संपादक की पसंद

20-Oct-2020 1:37 PM 28

Straw can be converted into fuel for use in vehicles. It can also replace coal in old power plants, reducing environmental costs 

-Sunita Narain

Should farmers get paid for not burning their fields? This is an extremely contentious issue today as the northern Indian region stares at another winter, when stubble is burnt in fields and winds bring the pollution to cities like Delhi — already choking from the spit of vehicles and local sources of pollution. The logic behind this is that rewarding farmers with cash would dissuade them from burning their fields.  

My logic, as an environmentalist and campaigner for clean air, is that this will be a perverse incentive. In other words, it will get easily abused so that there is more stubble burning as there will be the promise of the reward; and each year the amount of the reward will have to be raised. The incentive will become the perverse reason for doing what is clearly wrong. But, I am being screamed at in social media platforms; the taglines being that “I am elitist, ignorant, out of touch with reality” and, of course, “anti-farmer”.

That said, it is a fact when the reward was given last year — the Punjab government disbursed some Rs 29 crore to 31,231 farmers — the number of stubble fires actually went up from the previous year. But that is not even the point.

Farmers need assistance — there is no question about that. I am not even talking about the larger problem of agrarian distress, where farmers are caught in the pincer between high prices of inputs as against the need to depress food prices for consumers. This system that discounts the labour of farmers ends up discounting their soil and water systems as well. It needs to be fixed.

We need to recognise the problem and find the way ahead — one that provides income to farmers and improves environmental sustainability.

We know farmers burn stubble because they have a short period between when they harvest paddy and when they have to sow the next wheat crop. We also know that this period has been shortened because the government has notified a delay in planting paddy — postponed by roughly a month so that it is planted closer to when the monsoon arrives in the region; all this has been done so that farmers do not overexploit groundwater.

You can argue that farmers should not plant paddy in these water-scarce regions. You would be correct. But the answer is complicated as governments procure paddy with an assured minimum support price (MSP).

Farmers then are caught in the pernicious pecuniary trap — the stubble of basmati paddy is not burnt as it can be used for fodder. But basmati paddy is not under MSP because it can be traded internationally. So, farmers still grow non-basmati paddy for MSP and then have no alternative but to burn the stubble. They choke, we choke.

The answer then is three-fold: One, use machines to plough back the straw into the ground and do so without impinging on the time that is needed for sowing the wheat crop. But these agricultural equipment are expensive (they were not available also till a few years back). So, in the past two years, the Union government has provided funds so that state governments can procure these machines and make them available to farmers at no cost or at minimal cost of operation.

By the beginning of stubble-burning season 2020, in Punjab alone, some 50,000 machines had been given at 80 per cent subsidy to custom hiring centers and to individual farmers. Tilling biomass back into the ground would also improve soil fertility.

The second part of the solution is to provide value to the biomass — farmers will not burn if they can be paid for the straw. There is huge potential here — from generating power to using straw to make compressed biogas (CBG). Much is happening here as well. The first CBG project should go online by early 2021; many more are in the pipeline.

Last month, the Reserve Bank of India included CBG in its list of priority sector lending; the State Bank of India has circulated a loan scheme; and, oil companies have agreed on a buy-back rate of Rs 46 per kilogramme for five years. So, straw burnt today, will be converted into fuel for use in vehicles.

Then there is also the option of using straw to replace coal in old power plants — this would not only help to extend the life of the built infrastructure, but will also reduce environmental costs.

The third option is to wean farmers away from growing paddy and to diversify their cropping options. This, obviously, is more challenging but needs to be done.

The fact is that we need to do much more to provide real options to farmers. For instance, they could be paid for their ecosystem service of soil organic carbon sequestration. But all this needs to be done in ways that it builds the foundation for doing what is right. (downtoearth.org.in)

29-Sep-2020 1:24 PM 14

Mathematician Eugina Cheng speaks to DTE on her new theory of people that doesn’t look at world as a dichotomy between genders, as well as the need to un-gender our vocabulary 

By Anshika Ravi

The world is often viewed through simplistic concepts of ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ that pit men and women against each other. This linking of behaviour with gender furthers gender-based inequality.

Now a mathematician has proposed a new way to look at things: Decoupling behaviour from gender. Eugina Cheng, mathematician and Scientist In Residence at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, proposes, in her book x+y: A Mathematician’s Manifesto for Rethinking Gender, the Category Theory. It describes “things by the role they play in a context, rather than by their intrinsic characteristics”.

The theory takes relationships among individuals as the base and builds itself around the idea that biological descriptions can, and should be, unhinged from how we view those relationships.

She suggests a rebranding of vocabulary used to call out the bias and suggests two behaviour models: ‘Ingressive’ and ‘congressive’. While ingressive behavior focuses on oneself over society / community and is competitive; congressive is accommodating and collaborative.

Cheng admits that the former is highly rewarded, but vouches for the latter. In a conversation with Down to Earth, Cheng talks about her ‘theory of people’ and how to rethink notional gender differences. Edited excerpts:

Anshika Ravi: We have looked at gender through the prism of multiple disciplines — sociology, psychology, physiology, biology etc. What prompted you to examine it through mathematics?

Eugina Cheng: I am a mathematician and I always seek ways in which I can use my expertise to help the world in any way I can. Mathematical thinking is my instinctive way to think about everything.

Even when I do not direct apply maths, I often use the discipline of mathematical thinking. As a woman in the male-dominated field of maths, it was natural for me to think about gender issues through the lens of mathematical thinking as well.

AR: You talk about the need to adopt a non-gendered language and behaviour. It’s a complex spectrum. How does the ingressive-congressive theory sit on intersectional feminism?

Intersectional feminism is so important because women’s rights must be separated from the rights of other oppressed groups. In a way as my theory is not speaking about gender directly, it is inherently intersectional.

However, we still need to address every kind of prejudice head-on as well.

AR: On the same note, you talk about the need for newer words to break our prior association with gender. You explain how words such as ‘feminism’ or ‘mansplaining’ can mean different things to different people, and that in many cases, can be too restrictive. How does it expand to the entire lexicon of feminism? 

EC: I am not saying we should be ‘gender-blind’ any more than we should be race blind. While there is still direct prejudice on grounds of gender, race, or any other form of identity, we need to have a language to call it out and to fight it.

We should separate those issues from questions of character, and un-gender our terminology for things that are not directly tied to gender, such as character types.

AR: At what point did you make the switch from the ‘ingressive’ mode of teaching to the ‘congressive’ mode?

EC: It was a gradual switch. I wanted to be more congressive than most ways of teaching I had seen, although I didn’t have the terminology to say so. But the system was so ingressive, and I was so junior and inexperienced, there was a limit to how far I could take things.

I met a lot of resistance from the ingressive university environment. It was only when I moved to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago that I was able to make my teaching extremely congressive. It offered a congressive environment overall — it had small classes, no grades, and was female-dominated at every level.

AR: You make references to writers Angela Saini and Cordelia Fine on partiality in science. Can you elaborate?

EC: Angela Saini’s book Inferior and Cordelia Fine’s book Testosterone Rex give very comprehensive accounts of all the ways attempted science about gender difference is flawed. In many cases, it has assumptions about gender differences built into the null hypothesis, that is, the baseline assumption that scientists will default to in the absence of any evidence to the contrary.

In other cases the differences observed are just very, very tiny. The methodology is flawed because a huge leap was made between the measurable quality being studied (such as the length of time a baby stares at a picture) and the very un-measurable quality being inferred (such as one’s ability as a research mathematician).

In other cases, we simply can’t be sure that the measured difference is biologically innate, as there are many examples where biological gender differences in animals can be changed within one generation by changing the environment.

AR: Multiple studies have highlighted under-representation of women in COVID-19 research as well as gender inequality in the world’s general response to the pandemic. What would be your take on them?

EC: I think that the under-representation of women as subjects of science research is a long-standing and very serious problem. This has been very comprehensively written about by Caroline Criado Perez in Invisible Women.

I believe that non-white people have also been under-represented in research regarding the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). It is a serious problem, given that they have been suffering at much higher rates than white people — at least in the United States. Of course, this is not necessarily a biological issue, but reflects the deep structural inequalities in society in terms of socio-economics.

The world leaders’ response to the pandemic is also a complex issue. Better responses to the pandemic seem to be to do with congressive styles of leadership, for example, listening to advice from scientific experts rather than posturing, and being risk-averse when it comes to human life.

This is an example where I think it really helps to have un-gendered terminology, so that we can focus on the styles of leadership rather than the specific genders of the leaders involved.

However, it is still worth considering gender, because arguably the very fact that a country is able to elect a woman as leader may say something about the level of equality in the country.

Moreover, I believe women have to be far more competent than men to reach the same levels of leadership in our unequal society. This is the difference between leadership effectiveness and leadership emergence.

This is a question of direct gender bias (against women), but also indirect gender bias, which is where my ingressive / congressive theory comes in. Society rewards ingressive behaviour for leadership, and this currently tends to favour men, although congressive behaviour may well be more effective in leadership, as has, perhaps, been shown by responses to the pandemic.

AR: Your book underlines the need to mount all arguments on logic, to evaluate circumstances on a different dimension instead of the regular male-female paradigm. Do you see that evolution happening around you, in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and otherwise?

EC: I do see it beginning to happen in progressive education situations. This seems to be especially the case in smaller liberal arts schools, which are already much more congressive than the ‘prestigious’ research-focused universities.

One way in which I see this is the invitations I receive to do campus visits including public talks and outreach events for nearby schools. I receive many invitations from smaller liberal arts schools and very few (or maybe none) from the sorts of ‘world-famous’ schools that still seem to focus more on Nobel prizes and huge research grants.

AR: You draw your most of your ideas from the category theory. What can be the limits to this postulation?

EC: We should think more clearly about which issues are directly gender-based, such as direct gender prejudice, and which things are indirect and more about character types. We need to make sure we address both: The issues related to intrinsic characteristics and those based more on behaviour. We need to address both, but without assuming they are one and the same.

If we only address direct gender prejudice we would be stuck in one-dimensional thinking. We would risk being accused of ‘reverse sexism’, and would end up addressing only diversity (numbers), but not inclusivity.

If we only address the indirect bias and not the direct sexism, we will not be able to correct for past injustices that women have experienced, just like if we do not address racism directly then we can’t be anti-racist. My new un-gendered terminology, I believe, gives us a framework for doing this. (downtoearth.org.in)

15-Sep-2020 12:57 PM 7

We discuss the digital divide, but the new-normal induced by COVID-19 should make us discuss the living divide as well

By Sunita Narain

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown has led to disruptions on a scale we have never seen before. It is not clear what the new-normal of our lives will be.

For most of us working in offices, remote work should have been a welcome respite; a chance to improve our work-life balance. But many of us are finding that even with increase in productivity, we are losing the ability to differentiate between work and rest of life — there is fatigue and burn-out — in this strange remote world.

Also, we are learning that productivity — doing things on time and on schedule — is not the only measure to value our work. In fact, it is collaboration and teamwork that brings us fulfillment and improves the quality of our “work”.

So, many of us are looking at a hybrid-model of work in this new-normal. One that builds on the best of this remote technology-world that allows us not to commute long distances every day, but also one that encourages and builds more, not less, interaction between people.

But this new-hybrid normal — and this should bother us — will sharpen inequality in workplaces, and it will lead to more joblessness in the formal sectors of the economy. The fact is that working from home assumes that there is adequate space — physical and recreational.

We discuss the digital divide, but this new-normal should make us discuss the living divide as well. It also means that our workplace will shed many non-essential costs — from support functions to rentals.

All this contraction and re-engineering will be good, and bad. More efficiency at the workplace; reduction in commercial building spaces that take up valuable green spaces; less traffic that reduces congestion and pollution; and, of course, reduced consumption that will be good for the planet and our livability index.

Bad, because it will mean that people will be out of jobs — the economy as we know it only knows how to produce as cheaply as possible and to consume as fast as possible. We are beings of the marketplace.

So, what can we do differently? There is, of course, the prospect — and a very real one — that nothing will change post-lockdown. Once the vaccine hits the market, we humans will go back to all our old habits.

In fact, governments will do everything to “stimulate” consumption as this then gets the economy ticking again. Let’s not forget how during the economic slowdown in the early 1990s, the then United States President George Bush walked down shopping malls urging fellow Americans to buy, and buy more.

Now China’s Xi Jinping has been making trips to his factories and shops, urging people to consume more and to buy domestic products. Xi wants to re-tool his country’s economy from exports to internal consumption.

It is the ultimate nightmare for western environmentalists, who could do so little to drive change in their own countries, that every Chinese or Indian would begin to consume like an American. But horror it will be as countries rush to open up and rev up the brown business again.

But I believe there are imperatives that will make us want to change — from the small individual-size triggers to the big societal and economic levers. If we do not want to go back to office from 9 am to 5 pm, five days a week, and want to adopt that new hybrid work model, then there will be costs to the formal economy as we know it today.

It will need to be repositioned so that new jobs are created. Those jobs will not come from the businesses we know today, but from the ones we will need in the future.

But I believe the most critical difference will be the fact that there will be less cash going around. Whatever governments may say, COVID-19 has shattered economies. Furthermore, there are multiple crises that will need public spending — from rebuilding after floods and other such disasters to the continuing health crisis and loss of livelihoods.

So, unless governments are completely out of touch with their realities — and this could happen as technology can today create false narratives at the scale and sophistication never seen in any past autocratic leaders’ propaganda machine — they will have to invest in the well-being of many as against the wealth of some.

This then means working deliberately on strategies that address the local needs and to invest in these communities. This is because there is just too much inefficiency in the transfer of resources — water, cash, food or work — from the faraway to the local.

It is much better to invest in ways that can sustain growth and build resilience for the next inevitable shock. This then is where our mindfulness will be needed.

So, as we open up in the still COVID-19 racked and ravaged world, let’s take time to think about what we treasured the most in this disruption. And what we want to keep, and what we want to change. This is how we will re-work the future. (downtoearth.org.in)

01-Sep-2020 11:26 AM 11

If the combined might of brands like Unilever and Coca-Cola don’t scare Mark Zuckerberg, who can hold the social media platform to account?

There is no power on this earth that is capable of holding Facebook to account. No legislature, no law enforcement agency, no regulator. Congress has failed. The EU has failed. When the Federal Trade Commission fined it a record $5bn for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, its stock price actually went up.

Which is what makes this moment so interesting and, possibly, epochal. If the boycott of Facebook by some of the world’s biggest brands – Unilever, Coca-Cola, Starbucks – succeeds, it will be because it has targeted the only thing that Facebook understands: its bottom line. And if it fails, that will be another sort of landmark.

Because this is a company that facilitated an attack on a US election by a foreign power, that live-streamed a massacre then broadcast it to millions around the world, and helped incite a genocide.

I’ll say that again. It helped incite a genocide. A United Nations report says the use of Facebook played a “determining role” in inciting hate and violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya, which has seen tens of thousands die and hundreds of thousands flee for their lives.

 Facebook is not a mirror. It’s a gun. Unlicensed, out of control, in the hands of 2.6 billion people across the planet

I often think about that report. When I watch documentaries showing Facebook employees playing ping-pong inside their Menlo Park safe space. When I took a jaunt to the suburban Silicon Valley town earlier this year and strolled down the “normal” street where Mark Zuckerberg lives his totally normal life as the sole decision-maker in a company the like of which the world has never seen before. When I heard that Maria Ressa, the Filipino journalist who has done so much to warn of Facebook’s harms, had been sentenced to jail. When I read the Orwellian defence that our former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg wrote last week. “Platforms like Facebook hold a mirror up to society,” he said.

Facebook is not a mirror. It’s a gun. Unlicensed – it is not subject to laws or control – it is in the hands and homes of 2.6 billion people, infiltrated by covert agents acting for nation states, a laboratory for groups who praise the cleansing effects of the Holocaust and believe 5G will fry our brainwaves in our sleep.

People sometimes say that if Facebook was a country, it would be bigger than China. But this is the wrong analogy. If Facebook was a country, it would be a rogue state. It would be North Korea. And it isn’t a gun. It’s a nuclear weapon.

Because this isn’t a company so much as an autocracy, a dictatorship, a global empire controlled by a single man. Who – even as the evidence of harm has become undeniable, indisputable, overwhelming – has simply chosen to ignore its critics across the world.

Instead, it has continued to pump out relentless, unbelievable, increasingly preposterous propaganda even as it controls the main news distribution channels. And just as the citizens of North Korea are unable to operate outside the state, it feels almost impossible to be alive today and live a life untouched by Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram.

The #StopHateForProfit campaign is focused on hate speech. It’s what has united six American civil rights organisations in the US to lobby advertisers to “pause” their ads for July, a campaign precipitated by Facebook’s decision not to remove a post by Donald Trump threatening violence against Black Lives Matter protesters: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

But this is so much bigger than Facebook’s problem with hate. And it goes far far beyond the US, though the role it will play in the US election is pivotal (and it’s worth noting that #StopHateForProfit’s demands don’t extend to stopping lies in political ads, a crucial necessity). Facebook’s harms are global. Its threat to democracy is existential.

Is it a coincidence that the three countries that have dealt with coronavirus worst are those with populist leaders whose campaigns exploited Facebook’s ability to spread lies at scale? Trump, Bolsonaro, Johnson. Perhaps. Perhaps not.

And if you don’t care about democracy, think for a moment about coronavirus. If and when a vaccine comes along, will enough people want to have it? Facebook is riddled with anti-vaxxing like it’s infected by antisemitism. If that’s a mirror, Nick, you might want to take a long, cold, hard look in it.

Zuckerberg is not Kim Jong-un. He’s much, much more powerful. “My guess is that all these advertisers will be back on the platform soon enough,” he is reported to have told employees last week. And although 500 companies have now joined the boycott, the Wall Street Journal reports this represents only a 5% dip in profits. It may turn out that Facebook isn’t just bigger than China. It’s bigger than capitalism.

It comes, in the end, down to us and our wallets and what we say to these brands. Because the world has to realise that there’s no one and no thing coming to the rescue. Trump and Zuckerberg have formed an unspoken, almost certainly unstated, strategic alliance. Only the US has the power to clip Facebook’s wings. And only Facebook has the power to stop Trump spreading lies.

