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Photo Voter Slips Will not be Valid as Stand-Alone ID Voting: EC

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Indian Election Commission

New Delhi-The Election Commission of India has directed that all voters who have been issued Electors Photo Identity Card (EPIC) have to produce the Electors Photo Identity Card for their identification at polling station before casting their votes, it the Election Commission informed yesterday.

 Those voters who are not able to produce the EPIC will have to produce one of the following alternative photo identity documents for establishing their identity.

The list of 11 documents photo identity documents: 

  • Passport,
  • Driving License,
  • Service Identity Cards with photograph issued to employees by Central/State Govt./PSUs/Public Limited Companies,
  • Passbooks with photograph issued by Bank/Post Office,
  • PAN Card,
  • Smart Card issued by RGI under NPR,
  • MNREGA Job Card,
  • Health Insurance Smart Card issued under the scheme of Ministry of Labour,
  • Pension document with photograph,
  • Official identity cards issued to MPs/MLAs/MLCs, and
  • Aadhaar Card.

Overseas electors will have to have to produce their original passport only for identification, the EC said.

To assist the Voters, the Commission has further directed its officers that in the case of EPIC, minor discrepancies in the entries should be ignored provided the identity of the elector can be established by the EPIC.

If an elector produces an EPIC which has been issued by the Electoral Registration Officer of another Assembly Constituency, such card will also be accepted for identification, provided the name of that elector finds place in the electoral roll pertaining to the polling station where the elector has turned up for voting.  If it is not possible to establish the identity of the elector on account of mismatch of photograph, etc. the elector will have to produce one of the above mentioned alternative photo documents.

Earlier, the Commission had allowed Photo Voter Slip as a document for identification. However, there have been representations against its use as a stand-alone identification document on the grounds of misuse as these are printed after the finalisation of the roll and distributed just close to the poll through Booth Level Officers.

The design of Photo Voter Slip does not incorporate any security feature. In fact, Photo Voter Slip was started as an alternative document as the coverage of EPIC was not complete in earlier years. Currently more than 99 per cent electors possess EPIC, and more than 99 per cent adults have been issued Aadhar Cards, the EC said.

Taking all these facts in view, Commission has now decided that Photo Voter Slip will not be accepted as a stand-alone identification document for voting. 

However, Photo Voter Slip will continue to be prepared and issued to electors as part of the awareness building exercise. 

Further, the EC said that in order to make it clear to the electors that Photo Voter Slips will not be accepted as a stand-alone identification document for voting, the words “THIS SLIP WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED FOR THE PURPOSE OF IDENTIFICATION IN POLLING STATION. YOU ARE REQUIRED TO CARRY EPIC OR ONE OF THE 11 ALTERNATIVE DOCUMENTS SPECIFIED BY THE COMMISSION FOR VOTING” shall be printed on the Photo Voter Slip in bold letters.

These instructions were also passed to all the Returning Officers and all Presiding Officers. A copy of the instructions translated in the vernacular language will be supplied to each of the Presiding Officers, the EC said.

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COVAXIN Clinical Trials on Children Aged 2 to 18 Approved, Gap Between COVISHIELD Doses Now 12-16 weeks

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vaccination of children approved

New Delhi: Faced with a shortage of vaccine, the Union government yesterday announced the extension of the gap between the first and second doses of COVISHIELD vaccine to 12-16 weeks. The present gap between the two doses of the COVISHIELD vaccine is 6-8 weeks. No change in the interval of COVAXIN vaccine doses was recommended.

The only logic behind this decision seems to cover more people for the first dose so that the fatality rate could be reduced. Further, it might take some pressure off India’s already overwhelmed healthcare services. Also, the Union government is under fire for the delay in supplying sufficient vaccine to the states to start covering the 18-44 age group. Several state including Himachal Pradesh had earlier opened the registration on April 28, but the delivery of vaccine was delayed. 

