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Congress needs crisis management strategy and team ASAP

By Asad Mirza

The 3Cs: Covid, China and Climate Change dominated the 47th annual G-7 Summit in Cornwall, UK. But overall the leaders were not able to present a united stand on any major issue.

The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wanted the summit to showcase his brand of ‘Global Britain’, after Brexit. But there were terse exchanges between the French, EU and British leaders and officials on the issue. In effect, the summit turned out to be more Biden focused and expectations were raised high on some real agreement taking place on the 3C’s before the summit, though that was not the result ultimately.

Broadly, Biden sought to set a new tone after the unrestrained Trump years. Most G-7 leaders seemed relieved to have a return to a more predictable and traditional US administration. France’s Emmanuel Macron welcomed Biden back to the “club.” But the final Communique showed that even Biden’s expectations to ensure a consensus on many of his promises fell short.

On the issue of Covid-19, the leaders of the seven most affluent western nations seemed united, but there was a difference of opinion on the way forward. Earlier, they had shown commitment to donate 1 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses over the next year to poorer countries. But in reality the bloc fell short of its own goal — 613 million new doses pledged, instead of a billion.

Even so, the vaccine effort gave Biden some help with his China push. Biden has criticised China for a transactional brand of vaccine diplomacy, where the shots are being doled out for geopolitical advantage. Biden called on democracies to counter China and Russia by donating vaccines equally and based on need, without seeking favours in return.

On the second day of the summit, US unveiled plans to counter China through infrastructure funding for poorer nations. Promising to “collectively catalyse” hundreds of billions of infrastructure investment for low- and middle-income countries, the G7 leaders said they would offer a “values-driven, high-standard and transparent” partnership.

G-7s “Build Back Better World” (B3W) project was aimed directly at competing with China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Infrastructure (BRI) initiative.

However, several leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, pushed back over worries about turning the G-7 into an anti-China group, suggesting any infrastructure programme should be framed as a more positive, pro-environment effort.

French President Emmanuel Macron also pushed back publicly, saying that the “G-7 is not a group that is hostile to China.” Macron was one leader who sought the middle ground.

China hit back at these statements dismissively saying that the days when “global decisions” were dictated by a “small group of countries are long gone”.

The final version of the communique skirted B3W, instead creating a task force to study how to spur infrastructure development abroad. It made no mention of BRI, though Biden renewed his call at a press conference, and said that, “I proposed that we have a democratic alternative to the Belt and Road initiative, to build back better.”

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced last month that due to surging Covid cases in India, he’d not travel to the UK, he addressed the summit virtually. He conveyed India’s commitment to “collective” solution to global health challenges, and called for “one earth, one health” approach, which aims for unity and solidarity among the states of the world to deal with the pandemic. He also emphasised the need to keep raw materials for vaccines easily accessible.

The summit’s Communique, which was issued several hours after the end of the summit, promises many things but falls short of what was expected to be achieved before the summit.

(The Op-Ed appeared in IANS)

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India Latest News Sports

Milkha Singh: The ‘Flying Sikh’ no one could catch

New Delhi: A glimpse into the stupendous athletics career of legendary Milkha Singh, who passed away aged 91, can be had from this mind boggling fact: his 400 metres Indian national record stood for 38 years and the 400m Asian record for 26 years. In 1960 in Rome, he came closest to winning an individual Olympic Games medal as an Indian, in 400m, eventually finishing fourth in a photo finish.

Milkha was one of the favorites to win the 400m gold in Rome. It was probably natural, too, as going into the Olympics, he is said to have won 77 out of 80 races, including the 1958 Commonwealth Games gold in 440 yards.

But one shortcoming probably cost Milkha an Olympic medal. He had a habit of looking at his opponents over his shoulder while running races, and when he did the same in Rome it was decisive, though he had led the race until 200m. Later he admitted that he had paid a heavy price for his habit.

Interestingly, Milkha broke the existing world record of 45.9 sec in Rome, and so the three who finished ahead of him. He finished fourth with a time of 45.6 seconds, as per a hand-held device, while an unofficial electronic timer at the games clocked him at 45.73 sec. This has been a point of contention, though.

Whatever the reality, Milkha emerged from Rome as the ‘Flying Sikh’. A legend was born.

Until Rome 1960, no Indian had come so close to winning an individual Olympic medal; in hockey, though, India had been a dominant force.

Milkha’s 400m Asian record of 45.63 seconds stood for 26 years, before being broken by Susumu Takona of Japan.

