The News Editorial Analysis 21 October 2021

The News Editorial Analysis 21 October 2021

Uttarakhand Rains Highlights: 52 dead, 5 missing; CM says ‘massive damage’ across state

The NDRF has rescued more than 1,300 people from flood-affected areas in the state and enhanced its rescue teams from 15 to 17, the federal force said on Wednesday.

The News Editorial Analysis 21 October 2021

Uttarakhand Rains Highlights: The death toll due to the heavy rains in Uttarakhand rose to 52 on Wednesday, revised figures published by the state government showed. At least five people are missing.

Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami earlier today visited Kumaon, one of the worst-hit regions in the state, to take stock of the situation. He told reporters there was “massive damage” across the state, and it would take time to return to normalcy. Dhami has sanctioned Rs 10 crore each to district magistrates for relief efforts. Dhami had Tuesday announced a compensation of Rs 4 lakh for the families of those who had lost their lives.

In its forecast, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has said rainfall will reduce significantly from Wednesday, with the state likely to stay dry for the rest of the week. Uttarakhand received record-breaking rainfall this week, leading to floods, landslides and destruction of property.

The Army, along with multiple teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), and local authorities are conducting rescue and relief operations. The NDRF has, meanwhile, rescued more than 1,300 people from flood-affected areas in the state and enhanced its rescue teams from 15 to 17, the federal force said on Wednesday.

US set to vaccinate kids aged 5-11 against COVID-19 from November.

Experts say it is essential to vaccinate children to progress towards achieving population immunity against the disease.

Washington, United States: The US is prepared to start vaccinating children aged five to 11 against COVID-19 starting next month, a move that will make 28 million more Americans eligible for shots, the White House said Wednesday.

President Joe Biden’s administration said it had already set aside enough supply and partnered with 25,000 sites nationwide — including doctors’ offices, hospitals, pharmacies and even schools — in anticipation that regulators may soon authorize the Pfizer vaccine for kids.

“We expect the FDA and CDC decision on Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages five through 11 in the next couple of weeks,” White House Covid coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters, referring to the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We know millions of parents have been waiting for COVID-19 vaccine for kids in this age group, and should the FDA and CDC authorize the vaccine, we will be ready to get shots in arms.”

The FDA will convene a panel of experts on the issue next week, followed by the CDC on 2-3 November, with authorization expected soon after.

Safe and effective:

During a clinical trial, children in the 5-11 age group received a two-dose regimen of 10 micrograms, compared with 30 micrograms for older age groups. The shots were given 21 days apart.

The side effects were “generally comparable to those observed in participants 16 to 25 years of age,” Pfizer said in a statement, adding that the shots induced a robust antibody response.

Pain and swelling at the injection site have been among the most commonly reported side effects in people of all ages, along with headaches, chills and fever.

Pfizer made no mention of the rare side effect of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle that has been linked to the vaccine, mostly among adolescent males and those in their twenties.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been granted full FDA approval for those aged 16 and up, and the FDA in May authorized its emergency use in children ages 12 to 15.

Experts say it is essential to vaccinate children to progress towards achieving population immunity against the disease.

While younger children are less likely to develop severe cases, they can still become sick and transmit the virus to the general population.

Rising vaccine confidence:

Overall vaccine confidence in the United States has risen in recent months.

As of Wednesday, 77.1 % of the currently eligible population aged 12 and up had received one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The differing risk-benefit profile for younger children nevertheless may present challenges in persuading some parents the shot is worthwhile.

The United States — officially the hardest-hit country in the world with more than 720,000 deaths — is emerging from its latest COVID-19 wave, driven by the highly contagious Delta variant.

The seven-day-average of daily cases is around 75,500, down 16 % from last week.

Hospitalizations are averaging 6,000 per day while daily deaths are now around 1,200.

Experts anticipate cases may once again rise with the arrival of winter, particularly in the country’s northern states, as respiratory viruses — including others such as RSV and influenza — tend to thrive in colder weather.

Vaccination against Covid has been shown to significantly de-link cases from hospitalizations. A high level of population vaccination is deemed critical to protect those who are most vulnerable, such as the elderly and the immune compromised.

Reservation for women a non-starter in Congress.

Almost 23 years after Sonia’s announcement that 33% of posts in party will be set aside for women, this has not been implemented.

NEW DELHI:  Congress UP in-charge Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s decision to reserve 40 per cent of party tickets for women candidates in state grabbed eyeballs. However, the party has failed to implement a similar decision by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in 1998 to reserve 33 per cent of all party posts for women.