Sometimes you don’t realise the pivotal moments in history until it’s too late. And sometimes you do. It’s not quite yet too late. Just almost.

Since you’re here ...
… joining us from India, we have a small favour to ask. Millions are flocking to the Guardian for open, independent, quality news every day, and readers in 180 countries around the world now support us financially.

We believe everyone deserves access to information that’s grounded in science and truth, and analysis rooted in authority and integrity. That’s why we made a different choice: to keep our reporting open for all readers, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.

The Guardian has no shareholders or billionaire owner, meaning our journalism is free from bias and vested interests – this makes us different. Our editorial independence and autonomy allows us to provide fearless investigations and analysis of those with political and commercial power. We can give a voice to the oppressed and neglected, and help bring about a brighter, fairer future. Your support protects this.

Supporting us means investing in Guardian journalism for tomorrow and the years ahead. The more readers funding our work, the more questions we can ask, the deeper we can dig, and the greater the impact we can have. We’re determined to provide reporting that helps each of us better understand the world, and take actions that challenge, unite, and inspire change.

Your support means we can keep our journalism open, so millions more have free access to the high-quality, trustworthy news they deserve. So we seek your support not simply to survive, but to grow our journalistic ambitions and sustain our model for open, independent reporting.

If there were ever a time to join us, and help accelerate our growth, it is now. You have the power to support us through these challenging economic times and enable real-world impact.

Every contribution, however big or small, makes a difference. Support us today from as little as $1 – it only takes a minute. Thank you. (theguardian.com)

14-Aug-2020 1:26 PM 13

If the forces of authoritarianism and sectarian bigotry continue to gather momentum, and the Supreme Court does little or nothing to check them, then the verdict of history and of constitutional scholarship will be even harsher than it is at present.

Honourable Judges,
This letter is written with respect as well as in anguish. I write as a historian and as a citizen, concerned in both capacities with the growing lack of faith among many Indians in the functioning of the Supreme Court (SC). Let me say straight away that this is part of a wider degradation of Indian democracy, in which the Court is by no means the central actor. Other (and possibly more serious) manifestations of this degradation are the politicisation of the civil service and the police; the creation of a cult of personality; the intimidation of the media; the use of tax and investigative agencies to harass and intimidate independent voices; the refusal to do away with repressive colonial-era laws and instead the desire to strengthen them; and not, least, the undermining of Indian federalism by the steady whittling down of the powers of the states by the Centre.

I should also make it clear that this ongoing degradation of Indian democracy is not the fault of one party or one leader alone. Rather, these perversions of the democratic process were set in motion by the Congress Party when it was in power at the Centre; and they have been further deepened under the rule of the Bharatiya Janata Party since May 2014.

While the SC cannot be blamed in any way for why and how this degradation of Indian democracy originated, it has, in recent years, done little to stop or stem it. Some examples of its failures in this regard have been the Court’s refusal to strike down laws like UAPA that should have no place in a constitutional democracy; its unconscionable delay in hearing major cases (such as with regard to election funding and the Citizenship Amendment Act); and its denial of basic human rights to the children and students of Kashmir, deprived for a full year of access to education and knowledge as a consequence of the longest internet shutdown in the history of any democracy. Constitutional scholars and practising lawyers can perhaps multiply these examples manifold.

Opinion | Judiciary should not unwittingly lend its shoulders for somebody else’s gun to rest and fire
The COVID-19 crisis has seen a further acceleration of this dangerous trend towards authoritarianism and the centralisation of power. The Union government and the ruling party have used the crisis to further promote the cult of personality, to further diminish the powers of state governments, and to further attack the free press. Regrettably, as the hearings and orders of the past few months show, the Supreme Court seems unable or unwilling to check these ominous trends.
The failure of the SC is in part a failure of leadership. That one serving chief justice could tell a daughter wishing to see her mother who had been detained under a draconian act to be careful about the cold, and that another serving chief justice could tell migrant workers left jobless after the unplanned lockdown that since they were being given some food they should not ask for wages — that such callous and unfeeling remarks could come from the chief justice himself reflect poorly on the Court. And that, in the less than six years that the current government has been in power, one chief justice has accepted a Governorship immediately on retirement, and another has accepted a Rajya Sabha seat, also immediately on retirement, reflect even more poorly.

Yet one cannot blame the top man alone. It may be that the powers of the so-called Master of the Roster are imperfectly defined, and can lead themselves to widespread misuse by the incumbent (as the press conference held by J Chelameswar et al in 2018 asserted). But, if the Court is complicit in the steady, continuing and accelerating degradation of our democratic processes and democratic institutions, this cannot be attributed entirely to the chief justices. I think the time has come for all the serving justices in the highest court of the land to think seriously about the ever-increasing gap between their calling as defined by the Constitution, and the direction the Court is now taking.

The reputation of the Supreme Court of India today may be at its lowest ebb since the Emergency. That is the clear impression one gets from the writings of our top constitutional scholars. Thus, in a commentary on the last chief justice, Gautam Bhatia writes that “under his tenure, the Supreme Court has gone from an institution that — for all its patchy history — was at least formally committed to the protection of individual rights as its primary task, to an institution that speaks the language of the executive, and has become indistinguishable from the executive” (The Wire, March 16, 2019). Meanwhile, Pratap Bhanu Mehta has observed: “We look to the Supreme Court for a semblance of constitutional deliverance. We have no idea how a court will rule. But one of the lessons of our recent history is that we misunderstand how a Supreme Court functions in a democracy. The Supreme Court has badly let us down in recent times, through a combination of avoidance, mendacity, and a lack of zeal on behalf of political liberty” (IE, December 12, 2019). Most recently, in writing of “the transformation of the Indian state into a repository of repression”, Suhas Palshikar comments that “this political transformation would not have been so easy without the willingness of the judiciary to look the other way, and occasionally join in the project” (IE, August 4).

These assessments are shared by many of the wisest and most experienced members of the Bar, who —unlike the scholars cited above — are not at liberty to express their anxieties in public. I broadly endorse the assessments of Bhatia, Mehta and Palshikar myself. At the same time, as a historian, I know that while institutions do decay, they can also be revived. In the case of the Supreme Court, its capitulation to the state and politicians in power in the 1970s, before and during the Emergency, was followed by a steady assertion of its independence and autonomy in the 1980s and 1990s. One must likewise hope that the current decline may be arrested and reversed in the years to come. If, on the other hand, the forces of authoritarianism and sectarian bigotry continue to gather momentum, and the Supreme Court does little or nothing to check them, then the verdict of history and of constitutional scholarship will be even harsher than it is at present. In that case, the Court of today may come to be viewed by future generations of Indians not merely as an executive Court, but as a collaborationist Court.
Hence this letter, a desperate cry from a historian and citizen who sees his country’s democracy and constitutional framework crumble before his eyes.

Sincerely yours,
Ramachandra Guha
This article first appeared in the print edition on August 12 under the title “Honourable judges”. The writer is a Bengaluru-based historian (indianexpress.com)

06-Aug-2020 11:45 AM 8

Tweets by Bhushan were statements of fact that in no way scandalised the court: Dave

When the Supreme Court has reinstated an employee who had accused the then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexually harassing her, how can it haul up activist Prashant Bhushan for contempt for voicing his bona fide opinion about the judiciary and an action of the incumbent Chief Justice, senior advocate Dushyant Dave asked on Wednesday.

The top court on July 22 initiated contempt proceedings against Bhushan for a tweet about Chief Justice S.A. Bobde posing on a Harley Davidson and another alleging that democracy had been destroyed in the country during the last six years under the last four Chief Justices.

Dave appeared for the activist before a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra and including Justices B.R. Gavai and Krishna Murari.

“The Supreme Court has taken back the woman who raised sexual harassment charges against a former Chief Justice of India. What does that mean? It says there was truth in her allegations.… When allegations are made against the highest constitutional functionary, please, for God’s sake, do not suppress it,” Dave pleaded.

Had her allegations been untrue, these would amount to contempt, Dave said. But since the top court chose to reinstate her in January this year, it suggests that what she alleged was the truth, for which no contempt arises.

“Your Lordships may look at the case against Mr Bhushan in the same light. She (the alleged victim) was reinstated and all the charges against her were dropped. It only clearly shows that she was speaking the truth. Was any contempt issued against her? What kind of impression does it give to the world?” he asked.

Bhushan too cannot be hauled up for contempt for voicing his “bona fide impressions” of the judiciary and the action of the present Chief Justice, who had posed on the “Rs 50 lakh” Harley-Davidson during the Covid lockdown which has been cited to close the Supreme Court, Dave contended. People seeking enforcement of their fundamental rights do not have access to the court, Bhushan had noted.

“Tell us whether motorcycle has political colour; I am asking on the lighter side,” Justice Mishra said. The motorcycle Chief Justice Bobde posed on is registered in the name of a BJP leader’s son. However, sources close to the Chief Justice had said the bike had been brought to him by a Harley-Davidson executive and he did not know who the owner was.

The tweets by Bhushan were statements of fact that in no way scandalised the court, the lawyer contended.

“The two tweets are not against the institution. They are against the judges in their personal capacity regarding their conduct. They are not malicious and do not obstruct administration of justice,” Dave submitted.

Returning to the sexual harassment complaint against Gogoi, Dave said that despite the allegations, the former Chief Justice had been accorded a Rajya Sabha seat by the present government.

“A judge (Ranjan Gogoi) sits on a Saturday in his own case regarding sexual harassment and subsequently gets a seat in the Rajya Sabha with Z-plus category security, which he (Bhushan) said had raised serious question marks over his (Gogoi’s) decisions in the Rafale, Ayodhya and CBI director case,” Dave argued.


No one is infallible
“Nobody can claim to be infallible, including judges,” Dave said, pleading that Bhushan’s tweets were posted in the course of his expressing deep anguish at the way several cases, including those relating to the abrogation of Article 370 and the anti-CAA protests, were being dealt with by the top court.

There were serious misgivings among the bar and general public over the manner in which some “politically sensitive” cases are allocated, he contended.

“For instance, why do only certain judges get politically sensitive matters? Justice (R.F.) Nariman, for example, never gets assigned such matters,” Dave said.

Justice Mishra replied: “Justice Nariman had been part of many constitution bench matters in this court.”

Justice B.R. Gavai said Justice Nariman was also part of the bench that heard the row over the powers of the Manipur Speaker. Dave asked that if judges can criticise the institution, why can’t Bhushan?

He recalled the unprecedented news conference held on January 12, 2018, by four sitting judges of the Supreme Court who had said that the administration of the Supreme Court “was not in order and many things less than desirable were happening”.

“There is nothing wrong in one not withholding views when you feel that everything is not hunky-dory in the Supreme Court. Can I be held for contempt for expressing my views?” he asked.

The Supreme Court’s healing touch was required, the lawyer said.

“It will be no good for the institution. I beg you to ignore it,” Dave said, pleading that the court drop the contempt proceedings against Bhushan.

“The comments were not out of malice or vendetta. They were made out of love and affection for the judiciary. People like Mr Bhushan take up issues that many a times the executive is not willing to do.”

Bhushan fit for Padma Vibhushan

The Supreme Court had itself lauded Bhushan for espousing public interest litigations in earlier high-profile cases such as the 2G spectrum scandal and the coal scam.

“Your Lordships have appreciated Mr Bhushan’s work in matter of allocation of 2G licences, coal-block allocation, mining in forests etc.… Perhaps you would have given him a Padma Vibhushan for the work he did in the last 30 years,” Dave said.

The court reserved its judgment. (telegraphindia.com)

17-Jul-2020 1:12 PM 5

रेगिस्तानी टिड्डों के विशाल हुजूम पूर्वी अफ्रीका, एशिया और मध्य पूर्व में क़हर बरपा रहे हैं. टिड्डों के विशाल झुंड से फ़सलों को ख़तरा है, लोगों की रोज़ी रोटी को ख़तरा है और खाने पीने की आपूर्ति को नुक़सान पहुंचने का डर है. दुनिया के एक बड़े हिस्से पर टिड्डों का ये हमला पिछले कई दशकों में सबसे बड़ा बताया जा रहा है. लेकिन, जानकारों ने चेतावनी दी है कि अगर कुछ जगहों पर टिड्डों के क़हर को नहीं रोका गया, तो आने वाले बारिश के सीज़न के दौरान कई देशों में टिड्डों के झुंड की तादाद बीस गुना तक बढ़ सकती है. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-8f45ee5d-04ab-4089-9e3a-a5f06b84fbe5)

टिड्डे हैं क्या और वो इतनी बड़ी तादाद में अचानक कहां से आ गए?

ऑग्युमेंटेड रियालिटी का अनुभव पाने के लिए आधुनिक तकनीक का इस्तेमाल होता है. और हम आपको इस बात की गारंटी नहीं दे सकते कि ये सभी ब्राउज़र पर अच्छे से काम करेगा.

इंटरएक्टिव एक अकेला रेगिस्तानी टिड्डा
एआर इस्तेमाल करने के निर्देश 

इस टिड्डी की ही तरह रेगिस्तानी टिड्डे सूखे इलाक़ों में रहते हैं. ये पश्चिम अफ़्रीका और भारत के बीच के क़रीब तीस देशों में पाए जाते हैं. ये पूरा क्षेत्र लगभग एक करोड़ साठ लाख वर्ग किलोमीटर या 62 लाख वर्ग मील का है

ये टिड्डों के ही रिश्तेदार हैं. शर्मीले होने के कारण ये आम तौर पर अकेले ही रहते हैं

और वो बिना किसी की नज़र में आए ऐसे ही अकेले बरसों बरस जीते हैं

लेकिन कभी कभार ये शर्मीली रेगिस्तानी टिड्डियां किसी अचानक से राक्षसी रूप धर लेती हैं.

और जब किसी हरे भरे इलाक़े में अचानक बारिश बंद हो जाती है और सूखा पड़ जाता है, तो ये मामूली टिड्डे अपना एकांतवास त्याग कर छोटे छोटे राक्षसों के भयानक झुंड में तब्दील हो जाते हैं

इंटरएक्टिव अकेले रहने वाले टिड्डों में परिवर्तन कैसे होता है?

जब ये रेगिस्तानी टिड्डियां इकट्ठा हो जाती हैं, तो इनके दिमाग़ से एक केमिकल निकलता है, जिसका नाम है सेरोटोनिन. ये केमिकल इनके शरीर में रिसता है, जिसके कारण इन मामूली टिड्डों के शरीर और बर्ताव में क्रांतिकारी बदलाव आ जाता है.

इन कीड़ों का न केवल रंग बदलकर चटख हो जाता है. बल्कि ये तेज़ तर्रार भी हो जाते हैं. इनकी भूख जाग जाती है और ये बड़े सामाजिक हो जाते हैं. यानी इनके बीच आपस में मेल-जोल बढ़ जाता है

जब ये टिड्डे अपना रंग रूप और मिज़ाज बदल लेते हैं और भुक्खड़ हो जाते हैं, तो ये अपने जैसे साथी टिड्डों को तलाशते हैं. इनकी जनसंख्या में विस्फोट हो जाता है. और ये धीरे धीरे ऐसे झुंड बना लेते हैं, जो देखते ही देखते सब कुछ तहस नहस कर डालने वाले टिड्डी दल में परिवर्तित हो जाते हैं

इंटरएक्टिव टिड्डों के ये दल उड़ कर फ़सलों को तबाह करने लगते हैं

जब एक बार ये टिड्डे झुंड बनाने लगते हैं, तो उनके दल बेहद विशाल हो सकते हैं. टिड्डों के एक दल में दस अरब तक टिड्डे हो सकते हैं. और ये टिड्डी दल सैकड़ों किलोमीटर में फैल सकता है

संयुक्त राष्ट्र के खाद्य एवं कृषि संगठन के अनुसार, टिड्डियों के एक औसत आकार का दल भी इतनी फ़सलें तबाह करने की क्षमता रखता है, जिनसे ढाई हज़ार लोगों को पूरे साल भर खाना खिलाया जा सकता है.

टिड्डियों के ऐसे ही तबाही मचाने वाले दल पूर्वी अफ्रीका, यमन, ईरान, पाकिस्तान और भारत में बन रहे हैं. और विश्व खाद्य एवं कृषि संगठन ने इन टिड्डियों वाले इलाक़ों को हाई अलर्ट पर रहने की चेतावनी जारी की है

खाद्य एवं कृषि संगठन (FAO) का कहना है कि टिड्डियों के इन ख़तरनाक झुंडों ने पहले ही कीनिया, इथियोपिया और सोमालिया जैसे कई देशों में ऐसी तबाही मचाई है, जैसी इन देशों ने कई दशकों में नहीं देखी. और अभी भी इनसे अभूतपूर्व ख़तरा बना हुआ है. इस बात का डर भी है कि राक्षसी टिड्डियों का ये दल पश्चिम अफ़्रीका पर भी धावा बोल सकता है

लेकिन, तेज़ी से बढ़ते टिड्डियों के ये दल अब मध्य पूर्व और पाकिस्तान में हरियाली पर हमला बोल रहे हैं. और टिड्डियों के इन झुंडों से भारत में भी फ़सलों पर ख़तरा मंडरा रहा है

पूर्वी अफ़्रीका, मध्य पूर्व, भारत और पाकिस्तान में सक्रिय टिड्डियों के दल को दिखाने वाला नक़्शा
खाद्य एवं कृषि संगठन (FAO) का कहना है कि अगर इन राक्षसी कीड़ों से बचने के लिए अतिरिक्त उपाय नहीं किए जाते हैं, तो बारिश के मौसम में टिड्डियों के इन ख़तरनाक झुंडों के आकार में बीस गुना तक इज़ाफ़ा हो सकता है

चिंता वाली बात ये है कि टिड्डियों के दल के हमले झेल रहे ये देश, पहले से ही कई संकटों, जैसे कि बाढ़, संघर्ष और कोरोना वायरस के प्रकोप से जूझ रहे हैं

उत्तरी कीनिया के चरवाहे और टिड्डियों के झुंड का पता लगाने वाले अलबर्ट लेमासुलानी कहते हैं कि, 'कोविड-19 के बाद अब टिड्डी दलों के हमले से हमारे ऊपर मानो दो दो महामारियों की मार पड़ रही है. टिड्डियों के ये झुंड जहां भी ज़मीन पर उतरते हैं, वो लगभग सब कुछ चट कर जाते हैं. उनका हमला बेहद डरावने ख़्वाब जैसा है.'

