More stories

  • Photo: AP
    in ,

    Reflections on the pandemic and our preparations for a third wave

    Had Preeta not rushed me to Indraparatha Apollo hospital, New Delhi, with the help of some friends, on 24 April, I am certain I would not have been here to write this column. Even as I lay prone in the covid intensive care unit, attached to a non-invasive ventilation machine that was pumping oxygen into my lungs, intra-veinous pipes delivering different drugs, and wired to heart and oxygen saturation monitors, it was clear to me that I was a very lucky man and the discomfort of all these attachments actually reflected my privileged situation. I was at one of India’s […] More

  • Calibrated closures: On localised lockdowns
    in ,

    Reverse migration: On the politics of defections

    Political mobilisation based on opportunistic defection can only offer limited purchase Leaders switching parties and parties recruiting turncoats are not unheard of in Indian politics. A shrinking party would lose leaders while an expanding party would gain them. The talent acquisition strategy of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) goes far beyond such familiar opportunism. In the recent years of its growth, it has built entire electoral strategies around leaders who crossed over from other parties. In Assam, its two consecutive Chief Ministers were in other parties not long ago; the current incumbent, Himanta Biswa Sarma, was not just any other […] More

  • Gautam Adani’s business empire has been expanding rapidly (Photo: Reuters)
    in ,

    The Adani Group ought to get a wider base of equity investors

    Gautam Adani’s debt-fuelled empire received a jolt this week when a newspaper reported that three of the six Mauritius-based funds that have invested most of their money in the Indian billionaire’s stocks had seen their accounts frozen by the national share depository. The Adani Group refuted the report as “blatantly erroneous”, helping to put a floor below plunging share prices. But not before $6 billion of wealth was lost on Monday. The jitters returned the next day with an announcement that the accounts for Cresta Fund, Albula Investment Fund and APMS Investment Fund are in “suspended for debit” status as […] More

  • Calibrated closures: On localised lockdowns
    in ,

    Old and slow: On World Test Championship

    India and New Zealand are vying for the latest ICC trophy in the game’s original format Ever since Australia and England played the first ever Test at Melbourne in March 1877, cricket’s longest format has constantly evolved. Timeless Tests were dispensed with and rest days within a game were discarded while faster siblings One Day Internationals and Twenty20s emerged. As the abridged variants attracted fans and commerce, Tests of recent vintage also embraced the day-and-night spectacle. Through these changes, nations have tested themselves in bilateral series with the Ashes and India-Pakistan clashes having stronger brand equity. Yet, there was a […] More

  • Photo: Bloomberg
    in ,

    Get the females and beat the disease

    But I also thought of mosquitoes. Now I have never been to Florida. But the state is known for its mosquitoes. The humorist Dave Barry lives there and has often mentioned the insects in his columns: “… as the Sun set, we experienced a sensation that I will never forget: The sensation of being landed on by every mosquito in the Western Hemisphere. There were so many of them that they needed Air Traffic Control mosquitoes to give directions.” Long story short: Florida has swarms of mosquitoes. They are constantly biting residents of and visitors to the state, so much […] More

  • Calibrated closures: On localised lockdowns
    in ,

    Old and slow

    India and New Zealand are vying for the latest ICC trophy in the game’s original format https://www.thehindu.com/static/theme/default/base/img/og-image.jpg Feed By www.thehindu.com Source link More

  • Photo: iStock
    in ,

    External imbalance

    A lot has been said about our foreign exchange reserves. At a record $605 billion around the start of June, our pile is one of the world’s largest. It has been likened to a big rock of stability against any economic shock that may arise from turmoil overseas, or a sharp reversal of capital inflows caused by a rise in America’s policy interest rate, which is now expected to go up in 2023, or possibly even sooner. While it’s true India’s stash of hard currency offers us an insurance cover for external instability, it hasn’t been tested. In a monthly […] More

  • A woman being inoculated against Covid-19 at a vaccination centre on Rani Jhansi Marg in New Delhi on June 17, 2021.  (Photo: HT)
    in ,

    Covid and the Stockdale Paradox of realism and faith

    Covid has literally affected a close family member—a parent, aunt or friend—of every Indian I know. If the past few months have been horrific, it appears that the future may be worse—with many experts predicting a third wave of infections. How does one keep hopes up in times like these? The Stockdale Paradox has something to teach us. Jim Stockdale, after whom it is named, was an American soldier imprisoned by the Vietcong and one of the vanishingly few to survive eight long years of imprisonment and torture. Stockdale attributes his survival to being able to accept the harsh realities […] More

  • Photo: ANI
    in ,

    Responses to natural and man-made disasters differ

    The cause of the covid pandemic had been assumed to be natural. But US President Joe Biden recently ordered American intelligence agencies to investigate the question of its origin. If the report they submit does not comprehensively rule out the lab-leak hypothesis, the pandemic could witness a mutation of a different kind. The source of Sars-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes covid, could mutate in our understanding from ‘natural’ to possibly ‘man-made’, a momentous shift. The world has seen many disasters. They can broadly be classified either as natural disasters, like earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and floods, or man-made ones like wars, […] More

  • China’s Taishan plant saw a dangerous deterioration of nuclear fuel rods (Photo: AP)
    in ,

    China’s nuclear plant leak is no Chernobyl but still worrisome

    Is a nuclear power plant on the edge of China’s 60 million-strong Pearl River Delta megalopolis on the verge of an emergency? It doesn’t look like it—but that doesn’t mean there’s no cause for concern. The US government has been assessing a report of a leak at the Taishan No. 1 nuclear power plant west of the cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong, CNN reported Monday, adding that the situation doesn’t pose a severe safety threat to workers at the plant or the wider public. A separate statement from Electricite de France SA (EDF), which owns 30% of the […] More