Further, Drugs Controller General of India, India’s drug regulator, on Wednesday granted permission to Bharat Biotech Ltd to conduct the Phase II/III clinical trial of Covaxin in the age group of 2 to 18 years, said the Union Health Ministry.

The Ministry said the trial will be conducted on 525 healthy volunteers who will be administered two doses of the vaccine at a gap of 28 days through intramuscular shots.

Also Read: Himachal Reports 634 Covid-19 Deaths and Over 51,000 Cases in 13 Days

Bharat Biotech had proposed to carry out a Phase- II/III clinical trial of Covaxin in the age group of 2 to 18 years, the ministry said.

“As a rapid regulatory response, the proposal was deliberated in Subject Expert Committee (SEC) (COVID-19) on May 11, 2021. The Committee after detailed deliberation recommended for grant of permission to conduct proposed Phase II/III clinical trial to certain conditions” it added.

Covaxin is India’s first domestically-developed Covid-19 vaccine. It is a two-dose jab that uses an inactivated or “dead” form of the virus. It was the first Covid-19 vaccine in the world to begin testing on children as young as 12 years of age in Phase II trials in September 2020.

Covaxin is being administered on adults (18 and above) in the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination drive in the country.

According to government statistics, the cumulative number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the country stood at 17,91,77,029 on Thursday.

The government says that 4,37,192 beneficiaries of the age group 18-44 years received their first dose of COVID vaccine on Thursday and cumulatively 39,14,688 across 32 States/UTs since the start of Phase-3 of the vaccination drive.

Himachal Pradesh Government has announced that vaccination drive would open for the 18-44 years age group from May 17, 2021.

Image by v-3-5-N-a from Pixabay

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Stop Central Vista Project, Instead Buy Oxygen and Vaccine from Allocated Funds: 12 Opposition Parties Write to PM

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stop central vista project

Shimla-As India becomes the ground zero of the worst outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic due to its indifference to early warnings by the national and international scientists/health experts and early detection of cases with the new strain, the Union Government is under fire. The nation is uncertain of government’s plan to combat the current crisis.

A few days back, the Medical Association had come down heavily upon the Union Health Ministry alleging a poor approach towards combating the spread of deadly strain and manipulation of data related to Covid-19 deaths.

Also Read: IMA Asks Govt, Why Are We Hiding the Actual Death Count? Demands Health Ministry to Wake Up from Slumber

Now, in a joint letter written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 12 opposition parties of the country have given a nine-point suggestion list for measures to be taken for effectively combating the devastation Covid-19 spread is causing.

The parties demanded that the Central Vista construction should be stayed and the government should instead procure oxygen and vaccine from the allocated fund. The parties also demanded immediate initiation of free and universal mass vaccination across the country.

This is the second joint letter written to the Prime Minister by the opposition parties. A demand to ensure an uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen and free vaccinations was raised in the first letter.

The letter is signed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, JD(S) leader H D Deve Gowda, NCP leader Sharad Pawar, Chief Ministers Mamata Banerjee, M K Stalin, Uddhav Thackeray and Hemant Soren.
“We have repeatedly in the past drawn your attention, independently and jointly, to the various measures that are absolutely imperative for the Central government to undertake and implement. Unfortunately, your government has either ignored or refused all these suggestions. This only compounded the situation to reach such an apocalyptic human tragedy,” the joint letter said.

“Without going into all the acts of commission and omission by the Central government that have brought the country to such a tragic pass, we are of the firm opinion that the following measures must be undertaken on a war footing by your government,” the letter reads.

The leaders suggested procuring vaccines centrally from all available sources- global and domestic.

They also asked the government to immediately begin a free, universal mass vaccination campaign across the country.

A suggestion to invoke compulsory licensing to expand domestic vaccine production was also made.

The leaders have also asked the government to spend the budgetary allocation of Rs. 35,000 crores for the vaccines.

