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Rahul Gandhi makes a uturn on lockdowns amid coronavirus pandemic

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As India grapples with the ferocious second wave of the coronavirus outbreak, senior Congress leader and former party president Rahul Gandhi has pompously suggested what he has long been protesting against. After opposing the complete lockdown for a long time, Rahul Gandhi today took to Twitter to assert that the only way to stop the coronavirus now is to have a complete lockdown.

“GOI doesn’t get it. The only way to stop the spread of Corona now is a full lockdown- with the protection of NYAY for the vulnerable sections. GOI’s inaction is killing many innocent people,” Gandhi tweeted earlier this morning.

Gandhi’s suggestion to institute a rigorous lockdown is in stark contrast to his previously held stance. For a long time now, Gandhi has been railing against the imposition of lockdown, arguing that its enforcement doesn’t yield the intended result. However, much like his about-faces on several issues, Rahul Gandhi has now made another staggering u-turn. This time on whether to impose or not a complete lockdown.

Rahul Gandhi has persistently opposed the imposition of lockdown in the fight against the pandemic

On 29 March 2020, almost a week after PM Modi announced a nationwide lockdown, Rahul Gandhi wrote a letter to PM Modi on the coronavirus crisis. In that letter, Rahul Gandhi expressed his disapproval for the lockdown and expressed his concerns about the same.

In April 2020, within a month after PM Modi announced a strict lockdown in the last week of March, Rahul Gandhi raised questions on the efficacy of lockdowns in battling the coronavirus pandemic. When several advanced countries and developed economies were imposing lockdowns to fight the novel contagion, Mr Gandhi was sowing doubts about the strategy of defeating the virus with a lockdown. He passionately argued that lockdown is not a solution to the coronavirus as it could only “pause” the situation.

Then in May 2020, days after Rahul Gandhi criticised the government for enforcing complete lockdown, the Gandhi scion once again lambasted the Centre for imposing countrywide lockdown to combat the coronavirus. At a time when several European nations were witnessing an alarming spread of the virus, India was largely unscathed by the ravages of the rampaging pandemic. However, Mr Gandhi continued to protest against it, claiming that the purpose of the lockdown had failed even though India was then amongst the nations with the lowest infections compared to its geographical expanse and population size.

Nevertheless, as has been the case with the Wayanad MP, he gets smitten to an idea that he thinks would help him in rallying support for himself and then goes trotting out the same thing again and again, without heeding to the feedback as to whether it is proving to be helpful or not. After Demonetisation in 2016, for months on end, Mr Gandhi kept harping about its consequences, but his rants did not help him in stopping his political decline. He kept losing elections after elections in various states across the country and then the General elections in 2019.

In September 2020, Rahul Gandhi once again denounced the imposition of lockdown, perhaps in a bid to revive his political fortunes. Gandhi had then said that the lockdown is not an attack on the coronavirus but the poor and proved to be a “death sentence” for the unorganised sector. In an attempt to seek the support of the poor, Gandhi exaggerated and sensationalised the ill effects of lockdown while brushing under the carpet that it has significantly helped India in staving off the initial bout of the coronavirus outbreak.

Months later, Gandhi has vacillated from protesting the lockdown to supporting and endorsing it. He now wants the government to impose a complete lockdown to defeat the coronavirus. In this regard, Gandhi issued an additional tweet, elaborating on why he wants the government to impose a lockdown now.

“I just want to make it clear that a lockdown is now the only option because of a complete lack of strategy by GOI. They allowed, rather, they actively helped the virus reach this stage where there’s no other way to stop it. A crime has been committed against India,” Gandhi said.

Congress and Rahul Gandhi’s role in the spread of the coronavirus outbreak

While Gandhi blames the government of India for “actively helping” the virus in this state, it pertinent to note that he himself and the Congress party played a pivotal role in the resurgent coronavirus outbreak in the country. When the lockdown restrictions were imposed in the country, Rahul Gandhi and others fiercely questioned the efficacy of the lockdown and continuously urged the government to open up the country. Rahul Gandhi also attended rallies in states where elections were to be held. Congress leaders in Punjab actively exhorted the ‘farmers’ and other protesters to march towards Delhi and launch demonstrations against the newly introduced farm laws in Punjab and along the Delhi border.

The Congress party, too, supported these demonstrations where social distancing norms were rarely followed, and people went around without masks. It is alleged that the mass gatherings may have played a significant role in the spread of the UK variant of the virus in Delhi and its surrounding regions. Analysts attribute this dangerous surge of infections in the national capital to the ‘farmers’ protests besides other causes.

Last year, when the Indian government imposed a strict lockdown, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi vigorously opposed it. This year, when the central government has left it on the local governments to decide if they want to impose lockdowns in their states, Rahul Gandhi wants the centre to impose a full lockdown. No matter what, opposing the Centre seems to be the policy adopted by the Congress party and Rahul Gandhi. Opposing the Centre is the only coherent policy that Congress and Rahul Gandhi are consistent with. In essence, this compulsive contrarian attitude of Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party reflects that they don’t have any actionable plan on fighting the dangerous pandemic, and all they are leaning on is mindlessly opposing the central government.

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PM Modi had alerted CMs about Covid-19 second wave in 6 meetings

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A few weeks before the advent of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Modi government had alerted states about the imminence of a second wave in the country and had also issued advisories urging states to take immediate measures, reports Times of India.

Amidst the opposition parties’ allegations of laxity against the centre over the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has hit back at the opposition parties asserting that the state governments, especially the states ruled by the opposition parties, ignored the risk of a second surge of infections even after the centre had warned them about the second wave of the pandemic.

