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Meet Between India, Australia and Japan Trade Ministers Riles China



China on Wednesday sharply reacted to a trilateral initiative by the trade ministers of India, Japan and Australia to launch the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI), saying shifting of industrial chains is against economic laws and disrupts global supply chains. Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan, India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and Japan’s Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry Kajiyama Hiroshi virtually launched the SCRI, which media reports described as an initiative to counter China’s dominance on international trade.

The SCRI seeks to enhance the resilience of supply chains in the Indo-Pacific region and develop dependable sources of supply and attract investment. When asked for his reaction to the meeting of the three ministers and the launch of the SCRI, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing here that the formation and development of global industrial and supply chains are the result of market rules and choice of enterprises.

“The upper and lower reaches of industrial chains have a relationship that is cooperative and for win-win results. It is not a gift from one side to the other, he said. “Shifting industrial chains is against economic laws and facts. That would be not helpful to solving problems faced by countries and would disrupt global industrial supply chains and they would not be conducive to stability and recovery of the world economy, he said.

“With COVID-19 in place, we hope the relevant parties can value the achievements in international cooperation on fighting the virus, respect market rules and free trade rules, do things that are conducive to mutual trust and cooperation and jointly safeguard the steady and smooth operation of supply and industrial chains to move the world economy towards sustainable, strong, balanced and inclusive growth,” he said.

The trade ministers of India, Australia and Japan have instructed their officials to implement certain steps such as holding investment promotion events and share best practices as part of the SCRI of these three countries, according to a joint statement issued after the meeting. Noting that some supply chains have been left vulnerable due to a range of factors, the ministers acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic had revealed supply chain vulnerabilities globally and in the region. According to a joint statement, which was adopted at the meeting, the ministers instructed their officials to implement certain steps as initial projects of SCRI and further develop the initiative.

The steps include “sharing of best practices on supply chain resilience; and holding investment promotion events and buyer-seller matching events to provide opportunities for stakeholders to explore the possibility of diversification of their supply chains,” it added. The ministers also decided to convene at least once a year to provide guidance to the implementation of the SCRI as well as to consult on ways to develop the initiative.

“The SCRI aims to create a virtuous cycle of enhancing supply chain resilience with a view to eventually attaining strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth in the region,” it said. In his speech, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal proposed that sharing of information should lead to capacity building, which will further help in making the matching events more result-oriented.

Based on the information that will be shared, he said, officials should map the existing supply chains, identify the gaps and discuss possible options to make them more resilient and efficient so that an outcome with a better score on account of quality, cost, and delivery can be achieved. “I would like to urge our senior officials to select five products for which a larger part of their supply chains exist in India, identify the gaps therein and then disseminate the related information to the Japanese and Australian companies looking at diversifying or relocating themselves,” the minister added.

Goyal further said that India has announced the PLI schemes worth USD 26 billion covering 13 champion sectors in the next five years to create and nurture manufacturing global champions for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat. “I would like to invite companies in your countries to utilise these incentives to increase their commercial viability while achieving diversification of supply chains,” he added.

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Assam Launches Vaccination Drive for Transgender People, 40 Get Jabs on First Day



While the massive Covid-19 vaccination exercise in the country has run into some speed bumps with demand far outpacing delivery, the transgender community in Assam seems to have had more luck than many others. More than 40 members in Guwahati got inoculated on Friday at a special drive carried out by the state directorate of health services. Residents of Tritiya Nivas (shelter home for the third gender) queued up, adhering to the pandemic protocol, and waited their turn to get the shots.

“Most of our members work on the streets, begging. The probability of contracting the virus is maximum among the transgender populace. There are no segregated Covid centres and that is a huge concern. The only way out is to get vaccinated. I approached the directorate of health services and they were more than happy to help us. It was only on the 13th of May that we approached the directorate and today the vaccination drive took place,” says Swati Bidan Baruah, associate vice chairman of the Transgender Welfare Board of Assam.

The shelter home houses 125 transgender people, and 40 of them were vaccinated on the first day. Documents and identity proofs were an issue for many, which they said would be sorted out soon. The second drive will be carried out next week where the representation is expected to be much more. According to Census 2011, Assam has a transgender population of 11,374 and Guwahati alone has over 2,000 people from the community.

“Rome was not built in a day and I am confident that soon all our members will be vaccinated. I am happy that Assam has shown the way to the country when it comes to the vaccination of the transgender community, which society and at times the respective governments have neglected,” says Baruah.

The Transgender Welfare Board has initiated campaigns to ensure that members of the community are masked, wear gloves and adhere to Covid protocols while out on the streets. Till now, no transgender person has been reported Covid positive during the ongoing second wave of the pandemic in the country. One member tested positive last year in Bongaigaon, and later got cured and even donated plasma.

Assam was the first state in the country to add a ‘transgender’ option in the gender category in the civil services examination form. A total of 42 transgender people had applied then for the Combined Competitive (Preliminary) Examination (CCE), 2020, conducted by the Assam Public Service Commission (APSC).

The state high court in an order recently directed the Assam government to create a separate wing for transgender people at the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH). Swati Bidhan Baruah who had filed the PIL in this matter termed it a “landmark order” for the community.

