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This refers to your cover story Can We Stop the Surge? (April 12). Our vaccination drive has still not taken off full throttle, mainly because people have doubts about the efficacy and side-effects of the available vaccines. The only way to accelerate the drive and increase the coverage is to reach out to people where they are. The vaccination team should go house to house, with a doctor and the sarpanch or councillor personally assuring the family members. Vaccines should be made available at all government health centres, dispensaries and community centres. Let there be no shortage of vaccines and no preconditions for vaccination other than those related to medical conditions. The entire drive should be coordinated by a central agency and those who get the jab should be given a certificate immediately by the concerned doctor. In this way, vaccine coverage will expand and people will accept it more easily.
Col R.D. Singh (Retd), Ambala Cantt
We must understand that everybody cannot be vaccinated simultaneously. So, until everyone is vaccinated, we must observe the COVID-19 protocol. But we see large-scale violations of the protocol everywhere. In Delhi, for example, we find people roaming around without masks in almost every market. Social distancing norms have gone for a toss. It is almost as if people are inviting the coronavirus, asking it to “come, party with us”. And, surprisingly, enforcement agencies are usually mere spectators. In Delhi, the number of Covid-related challans has decreased considerably, despite rampant violations of the norms. Meanwhile, vaccine hesitance continues. If we want to contain the virus, then we must increase the pace of vaccination. The government must allow vaccination of every adult as soon as possible, and should reach out to people instead of waiting for them to come to the vaccination centres. People too should act more responsibly and strictly observe the Covid protocol. District administrations and the police must be proactive and meticulous in enforcing the protocol. All these measures must be taken simultaneously to break the Covid chain, or else lockdown may become the only alternative.
D.B. Madan, New Delhi
The surge in new Covid cases paints a grim picture of the current situation and requires us to recognise the need to take the pandemic far more seriously than we now do. The image of shrouded bodies of people who succumbed to Covid, kept together in a crematorium at Beed in Maharashtra, was deeply distressing. It was a sombre reminder of the difficult and unsettled times we live in. We have to be doubly cautious as the virus mutates into new variants and spreads quickly. It has been told for the umpteenth time that wearing a mask and social distancing are effective in containing the spread of the disease. Still many people conspicuously avoid these basic measures. The second Covid wave is explicable in terms of virus behaviour and its mutation into more infectious variants as well as public fatigue and complacency about Covid-appropriate behaviour. We have no option but to mount a response based on science to bring the pandemic under control. Data on the second wave indicate that children and young adults are also vulnerable to the infection that has been called an ‘old man’s disease’. As for the vaccine strategy, it must be flexible enough to deal with the evolving situation. ‘One size fits all’ cannot be applied in our vast country. The pandemic hotspots should be given precedence for vaccination with further relaxation of the age limit. By increasing the supply of vaccines, this can be done without the inoculation programme elsewhere being affected.
A complete lockdown as in the initial phase of the pandemic outbreak would spell loss of the means of livelihood and unendurable economic hardships for the impoverished multitudes, and disruption of supply chains. So it could be the last resort when all other attempts to contain the spread of the disease fail. It is absolutely imperative that we do what we can individually and collectively to beat the present wave and get the better of the scourge.
G. David Milton, Maruthancode (Tamil Nadu)
A second wave of Covid has gripped many parts of the country, creating panic and fear of repeated lockdowns. When the need of the hour for every individual was to religiously follow the Covid protocol—wearing a mask, maintaining social distance and avoiding crowds—people are seen throwing the protocol to the winds. Public places and markets are seen flooded with people without masks and with no care for social distancing. We need to make our daily behavior Covid-appropriate or be prepared for the worst. The government needs to focus on the vaccination of people of all age-groups in relatively highly affected regions, and of targeted age-groups in other places. The policy needs to be one of ‘home first’. Vaccine requirement of the country must be met before exporting vaccines to the rest of the world.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
The upsurge in Covid cases and the mudslinging during electioneering in Assam, Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry have got the Outlook editor quite worried (A Pandemic, and a Plague, April 12). Let us have a positive attitude. We have overcome many such curses in the past—leprosy, smallpox and plague—and average life spans have multiplied. And we are going to win again.
M.N. Bhartiya, Alto-Porvorim (Goa)
This refers to your Pollscape story on Kerala (God Finds Place in Own Country, April 12). I spoke to many friends from Kerala who are not against love and interfaith marriage, yet claim that ‘love jehad’ is a real threat. They object to the way marriage is used to wipe out the previous identity of the woman. There are also many interfaith marriages where both partners retain their names and identities, and celebrate festivals of both religions. Making a woman sever all her links to her past is a sinister attempt to kill her culturally and surely a violation of human rights. Religious faith cannot be based on compulsion.
Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao, Vijayawada
The reporter excellently elaborates on the political situation in Kerala and the prospects of the CPI(M)-led LDF’s victory in the assembly polls. It seems Pinarayi Vijayan’s welfare schemes and stand on Sabarimala have been translated into votes for the LDF, even as the Congress-led UDF remains in a tight spot because of internal rift. However, the BJP is likely to increase its voteshare.
K.V. Vaidyanathan, Ahmedabad
Outlook’s April 12 issue carried a two-page ad of the Punjab government. I could not help comparing Captain Amarinder Singh with West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee. Didi has believed in doling out largesse at the expense of the state exchequer and has little to show by way of infrastructure or industrial development. She has also had regular confrontations with the Centre. By contrast, the Punjab CM, despite belonging to the Congress, never had any differences with the Centre on security and allocation of funds, and quietly took what was due to his state. He will likely see another term as CM as the BJP does not have a strong base in Punjab and the Akalis having lost their steam after differing with the BJP on the farmers’ protest.
Rangarajan T.S., Bangalore
This refers to your cover story Bear With Us, For What They Tell You Is Bull (April 5) about this century’s wealth creators in the stock market. Busting myths about the mysterious world of equity shares, it reveals that the path to riches is random and almost fantastical. The list of top 25 stocks that registered phenomenal growth in the past 20 years doesn’t include the ones we would expect to be there—those like Reliance Industries, ICICI Bank, Infosys and Bharti Airtel. How incredible the growth of the 25 toppers was in 20 years can be imagined by the market capitalisation of the top two between January 2000 and January 2021—IOL Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals and Bajaj Finance. “A successful stock-picking strategy is like a random and drunken walk in the investment wilderness.” Truer words on the subject have seldom been spoken. The stock market looks like a goldmine to investors, but most of them end up burning their fingers.
When bulls get the upper hand in their match with bears and the fortunes of investors in the capital market swing fast, one has to weather the storm. The wise either take it lying down and offload their weak holdings or prefer to gamble by making more stakes during the bullish market—or simply wait and watch with patience for optimum opportunities. Statistics was always suspect as it can prove or disprove anything. Times have changed and now mathematics too is no more an exact science. New definitions of loss and profit are coined. All that matters are the calculations and subjective perceptions of stock-exchange players about the net worth of the stocks available in the market. Here, two plus two do not always make four—it could make three or five as per perceptions of government policies. Many manmade and accidental events like wars and natural calamities cause unimaginable howling at the stock exchange.
This refers to Bill It to the L-G Please (April 5). The passage of the Delhi Bill by both Houses of Parliament undermines the mandate given by voters in Delhi to the AAP government. In essence, this legislation shifts the balance of power away from the elected state government and towards the Lieutenant Governor appointed by the government at the Centre. This is at odds with the Supreme Court ruling on the matter and makes a legal challenge quite inevitable. This legislation is very harmful from the standpoint of cooperative federalism. It will adversely affect cooperation between the Centre and opposition-ruled states. The debate in Parliament showed that many opposition parties interpreted the bill as an attempt to undermine the state legislatures.
L.J. Singh, On E-Mail
This refers to your cover story Ayurveda in the Time of Corona (March 29), which raised some valid points on the pros and cons of Ayurveda. The traditional medicines developed more than 2,000 years ago still cater to the health needs of millions of Indians. It was because of our willingness to change and our openness to scientific inquiry, research and development that modern medicines are flourishing today. They are preferred over Ayurvedic medicines due to the paucity of research over the years in traditional pharmacology and the apathy of successive governments. We must not lose sight of the fact that western medicines are primarily concerned with curing the disease, while traditional medicines tend to strike at the root of the disease, thereby healing the body, mind and soul of an individual, with little or no side effects. China provides a good example of harnessing traditional forms of medicine. Also, the entire world is now realising the importance of yoga in promoting well-being. During the ongoing Covid- induced crisis, yoga exercises can address common problems of anxiety, stress and depression, besides boosting general immunity. Indian systems of medicine must complement each other and their experts should work towards improving themselves rather than making tall claims without evidence. Cross-learning and collaboration between the eastern and western medical systems, and integrating Ayurveda into the mainstream, require research and concerted efforts to make traditional medicines serve as an essential part of healthcare.
Vijay Singh Adhikari, Nainital
It’s been over a year and COVID-19 continues to hold the world to ransom. Allopathy, which has doused similar calamities in the past successfully on many occasions, has failed to provide credible treatment options. Though vaccines have emerged, they are shrouded in the grey zone. In India, Ayurveda has been on the forefront in claiming to enhance immunity to fight the viral disease. But Ayurveda for Covid is more fad than fact.
