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JUNE 2021

South Asia Times Vol.18 I No. 10 I JUNE 2021 I FREE s o u t hasiat im es.com .au

CELEBRATiNG 18TH YEAR OF PUBLICATION

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PGs 2,3

COMMUNITY



VEWPOINT

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SOUTH ASIA

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HINDI PUSHP

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SPORTS

South Asia Times

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Editor: Neeraj Nanda I M: 0421 677 082 I Add: PO Box 465, Brentford Square, Victoria 3131

Cricket Australia appoints Nick Hockley as CEO

WHO renames SARS-CoV-2 variants as Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta…

.......Read on page 18

.......Read on page 20

Could a simple pill beat COVID-19? Pfizer is giving it a go .......Read on page 4

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EDITORIAl PAGE

South Asia Times

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JUNE 2021

Understanding why, when and how Australia promotes human rights in Asia By Melissa Conley Tyler

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here are two negative stereotypes about Australia and human rights in Asia. One is that Australia is a moralising Western country that lectures others on human rights despite its own shameful record.

The other is that Australia is an amoral pragmatist that stays quiet to cosy up to governments that abuse the human rights of their peoples. Both stereotypes can be seen in how Australia is viewed in Asia. Recent Chinese commentary on Australia’s moralising and hypocrisy recalls earlier views from Indonesia, while Australia has been criticised for not speaking up on the coup in Myanmar exactly as it previously was regarding Thailand. Neither stereotype is completely true but at the same time, neither is completely false. To make sense of this, we need to understand how Australia’s promotion of human rights fits into its wider foreign policy and the different techniques it uses. This gives a fuller sense of Australia’s human rights promotion in Asia—and the models it can potentially use. Australia does care about human rights Contrary to the stereotype

of being an uncaring country, human rights is an explicit part of Australia’s foreign policy. Australia is an original signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and party to the seven core human rights treaties; it advocates for their consistent and comprehensive implementation as one of its stated foreign policy aims. Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne explains this in terms of Australia’s own self-interest, recognising that respect for human rights underpins global peace and prosperity: ‘.. countries that respect and promote their citizens’ rights at home tend also to be better international citizens…. overwhelmingly, free and self-governed people behave better towards each other and the rest of the world.’ This means that when Australia encourages other countries to respect human rights, its efforts support a stable international system. In Asia, Australia has a selfinterest in well-governed countries that contribute to prosperity and security in the region coupled with a belief that this is also in these countries’ own interests: that is, that they will be more successful in meeting their peoples’ needs if they respect human rights. It presents its work as capacity-

building. Australia does not see any conflict between respecting other countries’ sovereignty and promoting universal human rights. In the minister’s words: ‘Australia recognises the sovereignty of nations… Speaking our minds does not constitute interference in another country. That’s why we have used our [2018-2020] membership of the Human Rights Council to raise concern about human rights violations in, for example, Saudi Arabia including the murder in Turkey of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It’s why we’ve made the plight of Rohingya people forced to flee their homes in Rakhine state, Myanmar, a human rights priority in our region. And it’s why we’ve released a national strategy for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty. We have also addressed the treatment of the Uighur people in Xinjiang in China. And I will continue to advocate strongly for fair and transparent treatment for Australians overseas, for example for Dr Yang Jun in China…. We will not surprise any country by advocating consistently for human rights.’ That the minister is a true believer in democracy and human rights is evident throughout her career. And the national interests she describes are long-standing. Australia genuinely believes

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that the world is a better place if human rights are widely respected. This can be seen most clearly in Australia’s contribution to the multilateral system of human rights, most recently through serving on the Human Rights Council. Of course, Australia is much more than just government, with a range of actors including Australian international NGOs, local NGOs, universities, business chambers, legal professional bodies, media and more all also having a role in promoting human rights. This challenges the stereotype that Australia is uncaring. Australia clearly places promoting human rights as one of its foreign policy aims. Australia has a range of interests However, promoting human rights is not Australia’s only foreign policy aim. Australia has three core interests: in its security, its prosperity and in global cooperation. Global cooperation includes maintaining the international system through what has variously been described as good international citizenship, creative middle power diplomacy and contributing to a rulesbased international order. CONTD. ON PG 3


EDITORIAl PAGE

JUNE 2021

South Asia Times

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Understanding why, when and... CONTD. FROM PG 2

being done because it is important to bear witness and to affirm universal support for human rights. Charges of hypocrisy are beside the point: it cannot be left just to countries that have a perfect human rights record, as there aren’t any. All countries need to call out egregious abuses, even while not always complying themselves.

