04 March 2021
A) Bharat Biotech says Covaxin showed 81% efficacy in Phase 3 clinical trials.
India-made Covid-19 vaccine Covaxin has demonstrated an interim clinical efficacy of 81% in its Phase 3 clinical trial, vaccine maker Bharat Biotech said. Covaxin has demonstrated high clinical efficacy trend against Covid-19 as well as significant immunogenicity against the rapidly emerging variants, CMD Krishna Ella said. A statement from Bharat Biotech, which developed the vaccine in collaboration with Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said 25,800 participants between 18-98 years of age were enrolled for the Phase 3 study. It included 2,433 over the age of 60 and 4,500 with comorbidities. The first interim analysis is based on 43 cases, of which 36 cases of Covid-19 were observed in the placebo group versus seven cases observed in the Covaxin group, resulting in a point estimate of vaccine efficacy of 80.6%. The interim analysis included a preliminary review of the safety database, which showed that severe, serious, and medically attended adverse events occurred at low levels and were balanced between vaccine and placebo groups. A release said analysis from the National Institute of Virology indicates that vaccine-induced antibodies can neutralise the UK variant strains and other heterologous strains. Noting that the vaccine demonstrated interim efficacy in preventing Covid-19 in those without prior infection after the second dose, the company said the 25,800 participants received a vaccine or placebo in a 1:1 ratio. Clinical trials will continue through to final analysis at 130 confirmed cases in order to gather further data and to evaluate the efficacy of Covaxin in additional secondary study endpoints.
B) I-T dept raids premises linked to Anurag Kashyap, Tapsee Pannu, Vikas Bahl.
The Income-Tax Department today conducted searches on about two dozen premises linked to some Bollywood figures in Mumbai. The searches were carried out on the premises related to director Anurag Kashyap, actor Taapsee Pannu and producer Vikas Bahl, said an Income-Tax Department official. The searches, part of a tax evasion probe against Phantom Films and carried out across 30 locations in Mumbai and Pune, also covered Reliance Entertainment group CEO Shibhasish Sarkar and some executives of celebrity and talent management company KWAN. The raids began in the morning and were continuing till evening. The action is part of an investigation against the production house, which was dissolved in 2018, and its then promoters Kashyap, director-producer Vikramaditya Motwane, producer Vikas Bahl and producer-distributor Madhu Mantena. Tax department sources said some inter-linked transactions between the entities searched are under the scanner of the department. The raids, they added, are aimed at gathering more evidence to further probe tax evasion allegations against them. The business transactions of films made under the banner of Phantom Films are also being probed, the sources said. Both Kashyap and Pannu, who worked together in the 2018 film “
Manmarziyaan and are now collaborating in the upcoming film Dobaara, are known to be outspoken about their views on a range of issues. Earlier this month, in what was seen as oblique criticism of the government’s response to tweets by foreign celebrities, including singer Rihanna, on the farmer’s protest, Pannu had tweeted, If one tweet rattles your unity, one joke rattles your faith or one show rattles your religious belief then it’s you who has to work on strengthening your value system not become ‘propaganda teacher’ for others. This tweet had received more than 290,000 likes and around 90,000 retweets. Kashyap had visited JNU and Shaheen Bagh during the anti-CAA protests last year and is known to be equally outspoken on a range of issues, though he has been quiet on Twitter in recent times.
C) Caught in ‘sex for favours’ scandal, Karnataka Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi resigns.
Karnataka’s Minister for Major and Medium Irrigation Ramesh Jarkiholi submitted his resignation from the Cabinet on Wednesday, a day after allegations of him seeking sexual favours from a woman in return for a government job emerged. A CD allegedly containing recordings of his intimate moments with the woman was submitted to Bengaluru police by an activist on Wednesday. Jarkiholi has sent his resignation letter to Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa and stated that he was resigning from the post to save the party from embarrassment and that he should be reinstated once proven innocent. He has described the allegations as far from true. There had been protests by opposition parties since Tuesday demanding his resignation. Earlier in the day his brother and BJP leader Bakakrishna Jarkiholi met the Chief Minister and sough a CBI inquiry into the incident. Jarkiholi led the team of 17 MLAs from the Opposition parties who switched to the BJP from the Congress, which eventually led to the fall of the Congress–JD(S) coalition government and formation of the BJP government. Besides the party he quit, a large number of BJP old-timers too were not comfortable with Jarkiholi’s instant political growth.
D) Covid-19-induced school closures affected 25 cr Indian children: UNICEF study.