“Stop Central Vista construction. Use the allocated money for procuring oxygen and vaccines, instead. Release all money held in the unaccounted private trust fund, PM Cares to buy more vaccines, oxygen and medical equipment required” the parties demanded.

A proposal to provide all jobless at least with Rs. 6000 per month and free distribution of food grains to the needy was also given. Over one crore tonnes of food-grains are currently rotting in central godowns, they added.

Lastly, they reiterated their demand to repeal farm laws to protect lakhs of ‘annadatas’ from the virus.

“Though it has not been the practice of your office or government, we would appreciate a response to our suggestions in the interests of India and our people,” the letter stated.

The other signatories are Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav, National Conference leader Dr Farooq Abdullah, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, CPI general secretary D Raja and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.

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IMA Asks Govt, Why Are We Hiding the Actual Death Count? Demands Health Ministry to Wake Up from Slumber

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Indian medical Association to Health ministry

New Delhi: Indian Medical Association has come out criticizing the lackadaisical attitude of the Ministry of Health in combating the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The Association has demanded that the Health Ministry should wake up from slumber and respond to mitigate the growing challenges in the pandemic.

The Association came heavily upon the Ministry over several issues including shortage of oxygen and needed drugs and their rising prices, reluctance in imposing proper lockdown, failure to deliver the vaccine to all above 18-years in age, violence against doctors, and indifference of the ministry to the suggestions and inputs of the health professionals and experts.

The IMA, in a statement released today, said that it is astonished to see the extreme lethargy and inappropriate actions from the Ministry of health in combating the agonizing crisis born out of the devastating second wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The IMA alleges that the government isn’t even considering their requests.

“The collective consciousness, proactive cognizance, and requests made by IMA and other professional learned colleagues are put into the dust bin, and often without realizing the ground realities the decisions are taken,” IMA said in the statement.

Why We Are Trying to Hide Actual Deaths? Asks IMA

The IMA alleged that the transparency in reporting and making registry is not carried out.

“’ We have lost 756 doctors in the first wave and in the second wave, more than 146 doctors have died within a short period. Hundreds of deaths happening in big hospitals are shown as non-COVID deaths and crematoriums are showing houseful boards. RTPCR negative, but CT positive cases are not counted. Why we are trying to hide actual deaths?” the IMA asked.  

The Association further said that if the public comes to know about the actual deaths, their seriousness to adopt COVID-appropriate behaviours will rise.

Further, the benefits of insurance are also denied to the victims of this pandemic when the death is not officially certified, the Association said.

Need for Complete, Planned Lockdown to Break the Chain

Further, the Association said that in the last 20 days it had been insisting on the need for complete, well-planned preannounced national lockdown rather than few states declaring complete lockdown ranging for 10 days to 15 days to getting breathing time for the health care infrastructure to recoup and replenish both the material and manpower. The Association said that lockdown will break the chain of devastating spread.

“However, the Central government had refused to head to implement lockdown resulting in the mounting of new patients beyond 4 lakhs every day and the number of moderate to severe cases is increasing to nearly 40 percent. Sporadic night curfews have not done any good. Life is precious than the economy,” the Association said.

Despite Oxygen Crisis, The Government is Not Seen at the Forefront to Solve It

The Association also took up the oxygen crisis India is facing. The crisis of oxygen is deepening every day and scores of people are succumbing to the 02 mismatch supply and it is creating panic both among patients and fraternity, the Association said.  Though there is enough production it is often the distribution is not proper. Most of the private hospitals are not getting oxygen and in every public health care place patients are crowding and suffering to get oxygen in the needed amount. The Association further added that even after 15 days of the crisis, the government is not seen at the forefront to solve these issues and resulting in people knocking at the doors of courts to get justice, resulting in judicial activism.

“Health care professional organizations are neither consulted nor the Health minister in this whole pandemic had time to interact with modern medicine professional organizations to solve this issue. Imported oxygen concentrators and oxygen plants are yet to reach the beneficiaries, the IMA said.

