 3.6 billion in 2013-14. Sri Lanka’s exports growth has largely been under the ISFTA, whereas India’s exports have remained mostly outside the ISFTA. For example, over 70% of Sri Lanka’s exports to India continue to be under the ISFTA, while India’s exports to Sri Lanka under the ISFTA remains only around 25%. Sri Lanka could export more than 4000 product lines to the Indian market on duty free basis. Major exports from Sri Lanka includes, textiles, glass bottles, processed foods (meat), poultry feed, insulated wires and cables, tiles & ceramics products, rubber gloves, electrical panel boards & enclosures, machinery parts, food preparations and spices etc.
Chinese acquisition of Hambantota Port
Over the years, Sri Lanka has been lost its financial strength. China’s acquisition of the strategic Hambantota port from Sri Lanka has given it “control of a territory” is one such example. This port is just a few hundred miles off the shores of India, highlighting its “debt trap” the country is facing. Besides, Sri Lanka’s failure has resulted in China strategic advantage over the position. It should be noted that Hambantota port would not work and “frequent lenders” like India had refused to provide loans or assistance for the port, developed during Sri Lanka’s president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s rule.
5. EU lawmakers back patent waiver for vaccines
Key members Germany and France defend patents, argue companies must be rewarded for efforts
The European Parliament has urged the EU to back a push for a temporary waiver of coronavirus vaccine patents, in the face of scepticism from Brussels and key member states.
Lawmakers voting late on Wednesday narrowly approved an amendment calling on the bloc “to support the Indian and South African World Trade Organization (WTO) initiative for a temporary waiver on intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, equipment and treatments, and urges pharmaceutical companies to share their knowledge and data”.
EU leaders this month said they were willing to discuss patent waivers after U.S. President Joe Biden backed the plan — but called for more details on the proposal and urged other major producers to first increase their exports of much-needed jabs.
EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis told lawmakers on Wednesday that Brussels would put forward its own proposal at the WTO focused on boosting production and freeing up exports.
He insisted Brussels would “engage constructively” to see if a temporary waiver of patents could help bolster global supplies and access to the doses.
WTO boss Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was set to meet EU Trade Ministers for talks in Brussels on Thursday.
The WHO, India and South Africa have all called for patents to be temporarily suspended in a bid to help boost deliveries to poorer nations struggling to vaccinate their populations.
Key EU members France and Germany have defended vaccine patents, arguing that innovative companies must be rewarded for their efforts.
Germany is the home of BioNTech, which developed the vaccine now being produced by U.S. giant Pfizer that has become the mainstay of Europe’s inoculation campaign.
Officials from the bloc have said the hoarding of crucial ingredients needed for vaccines by some nations was a larger obstacle than patent protection.
Intellectual Property Rights
- Intellectual property rights (IPR) are the rights given to persons over the creations of their minds: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names and images used in commerce. They usually give the creator an exclusive right over the use of his/her creation for a certain period of time.
- These rights are outlined in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides for the right to benefit from the protection of moral and material interests resulting from authorship of scientific, literary or artistic productions.
- The importance of intellectual property was first recognized in the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1883) and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (1886). Both treaties are administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
Intellectual property rights are customarily divided into two main areas:
(i) Copyright and rights related to copyright:
- The rights of authors of literary and artistic works (such as books and other writings, musical compositions, paintings, sculpture, computer programs and films) are protected by copyright, for a minimum period of 50 years after the death of the author.
(ii) Industrial property: Industrial property can be divided into two main areas:
- Protection of distinctive signs, in particular trademarks and geographical indications.
- Trademarks distinguish the goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings.
- Geographical Indications (GIs) identify a good as originating in a place where a given characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.
- The protection of such distinctive signs aims to stimulate and ensure fair competition and to protect consumers, by enabling them to make informed choices between various goods and services.
- The protection may last indefinitely, provided the sign in question continues to be distinctive.
- Industrial designs and trade secrets: Other types of industrial property are protected primarily to stimulate innovation, design and the creation of technology. In this category fall inventions (protected by patents), industrial designs and trade secrets.