Milkha was born in Layalpur, in the undivided India, and now in Pakistan. His love for athletics began after he enrolled himself with the Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME) of the Indian Army in Delhi.

His talent blossomed while being with the Army. Fortunately for him, his officers encouraged him, and that would have played a role in him winning the 200m and 400m races at a Services Athletics Meet in 1955.

Milkha practiced on his own while with the Army and clinched gold medals in both 200m and 400m at the 1956 National Games in Patiala, and two years later at the Cuttack Nationals, setting national records in both races.

His sporting achievements won him kudos from the Army, and the Indian government awarded him the Padma Shri in 1959. The same year, he was awarded the prestigious Helms Award.

Milkha took premature retirement from the Army and took up the post of Deputy Director of Sports with the Punjab government.

Decades later, a Bollywood film was made on Milkha Singh, starring Farhan Akhtar.

Milkha died at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research in Chandigarh, where he was being treated for Covid-related complications. 

Six days before he passed away, his wife, Nirmal, had died on June 13. A former India volleyball captain, she was 85, and she too succumbed to Covid and related complications.

Milkha Singh was cremated with full state honors at the Sector 25 cremation ground in Chandigarh with a police contingent according gun salute by reversing arms and sounding the last post to the legendary athlete, who held the 400m national record for 38 years, while his Asian record in the same event remained unmatched for 26 years.

The Punjab government had earlier declared one-day state mourning and a public holiday as a mark of respect to the legendary athlete.

The legendary athlete Milkha Singh. (khelnow and DNA)
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e-paper-stories India Latest News

Addressing G-7, PM Modi calls for open vaccine chains

New Delhi: Calling for “global unity, leadership and solidarity”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi last Saturday emphasized the “special responsibility of democratic and transparent societies to prevent future pandemics”.

Addressing the G-7 outreach session via video conference, Modi also expressed India’s commitment to support collective endeavors to improve global health governance.

This is an oblique reference to the lack of transparency displayed by China in dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak and WHO’s poor leadership as the crisis engulfed the world.

Modi said there should be “one earth, one health” approach, which, sources said, was supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Sources said India’s emphasis on keeping “open supply chains for vaccine raw materials and components to help enhance vaccine production received widespread support”.

This came days after French President Emanuel Macron supported India’s demand for lifting restrictions on export of raw materials needed to manufacture vaccines.

The session, titled ‘Building Back Stronger – Health’, focused on global recovery from the pandemic and strengthening resilience against future pandemics.

Modi sought the G-7’s support for a proposal moved by “India and South Africa at the WTO for a TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waiver on Covid-related technologies”. Sources said Australian PM Scott Morrison and others came out strongly in support of this.

The Prime Minister highlighted India’s “whole of society” approach to fight the pandemic, synergizing the efforts of all levels of government, industry and civil society.

He also explained India’s successful use of open source digital tools for contact tracing and vaccine management, and conveyed the country’s willingness to share its experience and expertise with other developing countries.

Modi expressed appreciation for the support extended by the G-7 and other guest countries during the recent wave of Covid infections in India.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had invited Modi to attend the outreach component of the G-7 Summit, along with Australia, South Korea and South Africa.

Addressing another G7 session on ‘open societies and open economies’ on Sunday, Modi  said India is a natural ally for the G7 countries in defending the shared values from a host of threats stemming from authoritarianism, terrorism and violent extremism, disinformation and economic coercion. In that session, the prime minister highlighted India’s civilizational commitment to democracy, freedom of thought and liberty, according to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

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India reopens big cities as Covid numbers plunge

New Delhi: After weeks-long lockdowns, major Indian cities have reopened for business, with long queues for buses in the financial hub of Mumbai while traffic returned to the roads of New Delhi after a devastating second wave of coronavirus that killed thousands.

The graph of new infections has been going down steadily. India reported 67,208 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours Thursday, data from the health ministry showed. The country’s total case load now stands at 29.70 million, while total fatalities are at 381,903, the data showed.

“We have to save ourselves from infection but also bring the economy back on track,” Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Twitter.

He ordered half the capital’s shops to open on odd- and even-numbered days of the month respectively, in a bid to limit crowds, but allowed offices and the Delhi metro rail network to run at 50 percent of capacity.

But some curbs were retained, such as the ban on dining in restaurants and the use of theatres and gyms in a city still slowly recovering from a surge in the months of April and May that overwhelmed hospitals. These ran short of beds and medical oxygen, and people died in hospital parking lots and homes, while crematoriums and morgues struggled to cope with an incessant flow of corpses.

