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Bouquets, brickbats as Left completes a year in Kerala

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pinarayi vijayan

Thiruvananthapuram, May 19 : It has not been smooth sailing for the Left as it completes a year in office in Kerala but Marxist leaders say it is too early to dub Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan a failure.

The day Vijayan and his team were sworn in on May 25 last year, the general impression was that he and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) might end up being in power not for five years but for a decade.

One reason why expectations from Vijayan, 73, were high was his work as Electricity Minister in the E.K. Nayanar cabinet in 1996 and after he quit as minister to be the CPI-M State Secretary, a post he held till 2015.

But a year later, even fans of Vijayan seem to be crestfallen.

The most popular slogan during the assembly poll campaign was “LDF varum, elam sheri akum” (LDF will come, all will be set right).

A year later, the slogan now widely heard is: “LDF poyal elam sheri akum” (Everything will be all right if LDF goes).

Unlike his predecessors from the CPI-M who became Chief Ministers, Vijayan had the advantage of having the entire party under his control and hence could pick his close aides as cabinet ministers.

He named just three ministers who had previous experience and brought in eight who had none at all, leaving out seasoned party colleagues with huge executive and legislative experience.

Vijayan’s apathy towards the media was well known. He became the first Chief Minister to do away with holding a press conference after the weekly cabinet meeting.

He decided he will speak to the media when he desires.

The first embarrassment for Vijayan, and perhaps for Kerala, came when the Industries and Sports Minister E.P. Jayarajan condoled the death of legendary boxer Mohammed Ali by calling him a Keralite.

Jayarajan soon had to resign on charges of nepotism after it emerged that he appointed two relatives to top posts in state public sector firms. From then on, Vijayan’s stock has taken blows.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), which heads the LDF, also came under attack from the Communist Party of India (CPI), its ally, on a host of issues including attacks on Maoists, land takeover, the Athirapally hydro-electric project, protests at the Kerala Law Academy and handling of the Jishnu murder case.

The Supreme Court too pulled up the Vijayan government by asking him to reinstate T.P. Senkumar as Kerala’s police chief. When the government did not do so, it was fined Rs 25,000.

Senkumar was removed on the day Vijayan assumed office. The top cop sought solace from the judicial system — and got justice after 11 months.

Vijayan’s performance in the state assembly won him more enemies than friends as he speaks as if he is handling CPI-M committees — where he is the final word.

But not all is lost.

Raju Abraham, a five-time CPI-M legislator from Ranni in Pathanamthitta district, said: “The government has been busy in working out programmes for building a strong Kerala. More than 100 high-profile meetings have been held. These things will be visible in the coming two years.

“Giant strides have been made in the health and education sectors. In the health sector, hundreds of new posts have been created. The general education sector has been rejuvenated at all levels. Today students are returning to the government educational system,” he added.

CPI-M leader and former Rajya Sabha member A. Vijayaraghavan said the party was generally happy with Vijayan’s governance.

“The government can take pride as it has injected funds to revive the social sector, especially by clearing all the pension arrears and also by hiking it. It has also fought corruption.

“New programmes are in the pipeline to safeguard and protect the environment. The first year was more of a watch and wait strategy. Now it will be in a fast forward mode,” he said.

By : Sanu George

(Sanu George can be contacted at [email protected])

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How important is speech in transmitting coronavirus

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New York: Normal speech by individuals who are asymptomatic but infected with coronavirus may produce enough aerosolized particles to transmit the infection, according to a new study.

Although it’s not yet known how important this is to the spread of COVID-19, it underscores the need for strict social distancing measures, according to the findings, published in the journal Aerosol Science and Technology.

“Aerosols are particles small enough to travel through the air. Ordinary speech creates significant quantities of aerosols from respiratory particles,” said study lead researcher William Ristenpart, Professor at the University of California, Davis in the US.

These respiratory particles are about one micron, or one micrometre, in diameter. That’s too small to see with the naked eye but large enough to carry viruses such as influenza or SARS-CoV-2.

Last year, Ristenpart, graduate student Sima Asadi and colleagues published a paper showing that the louder one speaks, the more particles are emitted and that some individuals are “superemitters” who give off up to 10 times as many particles as others.

The reasons for this are not yet clear.AIn a follow-up study published in January in PLOS One, they investigated which speech sounds are associated with the most particles.

Calculating just how easily a virus-like SARS-CoV-2 spreads through droplets requires expertise from different fields, the study said.

From virology, researchers need to know how many viruses are in lung fluids, how easily they form into droplets and how many viruses are needed to start an infection.

Aerosol scientists can study how far droplets travel once expelled, how they are affected by air motion in a room and how fast they settle out due to gravity.

“The aerosol science community needs to step up and tackle the current challenge presented by COVID-19, and also help better prepare us for inevitable future pandemics,” the researchers concluded.

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Can water treatment methods kill COVID-19 virus?

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Coronavirus

New York, April 4 : As some coronavirus, including the deadly SARS-CoV-19 one responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, can remain infectious for days — or even longer in sewage and drinking water — researchers have called for more testing to determine whether water treatment methods are effective in killing coronavirus.

The virus can be transported in microscopic water droplets, or aerosols, which enter the air through evaporation or spray, the researchers wrote in an editorial for Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology, a leading environmental journal.

The researchers — Haizhou Liu, Associate Professor of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Riverside in the US; and Professor Vincenzo Naddeo, Director of the Sanitary Environmental Engineering Division at the University of Salerno in Italy — suggest governments of developed countries must support and finance water and sanitation systems wherever they are needed.

“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic highlights the urgent need for a careful evaluation of the fate and control of this contagious virus in the environment,” Liu said.

“Environmental engineers like us are well positioned to apply our expertise to address these needs with international collaborations to protect public health,” Liu said.

During a 2003 SARS outbreak in Hong Kong, a sewage leak caused a cluster of cases through aerosolisation.

Though no known cases of COVID-19 have been caused by sewage leaks, the novel coronavirus is closely related to the one that causes SARS, and infection via this route could be possible.

In fact, traces of the novel coronavirus have been found in some wastewater treatment plants in the Netherlands, according to reports.

Fortunately, most water treatment routines are thought to kill or remove coronaviruses effectively in both drinking and wastewater.

Oxidation with hypochlorous acid or peracetic acid, and inactivation by ultraviolet irradiation, as well as chlorine, are thought to kill coronaviruses.

In wastewater treatment plants that use membrane bioreactors, the synergistic effects of beneficial microorganisms and the physical separation of suspended solids filter out viruses concentrated in the sewage sludge.

Liu and Naddeo cautioned, however, that most of these methods have not been studied for effectiveness specifically on SARS-CoV-19 and other coronaviruses, and they have called for additional research.

They also suggested upgrading existing water and wastewater treatment infrastructure in outbreak hot spots, which possibly receive coronavirus from places such as hospitals, community clinics, and nursing homes.

For example, energy-efficient, light-emitting, diode-based, ultraviolet point-of-use systems could disinfect water before it enters the public treatment system.

Potable water-reuse systems, which purify wastewater back into tap water, also need thorough investigation for coronavirus removal, and possibly new regulatory standards for disinfection, the researchers wrote.

The extent to which viruses can colonise biofilms is also not yet known. Biofilms are thin, slimy bacterial growths that line the pipes of many ageing drinking water systems. Better monitoring of coronaviruses in biofilms might be necessary to prevent outbreaks.

If the novel coronavirus could colonise biofilms that line drinking water systems, showerheads might become a possible source of aerosolised transmission.

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Cover atheist Muslims from neighbouring countries under CAA: Taslima Nasrin

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Writer Taslima Nasrin

New Delhi : “If the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is about giving citizenship to the persecuted in the neighbouring countries, I appeal to the Government of India to extend it to atheists and persecuted Muslims too. Just like Hindus, Christians and Buddhists are discriminated against in Bangladesh and Pakistan, atheists and activists who criticise Islam are hacked to death in Muslim nations, be it Pakistan, Bangladesh, or Afghanistan. In most cases, the well-off manage to get political asylum and settle in Europe or America, but what about the others? India must come forward,” says writer Taslima Nasrin, best-known for ‘Lajja’, who has been in exile for more than 25 years after a fatwa was issued against her for ‘criticising Islam’ by a fundamentalist Islamic organisation in 1993.

Stressing that she is still a staunch believer in the Uniform Civil Code, the writer, whose works have been translated into more than 30 languages adds, “Let’s be clear — all religions are anti-woman and need critical scrutiny. The basis of marriage has to be equality. In these times, how can you have archaic laws that favour men when it comes to inheritance, divorce, etc?”

Nasrin, a physician by profession, who fled Bangladesh in 1994 and spent the next ten years of her exile in Sweden, Germany, France and the US to come to Kolkata in 2004, was even forced out of West Bengal in 2007. “Isn’t it so absurd — a Bengali writer is neither accepted in East nor West Bengal? I moved from Europe to Kolkata for the love of the Bengali language, to be close to my roots. How do I feel now? Abandoned is the word,” she laments.

Talking about her recently released book in India, ‘My Girlhood’ (Penguin Hamish Hamilton), which has been banned in Bangladesh, Nasrin says, “It starts with the time when I was not even born and traces my life till the age of fifteen. I witnessed the mass movement against Pakistan in 1969, the 1971 war, how for nine months, our family had to move from village to village to save ourselves from Pakistanis who were leaving a trail of devastation wherever they went. It was banned by Bangladesh on charges of ‘obscenity’, just because it also talked about the sexual harassment of a 15-year-old by a family member,” says the author about the book that was written while she in Sweden. ‘My Girlhood’ was adjudged as the Best Non-Fiction work by Los Angeles Times.

A quarter of century of exile has surely changed the meaning of home for Nasrin. For the first five-six years, it was more on a physical level. Slowly, home has become a place that lives inside. “Now, it is where I feel safe, secure and loved. Where there is solidarity, respect and support. Physically, that can be anywhere in the world. After such a long time, different connections start collapsing from your own land….parents die, you lose touch with your friends…”

But writing for Nasrin is not visiting wounds from the past, (‘My Girlhood’ is a memoir). She insists that even if there are autobiographical elements in her body of work, she talks about the society, politics, women and patriarchy.”I tell stories so we can fight against sufferings. My intention has always been to keep talking about a society that is kind, liberal and most importantly, more human.”

As ‘Shameless’ (HarperCollins India), the sequel to her book ‘Lajja’ gets set to release in the near future, the author, who wrote it between 2004 and 2006, while living in Kolkata says that it revolves around the Bangladeshi Hindu family that escapes from Bangladesh to Kolkata in ‘Lajja’. “While living in Kolkata, I got a first-hand experience of the condition of refugees in the city. I finished it in 2007, but had to leave the country after that. The draft, which required polishing was in India, that’s why the delay in publishing.”

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