Need of IPR
The progress and well-being of humanity rest on its capacity to create and invent new works in the areas of technology and culture.
- Encourages innovation: The legal protection of new creations encourages the commitment of additional resources for further innovation.
- Economic growth: The promotion and protection of intellectual property spurs economic growth, creates new jobs and industries, and enhances the quality and enjoyment of life.
- Safeguard the rights of creators: IPR is required to safeguard creators and other producers of their intellectual commodity, goods and services by granting them certain time-limited rights to control the use made of the manufactured goods.
- It promotes innovation and creativity and ensures ease of doing business.
- It facilitates the transfer of technology in the form of foreign direct investment, joint ventures and licensing.
India and IPR
- India is a member of the World Trade Organisation and committed to the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS Agreement).
- India is also a member of World Intellectual Property Organization, a body responsible for the promotion of the protection of intellectual property rights throughout the world.
- India is also a member of the following important WIPO-administered International Treaties and Conventions relating to IPRs.
- Budapest Treaty on the International Recognition of the Deposit of Microorganisms for the Purposes of Patent Procedure
- Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property
- Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization
- Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works
- Patent Cooperation Treaty
- Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks- Madrid Protocol
- Washington Treaty on Intellectual Property in respect of Integrated Circuits
- Nairobi Treaty on the Protection of the Olympic Symbol
- Convention for the Protection of Producers of Phonograms Against Unauthorized Duplication of Their Phonograms
- Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities.
National IPR Policy
- The National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Policy 2016 was adopted in May 2016 as a vision document to guide future development of IPRs in the country.
- It’s clarion call is “Creative India; Innovative India”.
- It encompasses and brings to a single platform all IPRs, taking into account all inter-linkages and thus aims to create and exploit synergies between all forms of intellectual property (IP), concerned statutes and agencies.
- It sets in place an institutional mechanism for implementation, monitoring and review. It aims to incorporate and adapt global best practices to the Indian scenario.
- Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce, Government of India, has been appointed as the nodal department to coordinate, guide and oversee the implementation and future development of IPRs in India.
- The ‘Cell for IPR Promotion & Management (CIPAM)’, setup under the aegis of DIPP, is to be the single point of reference for implementation of the objectives of the National IPR Policy.
- India’s IPR regime is in compliance with the WTO’s agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
- IPR Awareness: Outreach and Promotion – To create public awareness about the economic, social and cultural benefits of IPRs among all sections of society.
- Generation of IPRs – To stimulate the generation of IPRs.
- Legal and Legislative Framework – To have strong and effective IPR laws, which balance the interests of rights owners with larger public interest.
- Administration and Management – To modernize and strengthen service-oriented IPR administration.
- Commercialization of IPRs – Get value for IPRs through commercialization.
- Enforcement and Adjudication – To strengthen the enforcement and adjudicatory mechanisms for combating IPR infringements.
- Human Capital Development – To strengthen and expand human resources, institutions and capacities for teaching, training, research and skill building in IPRs.
Achievements under new IPR policy
- Improvement in GII Ranking: India’s rank in the Global Innovation Index (GII) issued by WIPO has improved from 81st in 2015 to 52nd place in 2019.
- Strengthening of institutional mechanism regarding IP protection and promotion.
- Clearing Backlog/ Reducing Pendency in IP applications: Augmentation of technical manpower by the government, has resulted in drastic reduction in pendency in IP applications.
- Automatic issuance of electronically generated patent and trademark certificates has also been introduced.
- Increase in Patent and trademark Filings: Patent filings have increased by nearly 7% in the first 8 months of 2018-19 vis-à-vis the corresponding period of 2017-18. Trademark filings have increased by nearly 28% in this duration.
- IP Process Re-engineering Patent Rules, 2003 have been amended to streamline processes and make them more user friendly. Revamped Trade Marks Rules have been notified in 2017.
- Creating IPR Awareness: IPR Awareness programs have been conducted in academic institutions, including rural schools through satellite communication, and for industry, police, customs and judiciary.
- Technology and Innovation Support Centres (TISCs): In conjunction with WIPO, TISCs have been established in various institutions across different states.
