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News coming out of India worrisome: Raghuram Rajan

“When young people of diverse faiths march together, Hindus and Muslims arm-in-arm behind our national flag, rejecting artificial divides stoked by political leaders for their own gain, they show that the spirit of our constitution still burns brightly,”

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New Delhi, Jan 10 : Reacting to the recent violence in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Raghuram Rajan said in a blog post on Friday that news coming out of India has been worrisome and that one has to be truly cynical to not be moved.

Rajan said that such attacks on elite universities gave “substantial credibility” to accusations that the government is attempting to suppress dissent.

“While the identities of the attackers remain unclear, what is clear is that many of those attacked were activists, and neither the government-appointed administration nor the police intervened. And this was in a capital city where everyone is usually on high alert,” Rajan said in a LinkedIn post.

Several students, including JNUSU President Aishe Ghosh, were rushed to the AIIMS Trauma Centre last Sunday after masked men and women armed with sticks and rods attacked the students and teachers and damaged properties on the campus.

“And when a Bollywood actress registers her silent protest by meeting with the victims of the attack on JNU, even though she puts attendance at her latest movie at risk, she inspires us all to take stock of what is truly at stake,” Rajan added.

The former RBI Governor, however, said that it is easy to blame our leadership but in a democracy as proud and storied as ours, “we, the public, also bear a responsibility. After all, it was the citizenry that put our leaders into office and acquiesced in their divisive manifesto, which they have taken as their marching orders.”

“When officers of the administrative service resign from their dream jobs because they do not believe they can serve in good faith, they are living testimony that the sacrifices made by the generations that got us freedom still inspire emulation,” Rajan said.

Fortunately, the news from India has also been elevating, Rajan said.

“When young people of diverse faiths march together, Hindus and Muslims arm-in-arm behind our national flag, rejecting artificial divides stoked by political leaders for their own gain, they show that the spirit of our constitution still burns brightly,” he added.

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Little data to predict Indian strain of coronavirus less virulent

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Hyderabad, April 5 : There is very little data available at this stage to suggest that Indian strand of coronavirus is less virulent compared to the countries suffering large numbers of fatalities, a top Indian scientist said.

“There is very little data available, and at the same time it is difficult to predict that it is less virulent and different from strains prevailing in countries which have serious problems,” Rakesh K Mishra, Director at Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), told IANS in an interview.

The head of the premier research institute believes that making any prediction now will be only imagination as there is no scientific basis for the same.

His reaction was sought on views being expressed by some members of the scientific community that Indian strand of the virus is less virulent compared to China, Europe or the US and hence the country has not seen many fatalities.

He also does not agree, at least at this stage, that India will escape the situation which other countries are going through.

“That is something we should not believe because we are several weeks behind countries which are having a bad time currently. We have to see the trend in the next 4-5 days. At present we are testing a few samples while those countries are doing a large number of tests,” he said.

As of April 4, India had over 3,000 cases and 75 deaths. Globally, the virus has killed over 62,000 people and more than a million have been infected.

Will India be able to prevent community transmission?

“We are not sure whether we are going to prevent it. There is a big chance because the number of patients is not increasing so much. The next few days will be important. If a large crowd with symptoms does not come to hospitals, it will be good but we have to wait and see for the next few days. At the moment, I will not conclude that we have managed to stop this. I don’t think we could conclude at that,” Mishra said.

Mishra is of the view that India needs to effectively implement lockdown and social distancing to make sure that large numbers of people with symptoms do not come to hospitals.

CCMB, one of the leading labs under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), is engaged in research related to coronavirus by sequencing the genome of the virus from a large number of samples.

The institute, which is already conducting coronavirus tests, hopes to have some data next week with sequencing of at least 20 genomes. However, for a comprehensive picture it needs to do sequencing of 100 or odd genomes.

“Large scale genome sequencing of the virus will tell us source of these infections. We will know which route it is coming, whether lateral mode of infection has started, how fast it is changing and if circulating Indian type is very different which will help in vaccine and drug development efforts.

“After that, once we start getting samples from hospitals with patient details including information on symptom severity, prognosis, etc., we will be able to connect the viral genome information to its pathological implications. That will be useful in management of this disease,” he said.

CCMB is also growing the virus in cell culture in laboratory safety conditions to set up assay system for potential treatment options and also to use the virus for serological testing approach.

“Sequencing of large number of genomes of virus will be the key. If the virus is very very variable that means the vaccine will not work. In such a scenario, we will have to go for a drug,” he said.

ACCMB recently started lab testing as it has the capacity to handle such tests. “It is in full swing. We are going to accelerate. Right now we are able to do 150 to 200. Some logistics are required and can go up to several hundreds in the next 2-3 days,” Mishra said.

However, the main difficulty faced in the current system of testing is shortage of reagents.

“Alternate sources of reagents used for testing are available with small companies and start ups. They have approached CCMB for validation and we will be validating the same. In a couple of weeks some of these may become ready for production. Regulatory system and approving authorities, currently like ICMR, will have to give them a nod,” he said.

“Startups in this area can give us their products. We can check and validate it so that necessary permission can be taken for production for mass level testing which means testing tens of thousands of samples. We are hoping that this technology will have a tangible impact on Covid-19 testing,” Mishra said.

Mishra feels that so far India’s response to the problem has been good.

“India as a system has done very well by closing down the activities. It is a very good move. We could have done better if we had more labs testing in the beginning. In such times research institutions could have done things differently than closing down. Having said that labs which can this have been allowed to function like CCMB has been allowed,” he concluded.

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COVID-19: Ignoring social distancing norm cost Indore dearly

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Indore, April 2 : Madhya Pradesh’s Indore, which is known for its cleanliness, is now struggling with the novel coronavirus. There may be many reasons behind it but the biggest reason is not following the social distancing norms. Also, despite the initial cases, the necessary arrangements were not made in time.

Indore is the most developed and advanced city of the state. It has an international airport, major rail and bus terminals and big industries. These apart, thousands of students from across the state and the country come here for studies. The city also provides many employment opportunities to educated youth.

Amulya Nidhi, the national co-convenor of the Public Health Campaign who has worked as a social worker in Indore and Malwa Nimar for a long time, said: “Indore is an internationally connected metropolitan city. A large number of people come here from the neighbouring states of Gujarat and Maharashtra. When the corona epidemic came to light, the arrangements that were needed in Indore were not made. The check up facility was not there and people did not follow the social distancing norm. Perhaps, people came into contact with infected persons and after that the disease spread rapidly”.

“There is another reason for the increasing number of patients. Earlier fewer samples were being taken and fewer investigation reports were coming in. Now more samples are being taken and more reports are coming in. It should not be taken in a negative way, but if more patients are being found, then it is also giving us a message to be ready for further measures,” he said.

Vinay Bakaliwal, President of the Indore Pharmacists Association, said: “Social distancing was not followed in Indore and this was the biggest reason for the spread of the disease. When the lockdown has taken place, efforts are now being made and it is expected that the patients will be identified soon and the city will be safe”.

On the question of increasing number of patients in Indore, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Praveen Jariya told IANS, “It is true that the number of infected patients in Indore is much more than other places. But it is a matter of relief that people from only a few families are infected and only those who came in their contact got infected. The administration is putting people in quarantine and isolating others to stop the spread of the disease.”

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan agreed that the virus has spread in certain areas of Indore. He urged the people to observe the lockdown and maintain social distancing. This is because the chain of the disease can be broken only by staying inside the house.

It is also coming to light that most of the infected patients are being found at places like Ranipura, Nayapura, Daulatganj, Hathipala in Indore. A large number of people have been quarantined here. Special arrangements are being made for these patients in hotels and private medical colleges.

Indore has been the most affected by the coronavirus in the state. The number of patients here has increased to 75, while the number of victims in the state is 98. Six people have died so far. Apart from Indore, there are four patients in Bhopal, eight in Jabalpur, two each in Gwalior and Shivpuri, one in Khargone and six in Ujjain.

(Sundeep Pouranik can be contacted at [email protected])

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Most diets help you lose weight but only for some months

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New York, April 2 : Most diets lead to weight loss and improvements in cardiovascular risk factors but the results may disappear within a year, say researcher, suggesting that people should choose the diet they prefer without concern about the size of benefits.

Published in the journal The BMJ, the research found that in most diets, weight reduction at the 12-month follow-up diminished, and improvements in cardiovascular risk factors largely disappeared — except in association with the Mediterranean diet, which saw a small but important reduction in ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.

To reach this conclusion, the International team of researchers set out to determine the relative effectiveness of dietary patterns and popular named diets among overweight or obese adults.

The findings are based on the results of 121 randomised trials with 21,942 patients (average age 49) who followed a popular named diet or an alternative control diet and reported weight loss, and changes in cardiovascular risk factors.

They grouped diets by macronutrient patterns (low carbohydrate, low fat, and moderate macronutrient – similar to low fat, but slightly more fat and slightly less carbohydrate) and according to 14 popular named dietary programmes (Atkins, DASH, Mediterranean, etc).

Compared with a usual diet, low carbohydrate and low-fat diets resulted in a similar modest reduction in weight (between four and five kg) and reductions in blood pressure at six months.

Moderate macronutrient diets resulted in slightly less weight loss and blood pressure reductions.

Among popular named diets, Atkins, DASH, and Zone had the largest effect on weight loss (between 3.5 and 5.5 kg) and blood pressure compared with a usual diet at six months. No diets significantly improved levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol or C reactive protein (a chemical associated with inflammation) at six months.

Overall, weight loss diminished at 12 months among all dietary patterns and popular named diets, while the benefits for cardiovascular risk factors of all diets, except the Mediterranean diet, essentially disappeared.

The researchers pointed to some study limitations that could have affected the accuracy of their estimates. But said their comprehensive search and thorough analyses supports the robustness of the results.

Evidence shows that most macronutrient diets result in modest weight loss and substantial improvements in cardiovascular risk factors, particularly blood pressure, at six but not 12 months.

The extensive range of popular diets analysed “provides a plethora of choice but no clear winner,” the researchers noted.

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