टिड्डों के दलों के इस हमले का कारण 2018-19 के दौर में आए समुद्री तूफ़ान और बारिश हैं

दो साल पहले दक्षिणी अरब प्रायद्वीप में तेज़ बारिश से पैदा हुई नमी और उचित माहौल के कारण टिड्डियों की तीन पीढ़ियां मज़े में पली बढ़ीं. संयुक्त राष्ट्र का कहना है कि टिड्डियों की आबादी में आए इस ज़बरदस्त उछाल पर किसी की नज़र ही नहीं पड़ी

अल्बर्ट लेमासुलानी, उत्तरी कीनिया के चरवाहे और टिड्डी दलों पर निगाह रखने वाले
उत्तरी कीनिया में जानवर पालने वाले अल्बर्ट लेमासुलानी टिड्डियों के दल का पता लगाने में मदद करते हैं
कई देशों में टिड्डों पर क़ाबू पाने के अभियान चलाए जाने के बावजूद, हाल में हुई भारी बारिश ने टिड्डियों की आबादी बढ़ाने के लिए बिल्कुल सही माहौल तैयार कर दिया है

इस समय टिड्डियों की अगली पीढ़ी के अंडे फूट रहे हैं. और ठीक इसी समय पूरे क्षेत्र में किसान फ़सलों के नए सीज़न की बुवाई कर रहे हैं. कृषि एवं खाद्य संगठन का कहना है कि टिड्डियों के हमले से पहले ही खाद्य संकट से जूझ रहे कई देशों की चुनौतियां और बढ़ जाएंगी. ख़ास तौर से पूर्वी अफ्रीका के देशों में.

इस समय खाद्य एवं कृषि संगठन टिड्डियों के दलों को क़ाबू करने के लिए फंड जुटा रहा है. लेकिन, कई देशों के लिए कीटनाशकों का छिड़काव बहुत देर से उठाया गया क़दम साबित हुआ है

उत्तरी कीनिया और उसके आगे के किसानों ने तो टिड्डी दलों के हमले में अपना सब कुछ पहले ही गंवा दिया है

अल्बर्ट लेमासुलानी कहते हैं कि, 'हर रोज़ पांच, छह, सात या दस टिड्डी दल हमला करते हैं.' लेमासुलानी टिड्डी दल से निपटने के संयुक्त राष्ट्र और कीनिया सरकार के अभियान में मदद देने के लिए स्वयंसेवकों की एक टीम की अगुवाई करते हैं. अल्बर्ट कहते हैं कि, 'अगर ऐसा ही चलता रहा तो हम पूरी तरह बर्बाद हो जाएंगे. हमारी ज़िंदगी ख़त्म हो जाएगी.'

टिड्डों के मॉडल और एनिमेशन-जैस्मिन बोनशोर, डिज़ाइन-गेरी फ्लेचर, स्टोरी डेवेलपमेंट-कैट्रिओना मॉरिसन, स्टीवेन कॉनर और एडम एलेन. लेखन-लूसी रोजर्स. फील्ड रिपोर्टिंग-जो वुड . (bbc.com/hindi)

12-Jul-2020 11:47 AM 5

कहते हैं, प्रेम किसी भी वायरस से बड़ा होता है. वो महामारी को मात दे देगा. और ज़िंदा रहेगा. यही है मोहब्बत का मुस्तकबिल.

दूसरी बातों के भविष्य के विपरीत प्रेम का भविष्य मेटाफिज़िक्स के घेरे में रहेगा - सूक्ष्म और गूढ़.

"हम केवल भावनात्मक, आध्यात्मिक और आभासी स्तर पर प्रेम कर सकते हैं. अब प्रेम और सेक्स दो अलग बातें हैं."

दिल्ली में रहने वाले प्रोफेशनल पप्स रॉय ख़ुद को लाइलाज विद्रोही बताते हैं. वे समलैंगिक हैं और कोरोना के बाद प्रेम के भविष्य पर बड़ी गहराई से बाते करते हैं.

अभी फिलहाल पप्स रॉय अपने फ़ोन के साथ एक फ़्लैट में फंसे हुए हैं. वो कहते हैं, "प्यार है कहीं बाहर. बस हमें प्यार करने के पुराने तरीके भुला कर नए तरीके सीखने होंगे."
लॉकडाउन से कुछ ही दिन पहले वो रेल में बैठकर एक आदमी के साथ किसी पहाड़ी शहर को निकल गए थे.

उन्हें लगा कि उन्हें उस आदमी से प्यार है और उसके साथ दो दिन बिताना चाहते थे. लेकिन तब तक लॉकडाउन हो गया और एक महीने तक वे वहीं फंस गए.

जब अप्रैल में वापस दिल्ली लौटे तब तक उनका भ्रम टूट चुका था. एक दूसरे के साथ होना एक दूसरे के साथ फंस जाने जैसा हो गया था.

सोशल डिस्टेंसिंग अब एक दूसरे से दूरी में तबदील हो गई थी. अब वो दिल्ली वापस लौट आए हैं. साथ में फ़ोन है और कई प्रेमी भी. वो ज्यादातर एक दूसरे के साथ चैट करते हैं.
कभी-कभी वीडियो के ज़रिए ही थोड़ा बहुत प्यार भी करते हैं. प्रेम का भविष्य कल्पना का मोहताज नहीं है. लोग परिस्थितियों के अनुसार अपने आप को ढाल लेते हैं.

इसी तरह हम भविष्य में क़दम रखते हैं. ई-हारमनी, ओके क्यूपिड और मैच जैसे डेटिंग प्लैटफ़ॉर्म पर लॉकडाउन के दौरान वीडियो डेटिंग में काफ़ी वृद्धि हुई है.

कई दूसरी बातों के भविष्य पर बहस हो रही है. धर्म, पर्यटन, शिक्षा, वगैरह.

लेकिन प्रेम का भविष्य? इसकी बात कुछ और है. ब्रिटेन में लॉकडाउन की शुरुआत में ही सरकार ने लोगों को सलाह दी कि वो अपने लवर के साथ ही रहें.

एक दूसरे के घर आने-जाने से वायरस का संक्रमण फैलने का ख़तरा बढ़ सकता है. यूरोप में ऐसे कई प्रस्ताव आए.

मई में नीदरलैंड की सरकार ने अकेले रहने वाले लोगों से कहा कि वो अपने लिए सेक्स पार्टनर खोज लें.

साथ ही यह सलाह भी दी कि दोनों मिल कर ये भी तय कर लें कि वो और कितने लोगों से मिलेंगे. क्योंकि वो जितने ज्यादा लोगों से मिलेंगे कोरोना संक्रमण का ख़तरा भी उतना ज्यादा बढ़ेगा.

एक सलाह यह भी थी कि 'दूसरों के साथ दूरी बना कर सेक्स करें.' कुछ सुझाव यह भी थे के औरों के साथ मिल कर हस्तमैथुन करें या फिर कामुक कहानियां पढ़ें.
वीडियो चैट्स अब आम हो चुके हैं. और फ़ोन सेक्स भी. रेस्तरां बंद होने की वजह से वास्तविक डेटिंग संभव नहीं है.

लिहाज़ा डेटिंग, शादियां और यहां तक की सेक्स भी वर्चुअल दुनिया में होने लगा है. ये मानो किसी भयानक भविष्य की तस्वीर हो.

लेकिन आने वाले कल की हर तस्वीर नए आयाम लेती रहती है, नई शक्ल में बनती ढलती है.
तारीख 20 अप्रैल थी.

बेंगलुरु की एक सुहानी शाम. 33 साल का एक आदमी अपनी बालकनी में टेबल पर वाइन की एक ग्लास के साथ मोमबत्ती जला कर बैठा था. ये वीडियो डेट थी. डेटिंग ऐप बंबल पर.

वो पहले भी डेटिंग ऐप का इस्तेमाल करते रहे हैं लेकिन कभी ज़्यादा समय नहीं बिताया था वहां. दरअसल, अपनी स्टार्टअप कंपनी के काम में इतना व्यस्त रहे कि समय नही मिल पाया.
लेकिन लॉकडाउन शुरू होने के बाद वो एक साथी की तलाश में इस ऐप का ज्यादा इस्तेमाल करने लगे. और साथी उन्हें मिल भी गई.

शुरुआत में बस एक दूसरे को पिंग करते या चैट करते रहे. धीरे-धीरे बातों का सिलसिला लंबा होता गया. और उसके बाद ये डेट तय हुई.

वो भी अपनी बालकनी में बैठी थी और ये अपनी बालकनी में. ये मुलाक़ात चालीस मिनट तक चली. और लॉकडाउन में ढील मिलने के बाद अंतत: वो वास्तव मे मिले. लड़के के घर की छत पर. वो मास्क पहन कर आई थी. जैसे लोग गले मिलते हैं वैसे तो नही, कुछ फासले से मिले. बस उनकी कहानियां एक दूसरे से छू गईं. लड़के ने कहा, "फ़िलहाल इतना ही सही."

वे कहते हैं, "हर किसी को किसी की तलाश है. अब लोग खुल कर बात करने लगे हैं. हम कोशिश करते हैं कि वायरस के बारे में बात ना करें. लेकिन इस दौरान जो दिमागी हालत है उस पर बात होती ही है. लोग किस हाल से गुज़र रहे हैं उस पर भी बात हुई. मैं इस माहौल में प्रेम करने के ख़तरे को अच्छी तरह समझता हूं. मैं ग़लतियां नहीं करना चाहता."

आशीष सहगल दिल्ली में रहते हैं. वो एक 'लाइफ़ कोच' हैं. इनका काम लोगों को उनकी समस्याओें को समझने और उनसे निपटने में मदद करना है.

वो कहते हैं कि हाल के दिनों में उन्हें ऐसे कपल्स के बहुत फ़ोन आते हैं जो वैवाहिक जीवन में समस्याओं से जूझ रहे हैं. महामारी के डर के कारण प्रेम संबंधो में कई बदलाव आएँगे."

"प्रेम एक अवधारणा के रूप में और भी मज़बूत होगा. डर के माहौल में प्रेम और भी फलता फूलता है."

प्रेम के संबंध में उनके और भी कई अनुमान हैं. "ज्यादा शादियां होंगी. तलाक भी बढ़ेंगे. और बच्चे भी ज़्यादा पैदा होंगे. ये सब विरोधाभासी बातें ज़रूर हैं, लेकिन हो सकता है शायद प्रेम का भविष्य ऐसा ही बेतरतीब और अराजक हो."
आशीष सहगल कहते हैं, "बहुत सारे लोग अकेलापन महसूस कर रहे हैं."

बहरहाल जहां तक प्रेम के भविष्य की बात है वो किसी भी सरकारी दिशा निर्देश या वायरस विशेषज्ञों के नीति निर्देश के दायरे से बाहर है. यह भविष्य फ़िलहाल एक मंथन के हवाले है.

आशीष सहगल की दलील है, "एचआईवी/एड्स लोगों को प्यार करने से नहीं रोक पाया. आज लोगों को प्यार की ज़रूरत और तलाश पहले से भी अधिक है."

"संक्रमण के दौर में अंतरंगता दिमाग में रहती है. हमारे देश में नैतिकता के ठेकेदार सैनिक इतने ज्यादा तत्पर हैं कि सेक्स पार्टनर जैसी अवधारणा का ज़िक्र करना तक मुश्किल है."

एचआईवी/एड्स से बचने के लिए कॉन्डम का इस्तेमाल होने लगा लेकिन उसकी तुलना महामारी से बचने के लिए मास्क के इस्तेमाल से नहीं हो सकती.

मुंबई के कामाठीपुरा में रहने वाली एक यौनकर्मी ने फ़ोन पर बातचीत के दौरान कहा कि उसने सुना है कि कई यौनकर्मी अब वीडियो कॉल के ज़रिए अपने ग्राहकों को अपनी सेवाएं दे रहीं हैं. लेकिन उसे यह अजीब लगता है. एचआईवी/एड्स की बात अलग थी. उससे बचने के लिए कॉन्डम काफ़ी था. लेकिन कोरोना वायरस तो छूने मात्र से संक्रमित कर सकता है.

स्क्रीन वाला प्यार और स्पर्श
और फ़ोन या कंप्यूटर की स्क्रीन स्पर्श का विकल्प तो नहीं हो सकती.

नेहा (बदला हुआ नाम) कहती हैं, "वो अपने ग्राहकों को जानने समझने में या उनके साथ किसी अर्थपूर्ण संवाद में कोई रुचि नहीं रखतीं. सेक्स उनके लिए बस काम है. इसलिए यह तरीका काम करता है."

नंदिता राजे, 28 साल की हैं. मेबेल इंडिया नाम के कपड़ों के ब्रैंड की मालकिन हैं. वो सिंगल हैं. वो कहती हैं अब उन्हें लोगो से मिलने में ख़ास दिलचस्पी नहीं है.

वो कहती हैं, "प्रेम का भविष्य काफ़ी अंधकारमय है. और मेरे लिए शायद अब इसका कोई मायने नहीं बचा है."

अब चूंकि किसी जगह किसी से मिलना मुश्किल है तो ऐसे में कई लोगों के लिए ऑनलाइन डेटिंग एक नया रास्ता बनता दिख रहा है. लेकिन बदलाव इसमें भी आ रहे हैं.
ज़ैक शलेइएन ने फ़रवरी 2019 में 'फ़िल्टर ऑफ़' नाम का प्लेटफ़ार्म शुरू किया था.

उन्होंने फ़रवरी 2020 में इसे रिलॉन्च किया. उनका मानना है कि वर्चुअल स्पीड डेटिंग ही भविष्य मे लोकप्रिय होगा.

'फ़िल्टर ऑफ़' एक ऐसा ऐप है जहां आप पहले 90 सेकंड के एक वीडियो के ज़रिए उस व्यक्ति का जायज़ा लेना चाहते हैं कि आप उसे देख सुन कर कैसा महसूस करते हैं. अगर आप को वो व्यक्ति पसंद आता है तो आप की जोड़ी बन जाती है और उसके बाद आप ऐप के ज़रिए एक दूसरे को मैसेज और वीडियो भेज सकते हैं.

वो आगे कहते हैं, "लॉकडाउन ख़त्म होने के बाद लोग ऑफ़लाइन मुलाकात करना शुरू कर देंगे."

नोएडा मे रहने वाले एक समलैंगिक व्यक्ति जो अपना नाम ज़ाहिर नहीं करना चाहते, उन्होंने कहा, "और इस तरह हमने चेहरे पर मास्क लगा कर भविष्य की दहलीज़ पर कदम रखा. यह डरावना मंज़र है. हमें पहले ही एचआईवी/एड्स से डर था और अब ये महामारी भी आ गई."

कपल्स के लिए मुश्किल दौर
अगर इस महामारी को रोकने के लिए कोई टीका विकसित हो भी जाए, तब भी लोग बेफ़िक्र हो कर एक दूसरे के गले मिलें, इस में काफ़ी समय लगेगा. चाहे जो हो, एक बात निश्चित है कि प्यार, सेक्स और रोमांस का भविष्य हमेशा के लिए बदल गया है.

कपल्स के लिए भी ये समय बहुत मुश्किल रहा है. लोग ऑफ़िस कम जा रहे हैं या ज्यादातर घर में रह कर काम कर रहे हैं.

बहुत से लोगों को एक दूसरे की इस क़दर मौजूदगी की आदत नहीं रही है. रिपोर्टों के अनुसार तलाक़ के मामले बढ़े हैं. घरेलू हिंसा की घटनाएं भी बढ़ी हैं. लेकिन लोग किसी तरह निबाह रहे हैं.

अंतरंग संबंधों मे हुई बढ़ोतरी के चलते कॉन्डम और गर्भ निरोधक दवाइयों की बिक्री में भी वृद्धि हुई है.

लॉकडाउन में बंबल डेटिंग ऐप के नए सबस्क्राइबर खूब बढ़े हैं.

बंबल की टीम का कहना है, "भारत में वीडियो और फोन कॉल की औसत अवधि कम से कम 18 मिनट तक रही है. यह एक संकेत है कि हमारे ऐप का इस्तेमाल करने वाले लोग सोशल डिस्टेंसिंग के इस दौर में एक दूसरे को समझने और गहरे और अर्थपूर्ण संबंध बनाने की कोशिश कर रहे हैं."

हाल ही में बंबल ने एक नया अभियान शुरू किया जिसे नाम दिया 'स्टे फ़ार एंड गेट क्लोज़' यानी दूर रह कर नज़दीकी संबंध बनाएं. इसका मक़सद लोगों को घर पर रह कर ही संबंध बनाने की शुरुआत करने के लिए प्रोत्साहित करना है.

टिंडर समेत कई डेटिंग ऐप्स के इस्तेमाल में पिछले हफ्तों मे काफ़ी तेजी आई है.

सिर्फ़ कॉफ़ी ऐप का कहना है कि वो दुनिया भर में बसे भारतीयों को प्यार तलाश करने में मदद करता है. सिर्फ़ कॉफ़ी ऐप में ऐसे साथी ढूंढने में मदद मिलती हैं जिनकी सोच या मिजाज़ एक दूसरे से मेल खाता हो.

इस ऐप प्लेटफ़ॉर्म की कार्यकारी उपाध्यक्ष नैना हीरानंदानी कहती हैं, "दूसरों से जुड़ना इंसान की अहम ज़रूरत है. इस महामारी के दौरान जो हालात बने हैं उस पर किसी का नियंत्रण नहीं है. लेकिन इस दौरान यह ज़रूरत और भी उभर कर आई है."

मार्च 2020 से इस ऐप के इस्तेमाल में 25 प्रतिशत बढ़त हुई है.

नैना हीरानंदानी कहती हैं, "लेकिन भारत में अभी भी लोग साथी खोजने के लिए वर्चुअल कॉल का रास्ता चुनने को लेकर कुछ सशंकित रहते हैं. मगर धीरे-धीरे हमारे 80 प्रतिशत सदस्यों को इस बात की आदत होने लगी है. इस महामारी के बाद हमारे काम करने, जीने और प्रेम करने या उसे खोजने के तरीके बदल जाएंगे."