Issues in India’s IPR regime
- Section 3(d) of the Indian Patent Act 1970 (as amended in 2005) does not allow patent to be granted to inventions involving new forms of a known substance unless it differs significantly in properties with regard to efficacy.
- This means that the Indian Patent Act does not allow evergreening of patents.
- This has been a cause of concern to the pharma companies. Section 3(d) was instrumental in the Indian Patent Office (IPO) rejecting the patent for Novartis’ drug Glivec (imatinib mesylate).
- Issue of Compulsory licencing (CL): CL is problematic for foreign investors who bring technology as they are concerned about the misuse of CL to replicate their products. It has been impacting India-EU FTA negotiations.
- CL is the grant of permission by the government to entities to use, manufacture, import or sell a patented invention without the patent-owner’s consent. Patents Act in India deals with CL.
- CL is permitted under the WTO’s TRIPS (IPR) Agreement provided conditions such as ‘national emergencies, other circumstances of extreme urgency and anti-competitive practices’ are fulfilled.
- India continues to remain on the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR’s) ‘Priority Watch List’ for alleged violations of intellectual property rights (IPR).
- In its latest Special 301 report released by the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the US termed India as “one of the world’s most challenging major economies” with respect to protection and enforcement of IP.
- Data Exclusivity: Foreign investors and MNCs allege that Indian law does not protect against unfair commercial use of test data or other data submitted to the government during the application for market approval of pharmaceutical or agro-chemical products. For this they demand a Data Exclusivity law.
- Enforcement of the Copyright act is weak, and piracy of copyrighted materials is widespread.
6. World’s largest iceberg breaks off from Antarctica, says ESA
Scientists say A-76’s dislodging appears to be a natural cycle
A huge ice block has broken off from western Antarctica into the Weddell Sea, becoming the largest iceberg in the world and earning the name A-76.
It is the latest in a series of large ice blocks to dislodge in a region acutely vulnerable to climate change, although scientists said in this case it appeared to be part of a natural polar cycle.
Slightly larger than the Spanish island of Majorca, A-76 had been monitored by scientists since May 13 when it began to separate from the Ronne Ice Shelf, according to the U.S. National Ice Center.
The iceberg, measuring around 170 km long and 25 km wide, with an area of 4,320 sq km is now floating in the Weddell Sea.
It joins previous world’s largest title holder A-23A — approximately 3,880 sq. km. in size — which has remained in the same area since 1986.
A-76 was originally spotted by the British Antarctic Survey and the calving — the term used when an iceberg breaks off — was confirmed using images from the Copernicus satellite, the European Space Agency said.
Icebergs form when hunks of ice break off from ice shelves or glaciers and begin to float in open water.
- An iceberg is ice that broke off from glaciers or shelf ice and is floating in open water.
- Icebergs travel with ocean currents and either get caught up in shallow waters or ground themselves.
- The US National Ice Center (USNIC) is the only organisation that names and tracks Antarctic Icebergs.
- Icebergs are named according to the Antarctic quadrant in which they are spotted.
- Shaped like a closed hand with a pointing finger, the iceberg known as A68a split off in 2017 from Larsen Ice Shelf on the West Antarctic Peninsula, which has warmed faster than any other part of Earth’s southernmost continent.
- On its journey, smaller icebergs have calved from the iceberg and the biggest section of the iceberg is called A68a and spans an area of roughly 2,600 sq. km.
- Recently, the two icebergs that calved from A68a – have been named by the USNIC. They are called A68e and A68f.
- All the berg fragments are entrained in a fast-moving stream of water known as the Southern Antarctic Circumpolar Current Front.
- The Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) is the most important current in the Southern Ocean, and the only current that flows completely around the globe.
- The ACC, as it encircles the Antarctic continent, flows eastward through the southern portions of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.
- It has been drifting towards the remote island of South Georgia, which is a British Overseas Territory (BOT).
- The fear is that if the iceberg grounds itself near the island, it could cause disruption to the local wildlife that forages in the ocean. Penguins and seals will have to travel farther in search of food.
- On the other hand, there are some positives of an iceberg being stuck in the open ocean, since icebergs carry dust which fertilises ocean plankton, which draws up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
- The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) will launch a research mission to study A68a’s impact on the ecosystem.
