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“The Pandemic is a Wake-up Call for Regional Cooperation in South Asia” – SAPAN

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“We have to learn to maintain physical distancing but at the same time create economic and healthcare closeness in South Asia,” said Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, speaking at a webinar on South Asia’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The gathering also adopted a resolution describing the pandemic as a wake-up call for regional cooperation, and pressed for equitable vaccine supply across the region.

Stressing the need for contact and collaboration across South Asian borders, Prof. Sen said our battle is not just against the Covid virus but also against the economic injustice of hunger and poverty created by the pandemic.

Prof. Sen was among nearly 200 opinion-makers and activists from across South Asia and the diaspora who came together to attend the webinar titled: ‘South Asian Solidarity in the Time of Covid: Sharing Grief, Inspiration, Hope and Strategies’.

Academics, journalists, activists and doctors shared experiences and discussed strategies over the two-hour long event, organised by the recently launched South Asian Peace Action Network (SAPAN). The plenary session was followed by an interactive discussion with volunteers and healthcare professionals about their experiences on the ground.

Participants endorsed the SAPAN 30 May Resolution (link here), presented by journalist and editor Raza Rumi, calling on South Asian societies to treat healthcare as a basic human right, increase healthcare budgets, collaborate to manage the pandemic and plan responses to future challenges. “Our future cannot be held hostage to a past. We have to form an alternative trajectory for our combined futures,” Rumi said.

Speakers discussed the situation of South Asian countries in terms of vaccination drives, awareness-building, rural infrastructure and citizen participation.

Introducing the event Lalita Ramdas, founder Greenpeace India and a co-founder of SAPAN, said that participants had come together in solidarity and hope. Speaking from Alibag south of Mumbai, she said: “We will just not mourn but celebrate the people who came out of their comfort zones to fight this battle.”

Artist Salima Hashmi in Lahore spoke of friends consoling each other across borders. After the passing of human rights activist I.A. Rehman, she reached out to Dr Syeda Hameed in Delhi: “We cried together, shared a piece of music, wrote searing columns.”

Stating that the pandemic had urgently highlighted the need for South Asian regionalism, journalist Kanak Mani Dixit in Kathmandu said: “We comprise one-fourth of the world’s population, so what we do to combat Covid-19 is important for ourselves, but also for the rest of the world.”

In Rajasthan, Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey, pioneers of India’s freedom of information movement stressed that calamities have no boundaries and we have to reach out to each other.

“So many people across South Asia have fallen into poverty because of the pandemic,” she said.

Dr Yousuf Sheikh, President of the Association of Pakistani Physicians in New England (APPNE) highlighted the cooperation between doctors from the region. Indian and Pakistani doctors in the diaspora were reaching out to each other he said: “Though I have never been to India I can imagine the situation there.”

The event featured a slideshow (link here) commemorating visionaries of the regional peace movement as well as prominent intellectuals, journalists, actors and activists taken by the coronavirus pandemic, including Dinesh Mohan of Delhi and Kamran Arif of Islamabad, both stalwarts of the Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD).

The name of Dev Raj Sharma from Himachal Pradesh was also included in slide, he was an Ex-Councilor from Khalini ward in MC Shimla and an Ex-Chairman of the Himachal Pradesh Private Bus Operators Union.

“We may have lost many of our mentors and friends but not their ideas,” said an emotional Tapan Bose, founder member PIPFPD. “We will always be committed to creating democracy in the true sense, which is through the power and participation of the people.”

Participants also paid homage to veterans of the India Pakistan Soldiers’ Peace Initiative (IPSI) who have passed on over recent months. The IPSI was founded by the late Nirmala ‘Didi’ Deshpande, one of the leaders whose vision guides SAPAN. “This was a landmark initiative by Didi who tried to bring the world together with the slogan ‘jai jagat’ — long live the world,” reminisced  Gen. (rtd.) Tej Kaul, chair of IPSI-India.

Journalist Ayesha Kabir in Dhaka described the Government’s attempts to suppress journalist’s efforts to expose corruption during the pandemic. “Whatever our political leanings, journalists were united  when reporters like Rozina Islam were persecuted for their expose on the irregularities of the public health system.”

Convenor of the South Asia Media Defenders Network (SAMDEN) Sanjoy Hazarika in Shillong referred to media professionals as frontline workers who were “exposed to the physical threat of Covid… we have lost many colleagues to the pandemic.”

Activist Irfan Mufti in Lahore moderated the second session, chaired by Khushi Kabir in Dhaka, and Dr Syeda Hameed in Delhi. They set the tone for volunteers from India and Pakistan sharing inspirational personal experiences of working on the ground during the pandemic.

Samir Gupta from Delhi introduced volunteers involved with citizen relief groups working in both countries. The stories that emerged reflected a hope for humanity and were the fruition of the idea of neighbourly cooperation that activists in the region have been propagating.

The speakers highlighted their experiences of organising relief and coordinating with fellow volunteers across the border to help human beings not just citizens of particular nations, like Pakistanis at home and overseas coordinating with ambulances, hospitals, and crematoriums in India during the second wave.