Maharashtra allowed businesses to run until late afternoon, staffed with half their employees, and opened gyms, salons and spas, though cinemas and malls are to stay shut. India’s richest state eased restrictions based on infection rates and hospital bed occupancy.

 

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Google pledges Rs 113 crore to boost healthcare infra in India

New Delhi: Google on Thursday announced new grants of nearly Rs 113 crore to help strengthen India’s healthcare infrastructure and workforce in rural areas, as India prepares for the third Covid wave.

Google.org will support procurement and installation of approximately 80 oxygen generation plants in healthcare facilities in high-need and rural locations with new grants of approximately Rs 90 crore to GiveIndia and nearly Rs 18.5 crore to PATH non-government organization.

Google.org will also make an Rs 3.6 crore grant to NGO ARMMAN to run skilling programmes for 180,000 Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) and 40,000 Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs) in 15 states in the country.

The company said that it will also invest in the efforts of Apollo Medskills to help upskill 20,000 frontline health workers through specialised training in COVID-19 management and strengthen the stressed rural health workforce and rural health systems.

“We’re now broadening our COVID-19 support to help strengthen India’s healthcare infrastructure and workforce — especially in rural areas. With these new commitments, Google is proud to be supporting our partners as they build a bigger, better-equipped healthcare system,” said Sanjay Gupta, Country Head and Vice President, Google India.

The new commitments build on the Rs 135 crore ($18 million) funding that was announced by Google in April for COVID-19 response.

In addition to this, Googlers worldwide have donated and helped raise $7 million for organisations supporting high-risk and marginalised communities.

“We are thankful to Google.org for their strong commitment to ensure we save as many preventable deaths as possible, which happen due to lack of medical oxygen,” said Atul Satija, CEO, GiveIndia.

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Ramdev booked for comments against Covid-19 medicines

New Delhi: The Chhattisgarh Police have registered a case against Yoga guru Ramdev for allegedly spreading false information about medicines used to treat Covid-19, Raipur police superintendent Ajay Yadav said, the media reported.

Yadav said a First Information Report (FIR) has been lodged in this regard on the complaint of Indian Medical Association (IMA) Hospital Board (Chhattisgarh) chairman Rakesh Gupta, IMA’s Raipur president Vikas Agrawal, and other doctors.

In his complaint, Gupta has accused Ramdev of allegedly propagating false information about the medicines, misleading people about established and approved treatment methods when doctors and other paramedical workers are fighting Covid.

“The Chhattisgarh Police has taken the right step by registering a case against Ramdev, who is flouting all norms and international guidelines by misleading people of this country. Strict action should be taken against Ramdev for this act,” said Gupta.

Ramdev has been in the news for his comments against allopathic medicines and doctors. He later said he was “withdrawing” the controversial remarks hours after Union health minister Harsh Vardhan asked him to rescind them. In a letter addressed to Ramdev, Vardhan said the people were extremely hurt by the former’s comments against allopathic medicines and doctors.

Ramdev has drawn flak for his statement that about 10,000 doctors died despite vaccination. At least 646 doctors have died of Covid-19 during the second wave of infections and 753 during the first wave, according to IMA. IMA has pointed out no vaccines were available during the first wave and most of those who died during the second wave had not been able to take their shots.

Ramdev said his comments were taken out of context and blown out of proportion. He maintained he was merely questioning the excessive use of experimental therapy.

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Indian Army top brass discuss threats from China, Pakistan

New Delhi: Amid border standoff with China, the Indian Army held a commanders’ conference led by General Manoj Mukund Naravane on Thursday to review the operational situation at the border with China and Pakistan. Indian Army Commanders’ Conference is an apex level biannual event, which formulates important policy decisions through collegiate deliberations.

The conference was attended by senior officers of the Army including the vice chief of the army staff, all commanders, principal staff officers (PSOs) of the Army Headquarters and other senior officers.

In the two-day conference, the Army top brass discussed the current position of Chinese People’s Liberation Army positions in disputed areas at Gogra, Hot Springs, Demchok and Depsang at Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh.

China has enhanced troops, artillery and armour deployment in three sectors of Line of Actual Control — western (Ladakh), middle (Uttarakhand, Himachal) and eastern (Sikkim, Arunachal) sectors.