- BAS is a component of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). NERC is part of UK Research and Innovation.
- It delivers and enables world-leading interdisciplinary research in the Polar Regions.
Calving of Glaciers
- Calving is the glaciological term for the mechanical loss (or simply, breaking off) of ice from a glacier margin.
- Calving is most common when a glacier flows into water (i.e. lakes or the ocean) but can also occur on dry land, where it is known as dry calving.
- Before calving occurs, smaller cracks and fractures in glacier ice grow into larger crevasses.
- The growth of crevasses effectively divides the ice into blocks that subsequently fall from the snout into an adjacent lake (where they are known as icebergs).
- Glacier Snout: It is the lowest end of a glacier, also called glacier terminus or toe.
- Impact on Glacier Mass Balance:
- In lake-terminating (or freshwater) glaciers, calving is often a very efficient process of ablation and is therefore an important control on glacier mass balance.
- Ablation: It implies combined processes (such as sublimation, fusion or melting, evaporation) which remove snow or ice from the surface of a glacier or from a snow-field.
- Glacier mass balance: It is simply the gain and loss of ice from the glacier system.
- In lake-terminating (or freshwater) glaciers, calving is often a very efficient process of ablation and is therefore an important control on glacier mass balance.
- Global warming has increased the frequency of this process.
- Recent Cases of Calving:
- Up to the end of the 20th century, the Larsen Ice Shelf had been stable for more than 10,000 years.
- In 1995, however, a huge chunk broke off, followed by another in 2002. This was followed by the breakup of the nearby Wilkins Ice Shelf in 2008 and 2009, and A68a in 2017.
- Hydrofracturing – when water seeps into cracks at the surface, splitting the ice farther down – was almost certainly the main culprit in each case.
- Hydrofracturing is a water well development process that involves injecting high pressure water via the well into the bedrock formation immediately surrounding it.
- It was originally developed for the oil and gas industry to increase oil and gas well production.
- On a global scale, drilling or hydrofracturing result in significant greenhouse gas emissions, leading to global warming.
7. Editorial-1: The fault line of poor health infrastructure
As and when India emerges on the other side of the pandemic, bolstering public care systems has to be the top priority
As the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic ravages India, many bitter home truths and fault lines have been starkly exposed. One of these is the abysmally poor state of the country’s health infrastructure. World Bank data reveal that India had 85.7 physicians per 1,00,000 people in 2017 (in contrast to 98 in Pakistan, 58 in Bangladesh, 100 in Sri Lanka and 241 in Japan), 53 beds per 1,00,000 people (in contrast to 63 in Pakistan, 79.5 in Bangladesh, 415 in Sri Lanka and 1,298 in Japan), and 172.7 nurses and midwives per 1,00,000 people (in contrast to 220 in Sri Lanka, 40 in Bangladesh, 70 in Pakistan, and 1,220 in Japan).
This situation is a direct result of the appallingly low public health expenditure. The latest data narrative from the Centre for Economic Data and Analysis (CEDA), Ashoka University, shows that this has been stagnant for years: 1% of GDP 2013-14 and 1.28% in 2017-18 (including expenditure by the Centre, all States and Union Territories).
Health is a State subject in India and State spending constitutes 68.6% of all the government health expenditure. However, the Centre ends up being the key player in public health management because the main bodies with technical expertise are under central control. The States lack corresponding expert bodies such as the National Centre for Disease Control or the Indian Council of Medical Research. States also differ a great deal in terms of the fiscal space to deal with the novel coronavirus pandemic because of the wide variation in per capita health expenditure.
CEDA has prepared an interactive graphic that allows users to see the inter-State variation in per capita health-care expenditure in 21 major States and how this has changed from 2010-11 to 2019-20. Kerala and Delhi have been close to the top in all the years.
Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, States that have been consistently towards the bottom of the ranking in all years, are struggling to cope with the pandemic, as a result of a deadly combination of dismal health infrastructure as well as myopic policy disregarding scientific evidence and expert advice. Odisha is noteworthy as it had the same per capita health expenditure as Uttar Pradesh in 2010, but now has more than double that of Uttar Pradesh. This is reflected in its relatively good COVID-19 management.