Source:    SAPAN @southasiapeace, Beena Sarwar, Rehmat Merchant, Waqas Nasir and other peace activists present at the session

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Vaccination of 15-18 Year Age Group in India from Jan 3, Precautionary Dose for Frontline Workers from Jan 10

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teenage vaccination in india

New Delhi-India will begin vaccination of the children in the age group of 15-18 years from 3rd January 2022. The move is likely to aid in education normalization in schools. The announcement was made by Prime Minister Narender Modi on Saturday evening. He also announced a precaution dose (booster dose) for healthcare and frontline workers from 10th January 2022, Monday.

In India, this has been called the ‘precaution dose’ not booster dose. An option of precaution dose will be available for senior citizens above 60 years of age with co-morbidities on the advice of their doctors from 10th January 2022. 

Referring to the Omicron infections In India, the Prime Minister requested the people not to panic and to follow precautions such as masks and washing hands repeatedly.

According to the Government, the vaccination campaign started on 16th January this year has crossed the mark of 141 crore doses, and 61 percent of the adult population of the country has received both the vaccines and 90 percent of adults have received one dose.

According to the Government statistics, currently, the country has 18 lakh isolation beds, 5 lakh oxygen supported beds, 1 lakh 40 thousand ICU beds, 90 thousand ICU and Non-ICU beds especially for children, more than 3 thousand PSA oxygen plants, 4 lakh oxygen cylinders and support to states is being provided for buffer doses and testing.

The Prime Minister assured that soon the country will develop a nasal vaccine and the world’s first DNA vaccine.

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

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Three Farm Laws to be Withdrawn, Announces PM Modi Ahead of Elections in Punjab and UP

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farm laws withdrawn

New Delhi: Ahead of assembly polls in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, Prime Minister Narender Modi on Friday retreated from his stand on the three contentious farm laws and announced that the government will repeal three laws. He requested the protesting farmers to end the protest that has been going on for over a year now.

He said the three laws would be repealed in the winter session of Parliament starting later this month. He also said that though the laws were in the interest of the farmers, his government failed to convince them.

The Prime Minister chose the occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanti to make this announcement. The decision is being perceived as an attempt to appease the farmers, especially in Punjab ahead of the assembly polls. Also, the results of by-poll held in various states are being seen as a setback to the ruling government that compelled it to reconsider its stand on the farm bills.  

The Prime Minister said, “today I have come to tell you, the whole country, that we have decided to withdraw all three agricultural laws. In the Parliament session starting later this month, we will complete the constitutional process to repeal these three agricultural laws”.

It’s pertinent to mention that the Centre government had to announce a cut in taxes on petrol and diesel right after the results of bye polls were declared.

The three contentious bills are The Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill.

The opposition Congress and farmers’ bodies have termed it a victory of their unity against the government’s decision. Former Chief Minister of Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh was one of the first to welcome the decision through a Tweet.

 

 

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Himachal Kisan Sabha Condemns Alleged Mowing Down of Protesting Farmers by Minister’s Son, Calls it “Ghastly” and “Inhuman”

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Himachak Kisan Sabha

Shimla-Himachal Kisan Sabha has condemned the incident where four farmers were allegedly run over by vehicles in Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh on Sunday, terming it a “ghastly” and “inhuman” act. The Sabha paid tribute to the martyred farmers and demanded immediate arrest of Ashish Mishra – son of Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra – and other accused and book them under Section 302 (murder).

The farmers have alleged that three SUVs that mowed down protesting farmers were part of the convoy of the Union Minister of State. The farmers alleged that Minister’s son was behind the wheel in one of these SUVs. Following this incident, violence broke out that killed four more persons. The Minister, however, denied the allegations. 

Kisan Sabha also demanded that an inquiry should be conducted into the incident by a Supreme Court Judge. The Sabha also demanded that the Union Minister of State should be suspended with immediate effect.

Sabha said that it’s extremely shameful that the Centre government is attempting to end farmers protest against three Farm Laws in a dictatorial way by means of violence.

“On September 25, 2021, Union Minister of State, Ajay Mishra, had threatened to end the farmers protest within two minutes in a public meeting, and now his son has been alleged of mowing down farmers,” said State President of Himachal Kisan Sabha, Dr Kuldeep Singh Tanwar.

“The execution of this ghastly act merely one day after the non-violence day clearly reflects that the current Centre Government has no belief in democracy. The government wants to suppress dissenting voices rising against it at any cost,” Tanwar added.

Dr Tanwar further added that protests would be staged against this “barbaric” act in Himachal Pradesh too. The sacrifice of martyred farmers won’t go in vain, and it would only strengthen the farmers’ protest, he added.  

Meanwhile, following this incident, Priyanka Gandhi, who was on her way to Lakhimpur to meet the affected families, was detained by police, while Akhilesh Yadav – former Chief Minister of UP and president of Samajwadi Party- was put under house arrest ahead of his scheduled visit.

 

 

 

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