07 May 2021
A) Supreme Court wants oxygen-sharing formula ahead of third wave.
The Supreme Court on Thursday highlighted the need for the Union government to start preparations for oxygen allocation to the States, its supply and distribution, ahead of a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. The court drew the attention of the government to reports that children may be affected in the next wave. A Bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah said the government needed to finalise a formula for allocation, supply and distribution of oxygen in a scientific manner ahead of the coming wave. It said the rough-and-ready formula devised presently on the oxygen-for-bed arrangement would hardly work. The current formula of allocating oxygen to Delhi, for example, on the basis of the number of ICU/non-ICU beds grossly underestimated need for oxygen in the National Capital. Also, not everyone who went to a hospital required an oxygen bed and not everyone required ICU or ventilator. There are many who have been asked to stay at home and quarantine, Justice Chandrachud said, picking loopholes in the formula. The court said the formula for allocation and distribution of oxygen among the States should be based, among other things, on an oxygen audit, that is, to determine the actual need of oxygen in a State. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, while informing the court that 730.7 MT (metric tonnes) of oxygen was received in Delhi on Wednesday as directed by the Bench, agreed that a minimum fault prone formula for oxygen supply, allocation and distribution was the need of the hour. The government agreed to revisit the formula.
B) Lucknow Hospital booked for ‘false’ oxygen shortage notice.
A private hospital in Lucknow, which had put up a notice saying it had a shortage of oxygen, was booked on charges of creating an atmosphere of fear, with the administration alleging that the hospital had sufficient stock of cylinders and was trying to hoard oxygen. The director of Sun Hospital was booked under Sections 188 and 269 of the Indian Penal Code, Sections 51 and 52 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and the Epidemic Diseases Act in the Vibhuti Khand police station. On May 3, the hospital had allegedly put out a notice signed by its administrator Udit Singhal on social media asking family members of patients who were on oxygen support to take their patients elsewhere. After repeated requests to the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and the Central Government, we are not able to get enough oxygen supply, said the notice. The Lucknow administration said they carried out an inspection at the hospital and found that the hospital had sufficient supply of oxygen. In his police complaint, Suresh Pandey, Superintendent of CHC Chinhat, said it was found that the hospital had eight jumbo oxygen cylinders, two B-type filled cylinders and oxygen concentrators. Twenty-five Covid-19 patients were admitted in the hospital, 20 of whom were on oxygen support, Pandey said. After the examination from the medical point of view, it was established that the hospital had sufficient oxygen in proportion to the admitted patients, the FIR said. The official also said that on May 1, when it had 18 patients, the hospital had received 26 jumbo cylinders while on May 2, when the number of patients was 17, it had got 58 jumbo cylinders. The action against Sun Hospital comes after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath recently instructed top officials to take action against hospitals if they found them to be reporting a scarcity of oxygen supply just to create fear. On May 4, the Allahabad High Court had observed that the deaths of Covid-19 patients due to lack of supply of oxygen to hospitals is a criminal act and not less than a genocide by those who have been entrusted the task to ensure continuous procurement and supply chain of the liquid medical oxygen.
C) SC dismisses ECI plea to restrain media from reporting High Court remarks.
Real-time reportage of court proceedings, including the oral exchanges in courtrooms between judges and lawyers, is part of the right to freedom of speech, the Supreme Court has held in a judgment. A Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud declined a plea made by the Election Commission of India (ECI) to restrain the media from reporting oral remarks made by a Division Bench of the Madras High Court. The High Court judges had said that the poll commission officials should be charged with murder for allowing rallies and mass gatherings during the Tamil Nadu Assembly election. The judges had remarked that the ECI was solely responsible for the Covid-19 surge. The Chief Election Commissioner had appealed to the Supreme Court after the High Court did not restrain the media from reporting the remarks nor make any of them take back the remarks. The ECI said cases had already been filed against its officials for murder. In the judgment, Justice Chandrachud said the case posed a delicate balancing of powers between the High Court and the ECI, which were both constitutional authorities. The case also features prominently the power of the media to report judicial proceedings honestly and fairly in real time. The court said that except in cases of child sexual abuse and marital issues, the phenomenon of free Press should extend to court proceedings. In its petition in the Supreme Court, the ECI had said the oral comments by the Madras High Court would lower the faith of the masses in the ECI and democratic process. The ECI had said the comments were disparaging and derogatory.