Given the dreadfully low levels of public health provision, India has among the highest out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditures of all countries in the world, i.e. money that people spend on their own at the time they receive health care.
The World Health Organization estimates that 62% of the total health expenditure in India is OOP, among the highest in the world. CEDA’s analysis shows that some of the poorest States (Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Odisha) have a high ratio of OOP expenditures in total health expenditure.
This regressive nature of OOP health expenditure has been highlighted in the past. Essentially, this means that the poor in the poorest States, the most vulnerable sections, are the worst victims of a health emergency. The surreal and tragic visuals of bodies floating in the Ganga serve as a grim reminder that the poor have no dignity in life or in death. Families that have been stripped to the bone trying to save the lives of their loved ones cannot even afford a decent final farewell for them.
Government’s role critical
The inter-State variation in health expenditure highlights the need for a coordinated national plan at the central level to fight the pandemic. The Centre already tightly controls major decisions, including additional resources raised specifically for pandemic relief, e.g. the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund. The early declarations of victory over COVID-19 were very clearly credited to the central government. CEDA has shown that the first round of vaccinations, where the vaccines were procured by the Centre and distributed to the States, was marked by considerable inter-State variation, which was neither explained by the case load nor by the share of eligible (45+) population.
Now that the disease is ravaging the country and the need for a coordinated strategy on essential supplies of oxygen and vaccines is acute, the central government has shifted most of the responsibilities on to the States, including that of procuring vaccines from the international market. This is inefficient, as the Centre can bargain for a good price from vaccine manufacturers in its capacity as a single large buyer (like the European Union did for its member states) and benefit from the economies of scale in transportation of vaccines into the country. Once the vaccines arrive in India, these could be distributed across States equitably in a needs-based and transparent manner.
Another benefit of central coordination is that distribution of constrained resources (medical supplies, financial resources) can internalise the existing disparities in health infrastructure across States. A decentralised management, on the other hand, exacerbates the existing inequities, as better-off States can outcompete others in procuring resources. This is evident in the vaccine procurement with various States floating separate global tenders.
A policy brief
In April 2020, CEDA came out with a policy brief, where among other measures, it recommended the creation of a “Pandemic Preparedness Unit” (PPU) by the central government, which would streamline disease surveillance and reporting systems; coordinate public health management and policy responses across all levels of government; formulate policies to mitigate economic and social costs, and communicate effectively about the health crisis. We had not foreseen the ferocity of the second wave; but knowing how deadly this is, our suggestion acquires even greater urgency.
Indians were already “one illness away” from falling into poverty. Families devastated by the loss of lives and livelihoods as a result of this pandemic will feel the distress for decades to come. The central government needs to deploy all available resources to support the health and livelihood expenses of COVID-19-ravaged families immediately. As and when we emerge on the other side of the pandemic, bolstering public health-care systems has to be the topmost priority for all governments: the Centre as well as States.
8. Editorial-2: Balancing act
India should oppose indiscriminate attacks on Israel and disproportionate bombing on Gaza
At the open UN Security Council session on Sunday on the Gaza conflict, India, a non-permanent member, attempted a delicate balancing act by reaffirming its traditional support for the Palestine cause without abandoning its new friend Israel. T.S. Tirumurti, India’s Permanent Representative at the UN, expressed concern over the violence in Jerusalem and the “possible eviction process” of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah and warned against “attempts to unilaterally change the status quo” in Jerusalem. He also reiterated India’s “strong support for the just Palestinian cause and its unwavering commitment to the two-state solution”. But India was careful not to upset Israel’s sensitivities. There is a direct condemnation of the rocket attacks from Gaza but no direct reference to the disproportionate bombing Israel has been carrying out on the impoverished Gaza Strip since May 10. India also did not make any reference to the status of Jerusalem or the future borders of the two states, in line with a recent change in its policy. Until 2017, the Indian position was that it supported the creation of an independent, sovereign Palestine state based on the 1967 border and with East Jerusalem as its capital that lives alongside Israel. The balancing did not appear to have gone down well with the Israeli side. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has a good rapport with Narendra Modi, thanked 25 countries that he said stood with Israel, there was no reference to India.
