Thursday, January 14, 2021

Big global demand for Indian Vaccines

  • As Chinese vaccine Efficacy below 50%
  • Covidshield, Covaxin may reap the harvest
Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group
New Delhi, Jan 14

With doubts emerging about the efficacy of China’ Coronavirus vaccine, CoronaVac during trials in Brazil & elsewhere, countries are scouting for Indian vaccines now.

With reports surfacing that CoronaVac, manufactured by Beijing-based Sinovac, showed only 50% efficacy, these countries are now knocking at India’s door. India is one of the largest vaccine suppliers.

While Seerum had already signed MOUs with Gavi-COVAX under the aegis of the World Health Organization (WHO) to supply up to 400 million doses and Bangladesh , a crisis of sort is erupting in Brazil, Indonesia and ten other countries who were dependent solely upon the Chinese Vaccine.

They had agreed to buy 400 million doses of CoronaVac and now want alternative vaccines too. Bharat Biotech is now in talks with Brazil to supply Covaxin, according to sources.

The Indian Government has given permission in principle to Indian vaccine manufacturers to export after meeting domestic demand. Rather, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is actively involved in the process through members of his task force on vaccine management headed by Dr V K Paul and Ministry of External Affairs.

Seerum has capacity to produce up to 100 million a month and got funding of $300 million from the Bill Gate Melinda Foundation to supply vaccines to GAVI. Bharat Biotech can raise its annual capacity to 200 million a year from the present 100 million.

The government has said Covishield & Covaxin can export to neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Maldives, African and South American countries. The shipments will also reach Bhutan, Nepal, Afghanistan and Myanmar at a later stage.

Modi had spoken to leaders of various SAARC nations earlier in this regard. Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan had said last week there was no bar on the export of Covishield or Covaxin but India’s requirements will get the first priority.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Bank frauds treble in 2020, Amount touches Rs 67000 crores

Delhi oust Mumbai in Bank frauds during Lockdowns 

Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group
New Delhi, Jan 11

If you thought lockdowns and restrictions during most of the 2020 due to Covid pandemic prevented financial frauds, you may be in for a shock.

A report by the CBI for year 2020 says bank fraud cases more than doubled compared to 2019 from 91 to 196 during 2020. The bank frauds accounted for the maximum number of cases in the CBI- 196 out of 543 total FIRs registered during 2020.

The amount in bank frauds in 2020 was equally mind-boggling at Rs 67,319.40 crore compared to Rs 19,830.14 crore in 2019.

Interestingly, Delhi upstaged Mumbai in bank frauds during 2020. While over 50 bank fraud cases were registered by the CBI, nearly 30 were instituted in Mumbai, apart from some others in Pune and Nagpur and Chennai unit registered 17, Gujarat’s Gandhinagar 16 cases.

Of the total amount of frauds in cases registered by the CBI, Rs 53,379.38 crore (79.29 per cent) were in 27 FIRs only each one with over Rs 500 crore. In 47 cases amounts were between Rs 100- Rs 500 crore, amounting to Rs 9,423.78 crore (13.99 per cent).

The bank fraud cases accounted for over 3% of all cases during 2017 and these started rising jumping to 36 per cent in 2020.

Some of the biggest and noteworthy fraud cases from last year include the massive Yes Bank, DHFL, RKW Developers and Avantha Group, the Surana Corporation and group companies, TDP leader Rayapati Sambasiva Rao-linked Transstroy's Rs 7,926.01 crore alleged fraud and Educomp Solutions' Rs 1,995 crore cases.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Covaxin Vaccine cleared for Emergency Use today

Govt. to buy Both --Covidshield or Covaxin 
Covidshield & Covaxin
Regulators to clear both vaccins soon

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

New Delhi, Jan 2
With the Emergency approval granted to Covaxin, jointly produced by Bharat Biotech-Indian Council of Medical Research late in the evening today, India has got another shot in its arm.

Covaxin is the country's 100% indigenous vaccine while Covidshield of Seerum Institute, Pune-Astrozeneca, UK was approved yesterday by the Subject Expert Committee (SEC) yesterday. The SEC cleared the Covaxin today. 

However, the formal approval of both the vaccines by the drug regulator Central Drug Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) is yet to be granted.