लॉकडाउन शुरू होने के बाद से अब तक सिर्फ़ कॉफी ऐप की मुंबई, दुबई और लंदन स्थित टीम ने दुनिया भर मे 500 से ज्यादा मुलाक़ातें तय की हैं.

लेकिन कई लोग अभी इस वर्चुअल प्रेम के लिए तैयार नहीं हैं. करण अमीन 39 साल के हैं और मुंबई में विज्ञापन एजेंसी में काम करते हैं.

वो कहते हैं कि उन्होंने डेटिंग एप्स पर कई लोगों की प्रोफ़ाइल चेक की. इनमें से बहुत से लोगों का कहना था कि वो बोरियत की वजह से डेटिंग ऐप का इस्तेमाल कर रहे हैं.

करण अमीन आगे कहते हैं, "टिंडर एक ऐसा ऐप था जहां आप लोगों से संबंध बनाने के लिए संपर्क करते थे. लेकिन अब आप बाहर ही नहीं जा सकते थे."

एक लड़की जिसके साथ वो काफ़ी समय से चैट कर रहे थे उससे उन्होंने पूछा कि लॉकडाउन खुलने के बाद उसका क्या 'इरादा' है?"

उस लड़की ने जबाव दिया कि छह महीने तक तो वह किसी को छुएगी ही नहीं.

करण अमीन का सवाल है, "अब हम क्या करें? ऐसा सर्टिफ़िकेट लेकर चलें जो कहे हमें कोविड नहीं हुआ है. अगर वास्तव में मुलाक़ात ही नहीं हो सकती है तो डेटिंग ऐप पर मैचिंग करने का कोई फ़ायदा नही है."

ग्रांइडर एक ऐसा ऐप है जिसका इस्तेमाल समलैंगिक पुरुष करते हैं. इस ऐप मे एक फ़ीचर यह भी है कि वो बता सकता है कि कोई समलैंगिक साथी कितने फ़ासले पर है. कल तक ये फासला एक मीटर से कम भी होता था और ऐप तब भी आपको सूचित कर सकता है. लेकिन अब यह फ़ासले चंद मीटर से बढ़ कर मीलों के हो गए हैं.

क्वारंटीन पीढ़ी
कुछ विशेषज्ञों का ये भी अनुमान है कि दिसंबर 2020 तक अधिक संख्या में बच्चों का जन्म देखने को मिल सकता है. और हो सकता है ये नई पीढ़ी 2033 में 'क्वारंटीन' कहलाए.

न्यूयॉर्क में ज़ूम ऐप पर हुई शादियों को क़ानूनी वैधता मिल चुकी है. भारत में भी कुछ शादियों और शादी की सालगिरह ज़ूम ऐप पर मनाई गईं और वास्तविक शादियों के दौरान भी कम से कम मेहमान होना और सोशल डिस्टेंसिंग का पालन सामान्य बात हो रही है. असल मे नया भविष्य दरवाज़े पर आ खड़ा हुआ है और हम इसे अपना भी चुके हैं. हालांकि कुछ लोग 'सामान्य समय' के लौटने का इंतज़ार कर रहे हैं, बाकी लोग 'वर्चुअल या आभासी प्रेम' करने में मशगूल हो रहे हैं.

महामारी के संक्रमण काल में बहुत से लोगों के लिए प्रेम करने के ग़ैर पारंपरिक तरीके विकल्प बन रहे हैं. बशर्ते कि उनका दिल प्यार के लिए खुला हो. (www.bbc.com)

11-Jul-2020 1:27 PM 7

Former West Indies bowler Michael Holding gave a powerful, hard-hitting message on Black Lives Matter as cricket resumed after a long gap of more than three months.

Former West Indies bowler Michael Holding gave a powerful, hard-hitting message on Black Lives Matter as cricket resumed after a long gap of more than three months. (Live Score)

In the video that was broadcast by Sky Sports while cricket fans around the world waited for the match to begin after the delayed toss due to rain, Holding and former English women’s cricketer Ebony Rainford-Brent reflected on the much prevalent racism in the society.

“Everybody has heard about this lady in a park in America who was asked by a black man to put her dog on a leash, which is the law,” said the former West Indies paceman. “She threatened this black man with her whiteness, saying that she was going to call the police and tell them there was a black man threatening her.
“If the society in which she was living did not empower her or get her to think that she had that power of being white and being able to call the police on a black man, she would not have done it. It was an automatic reaction because of the society in which she lives. If you don’t educate people they will keep growing up in that sort of society and you will not get meaningful change.”
Holding believes that the large number of white people to have taken part in protests to support the Black Lives Matter movement can help bring about change – and has urged people to fully understand what the movement stands for. “At protests years ago, even when Martin Luther King was marching, you would have predominantly black faces and a few white faces. This time a lot of white people are involved in these protests and that is the difference,” said Holding.
“What they saw [happen to George Floyd] was disgusting and people thought to themselves ‘enough is enough’. Everyone is recognising it, coming alive and seeing the difference in treatment of people. We are all human beings so I hope that people recognise that the Black Lives Matter movement is not trying to get black people above white people or above anyone else. It is all about equality.

“When people say ‘all lives matter’ or ‘white lives matter’, please, we black people know white lives matter. I don’t think you know that black lives matter. Don’t shout back at us that all lives matter. White lives matter, it is obvious, the evidence is clearly there. We want black lives to matter now. Simple as that.”
Rainford-Brent, director of women’s cricket at Surrey said, “I think we have to be honest and we are starting to have those conversations now. Unless people in power connect with and understand and feel what it is like to be on the side of limited power, to not get access to opportunities, to know you are significantly less likely to be hired and significantly more likely to be stopped and searched, to be oppressed, we won’t progress.

“It can’t be a ‘black person’s problem’, it has got to be everyone’s problem. We have got to want a society that is representative and supports people from different backgrounds. That’s what it is for me. We need honest conversations, opportunities and people in positions of power. And then we can change the landscape.”
Reflecting on George Floyd’s death that started the Black Lives movement, she said, “I can still remember the moment I heard about George Floyd. I was lying in bed, turned my phone on and it was the first thing that came up on my [Instagram] story, a short version of the video.

“I clicked on it and clicked off as the first words you heard were ‘I can’t breathe’. I watched the whole thing, over eight minutes, and burst into tears,” she said. “The pain I felt – it was like a valve popped because we know for how long these inequalities, these injustices have taken place, not just in the US, it happens here. I felt like I was torn apart. I never swear on my Instagram but I wrote the words ‘is anyone else f*****g fed up watching black people get murdered?’
“You can’t not see it and it was frustrating that people are not seeing what is going on. I felt broken, it was two weeks of anger, of pain, of speaking to lots of different people who were fed up and frustrated with the state of our world and being gaslighted and told those issues don’t exist. They do exist,” she said.
“I knew I had to get involved, I went to three protests. It is a virus that has been part of our society for well over 400 years and is continuing to push this oppression. I think it is one of the most empowering experiences to be around a diverse community, everybody supporting and knowing that we need to uncover this, this needs to be dealt with.

“We cannot have it being acceptable that people are being killed day in, day out by the people who are meant to be protecting you,” she added. (indianexpress.com)

07-Jul-2020 2:07 PM 7

As part of an initiative under the Indian government’s new “Atmanirbhar Bharat”—or self-reliant India—mission, the coal ministry launched the auction of 41 coal blocks for commercial mining on 18 June. Three days earlier, sarpanchs of nine villages in Hasdeo Arand, a contiguous stretch of dense forest land in northern Chhattisgarh, wrote to Narendra Modi opposing the auction and calling upon the prime minister to prevent commercial mining in Hasdeo Arand. The sarpanchs wrote that the villagers had already established self-reliant lives and livelihoods, which would come under attack due to the auction. The letter added, “It is unfortunate that when the communities are already grappling with the COVID-19 crisis, they are faced with this uncertainty and threat of displacement.”

The villagers protesting the proposed coal project challenged its legality. They argued that it contravened their individual and community forest rights, under the Panchayats (Extension of Scheduled Areas) Act of 1996, the Forest Rights Act of 2006 and the Land Acquisition Act of 2013. These laws require the informed consent from gram sabhas before any land acquisition can take place in scheduled areas with a preponderance of Adivasi populations, such as the Hasdeo forest. Meanwhile, RRVUNL has claimed that these laws are not applicable to the Parsa project, and that in any case, the concerned gram sabhas had expressed their support for it. But the protesters argued that the gram sabhas of the affected villages had passed several unanimous resolutions since 2015 opposing the project, and that the ministry of environment, forests and climate change had awarded clearances on the basis of forged documents.

That day, RRVUNL published a “general caveat” in a local newspaper announcing that it “apprehends that a writ petition … or a Public Interest Litigation may be filed in the Hon’ble High Court as the Land acquisition proceeding is being initiated” in these villages. The public notice stated that RRVUNL had appointed Shailendra Shukla, a lawyer practising in the Chhattisgarh High Court, “to appear and oppose” any challenge to the land-acquisition proceedings on behalf of the power corporation.

The Parsa block is among 30 mapped block in Hasdeo Arand and one of three in the forest awarded to RRVUNL—the power corporation is already conducting mining operations at the adjacent block, Parsa East and Kete Basan. The project is spread over 1,252 hectares of land, and requires the diversion of 841 hectares located in Surguja and Surajpur districts, in the Hasdeo forest. The majority of the people in the region are members of Scheduled Tribe communities and over ninety percent of them are dependent on agriculture and forest produce for their livelihood. The Hasdeo Arand forests form the catchment area of the Hasdeo river, which irrigates over three lack hectares of agricultural land.

Baghel also accused the Modi government of providing the Adani Group a backdoor entry into coal mining through dubious contracts. But in March 2019, three months after Baghel took charge, the Adani Group was appointed as the mine developer and operator for Chhattisgarh’s Gidmuri and Paturia coal blocks. Baghel’s government has not intervened in the coal-mining projects in Hasdeo Arand. “We would like ask this government if they want to displace us Adivasis from our land,” Topo said.

In 2014, the National Green Tribunal set aside the clearance and sent the project back to the MoEFC for seeking fresh approval from the FAC. But the Supreme Court stayed the decision shortly after, and mining operations have continued unabated at the site ever since, even while the case remains pending before the apex court. In effect, mining operations at PEKB has become a fait accompli.

But in March 2017, the Parsa coal project was accorded terms of reference, which refers to conditions laid down by the MoEFC that a project proponent—RRVUNL in this case—would have to fulfil to develop and operate the mine. In March that year, residents of Hariharpur and Salhi passed resolutions rejecting the Parsa coal-block mining project. The decisions were reiterated in subsequent meetings at the village held in July and February 2018. The residents had also repeatably pointed this out in letters sent to the MoEFC, the coal ministry, the tribal affairs ministry, and state and district administrations since 2015.

Though the coal blocks are allocated to RRVUNL, the power company follows a model in which it appoints a private company as the “mine developer cum operator.” As I reported earlier for The Caravan, the concept of an MDO is not recognised in any law governing the Indian coal industry. At Parsa, before and after the reallocation of coal blocks in 2015, the mining operations are carried out by Adani Enterprises Limited. 

After the reallocation of the coal block to RRVUNL, the hearing was scheduled again in 2017. According to protesters, Adani continued the practice of eliciting consent through manipulation of public hearings for environmental clearance. The protesters said that the public hearing was conducted in way that silenced the strong opposition to the coal project. “There were people from outside villages like Salka and Udaipur,  who were brought to the hearing to support the project,” Jainandan Porte, the sarpanch of Ghatbarra, told me. “Many from severely affected areas couldn’t reach there. Also, we were made to wait for three–four hours, and by the time the hearing started, people were leaving and our strength had come down.” Residents of Salhi, Fatehpur, Ghatbarra and Hariharpur also told me that the public hearing was held in Besan, which is between five to ten kilometres away from these villages, in contravention of EAC guidelines to arrange it at a place convenient to the residents.

According to Alok Shukla, a convenor with HABSS, this time, too, RRVUNL and Adani tried to influence the hearing process by offering money and other benefits to the locals. “The hearing was managed to get consent by ensuring participation of residents outside the villages directly affected by land acquisition and those who supported the project,” Shukla told me. “The mining companies have for years been adopting methods like offering money, liquor and tour packages and offering false promises to win the support of some people who are then brought to the hearing venue in buses.”

RRVUNL submitted a response on 30 May 2018. The company first argued that the PESA act was not applicable in Chhattisgarh because the state government had not passed any legislation to incorporate the provisions into the Chhattisgarh Panchayat Raj Adhiniyam of 2003, which is the law governing panchayats in the state. RRVUNL further argued that the land acquisition would be governed by a different law altogether, the Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition and Development) Act, 1957, or the CBA act.
According to Sudeip Shrivatsava, a Chhattisgarh-based lawyer and activist, the RRVUNL’s interpretation of the law did not stand scrutiny. Shrivatsava said that the CBA act is applicable when the coal block is owned and operated by the central government and companies owned by it. “Being a state-owned company, RRVUNL should have done the land acquisition under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013,” he told me. “The act mandates a social-impact assessment study and gram sabha consent. This study has not been done. The state government is also complicit in this, because it should have intervened and asked for the implementation of LARR instead of CBA.” The Chhattisgarh government is yet to amend the Panchayat Raj Adhiniyam act to ensure compliance with PESA. 

This interpretation of law is not the only disputed aspect of the RRVUNL’s response. The power corporation stated to the EAC that the gram sabhas of all six villages—Salhi, Ghatbarra and Hariharpur in Surguja, and Janardhanpur and Tara in Surajpur—had issued no-objection certificates to the acquisition for the coal project. In support of this claim, RRVUNL submitted NOCs from the district collectors of Surguja and Surajpur, respectively dated 13 February and 27 March 2018. The documents claimed that the villages had issued a resolution in favour of the forest being diverted for the coal project during gram sabhas held between 24 and 27 January that year. The company further claimed that the residents of these villages had “supported the project and were convinced that the project will bring improvement to their living standard” during public consultations held the previous year.

Many residents said that they had even sent the resolutions declining their consent to the state’s tribal-welfare department. But in May 2018, the tribal-welfare department simply forwarded the NOCs that it received from the Surguja and Surajpur district collectors without making any observations about the resolutions passed by the villagers.

That month, the FAC also considered the proposal to divert the Hasdeo forest land for the Parsa coal mine, according to the minutes of the meeting. Despite recording that “the area is sensitive from erosion point of view,” the FAC did not make any recommendations against granting forest clearance for the Parsa coal project. Instead, the FAC observed that the NGT’s 2014 judgment on the PEKB did not make any observations about the Parsa block, and sought a legal opinion on whether it could grant in-principle approval to other projects in the Hasdeo forest. 

Throughout these meetings, there is no reference to the FAC or the EAC considering the unanimous rejection of the proposed project by the residents who would be affected by it. By the indications from the minutes of these meetings, the fact that the gram sabhas had time and again passed resolutions declining their consent for the projects had not been a consideration for the FAC.

“Whatever is happening right now with the coal project, is being done without our consent,” Ramlal Kariyam, a resident of Salhi, told me. “The rights of gram sabhas is what protects us from being driven away from our land and forests. We will go to court to protect our rights.”

On 24 February this year, sarpanchs of 20 gram panchayats in and around the Parsa coal block area—including the six villages that RRVUNL claimed to have received NOCs from—took an oath to protect the forests from the mining projects. That day, the sarpanchs, who gathered at Tara for the protest, also sent a letter to the ministry of tribal affairs seeking to protect their rights under PESA and FRA. The letter was signed by 243 people, and one of their main demands was the cancellation of the land-acquisition process for the Parsa block. “All land acquisition processes initiated based on statements that are forged or obtained forcefully from gram sabhas should be cancelled,” the letter stated. “This is how the procedures for Para coal block has been done.”

<a data-cke-saved-href="https://caravanmagazine.in/author/925" href="https://caravanmagazine.in/author/925" style="box-sizing: inherit; color: rgb(122, 122, 122); cursor: pointer; text-decoration-line: none; font-family: Montserrat, " segoe="" ui",="" roboto,="" oxygen,="" ubuntu,="" cantarell,="" "fira="" sans",="" "droid="" "helvetica="" neue",="" helvetica,="" arial,="" sans-serif;="" font-size:="" 12.8px;="" text-align:="" center;="" text-transform:="" uppercase;="" background-color:="" rgb(255,="" 255,="" 255);"="">“They have overruled the power of our gram sabhas by forging fake documents,” Kariyam told me. “Our demand is that those fake documents should be withdrawn and the clearances given to Parsa coal block should be cancelled. We are inside our houses because of the lock down, but we are discussing these over phone and social media and the fight for our rights is going on. We will return to protest once the lockdown is lifted.” (caravanmagazine.in)

29-Jun-2020 4:30 PM 8

The videos are now showing up in your social media feed every hour or two, each one more over-the-top than the one before — viral missives from a world that seems to have gone mad and yet somehow exists right in our backyard. These “forgotten Americans” are at the lectern at your county commission meeting if they’re not yelling at you in the produce aisle — screaming that the elected officials and their so-called scientific experts demanding they wear a mask to prevent the spread of coronavirus are really part of a vast conspiracy to take away their freedoms.

“I would also like to know where do you get the authority to reduce my oxygen,” one woman in a white “Trump Girl” shirt demanded of the Palm Beach County, Fla., commissioners as they met to issue a mandatory-mask-in-public order to fight a surge in COVID-19 cases in the Sunshine State. Her rant was not as remarkable as the fact she was just one of a stream of citizens with different variations on the same theme — that masks are a plot to subdue the masses in the name of Bill Gates or Hillary Clinton or whatever other Antichrist just popped up in their Facebook feed.
“You see that flag, I would die for that flag,” a man who called himself “an American Patriot” told the commissioners. “The Constitution that you were supposed to uphold, I would die for that! None of you are holding that up.” Others said masks were either the devil’s work or shielding sexual predators, or else provided unintentional comic relief like the woman who insisted: “I don’t wear a mask for the same reason I don’t wear underwear. ... Things gotta breathe.”