For India, which voted against the creation of Israel in historic Palestine in 1947 in the UN General Assembly, ties with Israel have transformed since the early 1990s. In 2017, Mr. Modi became the first Indian PM to visit Israel and Mr. Netanyahu travelled to India in 2018. While Israel ties are on a strong footing, India cannot ignore the Palestinians for historic, moral, legal and realist reasons. Historically, India, which went through the horrors of 1947, opposed the partition of Palestine. Throughout the Cold War, it remained a strong supporter of Palestinian freedom, taking a moral and legal position against the Israeli occupation, in line with international laws and norms. It established full diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992, in the context of improving Israel-Palestine ties after the Madrid Conference and the changes in the global order following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, but never abandoned the Palestinians. India’s Palestine policy had realist underpinnings too. India has been energy dependent on the Arab world. It cannot alienate the Arab voices or be isolated in the General Assembly, where most member-countries oppose the occupation. These factors should have driven India to take a more emphatic position against both the indiscriminate rocket attacks into Israel, in which 12 people were killed, and the disproportionate bombing of Gaza, which has claimed at least 230 lives, including over 60 children.
9. Editorial-3: A gear shift to pull India back from tipping point
The ruling dispensation will need dexterity in handling the pandemic and managing the shifting democratic scenario
Crises are of many kinds and come in different shapes and sizes. The current COVID-19 pandemic is a health crisis that is one of a kind, but it is at such times that the true qualities and grit of a nation and its leaders manifest themselves. It demands a mindset very different from carrying out surgical strikes or indulging in bombing expeditions on terror targets inside Pakistan. Today, when India looks to those in authority to provide the necessary kind of leadership, unfortunately, this is nowhere in evidence. If this continues for much longer, it could prove highly detrimental. The leadership must not evade its responsibility and should brace itself for the difficult period ahead. The transition will not be easy.
What is, perhaps, proving rather problematic is that during this time of human travail, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership is confronting another crisis which could have a more direct impact on the party’s future. This crisis centres around whether the BJP needs to make changes and adjustments to what it has been accustomed to do in conducting the affairs of the country since 2014. Triumphalism, which has been the BJP’s stock-in-trade for many years now, having met its Waterloo in the recent Assembly Elections in the States of West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu may need a reset. For a party that seemed to carry everything before it till now, effecting a change may not be easy. What kind of an impact it might have on the affairs of the nation is also a matter of conjecture.
Still no complete plan
Coming first to the novel coronavirus pandemic and its impact — COVID-19 has now been with us for nearly 18 months. As yet, the nation has not seen a comprehensive strategy emerging from Delhi to deal with the situation. Numerous statements have been issued at different levels, and several meetings have been held from the Prime Minister downwards, but it is evident that all these are a poor substitute for a well-thought-out strategy.
Most glaring is the flip-flop on the policy concerning vaccination — which is the nearest substitute for a strategy — for the nation is still trying to come to terms on how the authorities will conjure up even the several million doses needed to vaccinate the vulnerable sections of the population in the 18-44 age group. The situation is further muddied by reports of cover-ups regarding ‘missing deaths’ — a damning indictment of all those responsible — considering that ours is a civilisation that treats death and the dying with the same veneration as the living. Distorting statistics can hardly take away the pain of those who have lost their loved ones.
Fault finding has grown
In the meantime, as the facts and statistics surrounding deaths become grimmer, fault finding between the Centre and the States on how to manage the pandemic has only intensified. Anyone familiar with India’s democracy would find it difficult to believe that we function under a federal Constitution (which has no doubt many unitary characteristics). Harmony between the Centre, and specially those States headed by Opposition parties, is conspicuous by its absence.
Finding the right strategy may not be akin to nuclear science, but it could prove difficult for those in authority — mainly those in Delhi — to effect a metamorphosis in their thinking, and adjust to methods needed to implement suggestions, which involve taking the States into confidence and incorporating their suggestions and ideas. This is, perhaps, the biggest stumbling block today, and given the current style of functioning of those in authority, it may be difficult to envisage such a metamorphosis taking place. It is, however, imperative that this is done before it becomes too late.
