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Oxford University probes cyber bullying of Indian student Rashmi Samant

The University of Oxford on Tuesday said a probe is underway and that it “investigates thoroughly” every complaint related to harassment or equality, following allegations of cyber bullying surrounding Rashmi Samant, the first Indian woman to be elected President of the Oxford Student Union (SU) who was forced to resign amidst controversy over some of her past social media posts.

Some British Hindu groups have also raised concerns around comments made online by a university staffer from the history faculty with the local Thames Valley Police, urging an investigation into a possible hate crime.

The police force confirmed that it has “received a report of an alleged hate incident.”

The comments under scrutiny, posted with an image of Samant’s family on Instagram by Dr Abhijit Sarkar, made references to their Hindu faith and also categorized their home state of Karnataka as a “bastion of Islamophobic forces.”

“An investigation into these online comments is ongoing and we must allow time for this formal process to be followed. In cases such as these, student support is provided through their college and department,” an Oxford University spokesperson said.

“The university is fully committed to creating an environment where people of all backgrounds, including our Hindu students and staff, can feel welcome, valued and respected,” the university said, adding that it has strong policies in place to protect staff and students against “all forms of harassment, including online harassment.”

Samant has been working on completing her MSc course in Energy Systems at the university remotely from her hometown in Udupi, after she flew back to India in the wake of her resignation.

She said the continued “cyber bullying” makes it difficult for her to consider returning to the university at this stage.

“I’m just very glad that the university and the police have launched an investigation into my complaint, and I look forward to resolving it in the best manner possible,” said Samant, in a statement from India.

“I think it’s a long road for me to feel safe about the prospect of coming back and getting respite from the cyber bullying,” she said, adding that the Indian community in the UK had been “super supportive” through the course of the incident since last month.

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Latest News USA

India’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout has ‘rescued the world’ from pandemic says top US scientist

Houston: The rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines by India in collaboration with leading global institutions has “rescued the world” from the deadly coronavirus and the contributions by the country must not be underestimated, a top American scientist has said.
India is called the pharmacy of the world during the Covid-19 pandemic with its vast experience and deep knowledge in medicine. The country is one of the world’s biggest drug-makers and an increasing number of countries have already approached it for procuring coronavirus vaccines.

Dr Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston during a recent webinar said that the two mRNA vaccines may not impact the world’s low and middle income countries but India’s vaccines, made in collaboration with universities across the world such as BCM and the Oxford University, have “rescued the world” and its contributions must not be underestimated.
During the webinar, “Covid-19: Vaccination and Potential Return to Normalcy – If and When”, Dr Hotez, an internationally-recognized physician-scientist in neglected tropical diseases and vaccine development, said that the Covid-19 vaccine rollout is “India’s gift” to the world in combating the virus.
India’s drugs regulator gave emergency use authorization to Covishield, produced by Pune-based Serum Institute of India after securing license from British pharma company AstraZeneca, and Covaxin, indigenously developed jointly by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech and Indian Council of Medical Research scientists.
The webinar was organized by the Indo American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston (IACCGH).
“This is something very special and I see it myself because I’m on weekly teleconferences with our colleagues in India, you make a recommendation, and within days it’s done and not only done, but it’s done well and with incredible rigor and thought and creativity,” Dr Hotez said, stressing that he felt compelled to make this statement because “India’s huge efforts in combating global pandemic is a story that’s not really getting out in the world.”
Dr Hotez, considered as the authority on vaccinations, is working on an affordable coronavirus vaccine in collaboration with Indian pharmaceutical companies.
Consul general of India in Houston, Aseem Mahajan, along with a distinguished panel of doctors participated in this webinar, that tracked the possibilities of a return to some semblance of normality due to the accelerated roll out of vaccines across the country.
Appreciating Dr Hotez for commending India’s efforts in getting vaccines to the world, consul general Mahajan, said, “In keeping with our tradition of sharing with the world, India has exported vaccines to many countries across the world.”
India has provided 56 lakh doses of coronavirus vaccines under grants assistance to a number of countries. The vaccines were sent to Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles.
There has also been a boost in the collaborative medical partnerships emerging between the US and India during this pandemic. In addition, India is one of the fourth largest destinations in Asia for medical devices manufacturing and many US companies have expressed interest in collaborating on this front, Mahajan said.

