Next week UK will inoculate the first lot of its citizens against COVID-19
The UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that the first 8,00,000 doses will be available from next week.
Humanity could be taking the first steps towards piercing the pall of the pandemic
China and Russia have reportedly also administered anti-COVID vaccines at a mass level
The UK regulator’s approval, in contrast, came after the vaccine developed by the American pharma giant Pfizer and the German firm BioNTech reported 95 per cent efficiency in the final phase of trials.
The 10-month period taken by the vaccine to journey from concept to reality is a record of sorts in humankind’s battles against mysterious contagions.
Speedy production schedules and regulatory alacrity
The vaccine uses a novel approach in preparing the human immune system for a coronavirus attack.
The Pfizer-BioNTech breakthrough, is based on genetic material — the messenger RNA, or mRNA.
The jab is administered on the upper arm.
The mRNA then works like a set of instructions — an often-used analogy is that of a recipe — to enable the arm’s muscle cells to make the spike protein, the coronavirus’s life-force.
The body then uses its capacity to recognise foreign objects and prepares an army of antibodies against the interloper.
In the process, the immune system gets trained to react when confronted with the actual pathogen.
Enabling the human body to produce replicas of a pathogen is easier and safer than creating weakened viruses in laboratories.
The mRNA technology has been in the works for about 25 years.
It’s been experimented with in vaccines against the zika virus and in the latest versions of the rabies preventive.
However, the mRNA is an unstable molecule — unless cocooned in sub-zero temperatures, it breaks down
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine needs to be stored at below minus 70 degrees Celsius.
Skewed justice | Ind Exp
Women belong in all places where decisions are being made: The late American Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dictum is a goal for institutions in all democratic societies.
The highest court of the land, in the seven decades of its existence, has made space for only eight women judges.
The current Supreme Court has two women justices.
There has never been a woman Chief Justice of India.
Women comprise 7.2% of all the judges in the SC and the high courts for which data is available.
Attorney-general KK Venugopal has done well to remind the Supreme Court of this yawning gender deficit at the heart of the Indian judicial system.
The attorney-general made these remarks in a written submission, when he was asked by an SC bench to weigh in on a particularly flagrant bail condition set by the Madhya Pradesh High Court.
The HC had asked a man accused of “outraging the modesty of a woman” to visit the home of the victim and ask her to tie a rakhi.
Nine women lawyers had moved the SC against the bail order, which they rightly said “trivialised” the violation.
The attorney-general has called for gender sensitisation of judges and lawyers to avoid judgments which get tangled in patriarchal notions of honour when they should hold up constitutional rights.
Greater representation of women across all levels of judiciary is urgently needed for dismantling patriarchal attitudes that sustain a system of rank injustice, in which courts are known to prod alleged sexual offenders and victims towards “compromise weddings”.
Gender justice, since the December 2012 protests, has gained political and social visibility.
But it is let down by entrenched patriarchal systems, which continue to resist change.
This was illustrated in the shocking spectacle of a SC Chief Justice presiding over a case in which he had been accused of sexual harassment at workplace.
The Transformers | ToI
Two women in Telangana have fought for their equal right to be considered for the job of electricity lineman.
Having passed a written aptitude test, their plans had been thwarted when the state’s power company insisted that women were not eligible for the job.
Apparently, the power utilities had once considered reserving a third of the jobs for women, but reversed this decision after worrying about women’s pole climbing capacities.
Telangana HC has now ordered a field test, rightly pointing out that women are being recruited in the armed forces now, and that there was no basis for denying women any jobs if they could prove their fitness for it.
Not everybody is a fit for every job, but gender is a crude and inaccurate way to sort people’s capacities for even physically demanding jobs.
The only qualification should be doing the job well.
Our Colonial Heritage | ToI
Our imperial masters, the British, left us many fine monuments and traditions.
But perhaps the most enduring edifice of their rule is our justice system.