Similar sentiments echoed across Florida — “I will not be muzzled like a mad dog!” screamed one St. Lucie County man, sounding very much like a mad dog — and the United States, where residents of Huntington Beach, Calif., waved American flags and a large sign reading “NO MASKS” at motorists. But as the United States watched coronavirus cases spiral out of control in a manner that’s happened almost nowhere else in the world, the problem seemed deeper than the usual suspects of Trumpist QAnon believers. Even in “blue states,” young people packed bars and beaches and then brought COVID-19 home for Father’s Day. In Santa Cruz County, Calif., commissioners who’d tried to keep beaches closed simply gave up. “People,” a spokesperson said, “are not willing to be governed in that regard.”
The most comprehensive study published in the journal Lancet found mask-wearing could reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission from 17% to 3%. No wonder the University of Washington says universal mask-wearing in the United States would reduce the coronavirus death toll between now and October by a whopping 33,000 human beings.

Just think of all the restrictions on freedom and liberty — from the government seeing what you checked out at the library to invasive searches at the airport — to prevent another attack like 9/11 that killed 3,000 people, or less than one-tenth the toll from not wearing masks. But for millions of Americans — not a majority, mind you, but enough to cause a public-health hazard in a pandemic — the idea of masks has been launched into a different orbit where freedom talk is injected with the uniquely American viruses of free-market capitalism and media manipulation, maybe with a dollop of white supremacy.
The 1970s’ British glam-pop rockers Sweet practically predicted all of this with their 1978 smash, “Love Is Like Oxygen”: “... You get too much and get too high, not enough and you’re gonna die.” In the mask debate, just substitute the word freedom for love. Because, yes, freedom — to speak, to publish, to worship, to assemble, and to protest the government — is absolutely essential to the American experience, so much so that it’s hard to get in a “but ...”
But ... too much of the warped notion of freedom promoted by the aggressively not-mask-wearing President Trump and his No. 2, Mike Pence, and their prophets like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity won’t just get you high — to continue with the Sweet analogy — but could also kill you by an overdose. What the radio hucksters, and the wannabe dictators they installed, won’t tell you is that freedom without any social responsibility or empathy for others is ultimately hollow.

But let’s remember that American people — even the damaged souls that you’re laughing at on Twitter today — didn’t pervert the meaning of freedom on their own. The warped modern version of liberty was sold to them, first by right-wing public intellectuals like Ayn Rand, who killed thousands of trees to wrap unbridled selfishness in her endless tomes about freedom, and later by the salesmen of Big Capitalism.
Protecting your freedom became the ideal branding for what these pitchmen really wanted, which was political cover to dramatically lower taxes on millionaires (who, thanks to that, would become billionaires) and to crush unions and their demands for higher pay, freeing up profits to now pay CEOs 350 times what the average worker makes. Talk about finding the cost of freedom! With the help of academics like the Nobel economist James McGill Buchanan, backed by billionaires like the Koch brothers, warped freedom capitalism got a fancy name — free-market libertarianism. But by the 1970s, their new form of snake-oil salesmanship was threatened by the avatars of a newer “knowledge economy.”

Confronted with scientific realities like man-made climate change, the forces of conservative libertarianism turned their guns toward expertise, with the goals of thwarting environmentalism and keeping corporate profits high. The bills for global warming are starting to come due, but that has been superseded for the time being by the COVID-19 crisis; the lack of trust for medical expertise from Main Street all the way to an ignorant president whom 62 million Main Streeters installed at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has proved lethal.

No other nation has botched its coronavirus response so badly because no other nation holds science in such low esteem. “Who made you perpetrators over my life?” the self-proclaimed Trump Girl demanded of the experts at the Palm Beach County meeting. In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Stanford psychiatry prof Keith Humphreys noted that the United States simply can’t impose a coronavirus testing regimen like South Korea or Singapore because we don’t trust the government on public health. “Clusters of gun-toting protesters opposing public health measures are a real — and uniquely American — problem,” he wrote, “but it’s the much more prevalent distrust in government’s role in public health that would curtail the success of any test, trace and isolate program.”
In a functioning society, freedom can flourish when it’s part of a broader social compact, when liberty is not abused because its practitioners also see themselves as part of a community, where they care about others — even, or especially, when it comes to wearing a mask and not spreading germs to your neighbor. But has there ever been a branding campaign as successful as America repackaging selfishness, self-interest, and extreme inequality as personal freedom?

That’s even true of the freedom that’s so central to my work life: the free press that exists under the First Amendment. I’ve seen how that only works well when publishers fuel their press freedom with common sense and an understanding of responsibility to the readers. In the internet age, the promise of an even greater media freedom has been polluted by billionaires from Fox’s Rupert Murdoch to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who made bigger profits off lies and unchecked conspiracy theories than off fact-checking in the public interest. The filth of Zuckerberg’s Facebook is what’s spewing, unmasked, from the self-styled “patriots” of Palm Beach County.

There’s something else going here, and in the age of George Floyd it cannot be ignored. As Nancy MacLean chronicled in her award-winning Democracy in Chains about the above-mentioned James McGill Buchanan, his think-tank crusade to promote libertarianism was initially rooted in preserving Southern school segregation, or white supremacy. Over the last 50 or so years, much of what conservatives have hyped as threats to personal liberty were really proposed checks on white (or male) privilege.

White supremacy is, at its diseased heart, a quest for a kind of cultural immortality. As the global pandemic advanced and as evidence mounted that COVID-19 is most lethal not just for the elderly but also for Black and brown Americans, it seems clear that for some white people, not wearing a mask isn’t just a freedom song but a defiant proclamation of their superiority. That’s validated every day by America’s white-supremacist-in-chief, whose refusal to wear a mask in public is in fact a different kind of mask, one of his deep insecurity. This toxic blend of narcissism and white privilege is Donald Trump’s idea of leadership — even as he leads some of his voters to an early grave.

The flip side is that the millions who’ve marched in America’s streets after George Floyd’s murder — many, although not all, from the under-35 generation — are making the case that a better world, built around empathy and compassion for people who don’t look like ourselves, is coming. They are using their freedom of speech and assembly to forge a more perfect union, and I fervently wish that the 33,000 Americans who may be doomed by a lethal injection of phony liberty can somehow live to see it. (inquirer.com)

23-Jun-2020 4:40 PM 4

Surface contamination and fleeting encounters are less of a worry than close-up, person-to-person interactions for extended periods

It’s not common to contract Covid-19 from a contaminated surface, scientists say. And fleeting encounters with people outdoors are unlikely to spread the coronavirus.

Instead, the major culprit is close-up, person-to-person interactions for extended periods. Crowded events, poorly ventilated areas and places where people are talking loudly—or singing, in one famous case—maximize the risk.

These emerging findings are helping businesses and governments devise reopening strategies to protect public health while getting economies going again. That includes tactics like installing plexiglass barriers, requiring people to wear masks in stores and other venues, using good ventilation systems and keeping windows open when possible.

Two recent large studies showed that wide-scale lockdowns—stay-at-home orders, bans on large gatherings and business closures—prevented millions of infections and deaths around the world. Now, with more knowledge in hand, cities and states can deploy targeted interventions to keep the virus from taking off again, scientists and public-health experts said.

That means better protections for nursing-home residents and multigenerational families living in crowded conditions, they said. It also means stressing physical distancing and masks, and reducing the number of gatherings in enclosed spaces.

“We should not be thinking of a lockdown, but of ways to increase physical distance,” said Tom Frieden, chief executive of Resolve to Save Lives, a nonprofit public-health initiative. “This can include allowing outside activities, allowing walking or cycling to an office with people all physically distant, curbside pickup from stores, and other innovative methods that can facilitate resumption of economic activity without a rekindling of the outbreak.”

The group’s reopening recommendations include widespread testing, contact tracing and isolation of people who are infected or exposed.

The virus has to make its way into your respiratory tract and use the ACE-2 receptors there to enter cells and replicate.

Health agencies have so far identified respiratory-droplet contact as the major mode of Covid-19 transmission. These large fluid droplets can transfer virus from one person to another if they land on the eyes, nose or mouth. But they tend to fall to the ground or on other surfaces pretty quickly.

Some researchers say the new coronavirus can also be transmitted through aerosols, or minuscule droplets that float in the air longer than large droplets. These aerosols can be directly inhaled.

That’s what may have happened at a restaurant in Guangzhou, China, where an infected diner who was not yet ill transmitted the virus to five others sitting at adjacent tables. Ventilation in the space was poor, with exhaust fans turned off, according to one study looking at conditions in the restaurant.

Aerosolized virus from the patient’s breathing or speaking could have built up in the air over time and strong airflow from an air-conditioning unit on the wall may have helped recirculate the particles in the air, according to authors of the study, which hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed.

Sufficient ventilation in the places people visit and work is very important, said Yuguo Li, one of the authors and an engineering professor at the University of Hong Kong. Proper ventilation—such as forcing air toward the ceiling and pumping it outside, or bringing fresh air into a room—dilutes the amount of virus in a space, lowering the risk of infection.

At a March 10 church choir practice in Washington state, 87% of attendees were infected, said Lea Hamner, an epidemiologist with the Skagit County public-health department and lead author of a study on an investigation that warned about the potential for “superspreader” events, in which one or a small number of people infect many others.

Members of the choir changed places four times during the 2½-hour practice, were tightly packed in a confined space and were mostly older and therefore more vulnerable to illness, she said. All told, 53 of 61 attendees at the practice were infected, including at least one person who had symptoms. Two died.

Several factors conspired, Ms. Hamner said. When singing, people can emit many large and small respiratory particles. Singers also breathe deeply, increasing the chance they will inhale infectious particles.

Similar transmission dynamics could be at play in other settings where heavy breathing and loud talking are common over extended periods, like gyms, musical or theater performances, conferences, weddings and birthday parties. Of 61 clusters of cases in Japan between Jan. 15 and April 4, many involved heavy breathing in close proximity, such as karaoke parties, cheering at clubs, talking in bars and exercising in gyms, according to a recent study in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The so-called attack rate—the percentage of people who were infected in a specific place or time—can be very high in crowded events, homes and other spaces where lots of people are in close, prolonged contact.

An estimated 10% of people with Covid-19 are responsible for about 80% of transmissions, according to a study published recently in Wellcome Open Research. Some people with the virus may have a higher viral load, or produce more droplets when they breathe or speak, or be in a confined space with many people and bad ventilation when they’re at their most infectious point in their illness, said Jamie Lloyd-Smith, a University of California, Los Angeles professor who studies the ecology of infectious diseases.

But overall, “the risk of a given infected person transmitting to people is pretty low,” said Scott Dowell, a deputy director overseeing the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Covid-19 response. “For every superspreading event you have a lot of times when nobody gets infected.”

The attack rate for Covid-19 in households ranges between 4.6% and 19.3%, according to several studies. It was higher for spouses, at 27.8%, than for other household members, at 17.3%, in one study in China.

Rosanna Diaz lives in a three-bedroom apartment in New York City with five other family members. The 37-year-old stay-at-home mother was hospitalized with a stroke on April 18 that her doctors attributed to Covid-19, and was still coughing when she went home two days later.

She pushed to get home quickly, she said, because her 4-year-old son has autism and needed her. She kept her distance from family members, covered her mouth when coughing and washed her hands frequently. No one else in the apartment has fallen ill, she said. “Nobody went near me when I was sick,” she said.

Being outside is generally safer, experts say, because viral particles dilute more quickly. But small and large droplets pose a risk even outdoors, when people are in close, prolonged contact, said Linsey Marr, a Virginia Tech environmental engineering professor who studies airborne transmission of viruses.

No one knows for sure how much virus it takes for someone to become infected, but recent studies offer some clues. In one small study published recently in the journal Nature, researchers were unable to culture live coronavirus if a patient’s throat swab or milliliter of sputum contained less than one million copies of viral RNA.

Air travel is full of opportunities for coronavirus transmission. Touchless check-in, plexiglass shields, temperature checks, back-to-front boarding and planes with empty middle seats are all now part of the flying experience, and the future may bring even more changes. Illustration: Alex Kuzoian
“Based on our experiment, I would assume that something above that number would be required for infectivity,” said Clemens Wendtner, one of the study’s lead authors and head of the department of infectious diseases and tropical medicine at München Klinik Schwabing, a teaching hospital at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.

He and his colleagues found samples from contagious patients with virus levels up to 1,000 times that, which could help explain why the virus is so infectious in the right conditions: It may take much lower levels of virus than what’s found in a sick patient to infect someone else.

Changing policies
Based on this emerging picture of contagion, some policies are changing. The standard procedure for someone who tests positive is to quarantine at home. Some cities are providing free temporary housing and social services where people who are infected can stay on a voluntary basis, to avoid transmitting the virus to family members.

The CDC recently urged Americans to keep wearing masks and maintaining a distance from others as states reopen. “The more closely you interact with others, the longer the interaction lasts, the greater the number of people involved in the interaction, the higher the risk of Covid-19 spread,” said Jay Butler, the CDC’s Covid-19 response incident manager.

If the number of Covid-19 cases starts to rise dramatically as states reopen, “more extensive mitigation efforts such as what were implemented back in March may be needed again,” a decision that would be made locally, he said.

CDC guidelines for employers whose workers are returning include requiring masks, limiting use of public transit and elevators to reduce exposure, and prohibiting hugs, handshakes and fist-bumps. The agency also suggested replacing communal snacks, water coolers and coffee pots with prepacked, single-serve items, and erecting plastic partitions between desks closer than 6 feet apart.

Current CDC workplace guidelines don’t talk about distribution of aerosols, or small particles, in a room, said Lisa Brosseau, a respiratory-protection consultant for the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

“Aerosol transmission is a scary thing,” she said. “That’s an exposure that’s hard to manage and it’s invisible.” Ensuring infected individuals stay home is important, she said, but that can be difficult due to testing constraints. So additional protocols to interrupt spread, like social distancing in workspaces and providing N95 respirators or other personal protective equipment, might be necessary as well, she said.

Some scientists say while aerosol transmission does occur, it doesn’t explain most infections. In addition, the virus doesn’t appear to spread widely through the air.

“If this were transmitted mainly like measles or tuberculosis, where infectious virus lingered in the airspace for a long time, or spread across large airspaces or through air-handling systems, I think you would be seeing a lot more people infected,” said the CDC’s Dr. Brooks.

Sampling the air in high-traffic areas regularly could help employers figure out who needs to get tested, said Donald Milton, professor of environmental and occupational health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health.

“Let’s say you detect the virus during lunchtime on Monday in a dining hall,” he said. “You could then reach out to people who were there during that time telling them that they need to get tested.”

Erin Bromage, a University of Massachusetts Dartmouth associate professor of biology, has been fielding questions from businesses, court systems and even therapists after a blog post he wrote titled “The Risks—Know Them—Avoid Them” went viral.

Courts are trying to figure out how to reconvene safely given that juries normally sit close together, with attorneys speaking to them up close, Dr. Bromage said. Therapists want to be able to hold in-person counseling sessions again. And businesses are trying to figure out what types of cleaning and disease-prevention methods in which to invest most heavily.

He advises that while wiping down surfaces and putting in hand-sanitizer stations in workplaces is good, the bigger risks are close-range face-to-face interactions, and having lots of people in an enclosed space for long periods. High-touch surfaces like doorknobs are a risk, but the virus degrades quickly so other surfaces like cardboard boxes are less worrisome, he said. “Surfaces and cleaning are important, but we shouldn’t be spending half of our budget on it when they may be having only a smaller effect,” he said.

Drugmaker Eli Lilly & Co. has a medical advisory panel that’s reading the latest literature on viral transmission, which it is using to develop recommendations for bringing back the company’s own workers safely.

To go into production facilities, some of which are in operation now, scientists must don multiple layers of personal protective equipment, including gloves, masks, goggles and coveralls. That’s not abnormal for drug-development settings, said Lilly Chief Scientific Officer Daniel Skovronsky. “The air is extensively filtered. There’s lots of protection,” he said.

The places he worries about are the break rooms, locker rooms and security checkpoints, where people interact. Those are spaces where the company has instituted social-distancing measures by staggering the times they are open and how many people can be there at once. Only a few cafeterias are open, and those that are have socially distanced seating. In bathrooms, only half the stalls are available to cut down on the number of people.

“We’ll never be more open than state guidelines,” Dr. Skovronsky said, but “we’re often finding ourselves being more restrictive because we’re following the numbers.” (www.wsj.com)

16-Jun-2020 5:47 PM 6

With the tragic demise of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput, Indian media unfortunately chose to focus on the suicide rather than the loss of a young life. In this piece, senior journalist Aarti Dhar stresses on the need for the media to abide by guidelines and report suicides with sensitivity, which might prevent others from taking the extreme step.

Hyderabad: Sunday afternoon came with rather unfortunate news. Actor Sushant Singh Rajput had passed away. His body was reportedly found hanging in his flat in a posh Mumbai locality. By the next day, post-mortem confirmed that it was a case of suicide.

The life of the 34-year-old actor with a promising future had been cut short. This fact will not change, but what needs to change is the way suicides are covered by media.

Within minutes, television channels switched to the 'big breaking' news of the day. The focus was on how Sushant Singh Rajput had committed suicide rather than the loss of a young life. Most television channels 'broke this news' for almost the entire day describing the way Sushant Singh had ended his life.

So much so, even telling the viewers the colour of the cloth with which the body was found hanging when the door of his bedroom was broken open. Telecasting live when the body was taken out from the house and almost insisting on a quote from the grieving family members back home at Patna. Worse was speculating on the reason behind his alleged suicide -- from professional failure to break up with girlfriend to financial crisis, until it was realised he had been suffering from depression and was on treatment.

As expected, the morning newspapers too, front-paged the story with the actor's picture and details of the act that had ended a precious life.

Not to be blamed, electronic media is about 'breaking the news first' and newspapers compete with each other on the minutest details, display and pictures!

The news deserves prominence, no doubt, but does suicide deserve to be highlighted? One would say it is difficult to differentiate the two as prima facie it does appear to be a case of suicide, but what one generally forgets is that repeated stories on suicide can 'prompt' many to take the extreme step.

More than 50 researches done across the world have found that news coverage can increase the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals, depending on the amount, duration and prominence of coverage. By 'vulnerable individuals' we mean those people who are already thinking about suicide and can be influenced to copycat the act based on what they see or read on media. Sensationalising suicides of celebrities can 'inspire' such individuals to do the same because they feel it is 'ok' to do it and can even make them a celebrity instantly.