Election results and fallout
While the pandemic rages, what is perhaps of greater concern to the BJP leadership in Delhi is that the aura of electoral invincibility that had existed since 2014 seems to be dissipating at this time. Predictably (from their point of view), the consequences of this could prove to be dire, and this, possibly, is the main priority for the party’s high priests. It is difficult to believe that the BJP’s leaders would take kindly to the trouncing that the party has received in West Bengal, despite putting everything into its campaign in that State — with the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and the party President spending days campaigning in that State — and allow Mamata Banerjee to enjoy the spoils of victory. The defeats in Kerala, where the party failed to win a single seat, and in Tamil Nadu, where it won a handful of seats, are, perhaps, less galling but would still hurt. Retaining power in Assam and a win in the Union Territory of Puducherry provide little comfort. One can only envisage what has greater priority for the BJP today: dealing with the pandemic or redesigning its strategy to win elections in the future.
The defeat in West Bengal does convey a certain message, but it is uncertain whether the BJP, in its present frame of mind, would heed the message. It is more likely that the party may seek to reinforce the tactics it had employed, which had enabled it to raise its tally of seats from 3 to 77 (now 75), in the belief that more rather than less, would produce desired results. This would be a mistake.
The history of Bengal is replete with instances where attempts to capture power, ignoring the ethos of Bengal, have hardly produced results and at best has led to a pyrrhic victory. Bengal has not forgotten either the tactics adopted by the East India Company — or the role of Mir Jafars — and, hence, suitably adjusting electoral tactics to prevailing winds are more likely to yield results. Consequently, it would be best if the BJP were to introspect on the reasons why it failed so conspicuously in West Bengal, despite having nursed a desire to capture power in that State since 2014. Otherwise, it would indeed be a sad day for democracy and India.
Polarising politics, accentuating the communal divide, employing the idiom of Hindu majoritarianism, etc., are electoral tactics that could, and have succeeded in certain States and in certain situations. It has often been observed that what might well succeed in certain States in the northern parts of the country may not be the recipe for States such as Bengal or many of the southern States. To cite a quotation, “But could saxifrages or soldanellas gemming a pasture in the High Alps thrive if planted in Egypt?” The extent to which Delhi misread the Bengali mind in the recent election is a sad commentary on Delhi’s understanding of Bengal and its politics. Even a fleeting acquaintance with Bengal’s electorate would confirm that Bengal did not fit into any kind of political straitjacket. For decades now, its politics has revolved round underdevelopment and related aspects.
Among other misjudgements made by the BJP on this occasion, which are best avoided in the future if it hopes to do better or capture power in Bengal, is to appreciate that Bengal’s politics contain a mixture of cultural exclusivism, a certain eclecticism, and a belief in their superiority. A far more nuanced approach, rather than muscular tactics are, hence, likely to produce positive results. Among other misjudgements best avoided in the future is that Bengal — in common with Kerala — give women an exalted status. The denigration of women leaders such as Mamata Banerjee, hence, created an adverse reaction and widened a chasm that existed already.
There is unity in diversity
If the ruling dispensation in Delhi fails to heed the lessons that require to be learnt from the handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic and the outcome of the elections in West Bengal, the country may have to pay a heavy price. Bengal is not India, but it is a microcosm of India in miniature. Dealing with the pandemic at one level and managing the shifting democratic scenario at another level will demand dexterity of a certain kind which is not evident in the ruling dispensation so far. Image managing will certainly not be enough, nor for that matter, exaggerated claims to having achieved success. Neither of them is a substitute for real progress. The handling of the pandemic nationwide and the resort to a blame game has already created a divide and damaged relations between the Centre and the States. The current bias in the exercise of power has to be eschewed for the nation is truly mired in a serious crisis.
Above all, if India is to be retrieved from what many believe is a perilous state of affairs, there are many miles to go in which the Centre and the States must decide to go hand in hand. The ‘unity in diversity’ slogan must be adhered to in its true spirit if India is to survive and succeed.