Post Independence, the law was supposed to be our defence against arbitrary use of power, but it remained an instrument of repression, not just by its application, but also non-application.
Many of India’s current draconian laws have their ancestry in the British era where they were very frankly instruments of repression.
The Indian penal and criminal procedure codes inherit their DNA from the latter part of the 19th century.
Preventive detention laws are older; the Bengal State Prisoners Regulation of 1818, evolved to the Defence of India Acts of 1915 and then 1939. Remember, too, the Rowlatt Act of 1919 that led to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
Even before the era of “terrorism” we had the Preventive Detention Act of 1950 which, in its earlier avatar, had been used to detain, charge and punish freedom fighters.
Instead of scrapping them, Independent India adopted them.
This Act begat MISA of 1971, which, in turn, was reborn in 1980 as the National Security Act.
The reference to “national security” was for show; the Act was used to suppress political dissent, and continues to be used that way.
Even as the incidence of terrorism has declined in the past decade we are seeing new vehemence in applying draconian laws like the amended Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, in tandem with Section 124A of the IPC, and the National Security Act of 1980, to suppress dissenters, who for the purpose of invoking the draconian laws are tagged as the tukde-tukde, Khan Market and Gupkar gangs, or urban naxals.
As of now, the statute says that the police officer can arrest if s/he believes that such an arrest is necessary. There is no judicial mediation here; it is the police officer’s discretion.
Labelling people as “anti-national” is a convenient way of suppressing legitimate criticism of the government.
If you, through “words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation” bring “hatred or contempt” or excite “disaffection towards the government” your goose is cooked, according to the sedition clause, Section 124A of the IPC.
It has been liberally applied on protesters, a cartoonist, on Kashmiri students for cheering the Pakistan cricket team, for not standing up for the national anthem and so on.
This year, a primary school teacher and a mother were arrested for sedition, and children interrogated, presumably to implicate their elders, for charges relating to an alleged criticism of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act through a school play.
Somehow, attitudes towards CAA have become the litmus test of patriotism.
All governments since 1950 have liberally used illiberal laws to stifle dissent.
What facilitates this process is the attitude of courts.
The real punishment is not the arrest; it is the case which drags on; first there is the chargesheet, then a supplementary one, then adjournments and so on. Archaic legal procedures stretch the trial to its maximum.
India’s broken criminal justice system has become a means of punishing dissidents and other inconvenient people using existing laws.
A charge is levied, the person is arrested for sedition or unlawful activities and because the charge is serious, denied bail.
More often than not, the lower courts are willing to accept the police’s version at face value.
This is notwithstanding the record of the police.
It is years by the time the case reaches the higher courts.
They are not in much of a hurry either. It becomes a chilling warning to all protesters and dissenters, that the price of liberty is high, very high.
Vaccine may be ready in a few weeks: Modi
Vaccination will begin after nod from scientists, he says
Farmers firm on repeal of agri laws
Kisan Morcha steps up stir, calls Bharat Bandh on Tuesday
Remarks by Canadian PM unacceptable: India
Such actions could damage ties: MEA
RBI holds rates, sees FY GDP contraction at 7.5%
It projects a return to growth in Q3, Q4
Interfaith marriage: will seek DM’s nod, says groom
A Muslim man and a Hindu woman, whose wedding was stopped by the Uttar Pradesh police on the basis of the new ordinance against “unlawful” conversion, said they had arranged the ceremony on December 2 unaware of the legislation.
Stan Swamy given straw, sipper, winter clothes in jail
Recoveries rise in Maharashtra
6,766 patients discharged; 5,229 fresh COVID-19 cases recorded
Price of Remdesivir injection fixed at ₹2,360 in Maharashtra
Over 50% turnout in J&K polls
Apni Party candidate shot at by suspected militants in Anantnag district
World trusts India as a partner: Modi
In the testing times of COVID-19, India had got “record” investment, much of it in the tech sector.