Closure of 1.5 million schools due to the coronavirus pandemic and the resultant lockdowns in 2020 impacted 247 million children enrolled in elementary and secondary schools in India, a UNICEF report has found. Globally, schools for more than 168 million children have been completely closed for almost a full year, it said. The report stated that online education is not an option for all as only one in four children had access to digital devices and internet connectivity. Pre-Covid-19, only a quarter of households (24%) in India had access to the internet and there was a large rural-urban and gender divide. In India, closure of 1.5 million schools due to the pandemic and lockdowns in 2020 has impacted 247 million children enrolled in elementary and secondary schools. In addition, there are over six million girls and boys who were already out of school even before the Covid-19 crisis began, a statement from the UN agency said on Wednesday. It also said that till date in India only eight States/UTs have opened all classes from class 1 to class 12; 11 states have reopened classes 6-12 and 15 states have only opened classes 9-12. Three States have reopened anganwadi centers, with younger children losing out greatly on crucial foundational learning.
E) Voicing dissent against govt. does not amount to sedition: Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday said voicing dissent against the government did not amount to sedition, while rejecting a plea to terminate the Lok Sabha membership of Dr. Farooq Abdullah and book him for sedition. A Bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul rejected a petition filed by Rajat Sharma accusing Dr. Abdullah, president of the National Conference of Jammu and Kashmir, of stating that in Kashmir he will get Article 370 of the Constitution restored with the help of China during a speech on September 24. Sharma argued that Article 370 had been deleted from the Constitution by majority in Parliament. Everybody knows that there are only two countries in the world which are trying to grab the Indian part of Indian territories, namely China and Pakistan, which mean that Farooq Abdullah is trying to hand over the Kashmir to China or Pakistan, which is totally contrary to the provision of the Constitution and amounts to sedition, his petition said.
A) U.S. democracy watchdog downgrades India from ‘free’ to ‘partly free’ status.
U.S.-based human rights watchdog Freedom House has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government of driving India toward authoritarianism with a hamfisted lockdown, scapegoating of Muslims, and a crackdown on critics, and downgraded India’s status from ‘Free’ to ‘Partly Free’, in its annual report. Under Modi, India appears to have abandoned its potential to serve as a global democratic leader, elevating narrow Hindu nationalist interests at the expense of its founding values of inclusion and equal rights for all, said Freedom in the World 2021, which was released on Wednesday. India’s freedom score, calculated using indicators of political rights and civil liberties, dropped four points to 67 this year, pulling the country down into the ‘Partly Free’ category. In a year when social media censorship has been hotly debated, and the government shut down Internet connectivity on Delhi’s borders over the farmer protests, India’s Internet freedom score dropped to just 51. The report traced a deterioration in political rights and civil liberties since Modi became Prime Minister in 2014, adding that the decline only accelerated after his re-election in 2019. Last year, the government intensified its crackdown on protesters opposed to a discriminatory citizenship law and arrested dozens of journalists who aired criticism of the official pandemic response, said the report. It noted that judicial independence had also come under strain, pointing to the case of a Delhi High Court judge who was transferred immediately after reprimanding the police for taking no action during riots in the capital that left over 50 people dead. Uttar Pradesh’s law prohibiting forced religious conversion through interfaith marriage was also listed as a concern. Rather than serving as a champion of democratic practice and a counterweight to authoritarian influence from countries such as China, Modi and his party are tragically driving India itself toward authoritarianism, the report stated. Freedom House, largely funded through U.S. government grants, has been tracking the course of democracy since 1941.
B) Blinken calls China the ‘biggest geopolitical test’ for U.S.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that the United States was ready to confront China where need be, calling the Asian power the biggest geopolitical test of the century. In his first major speech, Mr. Blinken vowed that President Joe Biden’s administration will emphasise diplomacy over military action and build cooperation with the world on global challenges such as climate change and COVID-19. They will manage the biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century. our relationship with China, Mr. Blinken said at the State Department. He promised to champion the rights of Hong Kong and the ethnic Uighurs, saying that if not, China will act with even greater impunity. China is the only country with the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to seriously challenge the stable and open international system all the rules, values and relationships that make the world work the way we want it to, he said. Their relationship with China will be competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be and adversarial when it must be. And we will engage China from a position of strength. Mr. Blinken indicated that Mr. Biden would be sparing in military action despite ordering an air strike last week in Syria against Iranianlinked Iraqi Shiite paramilitaries. In future cases when we must take military action, we will do so only when the objectives and mission are clear and achievable, consistent with our values and laws and with the informed consent of the American people, he said.