So, in pursuing its foreign policy, Australia has to balance these various interests. When dealing with a country where Australia has few other interests, it can decide to advocate strongly on human rights without fearing repercussions. This was the case with Myanmar prior to the (currently stalled) democratisation process. During this period there were very few links—with almost no trade and minimal security implications—so it cost little for Australia to focus on human rights and denounce a pariah regime for its demonstrable failings. By contrast, with a country like Indonesia, Australia has massive interests in security and stability that outweigh most other considerations. Scholar Dr Ken Setiawan has outlined how over decades human rights have been on the periphery of Australia-Indonesia relations. Australia has remained quiet on human rights issues—including mass killings and detentions in 1965 and Indonesia’s policies in West Papua and East Timor—due to national security and geopolitical considerations, such as fears of communism or instability. Australia has been most active in its advocacy on the death penalty, mainly due to domestic pressure to intervene in consular cases where Australians have been arrested for drug offences. From its side, Indonesia has viewed human rights as a source of potential conflict and risk to the bilateral relationship.

Universal adherence to human rights is an aspiration which all countries fail to meet in full. Peer support is a model that encourages countries to try to live up to these expectations, and encourages others to help keep them honest and offer support and ideas. It may be dissatisfying compared to the clarity of condemnation, but in some areas it may help improve human rights compliance.

Venezuela and Yemen. It is lower cost for Australia to take a strong position on human rights in North Korea than it is on human rights in India. This means that Australia will sometimes fit the stereotype of a moraliser that lectures others, and at other times may decide to stay quiet due to other interests. Australia can use a range of techniques

China is an interesting case where there are significant security and trade interests at play but Australia has decided to denounce human rights abuses anyway. In this case, domestic politics is another factor to consider.

Australia may also sometimes seem to stay quiet when it is working behind the scenes. It has a number of tools it can use to promote human rights. At a multilateral level, Australia can promote and support multilateral treaties and declarations, multilateral institution-building and minilateral advocacy. Often these efforts aim to improve human rights implementation in many countries rather than singling one out.

The reality of Australia’s different interests means that there will inevitably be some selectivity in its promotion of human rights, where it is tougher on some countries than others. In 2020 Australia released 20 formal statements regarding human rights abuses which related to Belarus, China (detained Australians, Hong Kong and Xinjiang), Iran, Israel, Myanmar, North Korea, Qatar, Russia, Syria,

At a bilateral level, Australia can also use a range of techniques. Declarations denouncing human rights abuses and the imposition of sanctions may be satisfying (particularly for domestic audiences) but they are only one technique and not always the most likely to be effective. Australia has also used a range of engagement techniques aimed at improving human rights compliance, including

judicial training, prison training and study tours. The calculation is that by engaging rather than simply condemning, Australia is more likely to get better results. Training has formed a large part of these efforts based on the idea of norms socialisation, or acculturation into human rights norms. In some cases this has led to significant new human rights infrastructure, such as Australia’s work with the Asia Pacific Forum on National Human Rights Institutions which led to the formation of Myanmar’s Human Rights Committee. There are two dangers to a norms socialisation model. First, that human rights become seen as Western imports rather than as universal obligations agreed to by all states. Second, that the model embeds an idea that Australia is the leader and other countries should learn from it. Once countries ‘develop’ and are less minded to accept a tutelage relationship, they may refuse to participate. This is what seems to have occurred with the AustraliaChina Human Rights Dialogue which has not taken place since 2014. A peer support model An alternative to norms socialisation is a model based on more equal dialogue. This potentially

offers a way forward to break down both stereotypes about Australia. A good example is the Australia-Viet Nam Human Rights Dialogue which started under a tutelage model, but has continued and changed into a more equal sharing where both countries talk about the challenges they are facing in implementing human rights and what they are trying to do about it. So in the dialogue in 2019, Australia talked about its royal commissions into aged care, treatment of people with disabilities and child sexual abuse. Vietnam talked about its legal reform process, particularly recent adoption of new legislation related to human rights, and its plans to revise its Labour Code to comply with International Labour Organization Conventions. Critics will say that neither talked about some of each countries’ egregious abuses, which is true. What’s interesting is the degree of openness to share what each government is grappling with and seek support. Peer support could never be the only technique used to promote human rights. There is still a role for declaratory denunciations, for example in cases of large-scale human rights abuses. In this case, the condemnation is not being made because it will necessarily lead to a change in behaviour; it is

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A partnership approach based on peer support breaks down stereotypes about Australia. It shows that Australia is not a hypocritical moraliser; it is a country that engages in a two-way mutual process and accepts its own fallibility. It shows that Australia does not callously disregard human rights; despite its own imperfections, Australia supports others to strive to meet their universal human rights obligations. International human rights protection is only a very recent invention. For almost all of human history, most people were subject to arbitrary power. It was an enormous advance for humanity to agree on a set of human rights as a touchstone for judging states’ behaviour. This does not mean that human rights are now universal in the sense that they are always respected: the norm is still that they are not. What we have achieved is a common aim, even if there may be differences in interpretation. Understanding human rights as a shared aspiration—one that all countries are failing fully to achieve but should continue to strive for— can help create a sense of common endeavour. Sourcemelbourneasiareview.edu.au (Any views expressed in this article are that of the author and not those of the South Asia Times or the Melbourne Asia Review where it appeared first.) Photo: marisepayne.com