  • Photo: Reuters
    in ,

    The incentive structure we need against the climate change crisis

    In his classic book, The Logic of Collective Action, the late great Mancur Olson explained that the hardest policies to implement are those with diffuse benefits and concentrated costs. Olson’s argument was straightforward: Individuals bearing the costs will vigorously oppose the policy, while the beneficiaries will free ride, preferring that someone else take up the cudgels. Olson’s insight applies to the single most pressing policy challenge facing humanity today, namely climate change. The starting point for addressing it, economists agree, is a tax on carbon. The resulting reduction in emissions would deliver benefits to virtually everyone on the planet. But […] More

  • Calibrated closures: On localised lockdowns
    in ,

    Terrorising dissent: On bail for student activists

    HC bail orders are an indictment of attempt to portray Delhi protests as terrorist acts Caught between a statutory bar on grant of regular bail and a judicial embargo on any close examination of available evidence at the bail stage, those arrested under the country’s main anti-terror law have been languishing in jails without trial for extended periods. The Delhi High Court orders granting bail to three student activists jailed for over a year for their alleged role in the February 2020 riots in Delhi represent a clear-headed effort to get around such impediments. Sound in legal reasoning and interpretation, […] More

  • Photo: PTI
    in ,

    Indian manufacturing needs to grow beyond assembly

    The Make in India initiative’s focus is best seen in the country’s increase in the manufacture of electronics products, especially mobile phones, with our share of the global market now at 3.6%. By 2025, India is expected to produce 600 million mobile handsets, and have export business worth $110 billion. This flags enhanced future demand for components, as also the need of such facilities as fabrication units for semiconductors. The ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) has called for expressions of interest in domestic display fabrication projects. However, the big need now is to focus on indigenizing the manufacture […] More

  • Calibrated closures: On localised lockdowns
    in ,

    Closure, compensation: On the Italian marines case

    Nine years after two Italian marines shot dead two fishermen off Kerala under the belief that they were pirates, the criminal proceedings against them are set to be formally closed. The Supreme Court of India has ordered that the criminal trial against them be stopped, after Italy deposited compensation of ₹10 crore. The Permanent Court of Arbitration, a tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, had last year ruled that even though India and Italy had concurrent jurisdiction to try the case, the marines — Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre — enjoyed immunity from Indian […] More

  • Photo: ANI
    in ,

    A chronicle of crises foretold: We must brace for likely covid waves

    Over the last 10 weeks, as the second wave of covid engulfed India, I travelled across eight states, spending only a few days at home in Bangalore. I visited villages and towns across 29 districts, meeting local community members, healthcare workers in the public system and private hospitals, other frontline workers combating the pandemic and officials across the hierarchy—from panchayats to the state capital. Despite lockdowns, I travelled to these places and was allowed because we work there. My colleagues—from the Foundation and members of our partner civil society organizations—work on the ground with the state governments to help tackle […] More

  • Calibrated closures: On localised lockdowns
    in ,

    Closure, compensation

    Nine years after two Italian marines shot dead two fishermen off the Kerala coast under the belief that they were pirates, the criminal proceedings against them are set to be formally closed. The Supreme Court of India has ordered that the criminal trial against them be stopped, after Italy deposited compensation of ₹10 crore. The Permanent Court of Arbitration, a tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, had last year ruled that even though India and Italy had concurrent jurisdiction to try the case, the marines — Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre — enjoyed immunity […] More

  • Photo: Hindustan Times
    in ,

    The role of inefficiency in the Adani stock rout

    If anyone needed another reason to scoff at the ‘efficient market hypothesis’, this week’s dizzy swings in Adani Group stocks offered one loaded with drama. All six listed companies of Gautam Adani’s infrastructure and energy group had seen their share prices soar over the past year or so. On Monday, however, they abruptly crashed, losing over a trillion rupees of market value before they recovered about half the day’s losses. The scrips were jolted by speculation that the National Securities Depository Ltd (NSDL) had frozen the accounts of three foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) that held substantial stakes, worth some $6 […] More

  • Photo: Reuters
    in ,

    Twitter clipped

    Twitter’s run-ins with Indian authorities are escalating. The latest is over India’s withdrawal of its protection that social media firms are given from prosecution for content published on their platforms under India’s information technology rules. In general, intermediaries are not publishers and must not be held accountable for what appears. But then, if they start exercising specific decisions of judgement, that distinction gets blurry. Whether Twitter has been enforcing its pre-stated norms in the country or acting as a biased censor is at the core of whether it deserves the legal shield it has lost. What has stood out in […] More

  • Study finds more reliable rapid tests for Covid-19
    in ,

    Study finds more reliable rapid tests for Covid-19

    WASHINGTON: During a recent study, researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) developed two rapid diagnostic tests for Covid-19 that are nearly as accurate as the gold-standard test currently used in laboratories. Unlike the gold standard test, which extracts RNA and uses it to amplify the DNA of the virus, these new tests can detect the presence of the virus in as little as five minutes using different methods. The findings were published in the journal Nature Protocols. One test is a Covid-19 molecular diagnostic test, called Antisense, which uses electrochemical sensing to detect the presence of […] More

  • Exposure to common cold can help combat Covid-19: Study
    in ,

    Exposure to common cold can help combat Covid-19: Study

    LONDON: Exposure to the rhinovirus, the most frequent cause of the common cold, can protect against infection by the virus which causes Covid-19, researchers have found. The study by Yale researchers found that the common respiratory virus jump-starts the activity of interferon-stimulated genes, early-response molecules in the immune system which can halt replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus within airway tissues infected with the cold. Triggering these defenses early in the course of Covid-19 infection holds promise to prevent or treat the infection, said Ellen Foxman, assistant professor of laboratory medicine and immunobiology at the Yale School of Medicine. One way […] More

  • Photo: iStock
    in ,

    Our influencers should disclose their sponsors

    The audiences of advertisers had been fragmenting well before the internet lured them, and were going digital well before the pandemic began pushing swarms online. Where eyeballs go, ad spends follow. A report by Media Partners Asia, a research and consultancy firm, projects digital media’s slice of India’s advertising pie to grow bigger than TV’s share by 2024. Already, the web gets more than every third rupee in an all-media market estimated at $8.7 billion this year. On current trends, it will grab over 40% of our ad spend in 2025, projected at $13.3 billion. As some of this money […] More

  • If we are to make that future a reality, we need a radical liberalization of the country’s drone regulations
    in ,

    Over-regulation has clipped the wings of Indian drones

    Most of us think of drones in a purely recreational context. We see them as user-friendly gadgets with which amateurs can shoot Spielberg-esque aerial footage and which can be raced over dizzyingly-challenging courses using first-person-view headsets. But drones have a utility far beyond the recreational. A while ago, I wrote about how drones are being used in Rwanda to transport blood to remote field hospitals. As compelling as that use case was, I believe that we will soon see many other such applications—from e-commerce delivery to emergency response in natural disasters. I can see drones being used in agriculture to […] More

  • UK-India trade is already strong: in the year before the pandemic, bilateral trade grew by 10% to £24 billion
    in ,

    How the UK and India can reach a fruitful free trade agreement

    Now is a really encouraging time for the UK-India relationship, perhaps the most encouraging time in the 16 years I’ve been working on it. At the beginning of May, the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a “transformational Strategic Comprehensive Partnership”, with a 10-year roadmap featuring an enhanced trade partnership (ETP) and intent to negotiate a future free trade agreement (FTA). As the fifth and sixth biggest economies in the world, this matters. The ETP is a potential game-changer for businesses and consumers, for it could double bilateral trade to £50 billion per year by […] More

  • Calibrated closures: On localised lockdowns
    in ,

    The invisible tax: On hopes of smooth rebound of economy

    Emergent action is needed to rein in inflation as people face income losses, medical costs The pandemic’s second wave may have subsided but hopes of a smooth rebound in the economy in tandem with easing restrictions remain muddled, with the inflation numbers for May compounding the problem. The soaring pace of rising prices, both retail and wholesale, in the month that saw widespread lockdown-like restrictions, has come as a negative surprise. Inflation based on the Wholesale Price Index is reckoned to have hit a 25-year record of nearly 13%, while retail inflation touched a six-month high of 6.3%. While runaway […] More

  • Ethicists worry that organ demand could influence mortality calls (Photo: iStock)
    in ,

    A scary American proposal to revise the definition of death

    Death cannot be denied, but it can be edited. In 1981, the US Uniform Law Commission proposed a model law for the determination of death. It says that individuals have died when they have experienced an irreversible end to either their respiratory and circulatory functions or their brain functions. The commission is now considering whether to revise that definition. One proposal has been gaining influence, but has dangers that ought to keep it from prevailing. That proposal has three crucial elements. It would specify that current medical guidelines should be followed in diagnosing brain death, whereas current law is silent […] More

  • Calibrated closures: On localised lockdowns
    in ,

    Bracing for a threat: On dangers of emerging coronavirus variants

    An emerging form of the Delta variant called AY.1 is raising global concern. Five of India’s leading laboratories, since May, have submitted data to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID) on its presence in India. Public Health England, a body in the United Kingdom, has said that of the 63 genomes in its repository as of June 7, six were from India. AY.1, or B.1.617.2.1, is a variant of Delta (B.1.617.2) and has all its characteristic mutations along with one called K417N. This particular one has previously been identified in the Beta variant (first detected in South […] More

  • FILE - This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the virus that causes COVID-19. Doctors at Kyoto University Hospital. (AP)
    in ,

    For Delta defence

    Even as scientists grapple with the Delta variant of Sars-CoV-2 that was found to spread even faster and dodge covid jabs a bit better, though still badly, the virus that upturned our lives has evolved further into Delta Plus. As reports suggest, this AY.1 form, identified by its K417N mutation, might be resistant to monoclonal antibody cocktail treatment, which was approved only recently in India. As with much else about the pandemic, little can be said with confidence until in-depth scientific studies are done. Few cases of Delta Plus have been recorded so far, and it may not be a […] More

  • Photo: Mint
    in ,

    Carbon tariffs needn’t impede Indian exports to the EU

    The European Union (EU) stands out for its bold initiatives on preventing climate change. The EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) is one such initiative for imposing additional import duties on certain products in accordance with their carbon content to discourage carbon-intensive imports. The CBAM aims to address the issue of carbon leakage that has been EU’s concern for a long time. The underlying idea is to create a level playing field for production units in the region vis-à-vis imports from countries with ‘laxer’ environmental regulations. The EU defines carbon leakage as “the situation that may occur if, for reasons […] More

  • China is currently the most populous country in the world, its second largest economy, and its biggest supplier of global savings (Photo: AP)
    in ,

    The economic implications of China’s demographic transition

    China will now allow parents to have three children. This decision came soon after new census data showed that the population growth rate in that country had slowed down to the lowest level since the 1950s, when millions had died in a famine caused by Maoist economics run amok. There was also a lot of buzz before the official numbers were released that the Chinese population may actually have decreased in the second decade of this century. The relaxation in family planning rules comes just five years after the Chinese government allowed parents to have two children. The latest estimates […] More

  • Pfizer, AstraZeneca vaccines protect against Delta variant: Lancet study
    in ,

    Pfizer, AstraZeneca vaccines protect against Delta variant: Lancet study

    LONDON: The Delta variant of coronavirus, first identified in India, doubles the risk of hospitalisation compared with the Alpha variant first found in the UK, but Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines provide good protection against the strain, says a study published in The Lancet journal. Researchers at Public Health Scotland and the University of Edinburgh, UK, found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine offered better protection against the Delta variant compared to the Oxford-AstraZeneca preventive, known as Covishield in India. The analysis covered the period from April 1 to June 6, 2021, for the demographic distribution of cases. The team analysed 19,543 confirmed […] More

  • Right-wing nationalist Naftali Bennett (Photo: Bloomberg)
    in ,

    Israel’s dilemma

    After 12 years of Benjamin Netanyahu at its helm, Israel has had a leadership shift. A right-wing nationalist, Naftali Bennett, has taken charge as prime minister. He’s expected to run an unwieldy coalition that also has leftists and then hand over power to a centrist ally, Yair Lapid, after two years under the terms of a political pact that was forged with Netanyahu’s ouster as its key aim. Not only is the arrangement peculiar, its ideological mix might limit its scope to alter Israel’s stance on a resolution of the Palestine dispute that has kept the country on edge since […] More

  • Photo: Mint
    in ,

    RBI should not cross the corporate bond Rubicon

    The Reserve Bank of India’s foreign exchange reserves have burgeoned beyond $600 billion, almost equalling fourth-placed Russia’s on a global chart of treasure chests topped by China’s $3 trillion-plus. While it includes gold, our vault is dominated by foreign currency assets held largely in the form of investments in ‘risk-free’ US Treasury bonds. Sovereign paper issued by top Western governments has yielded little for decades, but now yields even less after the great monetary easing of covid times. Market prices went high enough to push some of these bonds into negative-yield zone. Piling up even more has been an unattractive […] More

  • Photo: iStock
    in ,

    GST: Whose headache is it anyway?

    Slow collections hurt the Centre as well as states and fixing GST problems should be a joint quest https://images.livemint.com/img/2021/06/14/600×338/gst_1611220525423_1611220533081_1623685428509.jpg Feed By www.livemint.com Source link More

  • Photo: Bloomberg
    in ,

    Franklin and Carlyle episodes: Blue-chip firms must be above suspicion

    Two large and reputed American investment companies are currently embroiled with the securities regulator in India. The first is Franklin Templeton Asset Management (India), which is a subsidiary of its giant American parent. The other one is private equity firm, The Carlyle Group. Franklin abruptly shut down six of its large debt mutual funds last year, ostensibly to protect the funds from any further value erosion, since it was facing huge redemption pressure and was unable to liquidate fast-enough in a market spooked by the covid pandemic. This was last April. Investors felt cheated as they couldn’t redeem their units. […] More

  • Calibrated closures: On localised lockdowns
    in ,

    An elite club: On G-7 summit

    The G-7 needs to be more open and less exclusive in an increasingly interlinked world The G-7 summit, at Carbis Bay, sent out two very strong messages. The first was driven by the United States’s new President Joseph Biden and his vow that “America is back” to take the lead on global challenges. The G-7 commitment to donate one billion coronavirus vaccines to poorer countries and to invest $12 trillion in their combined pandemic recovery plan depends on U.S. commitments for a large part. The special communiqué on “Open Societies” for the G-7 outreach, and the invitation to “fellow democracies” […] More

  • The link between growth and upliftment
    in ,

    The effect of a state’s prosperity on disparities between groups

    In an earlier article, we explored the progress over time in asset wealth as measured by the ownership of common durables and personal vehicles among disadvantaged groups, such as Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), and also the General Category (GC) at the all-India level. This article reports some startling findings about durable ownership among social groups across key Indian states, as reflected in data from the National Family Health Survey (NHFS) for 2015-16. We constructed an asset index using data on 19 durables, including electric fans, colour TV sets, refrigerators, air-conditioners, computers (and internet access) and vehicles. With […] More

  • Calibrated closures: On localised lockdowns
    in ,

    Numero Uno: On Djokovic win at French Open

    Novak Djokovic has always maintained that ending his career with the most number of Grand Slam titles is one of his prime motivations to keep playing tennis. In the Roland-Garros final on Sunday, he took a giant stride in realising this dream with a sensational come-from-behind five-set victory over the fast-rising Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas for his 19th Major, pulling him within one title of his celebrated rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. It was the Serb’s second French Open trophy, making him only the third man in history (after Roy Emerson and Rod Laver) and first in the Open Era […] More

  • Covid’s Russian Roulette risk analogy is commonly made but flawed
    in ,

    Covid may have distorted risk judgements on our mortality

    Last summer I met up with two friends for dinner at an outdoor restaurant. I hadn’t seen much of them in the early months of the pandemic because they were afraid to venture out. One said meeting up felt like “we’re playing Russian Roulette with our lives.” As an economist who studies risk, this struck me as peculiar. The odds of dying in Russian Roulette are 1 in 6. The odds of contracting covid while outdoors and distanced, and then dying as a youngish healthy person, were far less than 1%. But what really flummoxed me is that both my […] More

  • Photo: PTI
    in ,

    The mythical notion of evidence-based policymaking

    One refrain of the ongoing, and hopefully now abating, global covid pandemic has been a cry for “evidence-based policymaking”. The idea is seductive. By this proposition, public policy ought to be based purely on the basis of the best empirical evidence (specifically, data) interpreted through the lens of the current state-of-the-art understanding of the underlying scientific (or other relevant) theory. Pointedly, policy decisions ought not to be based, it holds, on the basis of ideological persuasion, common sense, political (such as electoral) considerations or any policymaker’s whim. The most pertinent pandemic example has been the rationale for lockdowns. Given that […] More

  • Source: Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy.
    in ,

    Why fuel holds key to high inflation and why that’s bad news

    In May 2021, inflation as measured by the wholesale price index (WPI) stood at 12.94%. This is the highest in the current series, which starts in April 2012. Inflation is the rate of price rise. View Full Image Source: Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy. One reason for this rise is the base effect. Prices in May 2020, as measured by WPI, had fallen by 3.37%. The other reason is the rise in oil prices between May 2020 and May 2021. Data from the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell tells us that the average price of the Indian basket of crude […] More

  • Photo: AFP
    in ,

    The science of our vax policy should be clear

    We have been told, time and again, that vaccines are our principal weapon against Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes covid and has defied much conventional wisdom. Not only is India’s vaccination policy of huge importance, shifts demanded by science are only to be expected. It should, however, be kept clear what scientific inputs are used in its formulation and how much can be put down to factors like our vax shortage. Soon after the Centre revamped its approach to the goal of universal coverage at the earliest, news came that a group of public health experts had warned against “mass, […] More

  • Photo: Bloomberg
    in ,

    How to treat predictions on everything from bubbles to rate cuts

    Predicting how an economy will behave in time to come is tough business, given that there are so many factors at play. Hence, it is hardly surprising that when the covid pandemic started to spread around 18 months ago, most economists thought that the world would face a deflationary shock, with prices of goods and services falling, as most people stayed at home. But 18 months later, it is fair to say that the economists who predicted deflation got it wrong. Like always, there are exceptions to this as well. In a column in the Financial Times in May last […] More

  • Calibrated closures: On localised lockdowns
    in ,

    Origin unclear: On the source of the coronavirus

    Over 17 months after WHO first reported a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause in Wuhan, China, scientists are yet to determine with certainty how the SARS-CoV-2 virus emerged. Much like other viruses, SARS-CoV-2 too could have a natural origin or somehow escaped from the coronavirus research lab in Wuhan, the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak. With no hard scientific evidence available to confirm the lab leak hypothesis, there are some scientific leads that support a natural origin. If it is a zoonotic spillover, the virus could have either directly crossed over from bats to humans or through […] More

  • Photo: PTI
    in ,

    Post-covid voters prioritizing healthcare could change India politics for better

    Private out-of-pocket expenditure, at 64% of total health expenditure, including by low income households, far exceeds the public financial commitment to health expenditure. Yet, it is not just in financial terms that India under-invests. India’s voters and its politicians also politically under-invest in health. Numerous cross-national studies (bit.ly/3xfspGs) have shown that on average democracies are better for health because they encourage politicians to respond to the needs of the electorate (bit.ly/3izEbqQ). Yet, in the world’s largest democracy, building back better from the pandemic will require breaking the cycle in which democracy perpetuates a lack of public accountability for healthcare improvements. […] More

  • Calibrated closures: On localised lockdowns
    in ,

    Renewed uncertainty: On the economy’s bleak prospects

    The latest factory output data released by the National Statistical Office is yet another sign of the rocky start that the economy is having in the new fiscal year. April’s Index of Industrial Production (IIP) estimates show all three sectoral constituents of the index — mining, manufacturing and electricity — suffered reverses, as output slid below the preceding month’s levels. With the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic increasing in intensity that month and several key industrial hubs coming under renewed local lockdowns, all six end-use categories — primary, capital, intermediate and construction goods and consumer durables and non-durables — […] More

  • Scientists finish sequencing 100% of human genome
    in ,

    Scientists finish sequencing 100% of human genome

    NEW DELHI: The process of human genome sequencing is finally complete, 20 years after researchers first cracked the human gene code. This should usher in a new era of genomics and sharply increase our understanding of a wide variety of disorders affecting people. It could also lead to better genetic screening that enables quick and specific diagnostic tests to treat various maladies. In 2001, Celera Genomics and International Human Genome Sequencing published the first drafts of the human genome. That was a breakthrough moment in genomics, allowing scientists to understand human evolution and biology better. But scientists at that time […] More

  • Photo Hindustan Times
    in ,

    Capitalism as we know it is ripe for a tectonic shift

    With the lifting of lockdowns, the crowds and chaos are back. Trains from Bihar, Jharkhand and eastern Uttar Pradesh departing for industrial towns and metros are overflowing. Migrant workers eager to return to work are frustrated by the long waiting lists for train tickets. Where can these labourers be considered migrants—in the slums and chawls of the metropolises, or in the villages and towns that they call ‘home’? The covid-19 pandemic has not only broken their dreams and exposed them to the harsh reality of the system, but has also buried the concept of ‘gram swaraj’. Ideas of reducing economic […] More

  • Calibrated closures: On localised lockdowns
    in ,

    Renewed uncertainty

    The latest factory output data released by the National Statistical Office is yet another sign of the rocky start that the economy is having in the new fiscal year. April’s Index of Industrial Production (IIP) estimates show all three sectoral constituents of the index — mining, manufacturing and electricity — suffered reverses, as output slid below the preceding month’s levels. With the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic increasing in intensity that month and several key industrial hubs coming under renewed local lockdowns, all six end-use categories — primary, capital, intermediate and construction goods and consumer durables and non-durables — […] More

  • Traditional banks still control big credit, but Buffett has been pulling out
    in ,

    Warren Buffett’s new embrace of neobanks over old lenders

    Warren Buffett, until last year a devoted shareholder of big US banks, has moved on to their challengers. Does that spell the end of his faith in the traditional financial sector? Last week, Berkshire Hathaway poured $500 million into Brazil’s Nubank, giving it a valuation of $30 billion. Nubank is one of the world’s biggest so-called neobanks, or all-digital lenders, with 40 million users in Latin America. For decades, financial institutions were Buffett’s bread and butter, with stakes in lenders, insurers and credit-card companies. That changed last year, when Berkshire dumped 84% of its holdings in Goldman Sachs Group, initially […] More

  • Photo: HT
    in ,

    Drones in covid war

    If all goes to plan, drones could soon be playing a crucial role in our war on covid. Expressions of interest for delivery of medical supplies by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been invited by HLL Infra Tech Services Ltd on behalf of the Indian Council of Medical Research. Such UAVs, the specifications provide, must be able to fly a minimum 35km with a payload of at least 4kg and back. Used at scale, drones could help with the distribution of light packages, and especially in the task of reaching vaccines, drugs and other vital medical supplies to poorly connected […] More

  • Photo: Mint
    in ,

    The Emergency stays relevant for the behaviour it bred

    Almost exactly 46 years ago, on 12 June 1975, Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha of the Allahabad high court delivered a verdict that would end up shaking Indian democracy to its roots. He found then prime minister Indira Gandhi guilty of misuse of government machinery during her election campaign in 1971. Sinha cancelled her victory and barred her from contesting any election for six years. India had already been in turmoil for months, with Jayaprakash Narayan, or JP as he is widely known, leading agitations across North India and calling for “total revolution”. On 25 June, at a huge rally in Delhi, […] More

  • Photo: AFP
    in ,

    Why are people talking so much about so many things?

    Now we speak of abstract things as though they are common truths, as though they really exist, and we think they exist because they have names. And it is most obvious in the US. If you are an outsider to American culture in every important way, and if you have not surrendered your cultural roots yet to its colonizing power, you may have noticed, or at least felt, that Americans talk a lot. A lot. The over-articulation of their politics itself emanates from this intrinsic American quality. Every abstract thing is mapped, labelled and transmitted because there is a market […] More

  • Gas stoves don't use a lot of gas
    in ,

    Is your cooking gas destroying the planet?

    Residential natural-gas use in turn makes up just 15% of total US consumption, a percentage that has fallen over the past decade as (1) natural gas passed coal to become the country’s main power-plant fuel and (2) residential gas use held more or less steady, as it has since the mid-1970s. Home kitchens thus account for about 0.4% of US natural gas use. Burning natural gas was responsible for an estimated 36% of US carbon-dioxide emissions in 2020, so residential natural-gas cooking’s share of those emissions comes in at less than 0.2%. That’s not a lot! Gas cooking does, however, seem likely […] More

  • To avoid a second straight year of nutrition crisis, it’s critical to provide poor households an immediate sustenance income. (Mint)
    in ,

    Luxury and Hunger: Two faces of an unequal Covid-19 pandemic in India

    Mercedes-Benz AG recently introduced its Maybach sport utility vehicle in India — right in the middle of a fierce second wave of the pandemic. The 50 cars the German automaker wanted to sell by the end of 2021 were lapped up in a month. It turns out that just as the rich were scrambling to own these $400,000 wheels, annual per capita income was sliding below $2,000, with the country falling behind neighboring Bangladesh. Emerging economies have historically tolerated higher inequality, hoping to hit the inflection point in the Kuznets curve, beyond which incomes keep rising but disparities fall. Whatever the merits of the controversial hypothesis, the gap opened up by Covid-19 is no price of progress. The situation that India finds […] More

  • Paris: Serbia
    in ,

    Grand slam classic at the French Open

    Normalcy, or at least an intimation of it, was in the air. Roland Garros in Paris had a largish live audience for Friday’s semifinal of the French Open tennis tournament, one that was roused to raptures in frequent defiance of airborne risk. This, we would have to pardon. They must have been helpless. This was Rafael Nadal, 35, on clay, summoning all his art, ingenuity and brawn at its most guttural in defence of his domain from the perfectionism, patience and poise of Novak Djokovic, 34, the world’s top ranked player. In twists and tenacity as much as its clash […] More

  • Calibrated closures: On localised lockdowns
    in ,

    Monsoon malady: On Mumbai’s decrepit buildings

    Mumbai must urgently replace decrepit buildings to prevent houses collapsing in rain The monsoon over the greater Mumbai region has come to be characterised by the unsettling annual spectacle of collapsing buildings, and this year is proving to be no different. An unsafe multi-storeyed building in a core area of the city has collapsed on to another, leaving at least 11 people dead and exposing once again, the decrepit base of dwellings in India’s much-romanticised economic powerhouse. The disaster has brought in its wake the familiar litany of accusations, of people occupying unsafe and illegal buildings, and civic authorities failing […] More

  • Calibrated closures: On localised lockdowns
    in ,

    Counting the dead: On measuring excess deaths

    Measuring excess deaths is the best possible way to estimate the count of COVID-19 deaths The real time mortality impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is an important statistical measure to guide policy responses. But measuring the actual count is not an easy task. WHO, in January 2021, had estimated, based on excess deaths data in Europe and the American continents, that actual deaths were at least 1.6 times over the official count. The problem of under-counting, even in mature public health systems across the developed world, is largely because patients who die due to cardiovascular issues among others even after […] More

  • Calibrated closures: On localised lockdowns
    in ,

    Monsoon malady

    Mumbai must urgently replace decrepit buildings to prevent houses collapsing in rain The monsoon over the greater Mumbai region has come to be characterised by the unsettling annual spectacle of collapsing buildings, and this year is proving to be no different. An unsafe multi-storeyed building in a core area of the city has collapsed on to another, leaving at least 11 people dead and exposing once again, the decrepit base of dwellings in India’s much-romanticised economic powerhouse. The disaster has brought in its wake the familiar litany of accusations, of people occupying unsafe and illegal buildings, and civic authorities failing […] More

  • 10 ways Covid-19 has changed the world economy forever
    in ,

    China launches four satellites into planned orbits

    BEIJING: China on Friday successfully sent four satellites into planned orbits that will be used for ecological environment monitoring, asteroid resource exploration, disaster prevention and mitigation among others. The satellites were launched by a Long March-2D rocket from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre in northern Shanxi Province at 11:03 am local time, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. Among them was the Beijing-3 satellite, a commercial remote sensing satellite developed by China Spacesat Co Ltd. It is used mainly for resource investigation, ecological environment monitoring, urban management, and disaster prevention and mitigation, the CGTN news channel reported. In this photo […] More

  • Economic growth accelerated, though it’s spluttering now, and millions were lifted above the poverty line—though, sadly, millions have fallen below it again in the covid pandemic. (Photo: Reuters)
    in ,

    Our technocratic approach to institutions has failed us

    Georg Hegel said, “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.” His warning comes to mind on reading Satish Saberwal’s statement on India’s failing institutions in Seminar magazine back in July 1987. He wrote: “As the year 1987 grows, there is a sense of crisis in and about Indian society. The difficulty is not specific, local and temporary, it is general, wide-spread, and persistent. It is evident in the difficulty we have over such elemental issues as unemployment, population, growth, sanitation, and control over violence; in all branches of government; political parties, legislatures, bureaucracy, […] More

  • Photo: Bloomberg
    in ,

    The story of mRNA vaccines at the messaging edge of genetics

    I write this column sitting in Cambridge, UK, and only a mile away is The Eagle, where Watson and Crick (with some unthanked help from Rosalind Franklin) conjured the double helix structure of DNA and kickstarted the discipline of genetics. In The Gene: An Intimate History, Dr Siddhartha Mukherjee underlines its importance. “Three profoundly destabilizing ideas ricochet through the twentieth century,” he writes, “trisecting it into three unequal parts: the atom, the byte, the gene.” These three are the fundamental units of matter, information, and life, and while a lot has been written about the transformational power of the first […] More

  • Photo: Reuters
    in ,

    A wealth tax is an idea whose time hasn’t come

    In terms of its capacity to make us sit up, the G-7’s global tax pact was no patch on an academic proposal made nearly a decade ago by a French economist whose very name tends to evoke visions of billionaires being squeezed to part with some of their billions. Thomas Piketty had argued for a tax on wealth instead of just income, an idea that a covid-led surge in inequality was sure to grant popular appeal. What has come as a windfall for its advocates is this week’s revelations of how little tax America’s richest folks have been paying. A […] More

  • Calibrated closures: On localised lockdowns
    in ,

    Seeds and fruits: On Mamata’s call for a non-NDA platform

    West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s call for cooperation among non-NDA counterparts in other States to support farmers agitating against three controversial laws made in June 2020 seems part of a larger political project. It is meant to go beyond aiding the farmers, who fear that these laws could make them more vulnerable to market fluctuations. But the focus on farm laws, which the Government says would make farming more competitive and remunerative, is an important start. While the Government reiterated this week that MSP for various crops would continue, the fact remains that regardless of the merits of these […] More

  • istock
    in ,

    Keep calm and be greedy, sometimes

    First, recall your college days. In particular, imagine sitting down for a tough year-end mathematics exam. You’ve kept up in class, studied the subject well, but even so you expect the exam to push you. When you get the paper, you approach it the way your professor and parents and various other well-meaning folks have always advised: spend several minutes reading it through, then start by answering the question you recognize as the easiest. Done with that, you go on to the next-easiest, and so on. The idea is to quickly lock in the marks you’re sure you can get. […] More

  • Calibrated closures: On localised lockdowns
    in ,

    Terror in the Sahel

    Global powers should not stay away from the growing threat posed by Islamists in Africa The massacre of at least 160 people in a border village in Burkina Faso over the weekend is a grim reminder of the threat the Sahel region faces from Islamist terrorism. Nobody has claimed responsibility, but Burkinabe authorities have named the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), which has carried out hundreds of terror strikes in recent years. The security situation in Burkina Faso, which saw its first major Islamist terrorist attack in 2015, has deteriorated steadily, especially along the borders with Niger and […] More

  • I watched the Academy Award-winner Parasite a few months ago, and marvelled at the storyline and direction
    in ,

    What Korea’s game of gathering eyeballs can teach us

    The lockdown in 2020 led many of us urban Indians to explore over-the-top (OTT) platforms. Netflix and Amazon Prime entered our lives with content that was alien to most of us. I watched the Academy Award-winner Parasite a few months ago, and marvelled at the storyline and direction. My daughter and her friends were hooked to K-Dramas, especially one that depicted an implausible romance between a South Korean chaebol heiress and a North Korean army officer. One of them informed me that she crushed on a K-pop group and was a Stan. As I planned to google the meaning of […] More

  • Photo: iStock
    in ,

    Basel’s bit-load

    Cryptos have gone viral in covid times as investment punts, possibly even as nest eggs, after central banks began to spout liquidity. Bitcoin zoomed more than sixfold in a span of a bit over six months to peak in mid-April at $63,000, before it slid to $37,000, as China tightened crypto rules and Elon Musk spoke about and pushed for a clean-up of its network, which has its own digital dynamics. This volatility, however, was not the sole reason for Thursday’s proposal by Basel’s panel on capital cushions to assign its heaviest risk weight to holdings of bitcoin (and a […] More

  • Photo: Reuters
    in ,

    Twitter and the Centre must both comply with Indian law

    The debate over social media has been vociferous, but the discourse on the tussle between Twitter, in particular, and India’s government over the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, has been defined by two parallel narratives. One focuses on Indian sovereignty and the arrogance of a foreign company that ignores our laws. The other sees a nefarious attempt to subdue dissent and chill free speech. Here are four points to help navigate the two. First, entities operating in India are required to comply with Indian law. If Twitter thinks that the Intermediary Guidelines are unconstitutional, […] More

  • Partial eclipse to sweep over northern hemisphere
    in ,

    Partial eclipse to sweep over northern hemisphere

    PARIS: A solar eclipse will be visible over the Earth’s northern hemisphere on Thursday with parts of Canada and Siberia privy to the best view of the celestial event. The eclipse will be partial, which means the people in its shadow won’t be plunged into daytime darkness. Instead, people with the maximum visibility — and necessary protective eyewear — will have a few minutes to glimpse the moon’s silhouette ringed by the sun. In northwest Canada, northern Russia, northwest Greenland and the North Pole, the sun will be 88 percent obscured by the moon. The eclipse will be partly visible […] More

  • Photo: Hindustan Times
    in ,

    A premium price cap on Covaxin is inexplicable

    In the flurry of changes made this week to a vaccine policy marked by inconsistencies and flip-flops, India’s new price caps for privately-given covid jabs would qualify as jaw-droppers. Serum Institute of India’s facsimile of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, Covishield, can be priced no higher than ₹780 per dose and the Russian Sputnik-V is capped at ₹1,145, but Bharat Biotech’s indigenous Covaxin can sell for up to ₹1,410 per shot. What explains these differences? In itself, a private market with profit-seekers serving the relatively well-off is welcome. Under the rules, this market can corner no more than a quarter of our vax […] More

  • A healthcare worker collects a nasal sample from a woman for Covid-19 testing in Jammu  (HT_PRINT)
    in ,

    Higher transmission rate, severe infections: Why Delta is a variant of concern

    In the UK, the spread of the so-called delta variant, first identified in India, has led officials to send military personnel to hotspots and prompted the government to reconsider easing Covid restrictions on June 21 as planned. Here, Sam Fazeli, a Bloomberg Opinion contributor who covers the pharmaceutical industry for Bloomberg Intelligence, answers questions about the risks stemming from this variant and more. The conversation has been edited and condensed. What sets the delta variant apart from other variants and what makes it so concerning? The Sars-Cov-2 delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, is a so-called variant of concern like others we have […] More

  • Photo: Mint
    in ,

    The dilemma of IAS officers under our federal structure

    As irrigation secretary in a southern state in the mid-90s, I had drafted a response for a meeting in Delhi between the then prime minister and state chief ministers on contentious issues like inter-basin transfer of water and river-linking, from the perspective of an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer. The chief secretary explained why my response would not be approved by the state’s CM. If the CM agreed, he would risk losing his position, sharing of water being a sensitive political issue. The recent tussle between the Centre and West Bengal raises important issues about the role of all-India services, […] More

  • Photo: AFP
    in ,

    The G7 tax clampdown signals the end of hyper-globalization

    On 5 June, the world’s leading economies announced an agreement that will bolster their ability to raise taxes on global corporations. The agreement still needs formal approval from a wider set of countries, and there remain many details to be worked out for it to be effective. Nonetheless, it would not be far-fetched to describe the Group of Seven (G7) deal as historic. The G7 agreement has two planks. First, it proposes a global minimum tax of 15% on the world’s largest corporations. Second, a portion of these corporations’ global profits will be clawed back to countries where they do […] More

  • Photo: Mint
    in ,

    Home delivery of liquor requires safeguards

    Siddharth Banerji, managing director of alcoholic beverages company Kyndal Group, which sells brands such as The Macallan, The Famous Grouse, Bootz Rum and Cutty Sark in the Indian market, isn’t someone who suffers fools or minces his words. He is unequivocal about his views on the liquor industry—consumption trends and the pressing need to promote responsible drinking in India. He is also amused by people jumping the gun and celebrating the amended Delhi excise rules proposing home delivery of alcohol—the fine print for which is yet not available. Ten days ago, the Delhi government allowed home delivery of alcohol through […] More

  • Calibrated closures: On localised lockdowns
    in ,

    Encouraging accord: On global minimum tax

    The political will shown by G7 to ensure fairness in revenue sharing is a good augury The Finance Ministers of the G7 nations appear to have heeded the advice to ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’ when they agreed last week to set a global minimum tax of at least 15%. With the COVID-19 pandemic having caused the world economy to shrink by an estimated 3.5% in 2020 and forced most countries to dip into their coffers to mitigate the fallout, the seven richest nations opted to use the opportune moment to plug a key loophole in the […] More

  • Anthony Fauci’s emails have stirred a buzz in the US over what he knew (Photo: AP)
    in ,

    Anthony Fauci’s emails prove nothing about a covid lab leak

    If there’s any scandal revealed by the emails of Anthony Fauci, recently released after a Freedom of Information Act request by journalists, it’s that scientists were clueless at the start of the pandemic. They didn’t know what to do about it, or where it came from. Both conservative and liberal-leaning pundits have spun the email release to different ends—either revealing that Fauci hid critical information from the world, or that he was a nice guy who worked hard and still had time to answer emails. Those saying Fauci “knew from the beginning” of covid’s possible origin in a Wuhan lab, […] More

  • Calibrated closures: On localised lockdowns
    in ,

    At home

    Disasters may bring out the innate generosity of people, but sometimes even well-intentioned initiatives may go wrong. Many believe that children orphaned by calamities are free for adoption and that growing with well-off adoptive parents will give them a shot at a better life than they can get from impoverished surviving relatives. However, adoption can be an option only when the children’s safety and welfare can be ensured. By ordering that no adoption of children orphaned since last year should be permitted contrary to the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, the Supreme Court has made one more benign intervention to mitigate […] More

  • The big price hikes look like a bid by the Centre to placate farmers (Photo: Mint)
    in ,

    Pacifying farmers

    The government on Wednesday raised the minimum support prices for summer crops by at least half and signalled its readiness for talks over India’s three agricultural laws that have had farmers up in protest for months on end. “We are ready to hold talks with farmers, if they can come up with any suggestion,” said Narendra Singh Tomar, agriculture minister. The big price hikes look like a bid by the Centre to placate farmers. What matters more is its effort to reach out to them again. Past attempts had ended in deadlock. Protesting farmers would accept nothing less than a […] More

  • Photo: iStock
    in ,

    Human senses: The next battlefield for online retailers

    As consumers will likely continue this engagement, it makes sense for retail and consumer packaged goods companies to go online. But given the acute competition for customer mindshare, what will be the unique selling point of e-retailers? The answer: Target the customer’s base instincts. Indeed, the next ‘war for customers’ could well lie in appealing to human instincts via congruent cues from our five basic senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. While appealing to such instincts may be the preserve of brick-and-mortar stores for now, online stores will look to provide multi-sensory experiences to customers and trigger an emotional […] More

  • Photo: AP
    in ,

    The muddled opinions that our second covid wave has generated

    India has a formidable enemy now, and the nation needs to be united in fighting it, even though that enemy isn’t visible. That real enemy is coronavirus, but many in India seem to want to fight other enemies, such as the foreign press, cartoonists, stand-up comedians, what passes for the country’s opposition, and even doctors who champion modern medicines and nurses who speak in Malayalam. It goes without saying that India must do all it can to defend itself against that virus. And yet, many of those who support the government appear far more keen to defend its reputation from […] More

  • Photo: PTI
    in ,

    Vax passports could be the key to global travel

    For the world to attain some semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy, people will need to start criss-crossing national borders again. Should ‘No vax, no visa’ policies be adopted by various countries, we will need proper certificates of vaccination—or ‘vax passports’—to get past immigration checks. Though international traffic remains sparse, kept within air bubbles by some and often confined to special cases, it is not premature to push for global talks on a good covid-era travel regime. On Monday, India’s government unveiled a facility for out-bound Indians that could act as a basis for vax-certified tours. Aimed at students of foreign institutions, […] More

  • Photo: Mint
    in ,

    The debate over RBI’s money printing is pointless without a fiscal stimulus

    Interestingly, there is a discussion on why the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) should start printing money to revive the economy. Under normal circumstances this would have been scorned at, as this is what led several Latin American nations to their crisis of the 80s. Its supporters, however, aver that such a response would be Keynesian in spirit and would be driven by the government spending the money. Other experts have even been bolder to suggest that RBI should lend money directly to industry. Understandably, tough conditions lead to unconventional thinking, and such ideas are a manifestation of the same. […] More

Load More
Congratulations. You've reached the end of the internet.
Back to Top