Over two decades down the line, the 19-member Congress Working Committee has only two women — Ambika Soni and Priyanka. There are two women — Meira Kumar and Rajni Patil — in the list of 24 members as permanent invitees. Netta D’souza is the only woman among nine special invites.

Among the 100 AICC officer bearers — general secretaries, in-charges, secretaries and joint secretaries — there are only six women. Besides Priyanka and Patil, others are Deepika Pandey Singh (secretary, Uttarakhand), Dr Prabha Kishore Taviad (All India Mahila Congress), Ranjeet Ranjan (secretary, Himachal Pradesh) and Sonal Patel (secretary, Maharashtra). The five-member Central Election Authority has Tamil Nadu MP S Jothimani. The  10-member Central Election Committee has three — Ambika Soni, Mohsina Kidwai and Girija Vyas.

After Sonia took over as Congress president in 1998, she announced 33 per cent reservation for women in CWC, AICC office bearers, state Congress committees and also at the district and block levels. A resolution to this regard was passed at the Pachmarhi brainstorming session of the party in 1998 that talked about ‘33 per cent reservation for women at all levels’ and ‘respectful representation for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.’ This is yet to be implemented even though the party’s reins remained with Sonia but for two years from December 2017 to May 2019, when Rahul Gandhi was the chief.

“Some were upset about the decision with the apprehension of losing party positions to accommodate women leaders. But nothing much has happened since 1998 and it is yet to be implemented in the party,” said a senior leader, who attended the Pachmarhi session. Both Sonia and Rahul have been pushing for a 33 per cent reservation for women in Lok Sabha. The  party’s 2019 election manifesto talked about one-third reservation for women in government sector to increase representation.

Figures of disparity

  • ACWC members 19 Women 2
  • Permanent invitees 24 Women 2
  • Special invitees 9 Woman 1
  • AICC office bearers 100 Women 6
  • Central Election Authority members 5 Woman 1
  • Central Election Committee members 10 Women 3

Fear of losing, There are leaders in the party who fear they might lose prominence if positions are reserved for women. According to insiders, this might be a reason why reserving 33% of party posts  has not materialised.

KCR asks officials to declare war on drugs.

Meanwhile, officials informed the CM that the ganja production was taking place at Andhra-Odisha border.

 “Alarm bells are ringing. You have to consider it (drugs issue) seriously and act immediately,” Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao instructed the officials of excise and police departments during a review meeting on transport and consumption of ganja, held at Pragathi Bhavan on Wednesday. 

“I am holding this meeting with a lot of anguish. The reports that I am receiving say that the misguided youth have created WhatsApp groups, sharing messages on supply and consumption of ganja. Innocent youth are falling prey to the ganja peddlers. You should understand the seriousness of the problem. At present, the situation is controllable. If we neglect the issue, it will become uncontrollable,” Rao said.

The Chief Minister said that youth will become mentally deranged due to continuous use of drugs and there is a high risk of such youngsters dying by suicide. Stressing the need to keep a vigil on educational institutions and increase the number of check posts at State borders to curb smuggling of ganja into Telangana, the Chief Minister asked the officials to “deal with ganja mafia with an iron fist.” 

He asked the officials of police and excise departments to intensify their efforts and free the State from the clutches of drugs. Rao also directed them to declare a war against the cultivation and consumption of ganja (cannabis). “There are reports that use of ganja is on the rise in the State. There is a need to declare war against it. Prepare an action plan to end the cultivation of ganja before it takes serious proportions,” he said.

“When the State is progressing well in all spheres, we should not allow ganja and other drugs to tarnish its image. The strides made in ensuring all-round development will become infructuous if the State does not take steps to eradicate the contraband,” he said. The Chief Minister also asked the officials to create a special cell and appoint an officer of Director General (DG) rank to curb the illegal ganja business. “Flying squads to raid ganja farms should be fortified. A special cell should be created in the Intelligence Wing to monitor the progress in eradicating the evil. The official who succeeds in curbing ganja farming should get cash rewards, special promotions and similar incentives. The officials should study the methods employed by other states which were successful in eradicating this evil,” he said. Expressing concern over increase in gambling and sale of ‘gudumba’, he said that effective measures should be in place to control these evils.

Meanwhile, officials informed the CM that the ganja production was taking place at Andhra-Odisha border. From there, it is being transported into the State from Chintur via Bhadrachalam. From Telangana, it is being transported to Maharashtra and Karnataka, the officials said while expressing the view that there should be a co-ordination with officials of other states to stop transport of ganja. Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar and DGP M Mahender Reddy were present on the occasion. 