The BJP has now put out details about how the Modi government alerted states about the possibility of a second wave and advisories issued to states to take necessary measures to tackle the pandemic.

Rebutting the opposition’s allegation, the BJP has said that time and again, PM Narendra Modi, in his interactions with chief ministers, had raised the issue of rising infections in certain parts of the country. The Prime Minister had also asked them to take measures to handle the surge, the BJP said. The party had also circulated videos of PM Modi’s meetings with various Chief Ministers on March 17, where he had alerted them about a fresh spike in infections and had asked them to take urgent steps before it was too late.

“We are confident about our Covid management, but our confidence should not become overconfidence,” PM Modi had said in one of the meetings and had urged states to become more proactive in order to contain the spread of the virus. He had insisted on states creating a micro containment zone to limit the spread of the virus.

In fact, PM Modi held six interactions with chief ministers, starting from September 23 last year till April 23 this year, to monitor the situations in the country. During such meetings, PM Modi had constantly asked Chief Ministers to focus on 60 districts with a high burden of cases and increase testing substantially.

“Moreover, the PM’s interaction with CMs on March 17 took place when India had only 30,000 new cases per day,” BJP said.

Opposition party Chief Minister’s skipped meeting to attend election rallies

The BJP also said that opposition CMs like West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Chattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel skipped these interactions as they were busy with assembly polls. In fact, Bhupesh Baghel had left his own state to stay in Assam ahead of the state assembly elections as he was leading the Congress poll campaign in the state.

Reportedly, the Modi government had also dispatched teams to various parts as soon as states like Maharashtra and Kerala after both states started showing a steady increase in people testing positive. Till March, the opposition-ruled states Maharashtra and Kerala accounted for more than 75 percent of cases in the country.

Attacking the Congress party over its criticism against the vaccination policy of the center, BJP said that the opposition party’s functionaries like Lok Sabha MP Manish Tewari, spokesperson Randeep Surjewala and health ministers of Congress-ruled states, such as TS Singh Deo and Bana Gupta, promoted vaccine hesitancy by raising questions about the efficacy of Indian-made vaccines.

“India is in the midst of a pandemic. Its scientists raced against time to produce a vaccine. They were reviewed at different levels before being given emergency use approval so that lives could be saved. But the opposition, Congress, in particular, mocked it. Result: people died,” BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya tweeted, sharing videos of Congress leaders’ raising doubts against Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.

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MP Plans Affordable Liquor Policy, 90ml Country Liquor Packs to Help the Poor, Stop Hooch Tragedies

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The Madhya Pradesh government’s excise policy for 2021-22 aims to package country liquor in 90 millilitre bottles so that it becomes affordable to the poor who may skip costlier 180ml bottles and opt for cheaper and possibly spurious liquor, officials said on Saturday. The move to have country liquor in smaller bottles comes after 38 people died drinking illicit liquor in Ujjain and Morena in October and January, they added.

The policy, cleared by the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in its cabinet meeting on Friday, however, has put on hold plans to sell liquor online, unlike neighbouring Chhattisgarh which recently became the 12th state where people can purchase alcohol in this mode. “As per the new policy, liquor companies must pack 10 per cent of their production in 90ml bottles. Country liquor used to come in 180 ml packs, which some of the poor consumers may not have been able to afford and there was the risk of them turning towards cheaper and possibly spurious liquor,” an official explained.

“The 90 ml bottle may be more affordable as it will come at half the price of a quarter,” he added. The new excise policy will come into effect from June 1 and will be in force for just 10 months, the months of April and May having been “dry ones” due to the corona curfew in place, officials pointed out.

Under the new policy, licence fee of outlets has been hiked by 10 per cent to tide over excise losses brought about by the coronavirus-induced restrictions, they added. “The closure of liquor outlets has affected business by some Rs 32 crore daily,” MP Excise Commissioner Rajeev Dubey told PTI.

Corona curfew is in force in MP since April 20.

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Kid Reporter, Who Asked Obama to be His ‘Homeboy’ in Interview at White House, Dies at 23

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The student reporter who gained national acclaim when he interviewed President Barack Obama at the White House in 2009 has died of natural causes, his family says. Damon Weaver was 23 when he died on May 1, his sister, Candace Hardy, told the Palm Beach Post. Further details were not released. He had been studying communications at Albany State University in Georgia.

Weaver was 11 when he interviewed Obama for 10 minutes in the Diplomatic Room on August 13, 2009, asking questions that focused primarily on education. He covered school lunches, bullying, conflict resolution and how to succeed.

Weaver then asked Obama to be his “homeboy,” saying then-Vice President Joe Biden had already accepted. “Absolutely,” a smiling Obama said, shaking the boy’s hand. He used that meeting to later interview Oprah Winfrey and athletes like Dwyane Wade.

This May 23, 2016 file photo shows Royal Palm Beach High School student Damon Weaver during his high school graduation in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP)

“He was just a nice person, genuine, very intelligent,” Hardy said. “Very outspoken, outgoing. He never said no to anybody.”

Weaver got his start in fifth grade when he volunteered for the school newscast at K.E. Cunningham/Canal Point Elementary in a farm community on the shores of Lake Okeechobee.

“Damon was the kid who ran after me in the hall to tell me he was interested,” his teacher, Brian Zimmerman, told the Post in 2016. “And right away, I just saw the potential for the way he was on camera. You could see his personality come through. He wasn’t nervous being on camera.”

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