D) Arrival of central team soon after govt formation irks Mamata.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday accused the BJP of inciting violence and criticised the Union government for sending a team to the State within 24 hours of her government formation. Within 24 hours of the swearing-in of the new government, a Central team came to the State. The BJP should accept the mandate of people, she said at a press conference in the State Secretariat. A four-member team of the Union Home Ministry arrived in the State during the day and held a meeting with senior State officials. I have not seen such a thing in my life. May good sense prevail. Such threats will not work, she said. Some fake videos were being circulated on the social media and police would take strong action against those spreading them, she added. The Chief Minister announced a compensation of ₹2 lakh to each of the families of the deceased in political violence. She alleged that even Union Ministers were visiting the State and trying to incite trouble. Anyone coming from outside, be it a Union Minister, will have to undergo RT-PCR test, she said. Violence was more in areas where the BJP had won in the polls, she stated.
E) RLD chief Ajit Singh passes away due to Covid-19 complications.
Former Union minister and chief of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) Ajit Singh, 82, passed away on Thursday of Covid-19 related complications. His son, Jayant Chaudhary confirmed the demise of his father early on Thursday morning. Singh, the son of former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh, was one of the first IITians in Indian politics, and became Rajya Sabha member in 1986 as his father fell ill. He contested and won from the Baghpat seat from 1989 till 2009. After his own father’s demise, he headed the Lok Dal (A), and the Janata Party and through the vissitudes of coalition politics of the 1990s, allied with the Janata Dal, BJP and Congress before going it alone in 2014. He was minister for agriculture in the Vajpayee government during 2001-2003, and minister for civil aviation in the second term of the UPA government. His politics stemmed from the rural hinterland of western Uttar Pradesh, especially the agrarian Jat and Muslim communities, a constituency that his father Chaudhary Charan Singh had built in the 1960s.
F) Covid Watch: Numbers and Developments.
The number of reported coronavirus cases from India stood at 2,12,42,410 with the death toll at 2,31,479. Madhya Pradesh on Thursday announced a lockdown till May 15 to break the chain of transmission of coronavirus cases. Meanwhile, Mumbai municipal commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal on Thursday directed officials to set up a drive-in vaccination centre in each of seven administrative regions of the city within 24 hours, PTI reported. The first drive-in centre where people can get a shot of the coronavirus vaccine without getting out of their vehicles started in the city on Tuesday in Dadar area. Chahal directed deputy municipal commissioners to set up at least one such centre in their respective regions within 24 hours, a civic official said. Those above 60 years can get vaccinated at drive-in centres only by appointment, and they shall not drive themselves but will be accompanied by an attendant or a driver, the municipal commissioner said in an order.
A) U.S. to support intellectual property waiver for Covid-19 vaccines.
The United States will support an initiative at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to waive Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) protection for Covid-19 vaccines, the Biden administration said on Wednesday. The news will support the increased production of vaccines globally as countries, including India, continue to reel under the impact of the pandemic. The initiative was first floated by India and South Africa last October. The administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for Covid-19 vaccines, United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced, adding that the extraordinary circumstances called for extraordinary measures. Over a 100 countries have supported the proposal, according to the Associated Press. U.S. President Joe Biden has also been under growing pressure, domestically, to support a waiver, with 110 Democratic Members of Congress writing to him last week on the issue. Earlier in April, Bernie Sanders and nine Democratic Senators, including Elizabeth Warren, had also written to the President in support of a waiver
B) 20% Google employees to permanently work from home, Pichai says.
Google is all set to launch a new hybrid workspace model that will allow 60% of Google employees to work in the office only few days a week. About one-fifth of its staff will be allowed to work from home, and another remaining 20% may work from a different location altogether. CEO Sundar Pichai said in an email to employees that the company is testing new multi-purpose offices and private workspaces equipped with advanced video technology to help staff work with greater flexibility when they return to office. They will move to a hybrid work week where most Googlers spend approximately three days in the office and two days wherever they work best, Pichai wrote. There will also be roles that may need to be on site more than three days a week due to the nature of the work. Employees will be able to apply for a move to another office, but a transfer will be made after reviewing whether business goals can be met in the new location. Google will also check whether the team has the right infrastructure in to support work in a different location. Additionally, employees can apply for complete remote work within their product area or function. Google employees can also choose to choose to work from anywhere other than their main office for up to four weeks a year. Their managers must approve such requests. Google says this will provide employees more flexibility around summer and holiday travel.