News & Events
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1.From oxygen to triaging, don’t forget the public health emergency lessons from the second wave
The findings of the Supreme Court appointed National Task Force to maintain a strategic oxygen reserve must be urgently followed up to avoid a repeat of the crippling oxygen shortage witnessed during the second wave. All big hospitals in India must also have on-situ oxygen generation plants instead of having to rely on archaic, clunky methods of refilling with oxygen tanker lorries. In the Covid pandemic, oxygen had emerged as a key lifesaver and with the threat of the disease still lurking, there is no scope for complacency.
The audit of Delhi’s oxygen usage during the second wave has found that the AAP government inflated oxygen demand by four times going by its bed capacity. Delhi’s demand was indeed unnaturally high but it must be recalled that during the peak of the second wave a large number of people could not secure beds in hospitals and were doing the rounds of private oxygen refillers to secure oxygen cylinders for home care.
Given that states like Maharashtra could manage the pandemic without the scenes Delhi witnessed of inadequate beds and oxygen supply there is a pressing need to review emergency public health protocols. Plug-and-play triaging systems comprising war rooms, doctors, call centre staff, mobile paramedical units and field workers that can be deployed on short notice must be devised across India. This helped Mumbai handle the second wave better than most other cities. The lessons learned from the pandemic, from oxygen scarcity to methodical support for homebound patients, should be urgently put into practice.
2.Hope on Kashmir: PM meeting with J&K leaders seems to indicate a positive start. Everyone must work towards statehood
A significant step to advance the restoration of the political process in the Union territory of Jammu & Kashmir got underway yesterday during the course of the meeting PM Modi had with leaders of political parties from the region. Optics took priority as it was the first formal meeting leaders from Kashmir Valley had with Modi after the key elements of Article 370 were neutralised in August 2019. That legislative step was accompanied by long detentions of leaders from Kashmir. That they were now meeting GoI’s top leadership accounts for the importance of the meeting’s symbolism.
Significantly, Article 370 didn’t prove to be a negotiation-killer. A Constitution bench of the Supreme Court is seized of the legal issues pertaining to Article 370. Political leaders from Kashmir indicated that they will abide by the outcome. This is most welcome.
Restoration of the political process began last year through direct elections of sarpanches and members of the District Development Councils. The outcome suggested that old political parties such as NC and PDP retain enough support to make them essential to the deepening of the political process. DDC elections were followed by the restoration of 4G services in February.
Peace in Kashmir has been hostage to cross-border terrorism. With a thaw in India’s relationship with Pakistan, this is an opportune moment to take the next few steps in the political process. The most important one is to complete the ongoing delimitation exercise.
The current exercise for J&K has run into a problem as the associate members from Kashmir have not participated in the delimitation committee meetings. The presence of all political stakeholders is essential to cover all aspects and ensure the credibility of the process. Hopefully, this meeting will persuade some political parties to shed their reluctance and join the process. The long-term goal is restoration of statehood. GoI recently approved a financial package of Rs 28,400 crore spread over 16 years for J&K’s industrial development. This is a large commitment. In a democracy, such spending needs to be overseen by elected governments.
3.UP: Six variables will shape outcome
The battle has begun. Social alliances, religious polarisation and the narrative around the Covid-19 pandemic are key
The battle for Uttar Pradesh (UP) has begun. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is focused on internal housekeeping — getting its leaders to bridge differences and strengthen the organisation — and external projection, with an emboldened Yogi Adityanath, after a period of uncertainty, highlighting his achievements. As the principal Opposition, the Samajwadi Party (SP) is projecting Akhilesh Yadav as a leader with a credible record, recruiting new leaders, and questioning Mr Adityanath’s governance. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Congress will play a role, but the main fault line is between the BJP and SP. The outcome will be determined by six variables.
One, will the upper caste compact behind the BJP hold? There have been rumblings among Brahmins about Thakur-dominance. But whether this is enough to swing them away from the BJP, or whether issues of Hindutva, winnability, and Prime Minister’s Narendra Modi’s appeal will keep them with the party is key. Two, have contradictions within Other Backward Classes (OBCs) deepened or shrunk? If there is a wider backward consciousness, the SP benefits, and thus, it is attempting to expand its base among other backward sub-castes. If non-Yadav OBCs continue to prefer the BJP, despite complaints over inadequate representation, because of the fear of Yadav dominance and promise of a reworked reservation system through OBC sub-categorisation, the incumbent benefits. Three, do Dalits see the BJP as a party which hurts their interests, or has the BJP’s co-option of non-Jatav Dalits remained steady? Given the BSP’s weakness, and the Congress’s inconsistent attempts to woo Dalits, the BJP retains the edge. Four, will Jats and non-Jat farming communities in western UP in the backdrop of the farm agitation, switch from the BJP? The incumbent faces a real challenge in neutralising local anger here. And has the Hindu-Muslim fault line become more entrenched or less salient? In the backdrop of majoritarian communal politics redefining the nature of the state in UP, the gulf may have grown. This suits the BJP.