While Seerum Institute has said that it already has stock-piled 40-50 million doses which it can supply to the Government of India by March this year itself, the authorities have not reacted to the proposal so far. In fact, the government has not signed any contract with the Seerum for the supply of Covidshield so far.

Neither Dr V K Paul who is head of the Prime Minister's Task Force on Vaccine management nor the Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said anything so far as to which vaccine will be injected/inoculated to the 3 crore frontline health workers and other related categories. 

Whether the government will buy the Covidshield or Covaxin or a combination of both the vaccines for the Emergency usage, is still being worked out. 

For three crore frontline workers, India will need 60 million doses as every person has to be given two doses. As per the estimates, these three crore priority workers can be covered during the next four-five months. There is a strong possibility that the government may now involve the private sector in the entire vaccination drive. 

If the other population is also to be vaccinated at the earliest, the government will take a decision at the highest level. 

Secondly, the CDSCO and DCGI have yet to approve Covidshield and Covaxin. Once these medical bodies clear these vaccines for usage, various government institutions including the ministries of Health and others will take up follow-up action and allocate funds accordingly.

Sources say that the government will start the process around Makar Sankranti day on January 14 or so.

Fly on the Wall - Why Blame Rahul Gandhi

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Why Blame Rahul!
Why Blame Rahul Gandhi for his usual year-end sojourn in Italy abandoning the Foundation Day function of his party. There is no denial that he pushes off on vacation many times during the year and that has been his routine ever since he stepped into politics since 2004. But why blame him! He doesn't even hold any office in the party. Isn't it? Even Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav left for London with his family. As if this is not enough, another farmer leader and Haryana’s Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala is holidaying in the Rann of Kutch. Want to know where Bihar’s Tejashwi Yadav goes for holidaying? Delhi is his destination and he doesn’t meet anybody here. He is not even seen with the agitating farmers or sending a contingent from Bihar either. Young ministers belonging to the BJP may be sulking as Modi is keeping a close watch on them and a couple of them have paid the price too in the past. But other parties have no such problem.

A Saffron Flag in Srinagar, finally
BJP may have won three Councilors out of the 140 seats in the District Development Council (DDC) polls in the Valley and 72 of the 140 in the Jammu region. Of the three, it won just one in the Srinagar rural DDC. But it is trying hard to capture it by engineering a majority. A couple of Councilors belonging to the National Conference and PDP have already switched sides to the Apni Party of Altaf Bukhari, a local businessman & ex-minister in the PDP-BJP government who floated his own party after the abrogation of Article 370. The BJP is also wooing 4 Independents as the PDP, NC & Apni Party won three seats each. Nobody has a majority. The BJP’s top leadership is working overtime to capture the Srinagar DDC as it will be a great day in the history to have BJP-Apni Party DDC in the heart of the Valley.
The BJP has perfected the art of converting a minority into the majority in many states and this process will now continue in the Valley too. Interestingly, the BJP recently captured the Srinagar Municipal Corporation indirectly by engineering defection of Junaid Azim Mattoo to the Apni Party. Junaid Azim Mattoo was part of Sajad Lone-led People's Conference (PC). Later, he quit the PC in 2013 to join the National Conference and after winning the polls, switched to the Apni Party. Altaf Bukhari and Junaid Mattoo have declared their Endeavour to make Srinagar a world class city. If this alliance works, the saffron flag may fly in Srinagar rural while Srinagar city is already under control of a friendly party of the BJP.

Will Modi Blink ?
In his first term Modi tried to tinker with the Land Acquisition law. But the first Minister for Rural Development, Gopinath Munde, didn’t agree. Even his successor Nitin Gadkari couldn’t deliver what Modi desired. Finally, Modi brought in Chaudhary Birender Singh who too failed. The PM was persuaded to bring back the UPA government’s Land Acquisition law and Modi had to swallow the bitter pill. Now six year into the job, Modi is facing another Waterloo and it is not the creation of the Opposition nor gifted in his lap by Rahul Gandhi. Riding on the massive mandate of 2019, he pushed these Agri reforms. He may still succeed. But the situation looks grim and he doesn’t have too much time in his hand either. Modi's other problem is that he doesn't trust anybody and doesn't share what’s cooking in his mind. Insiders in the government say that he has been advised by certain well meaning people to allow the states to do whatever they want to do with these three Acts. Even the Supreme Court had suggested deferment of these Acts and start negotiations. A negotiated settlement before the Republic Day and Parliament session is a better option in any case. Modi had certainly not bargained for this.