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India Latest News

PM Modi takes 3 city tour in a day to review vaccine work

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday visited Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Pune to review coronavirus vaccine development work there.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said the day-long visit was aimed at getting a first-hand perspective of the preparations, challenges and roadmap in India’s endeavor to vaccinate its citizens.
Modi began by visiting pharma major Zydus Cadila’s manufacturing facility near Ahmedabad. Wearing a PPE kit, he reviewed the vaccine development process at the company’s research center, located over 20 km from Ahmedabad.
Modi was extensively briefed about the vaccine work at the plant by the company officials. He was briefed about the vaccine production procedure. He interacted with scientists and vaccine developers, an official said.
“Visited the Zydus Biotech Park in Ahmedabad to know more about the indigenous DNA based vaccine being developed by Zydus Cadila. I compliment the team behind this effort for their work. Government of India is actively working with them to support them in this journey,” Modi tweeted after the visit.
Zydus Cadila chairman Pankaj Patel recently said the company is aiming to complete the vaccine trial by March 2021, and could produce up to 100 million doses a year.
Modi spent over an hour at the plant, before leaving for the airport, from where he left for Hyderabad at 11.40 am.
Modi landed at Hakimpet Air Force station near Hyderabad around 1 pm and proceeded to pharma major Bharat Biotech’s vaccine manufacturing facility at Genome valley, located around 20 km from the air station, by road.
At the facility, he reviewed the progress of Covaxin, a vaccine candidate being developed by the company. He also interacted with Bharat Biotech Chairman and Managing Director Krishna Ella, scientists and senior management.
“At the Bharat Biotech facility in Hyderabad, was briefed about their indigenous COVID-19 vaccine. Congratulated the scientists for their progress in the trials so far. Their team is closely working with ICMR to facilitate speedy progress,” Modi tweeted after his hour-long visit there.
Covaxin, being developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research and National Institute of Virology, is undergoing phase-3 trials.
At 3.20 pm, Modi took off for Pune, where he landed at 4.30 pm. From the airport, Modi proceeded by helicopter to the Serum Institute of India (SII) at Manjari, located 17 km from the airport.
Modi interacted with scientists at the Serum Institute of India and went around the facility, taking stock of vaccine development work being carried out there, before leaving for the Pune airport around 6 pm on the way back to Delhi. 
Modi’s visit to SII was aimed at reviewing the progress of the vaccine candidate for coronavirus and to know about its launch, production and distribution mechanism, an official said. Serum Institute of India has partnered with pharma giant AstraZeneca and Oxford University for the vaccine.

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Latest News New York

4 Indian American students chosen Rhodes Scholars

New York: Four Indian-Americans are among the cohort of 32 students chosen from the US as Rhodes Scholars virtually for the first time this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The diverse group that won scholarships to the Oxford University in England, comprises immigrants and students of color.

American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust Elliot Gerson announced the names of the 32 Americans chosen as Rhodes Scholars representing the US on Sunday.

The four Indian-American students include Swathi R Srinivasan, Vijayasundaram Ramasamy, Garima P Desai and Savarni Sanka.

Never before has a class of Rhodes Scholars been elected entirely virtually, with both candidates and selectors participating safely, independently and digitally, Gerson said. He said this year’s class for the prestigious scholarship reflects the remarkable diversity that characterizes and strengthens the United States.

Out of the 32 students, 22 are of color; 10 are Black, equal to the greatest number ever elected in one year in the United States, nine are first-generation Americans or immigrants and one is a Dreamer with active Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. Seventeen of the winners are women, 14 are men, and one is non-binary.

Swathi Srinivasan from Ohio is a senior at Harvard College with double concentrations in Social Studies and History of Science, with a focus on public health inequality. She is also writing a thesis for the Chemistry Department.

 At Oxford, she intends to do the M.Sc. in International Health and Tropical Medicine and the M.Sc. in Comparative Social Policy, the press release from the Rhodes Trust said.

Vijayasundaram Ramasamy from Kansas graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2018 with a major in Public Health Studies. Since graduation, he was for one year a Special Assistant in the Baltimore City Health Department and is currently working as Policy and Budget Advisor in the Office of Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, with responsibilities for the State’s COVID-19 re-opening plan.

At Oxford, he intends to do the M.Sc. in Comparative Social Policy and the Master of Public Policy, the release said.

Garima Desai, hailing from California, graduated in May 2020 from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a double major in Environmental Studies and Economics.

She currently works as a transportation planner in Oakland, California. At Oxford, she plans to pursue an M.Sc. in Economics for Development and an M.Sc. in Environmental Change and Management, the release said.

Savarni Sanka from North Carolina is a senior at Wake Forest University where she majors in Politics and International Affairs and in Spanish, with a minor in Middle East and South Asia Studies.

At Oxford, she plans to do the M.Sc. in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies and the Master of Public Policy.

Rhodes Scholarships provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England. The Scholarships were created in 1902 by the Will of Cecil Rhodes.

The 32 Rhodes Scholars chosen from the US will join an international group of scholars selected from more than 60 countries around the world. (PTI)

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