A year after the Galwan valley clash in Eastern Ladakh, China is still sitting at the Line of Actual Control and India has geared up for a long grind. Indian and Chinese military delegates had 11 rounds of talks to resolve border disputes at friction points.

During the commanders’ conference meeting, Army top brass discussed how to be better prepared to face Chinese belligerence in Ladakh over the last year as a final resolution seems far off. India has enhanced military infrastructure, increased troop deployment to 50,000 to 60,000, and constructed better roads connectivity for quick mobilisation.

Last month, General Naravane said that the troops are on high alert at Line of Actual Control and are keeping watch on Chinese People’s Liberation Army activities.

The Indian Army chief stated that India wants the status quo ante of April 2020 to be restored. He also stated that India has made it clear to China that de-escalation will only be considered once disengagement is completed to the mutual satisfaction of both the sides.

He had said that Indian troops are on high alert and deployments have not thinned after the disengagement in Pangong River.

General Naravane said that India is currently concentrating on resolving outstanding problems at other friction points like Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang at Line of Actual Control.

The army chief also stated that trust levels between two countries are low but pointed out that the trust deficit should not hinder the negotiation process.

At Galwan valley, the clash took place on June 15 last year sparking a war like situation. Later by the end of August last year there was a further build up across and Pangong Lake at 14,000 feet turning it into a battle zone as India occupied key mountain tops at the Kailash Range overlooking the southern bank of the lake.

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SII to introduce Novavax vaccine in India by September

Pune: Serum Institute of India (SII) will introduce Covavax in the country by September, the media reported. Covavax is a version of US firm Novavax’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate. The SII also said that it will start clinical trials of Novavax for children in July.

Novavax vaccine has shown strong efficacy against the emerging variants of Covid-19 in a large trial, the biotech firm said on June 14. This is also the fourth vaccine the United States has added to its arsenal. Novavax Inc said that the jabs are 90% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 and showed 100% effectiveness at preventing moderate and severe symptoms.

The vaccine showed 93% effectiveness against variants of concern based on test results from a secondary analysis which mostly consisted of cases of the alpha variant which is predominant in the United States. The vaccine is based on recombinant protein technology. With over 90% overall efficacy, the vaccine efficacy rate is similar to the reported rates of Pfizer Inc. with BioNTech SE and by Moderna Inc., as well as the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia. All of these are messenger RNA shots and use viral vector technology.

India has closely observed the developments related to the vaccine.

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Ex-encounter specialist held in Ambani bomb scare case

Mumbai: In a significant development, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) raided former encounter specialist Pradeep Sharma’s Andheri home and later detained him, as part of the ongoing probe into the cases of SUV planting and businessman Mansukh Hiran murder.

An NIA team along with the Mumbai Police swooped at his home, carried out searches and later detained Sharma for questioning.

The NIA action came in the sensational case of the SUV with 20 gelatin sticks and a threat note abandoned near Antilia, home of industrialist Mukesh Ambani on February 25.

Soon after that, the police recovered the body of the SUV owner from the Thane Creek marshes on March 5, as both the cases triggered a huge political row.

Sharma, a controversial former Senior Police Inspector and later a Shiv Sena activist, had been earlier interrogated by the NIA a couple of times last April.

Last week, the NIA had arrested two other persons Santosh Atmaram Shelar and Anand Pandurang Jadhav, both from a slum pocket in Kurar village of Malad east for their roles in the twin cases.

Earlier, the NIA had arrested five other persons including former policemen like Sachin Vaze, Riyazuddin Kazi, Sunil Mane, a convicted ex-cop Vinayak Shinde and a cricket bookies Naresh Gor.

Sharma is reported to be close to Vaze, who is named as one of the prime accused in the SUV-Hiran case, and the duo had allegedly met in early March when the plot to eliminate Hiran was hatched, while Sharma had gone to the Mumbai Police Commissionerate to meet some other persons.

A former college professor-turned-policeman of the 1983 batch state cadre, he built up a formidable reputation for wiping out the Mumbai mafia through the so-called ‘encounter killings’.

However, Sharma was dismissed from the police force in 2008 for alleged links with the underworld, but was reinstated after 10 years when the charges against him failed.

He started his second innings with a bang by arresting Iqbal Ibrahim Kaskar — the younger sibling of absconding mafia don Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar — in September 2017, on extortion charges.

In 2019, he quit the police force to join the Shiv Sena and contested the Assembly elections unsuccessfully from Nalasopara constituency in Palghar.

 

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