“IMA appeal, as the time is running out with the impending crisis lest, we deepen the crisis, solve it on a war footing,” the statement said.

Ministry Failed to Ensure Vaccination for All Above 18 Years

The Association said that the equitable, accessible, and affordable vaccination for all above at least 18 years was demanded by the IMA based on scientific facts from April 6th onwards and after persistent call. It said that the prime minister assured the nation, the vaccination drive will be started from May 1st.

“It is unfortunate the ministry has failed to make the necessarily required road map and ensure vaccine stock, resulting in the majority of the places vaccination could not be rolled out for people above 18 years,” the statement said.

The Association said that with the un humanistic differential pricing system proposed, the 15-45 age group people are forbidden to get the free vaccination from the central share of 50% and they are placed under the mercy of state governments.

The jeopardy of private practitioners and states to negotiate with manufacturers for pricing and stock resulted in exorbitant price rise and vaccine shortage, the statement said.

“In 1997 and 2014 India could declare eradication of smallpox and polio, only by adopting the universal free vaccination and not by differential pricing system When 35,000 Crore Rs were allotted in the budget, with which the maximum required 200 crore vaccine dozes are purchasable, why the central government is shedding its responsibility?” the Association asked.  

The Association said that unless the government comes out and implements with willingness and steadfastness for equitable distribution, the nation will not be able the achieve the goal. The Association pointed out that for the last 7 days no vaccine is available in small and medium private hospitals

Real Hazard Not explained in Actual Terms, Testing Decreasing Instead of Increasing

The IMA said that the mutation is a norm for RNA viruses and understanding this needs proper gene sequencing and risk assessment.

“Unless we make our self-prepared to face this by enhancing testing, we will miss the boat. Tough various mutants are identified yet the real hazard is not explained in actual terms. Dedicate experts shall be designated to study this and propose mitigation measures at the earliest. The IMA suggested for enhancing testing and tracing, but it is decreasing,” the statement said. 

Shortage of Needed Drugs Mounting, Govt Not Capping Price and Removing GST

The IMA said that the shortage of needed drugs for treating COVID including steroids is mounting in many places. Though exporting is stopped off late, production is not enhanced to the level of need, resulting in black marketing and hoarding, it said.

“More painfully spurious drugs are on the road. Price capping and systematic tracking with surveillance were suggested as a means, but the government is not interested in capping the price and remove the GST. Masks, PPE Kits, and lifesaving drugs are under GST, and rampant price rise is happening a every day,” the IMA said.

Suggestions to Augment Manpower Ignored by Govt

The Association also said that manpower shortage is dealt with knee jerk reactions than with progressive inclusive planning and consultation with suffering junior doctors.

“Most of the inputs offered to augment manpower were not adopted by the Government,” the IMA said.

Control Violence Against Doctors

The Association highlighted that violence against doctors and health care professionals is increasing. When a death occurs not due to disease but lack of infrastructure, the affected people are expressing their anger by vandalizing hospitals and health care professionals, the Association said.

“Who is going to control this? Our demand to bring in Central law against hospital violence tagged with IPC provisions and declare hospitals as protective shown couldn’t evoke any palpable response from Government,” the IMA said.

“We once again reiterate, if the violence is not controlled and a safe environment is not created for doctors to work with peace, it is going to be a disastrous situation on the health care outcome,” it said.

The IMA has also demanded that the entire health care administration should be revamped with Indian Medical Service (IMS) cadets who are well versed with the technical and administrative skill for effective execution of health care.

The Association also demanded that to establish a new integrated Ministry to serve in this pandemic with a dedicated, proactive, vibrant, innovative, and altruistic Minister and alleviate the fear of people by leading from the front.

“We propose for augmentation of infrastructure, materials, and manpower by enhancing health care budget to be rabed from 1% of GDP to minimum 8-10% OF GDP and judiciously use the earmarked budget amount for ensuring equitable and affordable Universal vaccination,” the IMA said.

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