Research has also shown showing stories of suicide on media can increase the incidence of suicides by 2.5 times. Referred to as 'Copycat Suicides', it has been proven that suicide rates rise after the suicides of celebrities the most, and to a lesser extent political figures that receive publicity in the mass media, or sensationalised — to put it in simple terms.

On the other side, there is also increasing evidence for the positive roles media can play in suicide prevention. The 'Papageno Studies' is the effect that mass media can have by presenting non-suicide alternatives to crises. Media can make a very relevant contribution to suicide prevention by minimising sensationalist reporting, and maximising reporting on how to cope with suicidality and adverse circumstances.

There is no single reason behind suicides. But more often, they are the result of a mental disorder that can range from depression/stress to severe mental ailments. At times, it is also genetic or there is a history of suicides in the family. But suicides can be prevented if mental disorders are destigmatised, accepted as any other illness and mental healthcare is accessible to all. Sometimes just listening to a suicidal person can make him/her change the decision. People with mental disorders are not 'mad' as is often believed.

The World Health Organisation in 2008 came out with guidelines for media on suicide reporting. For some reason, these guidelines are not being followed by media in letter and spirit.

The WHO has listed 11 points for media to follow while reporting on suicide. The most important being not to sensationalise suicides and educate people on mental health issues to prevent suicide. By not sensationalising, one would mean to avoid using the word 'suicide' in the headline, instead saying an individual was dead would still catch eyeballs.

Not using the picture of the deceased, not identifying the place where the suicide took place and not describing the method used to end the life are some other crucial guidelines media is supposed to follow. Respecting the sentiments of the family at that critical moment by not insisting on their quotes of filming them and taking pictures without prior permission is also recommended. Instead, the WHO says mentioning helpline numbers and healthcare centres where mental healthcare facility is available could be of great use to people with suicidal tendencies. Being careful in choosing words is crucial. The contents of the suicide note need not be given out. Just saying a suicide note was found and is being looked into is good enough.

Not using phrases that normalise self-harm such as 'epidemic' of suicide or 'failed attempt' is recommended. It is equally important to educate the community about mental health issues, the guidelines say while saying that including warning signs, and helpline number is critical. Quoting people as saying or drawing inference that suicide had ended the problems of an individual could just be an idea for some vulnerable individual trying to brave problems in his/her life.

The Press Council of India in September 2019 also endorsed these guidelines and asked media to abstain from identifying a mentally ill person or using his/her picture or footage without prior permission.

But coverage of suicides in media in India is far from ideal while experiences from Austria, the first country worldwide to implement their own set of media recommendations back in 1987 as well as from other countries nowadays support that active collaboration with the media can help prevent suicides and improve the quality of reporting.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau report, the suicide rate in India in 2018 was 10.2 per 100,000 population. As many as 1.34 lakh people commit suicide in the country every year while another 1.60 lakh suicides are not even reported. Majority of the suicides are reported in the age group of 14-29 years — the most productive years of life!

The death of Sushant Singh Rajput is an opportunity for the media and other stakeholders to push for stricter implementation of the WHO guidelines to save lives. The life can be that of a media person also because they are no exception to this contagion.

More so at a time when Coronavirus has put lives under stress and India has already seen suicides due to job loss, withdrawal symptoms and even at quarantine centres because of stigma attached to the disease. (moneycontrol.com)


11-Jun-2020 2:45 PM 6

Kennedy Mitchum told the dictionary that the current definition of the word was inadequate.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary on Wednesday said that it will change its definition of the word racism after a woman suggested that it should reflect the oppression of people of colour in a better way, AFP reported.

Kennedy Mitchum, a university graduate from Iowa in the United States, approached Merriam-Webster with her proposal last month, according to CNN. “I kept having to tell them that definition is not representative of what is actually happening in the world,” she told the news channel. “The way that racism occurs in real life is not just prejudice, it’s the systemic racism that is happening for a lot of black Americans.”
Merriam-Webster’s Editorial Manager Peter Sokolowski told AFP that the dictionary’s definition of racism will be changed on Mitchum’s suggestion.

Sokolowski added that the dictionary currently offers three definitions of racism. He said that the second definition offered by Merriam-Webster was close to Mitchum’s point, but the dictionary will make it even more clear in the next release.

According to the present version of the second definition, racism is “a doctrine or political program based on the assumption of racism and designed to execute its principles,” and “a political or social system founded on racism.”

“This is the kind of continuous revision that is part of the work of keeping the dictionary up to date, based on rigorous criteria and research we employ in order to describe the language as it is actually used,” Sokolowski was quoted as saying by the news agency.
In a message to Mitchum tweeted by her university, another Merriam-Webster editor apologised for not addressing the matter earlier and assured her that that the definition of words related to racism will also be updated.

The debate about systemic racism in the US has been reignited with the killing of George Floyd. On May 25, four police officials detained Floyd after he had allegedly used a counterfeit bill at a store in Minnesota. Protests grew after a widely shared video showed a white former police officer kneeling for almost nine minutes on Floyd’s neck. Floyd was seen gasping for breath, pleading with the officials saying, “I can’t breathe”. He died on the spot. An autopsy found that he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression. The outrage and protests over his death have spread to several other countries. (https://scroll.in)

10-Jun-2020 6:14 PM 9

(विश्व-प्रसिद्ध लेखिका, प्रखर विचारक और एक्टिविस्ट अरुंधति रॉय कोरोना महामारी के दौर में दुनिया भर के सत्ता वर्ग द्वारा रचे गए षड्यंत्रों के ख़िलाफ़ लगातार मुखर हैं। वे लगातार लिख रही हैं, बोल रही हैं और सच्चाई को सीधे दर्ज़ करने वाले किसी रिपोर्टर की तरह मार खाए लोगों के बीच सीधे पहुंचती भी रही हैं। हाल ही में, उनका एक वीडियो ज़ारी हुआ है जिसमें वे देश और दुनिया में चल रही विनाशलीला और सत्ता वर्ग की क्रूरता का अफ़सोस के साथ ज़िक्र करती हैं और इंक़लाब की ज़रूरत पर बल देती हैं। इस वीडियो का फिल्मांकन और विभिन्न जन-छवियों का संपादन-संयोजन प्रतिबद्ध फ़िल्मकार तरुण भारतीय ने किया है। आप इस वीडियो को हिन्दी सब टाइटल्स के साथ यहाँ भी देख-सुन सकते हैं। वीडियो से अरुंधति के वक्तव्य का पाठ (हिन्दी अनुवाद) भी यहाँ प्रकाशित किया जा रहा है-संपादक)

हम सभी यहाँ कुछ साधारण सी मांगों के लिए जमा हुए हैं – सभी के लिए स्वास्थ्य सेवाएं, सभी के लिए भोजन, सभी के लिए एक निश्चित न्यूनतम आमदनी और सभी के लिए घर व शिक्षा।

हमें अगर यह सब मांगना पड़ रहा है तो हमें लगता है कि हमारा समाज कितना अमानवीय हो गया है। कभी-कभी सोचती हूँ कि आखिर हम ये मांगें किससे मांग रहे हैं। हम किससे फरियाद कर रहे हैं? क्या कोई हमारी सुन भी रहा है? कोविड-19 एक वायरस है। लेकिन, यह एक एक्सरे भी है जिसने यह साफ़ कर दिया है कि हमने अपनी पृथ्वी के साथ क्या किया है। तबाही को हम सभ्यता कहते हैं, लालच को सुख और भयानक अन्याय को नियति। लेकिन, अब यहाँ एक दरार पड़ गई है। एक विस्फोट, मानो एक जमा हुआ विस्फोट। एक विस्फोट के चीथड़े यहाँ-वहाँ हवा में लटक रहे हैं। पता नहीं, ये कहाँ जाकर गिरेंगे? करोड़ों लोगों को लॉकडाउन में बंद कर दिया गया। मुझे नहीं पता कि इतिहास में कभी ऐसा समय आया होगा जब पूरी दुनिया में एक साथ ऐसी सत्ता स्थापित हुई हो। यह बहुत चिंता की बात है।

कुछ देशों में बीमारी बहुत ही विनाशकारी रही, कुछ में इसका `इलाज` ही विनाश ला रहा है। लाखों-करोड़ों लोगों ने अपनी नौकरियां गंवा दी हैं। यहाँ भारत में 138 करोड़ लोगों पर केवल चार घंटों का नोटिस देकर 55 दिनों का लॉकडाउन थोप दिया गया था। लाखों कामगार शहरों में फंसे हुए थे। खाने और छत के साये के बिना। घर लौटने के साधनों के बिना। तब उन्होंने अपने घरों की ओर कूच शुरू किया, अपने गाँवों की तरफ़ एक लंबा मार्च। रास्ते में बहुत से थकान से चल बसे, बहुत से गर्मी और भूख से। बहुत से सड़क हादसों में मारे गए। बहुतों पर जानवरों की तरह पकड़ कर ब्लीच स्प्रे किया गया। पुलिस ने उनकी पिटाई की और इस तरह कइयों को पुलिस ने पीट-पीट कर मार डाला। अपने गाँवों को लौट रहे इन लोगों का इंतज़ार वहाँ भी भूख और बेरोज़गारी कर रही है। यह मानवता के ख़िलाफ़ किया गया अपराध है। हमें इसका हिसाब चाहिए। 

लेकिन, आसमान तो साफ़ हो गया है। फ़िज़ा में चिड़ियों की चहचहाट है। जंगली जानवर शहर की सड़कों पर दिखने लगे हैं। धरती हमें याद दिला रही है कि उसके पास ख़ुद अपने उपचार के तरीक़े मौजूद हैं। यह महामारी दो दुनियाओं के बीच का दरवाज़ा है। सवाल है कि हम इस दरवाज़े के पार कैसे जाएंगे। क्या हम मर रहे हैं? या नया जन्म ले रहे हैं? बतौर एक इंसान, हम ज़िंदगी और मौत तो तय नहीं कर सकते। लेकिन, शायद मानव प्रजाति के तौर पर हम कुछ तो कर ही सकते हैं।

अगर हम एक नया जन्म ले रहे हैं या जन्म लेने की इच्छा रखते हैं तो हमें अपने गुस्से को विद्रोह का रूप देना होगा। उसे इंक़लाब तक ले जाना होगा। दान-दक्षिणा और परोपकार से काम नहीं चलेगा। चैरिटी ठीक है लेकिन वह आक्रोश को दया में बदल देती है। चैरिटी, लेने वाले को कमतर बना देती है और देने वाले में ताक़त का अभिमान पैदा करती है जो कि नहीं होना चाहिए। चैरिटी, सामाजिक ढांचे को जस का तस क़ायम रखती है।

हमारी फ़रियादें सुनने वाला कोई नहीं है। हम पर राज़ करने वाले मर्द कब के मर चुके हैं। उनके जबड़े भिंचे हुए हैं। हमें जो चाहिए, छीन कर लेना होगा या फिर लड़ते-लड़ते मर जाना होगा। (janchowk.com)

10-Jun-2020 11:26 AM 5

 A discussion moderated by Siddhartha Mukherjee.

In the history of medicine, rarely has a vaccine been developed in less than five years. Among the fastest to be developed was the current mumps vaccine, which was isolated from the throat washings of a child named Jeryl Lynn in 1963. Over the next months, the virus was systematically “weakened” in the lab by her father, a biomedical scientist named Maurice Hilleman. Such a weakened or attenuated virus stimulates an immune response but does not cause the disease; the immune response protects agCan a Vaccine for Covid-19 Be Developed in Record Time?
A discussion moderated by Siddhartha Mukherjee.
In the history of medicine, rarely has a vaccine been developed in less than five years. Among the fastest to be developed was the current mumps vaccine, which was isolated from the throat washings of a child named Jeryl Lynn in 1963. Over the next months, the virus was systematically “weakened” in the lab by her father, a biomedical scientist named Maurice Hilleman. Such a weakened or attenuated virus stimulates an immune response but does not cause the disease; the immune response protects against future infections with the actual virus. Human trials were carried out over the next two years, and the vaccine was licensed by Merck in December 1967.

Antiviral drugs, too, have generally taken decades to develop; effective combinations of them take even longer. The first cases of AIDS were described in the early 1980s; it took more than a decade to develop and validate the highly effective triple drug cocktails that are now the mainstay of therapy. We are still continuing to develop new classes of medicines against H.I.V., and notably, there is no vaccine for that disease. And yet the oft-cited target for creating a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is 12 months, 18 at the outside.

Pulling that off is arguably the most important scientific undertaking in generations. The Times assembled (virtually, of course) a round table to help us understand the maddening complexity of the challenge and the extraordinary collaboration it has already inspired. The group included a virologist; a vaccine scientist; an immunologist and oncologist; a biotech scientist and inventor; and a former head of the Food and Drug Administration.

The Panelists

Siddhartha Mukherjee is an associate professor of medicine at Columbia University and a cancer physician and researcher. He is the author of “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer,” which was the winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction, and “The Gene: An Intimate History.” He was recently appointed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s blue-ribbon commission to reimagine New York.

Dan Barouch is the director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Margaret (Peggy) Hamburg is the foreign secretary of the National Academy of Medicine. She was commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration from 2009 to 2015.

Susan R. Weiss is a professor and vice-chairwoman of the Department of Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania and a co-director of the Penn Center for Research on Coronaviruses and Other Emerging Pathogens.

George Yancopoulos is co-founder, president and chief scientific officer of Regeneron.

George Yancopoulos: Most people don’t realize that successfully inventing and developing any new drug or vaccine is quantifiably among the hardest things that human beings try to do. This is reflected in the numbers. Although there are thousands of major medical institutions and thousands of biotech and biopharma companies that collectively involve millions of researchers and hundreds of billions of dollars invested per year — and all are working on new vaccines and medicines — the vast majority of efforts fail, with the F.D.A. only approving 20 to 50 new medicines a year. And each of the rare success stories usually occurs over many years, often a decade or two.

Peggy Hamburg: So with Covid-19, we are moving at record speed, in terms of the history of vaccine development.

Siddhartha Mukherjee: Can you put a number down for how quickly we can get an effective vaccine developed? Is the 12-to-18-month time frame we’ve been hearing realistic?

Dan Barouch: The hope is that it will be within a year, but that is not in any way guaranteed. That projection will be refined as time goes on — and a year assumes that everything goes smoothly from this point forward. That’s never been done before. And safety cannot be compromised.

Hamburg: Realistically, the 12 to 18 months that most people have been saying would be a pretty good marker but still optimistic.

Susan R. Weiss: I’d agree.

Mukherjee: To think about whether there’s any way to make this process go faster, let’s start by talking about how the search for a vaccine usually happens. Dan, what is the general principle of what a vaccine is and how it works?

Barouch: The goal of a vaccine is to raise an immune response against a virus or a bacterium. Later, when a vaccinated person is exposed to the actual virus or bacterium, the immune system will then block or rapidly control the pathogen so that the person doesn’t get sick. The immune cells that make antibodies are called B cells. Once they’ve been triggered by a vaccine to raise an immune response, some of these B cells can last for years and are always standing ready to make antibodies against the pathogen when it is encountered, thereby protecting against the disease for a prolonged period of time.

Hamburg: Under normal conditions, drug-and-vaccine development begins with “preclinical” work — basic science — to identify the nature of the disease in question.

Weiss: In virology labs like mine, we try to identify the viral proteins that a vaccine might target, usually the protein that recognizes and attaches to the host-cell receptor. All coronaviruses have a so-called spike protein, which is what gives the virus its corona-like morphology, the “crownlike shape,” as can be visualized in an electron microscope. To invade a cell, the spike protein attaches to a receptor — another protein, usually — on the cell’s outer membrane. This eventually results in the genetic material of the virus, in this case, an RNA protein complex, being internalized in the cell. And once that happens, replication can begin and a person can get sick. If you can identify the viral protein that interacts with the cellular receptor, then you can try to create a vaccine. This spike protein represents a particularly attractive candidate for a vaccine, because it is a protein that most prominently sticks outside of the surface of the virus, and so it’s the part of the virus that is most visible to the immune system.

Mukherjee: So what are the different approaches that you can take to finding vaccines?

Barouch: A tried-and-true vaccine approach is a whole inactivated virus vaccine — that’s when you grow up the actual virus in the laboratory, for example in cells or in eggs, and then “inactivate” it with chemicals or another method to make it unable to infect cells but still able to elicit an immune response. A company in China, Sinovac Biotech, currently has an inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in clinical trials. The pros are that there’s a long clinical history of multiple vaccines that have been successful in that regard, such as the inactivated polio vaccine and the inactivated flu vaccine. The cons are that there are always some safety considerations around proving that the virus has been fully inactivated. If the virus is not fully inactivated, the danger is that it might actually cause the disease.

Because of those issues, many groups are working on approaches that are called gene-based vaccines. Gene-based vaccines, such as DNA vaccines and RNA vaccines, do not consist of the entire virus particle. Rather, these vaccines use just a small fraction — sometimes even just one gene — from the virus.

That still leaves the question of how to get that gene into human cells. A vector-based vaccine uses a delivery vehicle — one example would be a recombinant adenovirus, a “harmless virus” carrier, like a common-cold virus — to deliver the protein into a person’s cells. For instance, you can take the spike-protein DNA from SARS-CoV-2 and “stitch” it into the DNA of the harmless cold virus using genetic-engineering techniques. The virus delivers the spike-protein DNA into cells, but it cannot replicate in cells, so it’s a safe delivery system. Still other approaches use purified proteins, such as the spike protein itself, as vaccines.

Yancopoulos: This gene-based approach was used in the case of Ebola. Scientists figured out that the protein the virus used to invade human cells is one that’s called the GP protein. They were able to make a very successful vaccine. They actually stitched in the GP protein, using genetic-engineering techniques, into a benign virus. When this virus infected cells, it made the GP protein, and the body recognized that protein as “foreign” and made antibodies against it.