Ganja cultivators to be punished

  •     Ganja consumption among youth, coolies and hamalis
  •     Rythu Bandhu and Rythu Bima to be cancelled if farmers cultivate ganja
  •     If tribals are cultivating ganja, their pattas will be cancelled 
  •     Alternative employment for ‘gudumba’ traders
  •     Special advocates for speedy trial of ganja cases  
  •     Lessons to be included in textbooks on the dangers of use of intoxicants 
  •     Subsidies to be given to film-makers who highlight the evil effects of drugs 

Employees may get average 8.8% pay hike in 2022.

Professionals can heave a sigh of relief as it might be time to bid goodbye to salary-cuts and freeze in appraisals, with pay rises seeming to be making a comeback.

Professionals can heave a sigh of relief as it might be time to bid goodbye to salary-cuts and freeze in appraisals, with pay rises seeming to be making a comeback. Companies in India, in response to recovery from business challenges caused by the pandemic, are planning on giving employees bigger hikes in 2022.Salaries are projected to see a median increase of 9.3% next year (translating to an average salary increase of 8.8%) as compared to the actual median salary increase of 8% (average salary increase of 7.4%) in 2021, according to Salary Budget Planning Report released on Wednesday by global advisory, broking and solutions firm Willis Towers Watson. This optimism emerges from a positive business sentiment among India Inc. According to the report, a majority (52.2%) of companies in India have projected a positive business revenue outlook for the next 12 months, up from 37% in Q4-2020. 

The high-tech sector is expected to see the highest salary increase at 9.9% in 2022, followed by the consumer products and retail sector at 9.5%, and manufacturing at 9.30%. On the other hand, the projected salary increase of the energy sector is the lowest at 7.9%.

Commenting on the findings, Rajul Mathur, Consulting Leader India, Talent and Rewards, Willis Towers Watson, said, “Increased business optimism is clearly translating into higher salary budgets and increased hiring activity. The pandemic was a watershed moment in the way organisations plan their people spend. While talent attraction and retention remain a challenge, the core employee value proposition will now need to go beyond just competitive salaries, and increasingly focus on a wider range of benefits, wellness, up skilling and the overall employee experience. “Most start-ups increased their salary spends this year alongside a growing headcount, indicating further hikes, promotions and hires, according to RazorpayX Payroll Insights. Total salary spends increased by 43% during the period, with EdTech, FinTech, and Electronics sectors witnessing a significant pay rise. Some start-ups even increased the median salary of their employees by 7% this year.

High Oil Prices Will Sap Global Recovery’.

Puri urges Saudi Arabia, other OPEC nations to work towards affordable and reliable supplies.

India, the world’s third-largest energy consumer, on Wednesday warned that high oil prices will undermine global economic recovery, and nudged Saudi Arabia and other OPEC nations to work towards affordable and reliable supplies.

Petrol and diesel prices have hit record highs across the country after relentless price increases since May.

“If energy prices remain high, global economic recovery will be undermined,” Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said at the India Energy Forum by CERAWeek.

Global oil prices crashed to $19 per barrel in April 2020 as demand evaporated with most nations clamping lockdowns to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Demand recovered this year as vaccination against the infection revived economies worldwide.

International benchmark Brent crude has since rallied to $84 per barrel.

This, he said, had made fuel expensive and was stoking fears of inflation.

Mr. Puri said India’s oil import bill had climbed from $8.8 billion in June 2020 quarter to $24 billion this year because of a spike in global oil prices.

‘Energy access crucial’

“India believes energy access has to be reliable, affordable and sustainable,” he said adding economic recovery after a devastating pandemic had been fragile and it was further being threatened by the high prices.

India, which imports almost two-thirds of its oil needs from West Asia, has told oil producers, including the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), that high crude prices will hasten the transition to alternate fuels and such rates will be counter-productive for the producers.

Mr. Puri has in recent weeks flagged the issue of high oil prices to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, the U.S., Russia and Bahrain. He conveyed India’s strong preference for responsible and reasonable pricing, which was mutually beneficial for consumers and producers.

Mr. Puri said volatility in international prices was not just hurting India but also industrialised nations.

While the world had begun the transition towards cleaner fuels such as electric-powered vehicles and hydrogen, most nations were still dependent on oil to fuel their economies. And high oil prices would hurt the recovery in demand.

*India is 85% dependent on imports to meet its oil needs.

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