George Jacob, Kochi
This refers to the interview with former Mumbai police commissioner Julio Ribeiro (‘Police are now dictated by political bosses’) in your cover story on Delhi Police (Close Encounter, March 8). The interview gives the inside story of the police citadel. It is a fact that the policing system in India is more or less trapped in a vicious circle dominated by politicians and bureaucrats. The police obey their political masters because of their own interest. This is not good in a democratic country like India. The charges against the Delhi Police are correct because nothing has been done against the real instigators of the riots that shook the capital in February 2020. This is unfair. How will people believe the police if they behave in this way?
This refers to Star-Spangled Banner (April 12), your story on the “talented and fearless cricketers” who have “put India on course for world dominance”. The way India won against Australia in the Test series and then against England in the home series in all three formats is a clear testimony that our bench strength is second to none in the world. New players emerged one after another and proved their mettle against the best in the world. In Australia, due to a series of injuries, we were literally struggling to put together 11 players during the last Test match, but players like Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur, T. Natarajan and Mohammed Siraj performed seamlessly and ensured we won the series. Against England, it was Axar Patel’s turn to do what his other younger teammates have done down under. And the way Ishan Kishan and Surya Kumar Yadav performed in the white ball format, it did not look like they were debuting in those matches. It speaks volume about the solid confidence level of these players. Now Virat Kohli and the team management will have some pleasant headache while deciding on the final 11 when the more seasoned players return. Hopefully, the younger players will be handled carefully so as to not let them get disoriented if they are not selected. They must be kept motivated all the time. Lastly, a significant section of cricket lovers used to believe that IPL has killed Test cricket, but in fact it is IPL that has given us players like Sundar, Natarajan, Navdeep Saini and Siraj.
Bal Govind, Noida
As president of the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, I refer to your cover story Ayurveda in the Time of Corona (March 29). It is easy to claim curative or preventive properties for any concoction when the survival rate of the infected is 98 per cent. Like many other viral diseases, Covid is self-limiting in most people and causes problems only for those with co-morbidities. For most of the infected, body immunity is what protects and heals. Yet, someone from Bangalore even claimed his product would prevent or cure Covid as it was a broad-spectrum anti-viral! Concoctions were marketed with names like Coronil and Corwin as people were expected to believe that the names would be descriptive of their properties. Now, with vaccines coming in, we can expect new concoctions with names like Coroboost and claims of increasing the efficiency of vaccines too! In a country ruled by an irrational cabal with an inferiority complex that makes them make tall claims of ancient glories, such is to be expected—even though P.R. Krishnakumar, one of the top signatories of the Ayush ministry’s Covid prevention, cure and post-recovery protocol, succumbed to the virus. If Ayurvedic specialists could not save one of their own using their concoctions, how can they claim that they work? In fact, when Ayush minister Shripad Nayak got infected (was he not taking all these magical ingredients with protective powers?), he was admitted to a hospital that administers mainstream medicine.
Narendra Nayak, Mangalore
Allopathy is the only scientifically proven healthcare system supported by the latest modern technology. As the facilities available are far less than the requirement, access is so expensive that 90 percent of the people cannot afford it. The doctor-patient ratio is abysmal. Doctors, other personnel and infrastructure cannot be multiplied overnight. Setting up medical colleges with good faculty needs long-term planning and huge expenditure. Government hospitals don’t enjoy the confidence of the public. In such a scenario, all healthcare systems, including Ayurveda, Unani and homeopathy, should function with full cooperation, seeing themselves as complementary to each other instead of superior or inferior. Practitioners of the alternative systems should strive to improve their standards of knowledge and practices instead of making fantastic claims. We should be proud that our kitchens in every home are also well-stocked Ayurveda pharmacies, with the knowledge of grannies’ prescriptions for common day-to-day ailments passed on from generation to generation.
M.N. Bharatiya, Alto-Porvorim (Goa)
The challenge posed by coronavirus is unprecedented and healthcare systems all over the world are under intense pressure. As modern pharmaceutical companies work overtime to fine-tune the vaccine against the deadly virus, our native system of medicine, Ayurveda, is also being aggressively pitched as a panacea for Covid by claiming it has solutions to raise immunity—our body’s multilevel defence network to guard us against potentially harmful virus and bacteria. Ayurveda, a portmanteau of ‘Ayur’ (life) and ‘veda’ (knowledge), originated in ancient India and focuses on building the strength of body and mind to cope with various infections. The classic Ayurvedic text Charakasamhita mentions epidemics and the need for good immunity—both innate and acquired—to fight disease. Their logic is simple: germs are everywhere, but only those with poor immunity are susceptible to infection. However, despite a wealth of anecdotal and written knowledge, Ayurveda has not subjected itself to the rigour of science. Its medicines have never been tested in sizeable clinical trials—the bottom line of any evidence-—based science. Even if it is assumed that Ayurveda is more holistic, the way it individualises treatment lends it a tentativeness that doesn’t inspire instant confidence. Caught as we are in a massive Covid churn, allopathy, with its focus on constant research, validation and modern diagnostic tools, seems to be a better ‘interpreter of maladies’.