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MEDICINE

South Asia Times

JUNE 2021

Could a simple pill beat COVID-19? Pfizer is giving it a go By Peter Wark*

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hile the focus has been largely on vaccines, you might have also heard Pfizer is trialling a pill to treat COVID-19. It almost sounds too good to be true. Indeed, the results are very preliminary — but it’s a promising approach. Where most antiviral agents we’ve tried to treat COVID-19 target the inflammatory and immune response resulting from infection, Pfizer’s pill directly targets SARS-CoV-2 — the virus itself. Mounting our defence against the virus Much of the illness associated with COVID-19 is due to the intense inflammatory and immune response that can occur with an infection. The most successful treatments so far have targeted this overzealous immune response. Taken early in the disease, the inhaled corticosteroid budesonide has been shown to reduce the development of more severe disease. In people hospitalised with COVID-19 requiring oxygen, the oral corticosteroid dexamethasone reduces the likelihood of death. In the most severe cases — COVID patients admitted to ICU — the anti-inflammatory tocilizumab administered intravenously gives a person a better chance of survival. But these treatments don’t target SARS-CoV-2 itself; just the consequences of infection. Directly targeting the virus has proven to be more difficult. Targeting SARS-CoV-2

A virus like SARS-CoV-2 must enter a host cell to reproduce. It does this using its spike protein (a protein on the virus’ surface) to attach to the cell, and then it uses the cell’s own proteins to gain entry. Once inside the cell, SARSCoV-2 removes its outer coat and releases its viral RNA (ribonucleic acid, a type of genetic material). This acts as a template, allowing the virus to replicate, and then infect other cells. At any point of this life cycle the virus could be vulnerable to an intervention. SARS-CoV-2 carries an enzyme, 3C-like protease (3CLpro), which plays a crucial role in the replication process. This protease is almost identical to the protease used by the SARS-CoV-1 (SARS) virus, and similar to the protease used by the Middle Eastern Respiratory Virus (MERS). So, a drug that could effectively target 3CLpro and prevent virus replication could be beneficial against multiple known coronaviruses, and possibly any that emerge in the future. Protease inhibitors have been successfully used to treat

other viral infections, especially chronic infections such as HIV and hepatitis C. They were put forward early in the pandemic as a possible treatment for COVID-19. But the HIV drug lopinavir-ritonavir was shown in two clinical trials to be ineffective, with drug levels probably too low to work against SARS-CoV-2. While a higher dose might be effective, it would also likely produce more side effects. Scientists also proposed a repurposed antiviral drug, remdesevir, originally developed to treat Ebola. Remdesivir delays the ability of the virus to replicate its RNA. Initial case reports appeared promising and saw the US Food and Drugs Administration approve the drug for emergency use. But the results of randomised controlled trials in hospitalised patients with severe COVID-19 were disappointing. Although there was a reduction in duration of illness for patients who survived, it didn’t significantly reduce a person’s chance of dying. Of course, neither of these agents were designed specifically

PANDEMIC LIFE

Cartoon- @DrPhore

PHOTO - ANI

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to target SARS-CoV-2. But in 2020, Pfizer/BioNtech identified a small molecule — PF-00835231 — that blocks the SARS-CoV-2 3CLpro protease. It was originally designed against SARS-CoV-1, but the enzyme in the two viruses is almost identical. PF-00835231, both alone and in conjunction with remdesevir, appears to reduce the replication of a range of coronaviruses including SARS-CoV-2 in cells in the lab. It also reduced viral replication in a number of animal models, with no adverse safety signals. But it’s important to note this research hasn’t yet been peer reviewed. What now? Pfizer/BioNtech are taking two drugs to clinical trials for COVID-19: PF-07304814, an intravenous injection for use in patients hospitalised with severe COVID-19 and PF-07321332, an oral agent, or pill, that could potentially be used earlier in the disease. Both are formulations of a 3CLpro inhibitor. These phase 1 trials, which began in March, represent the earliest stage of drug development. These trials select healthy volunteers and use different doses of the drugs to establish their safety. They also look at whether the drugs elicit sufficient responses in the body to indicate they could be effective against SARS-CoV-2. The next step would be phase 2 or 3 trials to see if they improve outcomes in COVID-19. Usually this process takes years, but as the pandemic continues to rage globally, Pfizer says it will do this in a matter of months, if phase 1 trials are successful. The application of antiviral agents in acute COVID-19 has been difficult and unrewarding. Though results are at this stage preliminary, these agents by Pfizer/BioNtech are promising. They could be used early in disease, especially in people poorly protected by vaccination or in those who haven’t been vaccinated. They could also be used as a means of prevention, to contain outbreaks in exposed people. They should be effective against all the SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, as well as against other known and possibly emergent coronaviruses. The Pfizer CEO’s recent suggestion the pill could be available by the end of the year is probably a long shot. But the pandemic has shown us what’s possible in the realm of swift scientific advances, and we’ll watch this space with interest. • Conjoint Professor, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle Source: The Conversation, June 1, 2021 (Under Creative Commons Licence)