Earlier a southern representative of the National Council for Transgender Persons, Gopi Shankar of Madurai, had written to the health secretaries of the states in south India and Union Territories, underscoring that the transgender community faced discrimination while seeking treatment for Covid-19. As of Friday morning, the had over 43,000 active cases

A legal battle for the community to earn themselves an exclusive segment in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is still on, said Baruah.

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NCPCR writes to Assam DMs over West Bengal children living in camps



The National Commission for Protection of Children Rights (NCPCR) on Friday wrote to the District Magistrate of Dhubri and Kakrajhar districts in Assam, over “rehabilitation of displaced children from West Bengal to Dhubri due to alleged post-poll violence & atrocities meted to them by certain persons who are reportedly politically motivated”.

Taking cognisance of the plight of children who may have sought refuge in the two districts of Assam that borders Bengal, the NCPCR asked the DMs to immediately visit the camps where refugees from WB are staying and any other such place where these children are residing, to find out their exact numbers and other related facts connected to the brutalities endured by these children in West Bengal.

“The Commission is of the view that statements of all these children be recorded by child welfare police officer of the district (CWPO), and the same be submitted to the Commission for perusal and further necessary action,” the letter read.

The Commission also suggested that the police file zero FIRs in all cases where atrocities against these children have been reported. The Commission asked the DMs to complete the investigation within 3 days of receiving the letter and share the action taken report with them accordingly.

Post-poll violence in West Bengal

Post-poll violence had become a recurrent theme of news emerging out of Bengal following the declaration of assembly election results. Umpteen number of violence against political opponents were reported from the state. In an overwhelming number of such incidents, the victims were BJP supporters and workers, while the accused were said to be the supporters of the TMC party. Over a dozen of BJP workers have lost their lives in the post-poll violence that ensued following the victory of the TMC party in the assembly elections.

The violence unleashed against them forced hundreds of BJP party workers and supporters to flee their villages along with their families. They crossed over to neighbouring Assam, where they are provided temporary shelter on the orders of chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. It is not just the BJP but even CPI(M) which has accused the TMC of killing its workers. Reports of attacks on BSF jawans have also emerged in the media.

BJP leader and the now CM of Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma took to Twitter on May 5 to share pictures of several people who were forced to leave the state following purported post-poll violence and come to Assam. In a thread of Tweets, Sarma highlighted the plight of the refugees. Himanta Biswa Sarma confirmed that hundreds of people from Bengal, along with their family members have fled and reached Assam where they are being put up in shelters by the state government.

In fact, on the same day, Nandigram MLA and BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari had also asserted that over a lakh people have already fled Bengal since the post-poll violence erupted in West Bengal from May 2, 2021.

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Health Ministry debunks Cong leader’s ‘ventilator scam’ claim



The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has debunked claims that ventilators procured through the PM CARES Fund and supplied to Aurangabad were not functioning properly. The clarification came after Congress leader Sachin Sawant from Maharashtra has alleged a scam citing the alleged malfunctioning.

The Ministry has said that the ventilators in question were not procured through the PM CARES Fund.

GMC Aurangabad
The tweet by Congress leader alleging a ventilator scam

The MoHFW said in a statement, “Ventilators manufactured by Jyoti CNC were supplied to Aurangabad Medical College. Jyoti CNC is one of the manufacturers of “Make in India” Ventilators. They have supplied ventilators centrally for COVID-19 management, as per the directions of Empowered Group-3. These ventilators were then made available to States as per the requests made by States. This supplier is not funded under PM CARES fund.”

Due to the shortage of ventilators during the initial days of the pandemic, local manufacturers encouraged to produce ventilators in adequate numbers. Many among them had no prior experience in ventilator manufacturing. However, it was only after proper screening, testing and clinical validation that the ventilators were put into supplies. Jyoti CNC was one such manufacturer.

The Ministry stated, “On 23rd April (i.e. 04 days after successful installation of ventilators the Hospital authorities at GMC Aurangabad, a complaint was received telephonically informing that 08 ventilators were not functioning. The engineers went to the site and found that flow sensor (proximal) had not been installed in 03 ventilators by the Hospital. All 08 were recalibrated by the service engineers of the vendor. 01 ventilator had oxygen cell which was not functioning. A fresh oxygen cell was reinstalled and this ventilator also made functional and commissioned subsequently.”

“Jyoti CNC received a call on 10th May, 2021 informing that two ventilators have been used in ICU. Out of these, one on NIV (Non-Invasive (BiPAP) mode), is not being able to ensure saturation of the patient. The authorities said that this may be checked outside the ICU. The same was examined by the team of service engineers & was found to be in functional condition and the team returned after satisfying the Hospital authorities. This was put back in operation on a patient on night of 12th May 2021 on NIV mode,” it stated further.

The Ministry added, “On 13th May afternoon Jyoti CNC was informed telephonically that they are not being able to get optimum PEEP. The technical team visited the hospital in the afternoon. However, by then the same ventilator had been put on the patient in invasive mode. The Ventilator was working on the patient on invasive (IV) mode and it was working perfectly fine on the patient.”

In at least one instance, it was observed that the problem was caused by improper mask fitting, which is corrected by proper mask size and fitting on the patient. The statement further said that the ventilator was functioning in the Invasive Mode.

GMC Aurangabad has requested that the 22 ventilators installed be demonstrated and re-commissioned before the hospital team and the team of engineers with Jyoti CNC will ensure the same over today (Friday) and tomorrow (Saturday).

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