Sangeeta Kampani, New Delhi
Baba Ramdev’s claim that Coronil—a brand developed by his firm Patanjali—is a panacea for all things Covid at a time when the coronavirus had taken a toll of millions of lives across the globe was strange and rather humorous. Ayurveda has been practised in India for centuries and, even though it is unable to provide relief to patients as quickly as allopathic treatment, a large number of people still prefer it in order to avoid the side-effects of allopathic drugs. Bringing together the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Indian Council of Medical Research and the Ayush ministry in a joint quest to scientifically validate classical Ayurvedic products and promote collaborative research was a good initiative to explore the vast possibilities offered by alternative systems of treatment.
This refers to the column by Lt Gen Subrata Saha (retd) on the genocide of Bengalis by Pakistan and the subsequent liberation of Bangladesh (1971: War on Mass Murder, March 29). The column reminds us of the gallant victory of our armed forces over Pakistan, besides recalling painful memories of atrocities committed by Pakistan’s military forces over the peoples of erstwhile East Pakistan to prevent Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s Awami League from taking power after winning the December 1970 general elections. Martial law was enforced to legitimise a reign of state terror. Millions were massacred and thousands raped, causing a massive exodus from East Pakistan. We cannot forget these atrocities on the human race.
This refers to The Third Dimension (March 29). Until the 2016 assembly elections, the DMK and the AIADMK were being alternately elected to power in Tamil Nadu. Now, with tall leaders like K. Karunanidhi and J. Jayalalitha out of the picture, the elections assume an altogether different significance with three smaller parties (total vote share of around 12 per cent) joining the fray. They will certainly cut the votes of both the Dravidian parties even as a war of words continues between M.K. Stalin of the DMK and CM Edappadi K. Palaniwami of the AIADMK over issues like corruption. At a time when parties need to make more room than ever for innovation and new ideas, all of them are seen stooping to new lows to win the polls by hook or by crook, making tall promises that are difficult to keep. However, given the state’s highly fragmented electorate, where a swing of a couple of percentage points makes all the difference, the outcome cannot be foretold in the present scenario.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
This refers to Women Redefining Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a Covid-19 World (March 15). Thank you for the inspiring stories about women achievers that truly capture various shades of challenges and how women overcome them to emerge on the top in a predominantly male-dominated society. Women may have broken the shackles of male dominance in some spheres of human endeavour, but the continuing dearth of women in politics highlights the gravity of the problem. The women’s reservation bill has been languishing in Parliament for decades despite tall claims. Under-representation of women in Parliament and state legislatures is a major hindrance for the progress of democracy, which depends on equitable access and representation of women in the political landscape. Successive governments have garnered votes by promising adequate representation and empowerment to women, but have failed people’s expectations. Political rhetoric must give way to concrete steps in the direction of women’s empowerment if equality is to become a reality.
This refers to your cover story on the BJP’s mission to conquer the states that have stayed out of its control (Operation Akhil Bharatiya, March 22). God forbid, if the operation succeeds, the patient will die as the life-saving supply of oxygen—the praan-vaayu of pluralism and empathy—would be cut off!
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
Outlook has outdone all other weeklies in its coverage of the pre-election mood in all the five states going to polls, including Pondicherry. Your magazine has clearly analysed the pro- and anti-incumbency mood prevailing in all these places, and the strengths and weaknesses of the contesting parties. We as a nation should strive to find leaders with clean records and good qualifications from the grassroots level.
There is a need to turn our nation into a ‘parivar-mukt Bharat’, not a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’, as we need a national party like the Congress to keep the ever-growing BJP in check.
Rangarajan T.S., Bangalor
Whether it helps the BJP electorally or not, the saffron party has done enough to counter the DMK’s anti-Hindu stance (Saffron Spritz in Dravida Land, March 22). When the Karuppar Koottam channel, enjoying the DMK’s patronage, abused the Kanda Shashti Kavacham chant revered by millions, it was the BJP that came out with an innovative Vel Yatra to condemn the DMK and the channel. Seeing the adverse reaction of people to derogatory remarks on Lord Muruga, M.K. Stalin asserted that Hindus are a majority in the DMK. In his party manifesto, Stalin has promised aid up to Rs 1 lakh for pilgrimage to Hindu temples. But, in a land where bipolar politics is more real than religion, it is unclear how V.K. Sasikala’s sudden decision to step aside from politics and public life is going to help the BJP. The saffron party may perhaps storm the AIADMK’s citadel with the help of Sasikala and O. Panneerselvam the moment the AIADMK is defeated at the hustings. But with skyrocketing prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas, and large numbers of the middle class and senior citizens incurring more expenses than their income, it is doubtful if the BJP could win more than five assembly seats in the state.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai