Hafta 291: Covid vaccine and community transmission, Bloomsbury India, and the NEET-JEE exam row

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This week’s episode of NL Hafta features an all-star panel of Newslaundry’s Abhinandan Sekhri, Anand Vardhan, Manisha Pande, Mehraj D Lone, and Raman Kirpal. They are joined by Banjot Kaur, health and public policy correspondent for Down To Earth magazine.


The conversation begins with a round-up of Covid developments from the past weeks, including progress being made in India and abroad towards the production of a suitable vaccine. Banjot addresses common misconceptions about vaccine implementation, serological surveys, and herd immunity, noting that even after a vaccine becomes available, the possibility of life returning to normal is “a long shot”, and that we must be prepared for “huge changes in our daily lives” in the long run.


The panel also talks about the accuracy of case numbers across the country, some states’ over-reliance on rapid antigen detection tests, and the government’s “foolhardy” denial of the existence of community transmission.


Another topic of discussion is the government’s decision to allow the JEE and NEET exams to take place as scheduled in September, and the impact this might have on the spread of Covid across India. Anand summarises the academic implications of canceling the exam cycle and having a “zero year”, while Banjot gives insight on the “fear of a super-spreading event” occurring, transportation and access issues for students and states, and how other countries have dealt with similar dilemmas.


On Bloomsbury India cancelling the publication of Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story, Raman contends that “the book was complete propaganda...legitimising and institutionalising violence against one particular community.” Anand says Bloomsbury India pulling the book resulted in the authors benefitting from the Streisand effect and a newfound sense of victimhood. The panel also debates issues arising from a lack of clarity in liberal definitions of free speech and justice that may have exacerbated this incident.


All this and more, only on this week’s NL Hafta. Tune in!


Timecodes:

0:00 - Headlines

05:51 - Covid In India, vaccines, herd immunity

25:24 - JEE-NEET row

56:04 - Bihar floods and the run-up to their state election

01:08:24 - The public outrage around Bloomsbury India and the Delhi riots book

01:26:28 - Subscriber letters on Bloomsbury India, secularism, period leave, and more

01:41:16 - Recommendations


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