No News is good news
For All India Radio, the agitation of farmers on Delhi borders is no news. Listen to the prime time news bulletins of AIR in the evening slot at 8.30 pm. It seems the agitation doesn’t exist. The entire bulletin is full of government handouts and news sent from states. Why so? The AIR has stopped taking the news service of PTI, UNI, ANI and other agencies. Whatever news is sent by its correspondents from across the world is broadcast.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Fly on the Wall - Mumbai model for new Congress Chief!

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Mumbai model for new Congress Chief!
How the new Congress president may be democratically elected in place of Sonia Gandhi if polls do take place for the coveted post? As many as 1400 plus AICC delegates & others have to be elected first and then they will elect a new CWC and eventually a president in February 2021 unless polls are postponed. The AICC managers hit upon a novel method and tested it in Mumbai to elect Mumbai Regional Congress Committee chief. It is now called the Mumbai Model. The General Secretary incharge of Maharashtra HK Patil sent a voice message to 450 designated party functionaries: I am AICC incharge HK Patil speaking. I seek your views on who should be the president of Mumbai Congress. After the beep, send just one name. Your answer will be kept confidential. Thank you”. No one knows who followed the drill and who didn’t. But the mandarins in the technical team of Rahul Gandhi working behind the scenes, took enough care that the process is executed with finesse. It’s a different matter that no one among 450 delegates knew till date who sent which name and how MRCC president was chosen. But one thing is clear that this Mumbai Model will may be executed in AICC polls too. Since Rahul Gandhi’s loyalists are determined to install him as party chief. The AICC media head, Randeep Surjewala has already said that 99.9% want Rahul as CP. He already knows the mind of 99.9% of the 1400 AICC delegates. The last word has yet to be written.

Rahul & his new mobile
When the 5-hour long meeting took place at Sonia Gandhi’s residence at 10 Janpath, Rahul & Priyanka were in tow to receive the invitees. The Gandhis wanted a virtual meeting over Zoom. But none of the dissidents including Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Bhupinder Singh Hooda were ready for it. They insisted on a face-to-face meeting which Sonia Gandhi eventually agreed to. But many leaders were dismayed that Rahul Gandhi was glued to his new iPhone 12. A leader who was part of the meeting said Rahul remained busy with his mobile for nearly three hours. In between, he left the meeting twice to interact with Kamal Nath and A K Antony and attend to urgent calls. Sonia Gandhi, on the other hand, remained seated for full 5-hours without a break.

Hooda stuns the conclave
Former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda is a soft spoken person and rarely talks tough. But he was perhaps the only one among the dissidents to stun the gathering. Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Prithviraj Chavan and many other letter writers were speaking in a rather conciliatory tone. When Hooda’s turn came, he didn’t mince his words. Rather, he sent the chill in the otherwise warm weather in the sprawling lawns. Hooda said he is fighting a lonely battle in Haryana against the BJP which had pumped Rs 100 crores to win the Baroda Assembly seat in a bitter byelection. Yet he was able to defeat the BJP against all odds. Hooda did not stop there and went on to say that had he been made the leader of the party in Haryana three months prior to State Assembly polls last year, the Congress would have got the state. “Unfortunately, I am not accepted as leader in Delhi while people in Haryana adore me,” said Hooda in a pained voice. There was a silence of the grave.

Nadda’s rising clout
With BJP president J P Nadda down with Covid and recovering, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has taken charge of Assembly polls in West Bengal due next year. Shah was out of action in Bihar for some strange reasons. But now he is leading the onslaught on Mamata Banerjee from the front. However, Nadda is working overtime sitting home and played a key role in the selection of seven Union Ministers who were made inchage of seven regions for Assembly polls. It is learnt that the selections were made as per the PM’s desires and many favourite ministers were excluded causing surprises. Obviously, Nadda's graph has been risen after Bihar win and other polls. Only recently, a couple of Chief Ministers of BJP ruled states wanted to call on the PM. But Modi politely conveyed to them to first apprise the party president about the issues.