Mukherjee: There is also the idea of ditching the “harmless” virus altogether and just using a snippet of a viral gene, by itself, as an inoculum. As soon as the sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 genome became available in January, it became possible to design such a viral-gene snippet. Through reasons that we still don’t fully understand, the body’s own cells take up that viral gene, even without a carrier, and produce viral protein from it. Why and how cells take up this so-called naked DNA or RNA is still being worked out, but the viral protein is recognized as “foreign” because it has never been seen by the body, and the host raises antibodies against it. And because it is not carried by any virus, this kind of vaccine can be easier to manufacture initially, although scaling up the manufacture may be tough. This is the approach that Moderna is taking to try and make a vaccine. In Moderna’s case, it involves using RNA as the inoculum.

But what is the track record so far of a real human vaccine for a real human disease using these genetic techniques?

Barouch: Currently there are no approved DNA vaccines or RNA vaccines. Some of them have been tested in small, early-phase clinical trials, for safety and ability to induce an immune response. However, they have not previously been tested in large-scale efficacy trials or mass produced or approved for clinical use.

Mukherjee: Yes, so we have to be very careful with these vaccines. The data discussed by Moderna in May would suggest that their vaccine can elicit antibodies in humans. It did so in eight patients. But whether that is protective against SARS-CoV-2, and how long the protection lasts, is an open question. More so, because elderly people need particular protection, and we need to understand how much of this vaccine, or ones like it, are eliciting long-term immunity in the elderly, where the immune system might be already somewhat attenuated in its response.

Once you have a vaccine that you want to test, then you begin animal studies. What animals are coronavirus vaccines and drugs being tested on? And how do scientists know which ones to use?

Weiss: An ideal animal model is one that reproduces the human disease as closely as possible — in which, for example, clinical signs resembling symptoms in humans are observed, virus replication is observed in similar organs, immune response mirrors that in humans and so on. In addition, an animal model is often used to demonstrate whether a virus can be transmitted from an infected to an uninfected animal. Scientists use animal models to understand how the virus causes disease. They are also useful to determine whether a vaccine will be successful to prevent infection or a drug will be able to reduce or eliminate the disease. With Covid-19, there’s currently a hamster model that looks like it works pretty well to mimic the disease and also some promising research with mice, ferrets and also nonhuman primates. None of these models are perfect, but each one of them tells us something about the immune response and may be useful for testing of vaccine efficacy as well as for antiviral therapies.

Mukherjee: Dan, you have been working with the monkey model and a genetically engineered vaccine. Can you tell us more about it?

Barouch: We’re collaborating with Johnson & Johnson in the development of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. This vaccine involves a recombinant adenovirus vector — a common-cold virus that’s been altered to make it harmless — to shuttle the spike protein into cells. That is an efficient way of inducing potent immune responses to a pathogen and elicits durable immune responses as well.

There are two key scientific questions related to vaccine development that are crucial. First, is there evidence that natural immunity induced by infection protects against a subsequent encounter with the virus? And then, of course, there is the question of which vaccines to test and how effective any of these will be. We have just published some preliminary answers to these questions in the animal model in monkeys.

In the first experiment, we infected nine monkeys with SARS-CoV-2 in the nose and in the lungs. All the animals developed a viral pneumonia, which was similar to human disease, except the monkey disease was mild and all animals recovered. Thirty-five days later, we re-exposed the animals a second time to the virus — and found that all the animals were protected. There was no virus or very low levels of the virus in the lungs. This is an important question because, historically, it has proved much easier to develop vaccines when there is natural protective immunity against the virus. For H.I.V., for instance, there is no natural protective immunity, and that’s part of the reason that H.I.V. vaccines have been so hard to develop.

In the second study, we developed a series of prototype vaccines. These were “naked DNA” vaccines — ones without any delivery vehicles. These are not the vaccines that we are planning to take into the clinic, but rather these prototype DNA vaccines can teach us a lot about the immune responses needed to protect against this virus. We used six different versions of the spike-protein gene — some encoding the full protein, some with smaller pieces. Twenty-five monkeys received these vaccines and 10 received just saline as a control. Each monkey received two vaccine shots. Six weeks after the first shot, they were exposed to the virus, and we found that vaccinated animals were protected from SARS-CoV-2. Eight of the 25 animals had no virus detected after exposure, and the remaining animals showed low levels of the virus. Most important, the level of antibodies induced by the vaccine correlated with the level of protection, and this biomarker may therefore be useful for monitoring vaccine studies moving forward. The full-length spike protein appeared to work the best.

The implications of these two studies are that both natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity can exist in primates and that the amount of antibody may serve as a useful marker for vaccine effectiveness. But of course, these are animal studies, and we will need to study these questions in humans.

Mukherjee: So what happens next in terms of making a real vaccine out of these data?

Barouch: DNA encoding the full-length spike protein has been stitched into the common-cold virus vector as a more efficient way of transporting the spike-protein DNA into cells. That’s the basis of the vaccine we are developing with J.& J.

Mukherjee: In addition to the J.& J. and Moderna vaccines, there are several other programs. One is the Oxford program. What do we know about that one?

Barouch: The Oxford vaccine is based on a chimpanzee common-cold virus, and it also encodes the spike protein. Early data shows that in monkeys, the vaccine was able to reduce the amount of virus in the lung but not in the nose, following exposure to SARS-CoV-2. This vaccine has already started early human testing, but we are still waiting for definitive data. Several vaccines are also in clinical trials in China, including Sinovac’s inactivated-virus vaccine and another vaccine based on a human common-cold virus.

Mukherjee: Once you know the vaccine you want to test, what happens next?

Barouch: Vaccine development for a new pathogen traditionally takes many years or even decades. The process includes small-scale manufacturing; Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical trials; and then regulatory approval and large-scale manufacturing. For SARS-CoV-2, the goal is to compress these timelines considerably without compromising safety, which is absolutely critical for any vaccine that will be given to large numbers of individuals.

Hamburg: And there are a lot of hurdles that come up along the way. Sometimes developers have a good idea but can’t translate it into a viable vaccine. Or you wind up with unexpected side effects in early human studies. Worse, you can find safety or efficacy problems further along, or you find that you can’t reliably scale up manufacturing or you run into problems with regulatory authorities.

Mukherjee: Walk us through what happens with human testing.

Yancopoulos: The first human trials are called Phase 1 trials and consist of small “safety trials” exploring increasing doses of the drug, to prove you can get into an effective level of the drug without obvious harm. This usually takes from a few months to a year or two. If you are satisfied that the Phase 1 trial has established that an effective level of the drug does not cause obvious harm (albeit in the small number of patients in Phase 1), you then proceed in the next stage of trials, Phase 2, that further establish safety in larger patient numbers while also demonstrating that your drug has some beneficial effect.

For example, Phase 2 might show that a drug lowers “bad cholesterol.” But it doesn’t necessarily mean that it prevents heart attacks. Only when you do very large, well-controlled Phase 3 studies can you prove that lowering the “bad cholesterol” also can prevent heart attacks and save lives. For example, for the heart-disease drug Praluent that my company developed, we could show that it effectively lowered “bad cholesterol” in Phase 2 trials of a couple hundred patients, but the Phase 3 trial that was required to show it prevented heart attacks and improved survival involved about 20,000 patients and about five years.

Mukherjee: In what you just described, the Phase 1 alone can be up to two years. How could we accelerate the whole process?

Hamburg: Well, we can’t abandon the rigor of the science. And we certainly can’t abandon the ethics of how we do studies either. But what we can do is, frankly, ask developers to take more risks themselves. Vaccine development can be costly and success uncertain. As compared to a drug that someone may take every day, the return on investment versus risk of failed development is pretty high for vaccines. Because vaccines are often viewed as a public good, protecting both people and communities, there can be considerable pressure on companies to restrict price on vaccines, so a company rarely has a “blockbuster” vaccine the way that a cancer treatment, ulcer drug or cholesterol-lowering drug can be. Also, there are liability issues because you are giving a vaccine to a healthy person to protect them from disease rather than treating an existing problem. So the trade-off of development risk and benefit often does not favor vaccines. In order to manage those risks, trials of different vaccine candidates tend to be done one step at a time.

Barouch: For Covid-19, developers are talking about performing as many steps in parallel as possible, as opposed to sequentially. For example, multiple vaccine manufacturers are willing to take enormous financial risks — planning for large-scale manufacturing up front, even before knowing whether the vaccine works or not.

There might be a half dozen vaccines that will get to the Phase 3 stage. How do we select which ones go forward? Do we prioritize vaccines that are similar to ones that have been tested previously in humans and that have shown safety and potency? Or do we turn to vaccines that can be mass produced quickly and safely? Ultimately, the prioritization is a complicated process that involves many decisions. The F.D.A. has to be involved, as well as governments and regulatory agencies and stakeholders around the world. There are questions about safety, efficacy, manufacturability and scalability that must be tackled.

Hamburg: Obviously we’re looking for ones that work in the early trials. But we don’t just need a vaccine that works; we need one that can be reliably scaled up to manufacture in very large volumes. Ideally, it would be one that doesn’t require multiple doses to be effective, certainly not beyond, say, a two-dose regimen. And ideally it wouldn’t require refrigerated storage, so it can be made more available in resource-poor settings. So, there are characteristics of a vaccine in addition to safety and efficacy that are going to matter.

Mukherjee: Are there other ways to speed up the process? Typically in Phase 3 trials, you’d go out into the field and give, say, 15,000 people the vaccine you’re testing and 15,000 people a placebo. And then you wait and see how many of those with the vaccine came down with the disease versus the numbers who were given the placebo. But of course, that takes a long time. You’d need to wait months or years to watch this natural experiment. One ethically fraught possibility that some experts have floated is the use of so-called “challenge” trials, in which young, healthy people are given a vaccine and then deliberately exposed to the virus. This would only happen once the safety of the vaccine was established and there was some hint that there is an immune response. But what are the ethical concerns about accelerating a vaccine process?

Barouch: For certain pathogens, it has been considered ethical to perform human-challenge studies but typically only for pathogens for which there is a highly effective treatment. For example, for malaria there is a very widely and effectively used human-challenge model in which vaccines or other interventions can be tested. Human volunteers can be inoculated with malaria and then, if they develop the disease, can be treated rapidly so that they don’t actually get sick.

Mukherjee: Why can’t we do this for Covid-19?

Barouch: The dilemma for Covid-19 is that there currently is no curative therapy. So, if a volunteer in a potential human-challenge study gets severely ill, there may not be a way to cure that person. In fact, far from it: The drugs in our armamentarium are not perfect, and so we would have no guarantee that we could “rescue” a person who got severely ill.

Weiss: I’m not an ethicist, but my gut feeling is that challenge trials are too dangerous. Young people can get quite sick and die from Covid-19.

Mukherjee: If we could develop a drug or an antibody that would be able to mitigate the disease, we would still need to think about the ethical concerns of a human challenge. There’s also the question of who “volunteers” for such a challenge. There’s been a whole history — extremely fraught — where minorities were used as experimental subjects without their understanding or consent. How do we ensure that the volunteers understand the consent? How do we ensure that they are not given perverse incentives? A young person might believe that if they get vaccinated and challenged, then they have an “immunity passport” against the disease. But what if, in fact, they fall sick and we have no effective therapy. The question of a challenge experiment therefore requires both deep ethical thinking — who, what, how many — and scientific thinking: Is there a strategy to “rescue” a patient if the challenge resulted in a real disease.

Hamburg: There’s also the question of how much a challenge trial on young healthy patients will even tell us what we need to know. If we do a study using these lowest-risk patients, will that give us adequate information about the value of the vaccine in the elderly populations, who in many ways are the most important target for this vaccine?

Barouch: Absolutely. The problem for human-challenge studies, beyond the ethical questions, is that a controlled human-challenge experiment doesn’t necessarily translate to showing how a vaccine would actually perform in the real world. Participants in any such challenge studies would likely be young, healthy individuals at lowest risk, and so the data generated may not be applicable to elderly and vulnerable populations that need to be protected with a vaccine. There may also be different doses and different viral variants.

Mukherjee: Peggy, is there something we should be doing while we’re waiting for all these trials?

Hamburg: Well, I think we definitely need to be thinking about the scale-up and manufacturing issues, as we said already. Another issue that we need to be thinking about is working with the communities where these large-scale Phase 3 studies will be done. Some will be done in the U.S., but others will be done in other places around the world — lower-resourced places that may not have the kind of clinical-research infrastructure that we have here, whether it’s having enough trained researchers or the sophisticated health care services they need, like lab and diagnostic tools and basic things like refrigeration and cold storage.

Mukherjee: So in speeding up the vaccine-development process, we have three things going for us: We have cleaner and likely safer technologies to create vaccines; we know the viral proteins that are likely to raise a good immune response; and we know how to measure that immune response with much greater accuracy in humans that have been given a test dose of the vaccine. All of these we hope will accelerate the Phase 1 safety trials — some of which have already started, between March and May — so that they can be done in four to six months. After that, we’re still looking at a roughly 12-month period to test the vaccine in real human populations, so it seems we’re pushing toward the 18-month marker. Dan, what’s your sense of the time that it will take to actually deploy the vaccine across the population of the world once we have it?

Barouch: There are two timelines that matter. One is the infrastructure and timeline needed to manufacture massive numbers of doses of the vaccine, and a separate, potentially different timeline to actually deploy the vaccine.

Hamburg: On the manufacturing front, you’ve probably heard about Bill Gates’s decision to begin to invest in a range of different types of manufacturing capabilities, to capture the different categories of vaccines, not knowing which of the different types of vaccine candidates are actually going to make it over the finish line.

Mukherjee: Right, so that once the “winner” is identified, that winner can go forward without having to wait for capacity.

Barouch: The reason to build out this capacity in advance is that different vaccines are made very differently. For example, the manufacturing process for an RNA vaccine is entirely different than for an adenovirus vector-based vaccine. For rapid deployment of a vaccine after clinical efficacy is shown, large-scale manufacturing of multiple vaccine candidates has to begin before there is demonstration of vaccine efficacy.

Hamburg: But even if this initiative moves forward, I think there may be a misunderstanding in the public at large about the challenges of scale-up and manufacturing. Once a vaccine is approved, it is not going be available the next day for whoever wants it.

Mukherjee: Tell us about that. That’s important.

Hamburg: Manufacturing has to be done in a high-quality and consistent way. There are materials that are needed that can be in limited supply, like the vials and the stoppers that you need for packaging. And then there are chains for distribution, and sometimes vaccines have to be kept frozen at very low temperatures. So you have to have all of those important systems for manufacturing, packaging and delivery and distribution up and running and the supply chains flowing in order to actually get what might now be an approved vaccine actually into the bodies of the individuals who need it.

Mukherjee: And then this returns to the distribution and inoculation of the vaccine, and epidemiological studies that follow it.

Hamburg: Yes, I think we need to create systems for assuring fair and equitable and public-health-driven distribution of the vaccine as well. One concern that many have is that there’s going to be a huge nationalistic push for countries to try to get hold of as much vaccine as they can for use within their own borders, yet ultimately the safety of any country or community depends on addressing and protecting against this virus all over the world.

Yancopoulos: As we’ve been saying, with all the challenges regarding developing, testing, manufacturing and distributing a safe and effective vaccine — no matter how much effort so many scientists and companies put on the problem — it could still take years or even longer. This is why it’s so important to have additional efforts ongoing in parallel to try to fight back against this pandemic. If we don’t have a safe and effective vaccine for one to two years, or even longer, we need to develop other treatments as a bridge to a vaccine — to allow society to have a path toward reopening and functioning, while we await a vaccine.

Mukherjee: So let’s work backward as we work frantically toward the vaccine. What can we do now that will help? How can we move from where we are — isolate, quarantine, mask, distance — toward a therapy that will bridge us to the vaccine?

Yancopoulos: The world has gotten interested in the drug remdesivir, which inhibits the process of RNA replication and has been shown to be active in a lot of viruses that use these mechanisms to replicate themselves.

Mukherjee: An initial study from China, published in the Lancet, showed a rather disappointing effect from remdesivir. There was a hint of clinical improvement in treated patients versus controls, but it was not statistically significant. But there were several problems with that trial. That trial enrolled patients who had the onset of symptoms from one day to 12 days, so the spectrum of disease severity was very broad. And although the study had a placebo control, it did not have a lot of patients: 236 in total, 158 in the treatment and 78 in placebo. In late May there was a study from the National Institutes of Health published in The New England Journal of Medicine that showed remdesivir might have an effect — albeit, again, a modest one — on hospitalized patients. The number of days that patients spent in hospital was reduced, and the study again hinted that there was a reduction in mortality from 11.9 percent in the placebo group to 7.1 percent in the treated group, though this was not shown to be statistically significant. But again, this was a study that involved a very broad range of patients — some with moderate lung damage and some on ventilators.

Hamburg: Until there’s a vaccine, I don’t think there’s going to be one magic bullet for treating this thing, and we’re certainly not going to find that magic-bullet drug treatment in a repurposed drug pulled off the shelf.

Yancopoulos: History has told us that. Repurposed drugs are usually not panaceas.

Hamburg: And meanwhile, every day we are learning more about this virus, its life cycle and the complexity of how it causes disease. We initially thought of Covid-19 as a lung disease, and then realized that many of the people who became seriously ill had their disease course worsened by a hyperactive immune response. Now we realize that many other vital organs can be seriously compromised, including the kidneys, the gut and the brain, and that something about this virus is triggering a very dangerous hypercoagulability syndrome, where the blood starts clotting in dangerous ways. And there’s an apparent association of this novel coronavirus with a very serious hyperimmune syndrome in children, the so-called Kawasaki-like syndrome.

I think we need to draw on our best scientific understanding and the work of virologists like Susan to identify where are the targets for intervention, for what will likely be a combination therapy that addresses different points in the life cycle of the virus and the human immune response.

Mukherjee: What about using antibodies to tide us through this period? As we’ve discussed, the entire purpose of vaccines is to induce the body to make its own “protective antibodies” that bind and kill the virus. George, you have pioneered ways of making these same type of “anti-viral antibodies” outside the body, manufacturing them and purifying them and then giving them back to individuals — so these people now have antibodies against the virus. It’s like they have already been vaccinated: They now have antibodies but without needing to go through the actual vaccine step.

