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India’s VIP culture: Forget Lincoln’s definition of democracy. India’s government is of VIPs, by VIPs and for VIPs

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Last week, the Madras high court ordered the National Highways Authority of India to separate ordinary citizens from VIPs at toll gates, with a dedicated lane for the latter. Of course, high court judges are included in the list of VIPs. The court held it to be ‘disheartening’ and ‘very unfortunate’ that judges are ‘compelled to wait in the toll plaza for 10 to 15 minutes’.

NHAI decided to challenge the directive. One might have expected the judges to be rather more concerned that more than a million cases have been pending in 24 high courts across India for over a decade. According to CJI Dipak Misra, the total backlog of cases at all levels of the judiciary is a staggering 33 million! The impact of this delay should weigh a bit more heavily in the minds of the learned judges while they leave matters of administration in the hands of the executive branch of government.

Uday Deb

What is telling about the directive is the VIP mentality that has become part of the DNA of India’s ruling elite. Contrary to Abraham Lincoln’s famous definition of democracy, India has a government of VIPs, by VIPs and for VIPs. They do what they can, the people suffer what they must. In the heyday of European empires, colonial masters ruled imperiously over conquered subjects. During the Raj, the British class system fused seamlessly with India’s caste system to entrench social divisions even more rigidly.

After independence, India proudly declared itself a sovereign democratic republic and added the word ‘socialist’ in the Constitution. The central tenet of the four words taken together – sovereign, democratic, socialist, republic – is the sovereignty of the people. Politicians and officials are their servants. But as in other self-described socialist and communist paradises, India’s ruling elites captured all the privileges while the disempowered populace was saddled with poverty, scarcity and general misery.

The elite moved into the newly-vacated opulent bungalows of Lutyens’ New Delhi, even as the growing mass of destitute citizens lived in slums that sprang up along the city’s outskirts. Gradually political office became the fastest route to miraculous wealth acquisition and conspicuous consumption. In time the brazenness of privileged behaviour spread to an all-encompassing sense of entitlement as the political and bureaucratic elite, in that order, began to act like feudal overlords over citizens.

The more that the quality of public services (health, education, infrastructure) decayed and institutions were degraded and corrupted, the greater was the distance between the lifestyle of the closed circle of the elite and ordinary citizens. Inevitably this morphed into the VIP culture that Indians by and large detest with a depth of contempt, anger and resentment that is difficult for foreigners to fathom.

The Congress party bears particular responsibility for this sorry state of affairs as the party of government in New Delhi and most states after independence. One of the great attractions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election winning slogan of good governance in 2014 was it promised to restore the rightful balance in relations between citizens, officials and politicians. ‘Twas not to be. In this as in most other respects, the gap between boastful rhetoric and actual practice remains distressingly wide: the 56-inch chest has been overshadowed by a 96-inch tongue.

Modi has tried to lead by example in some respects and is not in the least bit ostentatious himself. Nor has he given any indication so far of abusing his office for private gain or mistreating citizens. But this was the defence that his predecessor Manmohan Singh adopted without success: that the sea of corruption in which so many of his ministers were drowning was no indictment of his performance, for he himself was squeaky clean.

Similarly, although Modi himself has not been seduced by the VIP culture, he has failed to assert himself against those from within his and allied parties who have very publicly abused their offices. Perhaps he did learn the trick of bathing with a raincoat from Dr Saheb after all.

An obvious display of VIP culture that strikes foreign visitors is the list, in full public display at airports, of more than 30 categories of VIPs exempt from pre-boarding security screening. And how else other than a deeply instilled VIP culture do we explain Shiv Sena’s MP Ravindra Gaikwad’s air rage last year when he boasted he’d used his slippers to hit a 60-year old Air India staffer 25 times?

In a civilised country Gaikwad would have been expelled from the party, charged with assault and lost his seat. The party would have moved quickly to apologise to the attendant and the people and promised that such appallingly thuggish behaviour is neither condoned by nor acceptable to the party. But not in India’s corrupted political culture. Instead, Shiv Sena threatened to disrupt air travel. The Centre capitulated to this mobster-like blackmail and ordered Air India to take Gaikwad off the no-fly-list. Throughout the highly publicised episode, Modi’s silence was as eloquent as his predecessor’s on maha-scandals.

Compare this to a notorious incident in Pakistan – supposedly a less robust democracy – where on 15 September 2014, former interior minister Rehman Malik held up a plane for two hours. When he finally boarded, angry passengers harangued him and refused to let the plane take off until he had been thrown off. A passenger uploaded a video of the incident to YouTube. Two weeks later he was sacked from his unrelated job but not before his video was widely shared and praised by a public sick to death of Pakistan’s VIP culture.

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6 fully vaccinated people who attended an outdoor wedding caught the Delta variant, but people with Pfizer and Moderna shots survived, study says

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Six fully vaccinated people who attended an outdoor wedding in Texas in April came down with COVID-19, a new study says – a small outbreak that underscores how effective US-authorized vaccines are against even variants of the virus.Though the vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna may not knock out every COVID-19 case, especially now that the more infectious Delta variant dominates across the US, they are very good at preventing death from COVID-19.

The preprint study from Baylor College of Medicine found that only one person who’d gotten an Indian-made vaccine, Covaxin, died after attending the 92-person wedding near Houston.

The wedding took place in a “large, open-air tent” before the Delta variant was circulating widely in the US. Guests were required to be fully vaccinated at the event, though that policy operated on the honor system.

The study’s authors said they suspect the Delta variant was introduced at the wedding by two people who had traveled from India and tested negative before their flight but developed symptoms in the US. All the COVID-19 patients said they’d had close encounters with those two people during the wedding, according to the study.

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5,946 Fatalities Reported Related to COVID-19 Vaccination

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(Precision Vaccinations)

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed on July 7, 2021, the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) had received 5,946 reports of death among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine.

However, a review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records, has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines, says the CDC’s website.

This CDC data indicates a vaccine fatality rate of about (0.0018%) since over 331 million vaccinations have been completed in the USA since December 2020.

The U.S. FDA requires healthcare providers to report any death after a COVID-19 vaccination to VAERS, even if it’s unclear whether the vaccine was the cause. Reports of adverse events to VAERS following vaccination, including deaths, do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem.

VAERS is co-sponsored by the CDC, and the FDA, agencies of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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Selected Adverse Events Reported after COVID-19 Vaccination

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What You Need to Know

  • COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.
  • Millions of people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines under the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history.
  • CDC recommends everyone 12 years and older get vaccinated as soon as possible to help protect against COVID-19 and the related, potentially severe complications that can occur.
  • CDC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and other federal agencies are monitoring the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Adverse events described on this page have been reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS)external icon.
  • VAERS accepts reports of any adverse event following any vaccination.
  • Reports of adverse events to VAERS following vaccination, including deaths, do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem.

For public awareness and in the interest of transparency, CDC is providing timely updates on the following serious adverse events of interest:

  • Anaphylaxis after COVID-19 vaccination is rare and has occurred in approximately 2 to 5 people per million vaccinated in the United StatesSevere allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, can occur after any vaccination. If this occurs, vaccination providers can effectively and immediately treat the reaction. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis.
  • Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) after Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen (J&J/Janssen) COVID-19 vaccination is rare. As of July 12, 2021, more than 12.8 million doses of the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine have been given in the United States. CDC and FDA identified 38 confirmed reports of people who got the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine and later developed TTS. Women younger than 50 years old especially should be aware of the rare but increased risk of this adverse event. There are other COVID-19 vaccine options available for which this risk has not been seen. Learn more about J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine and TTS.
    • To date, two confirmed cases of TTS following mRNA COVID-19 vaccination (Moderna) have been reported to VAERS after more than 321 million doses of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines administered in the United States. Based on available data, there is not an increased risk for TTS after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination.
  • CDC and FDA are monitoring reports of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) in people who have received the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine. GBS is a rare disorder where the body’s immune system damages nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. Most people fully recover from GBS, but some have permanent nerve damage. After 12.8 million J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine doses administered, there have been around 100 preliminary reports of GBS identified in VAERS. These cases have largely been reported about 2 weeks after vaccination and mostly in men, many 50 years and older. CDC will continue to monitor for and evaluate reports of GBS occurring after COVID-19 vaccination and will share more information as it becomes available.
  • Myocarditis and pericarditis after COVID-19 vaccination are rare. As of July 12, 2021, VAERS has received 1,047 reports of myocarditis or pericarditis among people ages 30 and younger who received a COVID-19 vaccine. Most cases have been reported after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), particularly in male adolescents and young adults. Through follow-up, including medical record reviews, CDC and FDA have confirmed 633 reports of myocarditis or pericarditis. CDC and its partners are investigating these reports to assess whether there is a relationship to COVID-19 vaccination. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and myocarditis.
  • Reports of death after COVID-19 vaccination are rare. More than 334 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States from December 14, 2020, through July 12, 2021. During this time, VAERS received 6,079 reports of death (0.0018%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine. FDA requires healthcare providers to report any death after COVID-19 vaccination to VAERS, even if it’s unclear whether the vaccine was the cause. Reports of adverse events to VAERS following vaccination, including deaths, do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem. A review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records, has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines. However, recent reports indicate a plausible causal relationship between the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine and TTS, a rare and serious adverse event—blood clots with low platelets—which has caused deaths.
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