Yancopoulos: Right. Earlier I mentioned Ebola. Over the past 10 to 20 years, we have developed a series of technologies that are designed to make antibodies against many disease targets, including viruses. These technologies were used by our scientists to develop a cocktail of three antibodies to bind and block the GP protein of Ebola — the GP protein is the Ebola equivalent of the spike protein — our so-called REGN-EB3 cocktail, and this treatment was very effective in patients already infected with Ebola, as shown by the World Health Organization in a clinical trial. And now we have used these same technologies to rapidly make an antibody cocktail — REGN-COV2 — that binds and blocks the spike protein of Covid-19.

Mukherjee: Explain what that means.

Yancopoulos: You can almost think of it as a temporary vaccine. Instead of waiting for a vaccine that will make the body make its own antibodies against the virus, we can make exactly those kinds of antibodies and inject them into people.

Mukherjee: And how long would that take?

Yancopoulos: For Ebola, we went from starting the project to being in clinical trials in just nine months. With Covid-19, we’ve cut that in almost half: We have already made thousands and thousands of these antibodies and started to grow them up and tested them for blocking the virus. And we plan to start human trials in June. We will conduct three types of trials. First, prophylaxis, in which we give REGN-COV2 to patients not yet infected but at high-risk and hopefully show we can prevent infection — much like a vaccine would hope to do but not inducing the “permanent immunity” that a vaccine can confer. Then, we will give REGN-COV2 to patients recently infected, who are asymptomatic and/or who don’t have severe disease, and see if we can rapidly “cure” them and eliminate the virus and prevent them from progressing to the severe-and-critical stage that would require hospitalization and ventilation. Then, finally, we would give the REGN-COV2 to severe-and-critical-stage patients, who are in the hospital, many on ventilators, with poor prognosis, and hopefully show we can rescue them, get them off ventilators and save their lives.

Mukherjee: And how long would the antibodies last in terms of protection?

Yancopoulos: We hope each injection should last at least a month, if not several months. Beyond this antibody cocktail, there are quite a few drugs that are being repurposed to see if they have potential in Covid-19. One particularly promising story that came out of China was that blocking the inflammation that seems to be causing the lung problems in Covid-19 — in particular by blocking an inflammatory factor called interleukin-6, or IL-6, that is an important driver of the inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis — might help patients with lung problems due to Covid-19. This promise was based on a small, uncontrolled but positive experience in China. We are now doing large Phase 3 trials to definitively test whether our IL-6 blocking drug — which as I said is already approved for treating the inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis — may help with the lung inflammation in Covid-19 patients who are critically ill. But if you look at either repurposed drugs like remdesivir or even the IL-6 blocking approach, those are not the sort of drugs that I think would make Dan happy, because they are just incremental.

Hamburg: Or me.

Yancopoulos: Or anybody. But they could provide a benefit. Every life that’s saved or every disease course that’s shortened is important.

Mukherjee: But the incremental effects that you are describing may be because the trials are still being run on patients with moderate to severe disease and in particular on hospitalized patients. In virtually every infectious disease, the use of antibacterials or antivirals or even antibodies against a virus early in the course of disease is better. In terms of remdesivir, it’s possible that the drug is much more likely to be efficacious when used early than late, and in fact, the published trial from the N.I.H. has a hint of that. As we just said, thus far, the trials have generally involved a broad spectrum of patients — hospitalized patients and some of the sickest — and the benefits have been modest. But experts such as Francisco Marty, an infectious-disease doctor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, have argued that this was precisely the wrong population to use the drug. By the time you have lung inflammation and tissue injury, killing the virus is not enough. It’s too late; the body has turned on itself, and an antiviral drug cannot tackle the inflammation. And so a second fleet of trials is being designed to evaluate whether the drug might be more successful if given as early as possible — for instance, as soon as you have detected the virus and the oxygen level has begun to drop, particularly in high-risk patients. It would invert the paradigm: Rather than quarantine and sit at home, you would get the drug sooner rather than later. Infectious-disease doctors, such as Marty, have early evidence that this strategy works: Patients given early remdesivir recover and do not progress to the fulminant lung disease. A group of us, including Marty, are in conversations with the Gates Foundation and others to launch trials of such a strategy.

And then there’s the question of combining drugs: Perhaps an antiviral drug would work even better if used in combination with antibodies. But all of this is logistically complex. All these drugs have to be given intravenously, so you have to go to an infusion center to get them. But I cannot emphasize enough the urgency of doing these early-treatment trials. It would be really a shame to give up a valuable drug in our very limited armamentarium because we couldn’t study the right patients. And the drug itself is in short supply, so every time it’s used on a patient that it would not benefit, we are losing ground. We need political support, financial support and support from Gilead, the manufacturer, to get this urgent early treatment trial done as soon as possible.

Susan, what is your sense of combining two targets? Maybe a replication inhibitor along with an antibody. And I know you’ve been involved with other laboratories, testing new drugs. What is your sense of the development of these drugs?

Weiss: That might turn out to be useful, but right now drugs are still being evaluated. Quite a few people are testing all kinds of F.D.A.-approved drugs and unapproved drugs against the virus. There are a lot of potential drug targets in the viral-replication cycle — that is, the enzymes that are needed to replicate the virus as well as the cellular factors needed for the virus to enter the cell. And I guess I feel like a lot of compounds may inhibit replication of the virus, especially in combination and aimed at multiple targets. But I don’t know how many of them will actually become drugs. In addition, replication inhibitors may not be enough to stop the virus after the early stages of infection, when the individual may be asymptomatic. We may need a combination of an antiviral drug to be effective early in the disease and an anti-inflammatory drug for the later “cytokine storm” phase of the disease.

Mukherjee: Yes, just because a compound inhibits the virus in a petri dish, doesn’t mean that it can immediately become an antiviral drug for human use. The compound might be toxic to humans. It might be degraded into an inactive substance by the body. Its dose might be so high that it’s impossible to administer. But I do think while we’re waiting for the antibodies and the vaccines, it seems reasonable to proceed with testing thousands of drugs against the virus — called “drug screening” — so that if something does come up, we might find a drug to combine with remdesivir or with antibodies, making an anti-viral cocktail.

From what I’ve been able to see, there is unusual urgency and cooperation among scientists in this effort.

Hamburg: It’s remarkable, in terms of the collaboration across disciplines and research institutions and sectors and borders. There’s been more openness and sharing than I’ve seen in past crises like Ebola or Zika or H1N1. Regulatory authorities around the world are coming together in ways that are very, very important to reduce barriers and to make sure that they’re bringing the best possible science to bear on decision making, trying to identify what are the critical questions that have to be asked and answered, what kind of study designs and preclinical work is going to be necessary, so that you don’t have companies facing different regulatory authorities with different standards and requests and approaches, so that the hard questions can be more effectively addressed through bringing together the best minds, wherever they are.

Weiss: I’ve never seen this before, either. Our C.D.C. permit to receive the virus, which is classified as a biosafety Level 3 agent, was approved in less than two days. We received at least two material-transfer agreements, which have to be signed by a number of institutional officials and sometimes lawyers, in a matter of hours. Both of those processes have taken much longer, sometimes weeks, in the past. This is just one sign of administrators and scientists collaborating with each other and acting extra efficiently to facilitate the science.

Barouch: I’ll just echo that. From a research perspective, I have never seen such collaborative spirit, such open sharing of materials, data, protocols, thoughts and ideas among academic groups, industry groups, government groups and the clinicians on the front lines.

Yancopoulos: I’ve seen unprecedented collaboration from all forces. I can get on the phone and call my counterpart, Mikael Dolsten, at Pfizer, and his first question is, “Well, what can we do to help?” Whether it’s scientists in academia, whether it’s people at biotech and pharma companies, whether it’s the doctors and health care workers who are at the epicenter at hospitals like Mount Sinai or Columbia in New York City, whether it’s the F.D.A. — we are all coming together, and things are happening at unprecedented rates because we realize that we have a common enemy. (www.who.int)

07-Jun-2020 11:33 AM 3

क्या आप जानते हैं कि एक रेडीमेड शर्ट आप तक पहुंचाने में कितनी ग्रीन हाउस गैसें हवा में मिल जाती हैं या ज़मीन से कितना पानी निकालकर खर्च कर दिया जाता है?

यह हम सबके साथ कई बार होता है. आप अक्सर कहीं बाहर जाने से पहले अपनी कपड़ों की अलमारी के सामने खड़े होते हैं और लगभग हर कपड़े को एक तरफ करते हुए सोचते हैं कि आज पहनने के लिए आपके पास कुछ अच्छा है ही नहीं! और आप तय करते हैं कि अगली तनख़्वाह आने पर आप कुछ और कपड़े ख़रीदेंगे. आपके भीतर कुछ खरीदने की इच्छा जागने का यह सबसे आम उदाहरण है.

इसके अलावा यूं भी होता है कि कई बार आप मॉल या शहर के बाजार में जाते हैं और ऐसी बहुत-सी चीज़ें ख़रीद लाते हैं जिन्हें शायद ही कभी इस्तेमाल करेंगे. नई घड़ियां, फ़ोन, बैग, लिपस्टिक या ऐसी चीज़ें जो पहले से ही आपके पास थीं. शादियों, जन्मदिनों और बाकी अवसरों पर आप औपचारिकतावश लोगों को तोहफ़े देते हैं, जो कई बार उतने स्तरीय नहीं होते कि इस्तेमाल किए जा सकें या फिर शायद पाने वाले के किसी काम के नहीं होते. यानी एक हिसाब से यह खरीदारी भी कोई खास उपयोगी नहीं कही जा सकती.

बात आगे बढ़ाने से पहले रोजमर्रा की जिंदगी के कुछ और उदाहरण भी देखे जा सकते हैं. मसलन आलस के चलते आप बाहर से खाना ऑर्डर करते हैं, जो सेहत के लिहाज़ से तो शक के दायरे में आता ही है, साथ में प्लास्टिक की पैकिंग अलग दिक्कत लेकर आती है. कई बार आप सिर्फ अपने स्टेटस के चलते सार्वजनिक परिवहन के साधनों की जगह अपनी या भाड़े की गाड़ी से अकेले सफ़र करते हैं.

कुल मिलाकर हम हर दिन ऐसे तमाम काम करते हैं और शायद ही सोचते हैं कि इसका पर्यावरण से भारी लेना-देना है. दरअसल आप यह सब करते वक्त वह सोच रहे होते हैं जो इन तमाम उत्पादों को बनाने वाली कंपनियां चाहती हैं. रिसर्च और अनुभव दोनों से साफ है कि टीवी और फ़ोन के ज़रिए हमारे घरों और एकांत के क्षणों तक पहुंचे विज्ञापन और बाज़ार ने हमें बताया है कि दुख से दूर होने के लिए या फिर सुख की तरफ जाने के लिए हमें नई-नई चीज़ें ख़रीदने की ज़रूरत है. फिर चाहे वह एक आइसक्रीम हो या फिर आइफोन का नया मॉडल!

एक रिसर्च के मुताबिक़ ज़्यादातर लोग इन छह कारणों से ख़रीदारी करते हैं.
1. मीडिया का प्रभाव - आपने टीवी, होर्डिंग या वेबसाइट पर कुछ देखा, आपको पसंद आया और सोच लिया कि यह तो आपके पास भी होना चाहिए.
2. सामाजिक दबाव - आपके पड़ोसी ने नई गाड़ी ख़रीदी है, या फिर दोस्त ने नया फ़ोन लिया है तो आप दबाव में हैं कि आपको भी नई चीज़ें चाहिए.
3. सेल, कीमत में छूट (डिस्काउंट) - आप सोचते हैं कि सेल के दौरान सामान्य से कम कीमत पर सामान ख़रीदकर आप पैसे बचा रहे हैं. जबकि इसके चलते आप काफी ग़ैरज़रूरी सामान घर ले आते हैं.
4. खुद पर नियंत्रण न होना - कई लोग जब बाज़ार में होते हैं, चाहे इंटरनेट के ज़रिए ही सही, वे हर वह सामान ख़रीदते जाते हैं जो उन्हें ठीक लगता है, वे अपने ऊपर नियंत्रण नहीं रख पाते.
5. अमीरी का अहसास होना - पहले आपकी तनख़्वाह कम थी, आप काफी चीज़ें ख़रीदने से पहले सोचते थे, लेकिन अब आप कुछ भी ख़रीद सकते हैं इसलिए कुछ भी ख़रीद लेते हैं.
6. आप बोर हो चुके हैं - बहुत से लोग, जिनके पास काफी पैसा है और करने के लिए उतना काम नहीं है इसलिए ख़रीदारी करने निकल पड़ते हैं कि वे बोर हो चुके हैं और उन्हें लगता है कि ख़रीदारी करके उनका मन बहल जाएगा. इसके अलावा तनाव से उबरने के लिए की गई ख़रीदारी जिसे रिटेल थैरेपी भी कहा जाता है, ग़ैरज़रूरी ख़रीदारी की एक और वजह है.

कारण इनमें से चाहे जो हो लेकिन आप इस ख़रीदारी या रिटेल थैरेपी के बाद भी ज़्यादा देर ख़ुश नहीं रह पाते. बल्कि आप में से ज़्यादातर लोग महसूस करते हैं कि बेकार ही इतना पैसा खर्च किया. इंटरनेट पर बहुत सारे ऐसे सर्वे और रिसर्च मौजूद हैं जो बताते हैं कि रिटेल थैरेपी अंत में आपका तनाव और बढ़ा देती है. यानी एक तरफ हम देख सकते हैं कि ग़ैरज़रूरी ख़रीदारी से आपको किसी तरह का फ़ायदा होने के बजाय कहीं न कहीं नुक़सान ही है. और दूसरी तरफ आपके पर्यावरण पर इसका काफी बुरा असर हो रहा है.

इस तरह ख़रीदी जाने वाली चीज़ों में सबसे ऊपर कपड़े हैं, फिर शराब और खाना, उसके बाद गैजेट्स और एक्सेसरीज़. पर क्या आप जानते हैं कि एक नई सूती शर्ट बनाकर आप तक पहुंचाने में कितनी ग्रीन हाउस गैसें आपकी हवा में मिल जाती हैं या ज़मीन से कितना पानी निकालकर खर्च कर दिया जाता है? या फिर कितने खराब रसायन मिट्टी और पानी में मिल जाते हैं?

कपास उगने से लेकर उसके बने कपड़े हम तक पहुंचने और इस्तेमाल के बाद फेंके जाने तक की प्रक्रिया का पर्यावरण पर पड़ने वाला असर
जर्नल ऑफ इंडस्ट्रियल ईकोलॉजी में छपे एक अध्ययन के अनुसार दुनियाभर में होने वाले ग्रीन हाउस गैसों के उत्सर्जन का 60 फ़ीसदी हिस्सा घरों में होने वाले उपभोग से होता है. इसी तरह दुनियाभर में होने वाले ज़मीन, पानी और सामग्री के इस्तेमाल का 50 से 80 फ़ीसदी घरों के द्वारा ही होता है. अध्ययन की प्रेस रिलीज़ में लिखा गया, ‘हम सब कोशिश करते हैं कि सारा दोष किसी और के मत्थे मढ़ दिया जाए. सरकारों पर, व्यापारों पर… लेकिन इस ग्रह पर पड़ने वाले असर के 60 से 80 फ़ीसदी हिस्से के लिए आम परिवार जिम्मेदार हैं. अगर हम अपने उपभोग की आदतें बदल लें तो हमारे एनवायरेन्मेंटल फुटप्रिंट (पर्यावरण को इंसानी कार्यों की वजह से होने वाला नुक़सान) पर बहुत बड़ा असर पड़ेगा.”

यानी हम चाहें तो अपनी ख़रीदारी की आदतें सुधारकर न सिर्फ सामाजिक असमानता की ज़िम्मेदारी अपने कंधों पर ढोने से बच सकते हैं, बल्कि पर्यावरण को बरबाद होने से बचाने में अपनी भूमिका भी निभा सकते हैं. अगर हम ज़रूरत से ज़्यादा कपड़ा, खाना, पानी या ज़मीन इस्तेमाल करते हैं तो ज़ाहिर-सी बात है कि उतना खाना, पानी, कपड़ा या ज़मीन किसी और के हिस्से कम पड़ रही होगी. चूंकि हम असमानता को सिर्फ अर्थव्यवस्था के स्तर पर नाप सकते हैं खाने, पानी और कपड़े की मात्रा के अनुपात में नहीं, तो ठीक-ठीक बताना मुश्किल होगा कि इन चीज़ों का कितना उत्पादन विश्व की पूरी जनसंख्या के लिए काफी होगा. लेकिन हम यह ज़रूर जानते हैं कि कितना कपड़ा, खाना या बाकी चीज़ें हमारे लिए वाक़ई काफी हैं. तो बेहतर यही होगा कि सरकारों के बजाय हम ही तय करें कि हमें कितना उपभोग करना है और कितना बरबाद.

हमारे रोज़मर्रा के कामों के चलते पर्यावरण को होने वाले नुक़सान पर चेताने वाले डॉक्टर स्कंद शुक्ला लिखते हैं, ‘भौतिक विकास और कार्बन-उच्छ्वास दोनों साथ चलते रहे हैं. आगे नहीं चल सकेंगे. हम अपना घर फूंककर अपने हाथ नहीं ताप सकते. शुद्ध खाने को नहीं होगा, तो मॉलों में शॉपिंग किसी काम नहीं आएगी. पानी में सीसा-कैडमियम-आर्सेनिक घुले रहेंगे, तो सेडान का सुख ध्वस्त हो जाएगा. गर्म हवा में सल्फ़र डाईऑक्साइड होगी तो रियल एस्टेट अनरियल बन जाएगा. वायुमण्डल को गर्म करती कार्बन डाईऑक्साइड को जानिए. सोचिए कि हम कहां कटौती कर सकते हैं.’

डॉ शुक्ला‌ के मुताबिक जितनी गर्म पृथ्वी आज है, उतनी 11000 साल पहले थी. हमारे पास 2030 तक का समय है. उसके बाद यह चक्र चाहने पर भी लौटाया नहीं जा सकेगा. अभी भी हम अनेक मामलों में ग्रह का इतना नुकसान कर चुके हैं कि उसे संभालने और मुक्ति पाने में बहुत लंबा अरसा गुज़र जाएगा. (satyagrah.scroll.in)