G7 STORY

JUNE 2021

South Asia Times

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G7 agree to a global minimum tax rate of 15% for multinationals in the country they operate • G7 Finance ministers strike a seismic agreement on global tax reform that will mean the largest multinational tech giants will pay their fair share of tax in the countries in which they operate. • Following two days of talks chaired by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in London, counterparts agree to reforms that will see multinationals paying tax in the countries where they doing business; • As part of a landmark deal, finance ministers also agree to the principle of a global minimum rate that ensures multinationals pay a tax of at least 15% in each country they operate; • Nations also agree to follow UK’s lead in making climate reporting mandatory and agree on measures to crack down on the proceeds of environmental crimes. By SAT News Desk

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ELBOURNE/ LONDON,5 June 2021: The world’s seven biggest capitalist countries (UK, USA, Canada, Japan, Germany, France, and Italy, plus the EU), the G7 has today (5 June 2021) agreed to back a historic international agreement on global tax reform which delivers on the Chancellor’s promise for big international companies to start paying their fair share. Chairing the G7 Finance Ministers meeting in London, Rishi Sunak rallied his counterparts to work together to tackle the tax challenges that arise from the global digital economy. According to the proposal, the global minimum tax would be levied only on the world’s 100 largest and most profitable companies, reports dw.com. Following years of discussions, finance ministers agreed to reforms that will see multinationals pay their fair share of tax in the countries they do business. They also agreed to the principle of a global minimum rate that ensures multinationals pay a tax of at least 15% in each country they operate in. Ensuring markets play their part in the transition to net-zero, the group also followed the UK’s lead by giving a commitment to make it mandatory for firms to report the climate impact of their investment decisions – and concrete steps to crack down on environmental criminals. Global Tax Reform: During the meeting, Finance Ministers agreed on the principles of an ambitious two Pillar global solution to tackle the tax challenges arising from an increasingly globalized and digital global economy. Under Pillar One of this

historic agreement, the largest and most profitable multinationals will be required to pay tax in the countries where they operate – and not just where they have their headquarters. The rules would apply to global firms with at least a 10% profit margin – and would see 20% of any profit above the 10% margin reallocated and then subjected to tax in the countries they operate. The fairer system will mean the UK will raise more tax revenue from large multinationals and help pay for public services here in the UK. Under Pillar Two, the G7 also agreed to the principle of at least 15% global minimum corporation tax operated on a country by country basis, creating a more level playing field for UK firms and cracking down on tax avoidance. Discussions on the two Pillars have been ongoing for many years – with the Chancellor making securing a global agreement a key priority of the UK’s G7 Presidency. The agreement will now be discussed in further detail at the G20 Financial Ministers & Central Bank Governors meeting in July. Improving climate disclosures: Finance Ministers also accelerated action on environmental issues, following in the UK’s

footsteps by committing for the first time to properly embed climate change and biodiversity loss considerations into economic and financial decision-making. Six years since the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) was created, the UK was instrumental in getting G7 countries to move towards making climate disclosures mandatory across their respective economies. It comes just over six months after the UK led the way by being the first country in the world to commit to do so in November 2020. This is a major step towards ensuring the global financial system plays its part transition to netzero, as investors better understand how firms are managing climate risks and can allocate finance accordingly. A coordinated G7 approach is crucial to avoid inconsistent information across markets and extra red tape, so the Finance Ministers also backed work by the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation to develop a baseline global standard for high-quality, granular sustainability reporting, built from the TCFD framework and work of sustainability standardsetters. Supporting nature and tackling environmental crime: In support of the UK’s work to foster a naturepositive economy, the Finance Ministers welcomed the imminent launch of a task force on nature-related financial disclosures – to mirror the TCFD – and agreed to crack down on the proceeds of environmental crimes by introducing and strengthening central company beneficial ownership registries. The UK was one of the first countries in the world to

introduce a public beneficial ownership registry in 2016. Making beneficial ownership public through these registries helps law enforcement trace ill-gotten gains that are laundered through complex company structures identify who ultimately owns or controls the company and bring the criminals to justice. And the increased transparency will also protect the UK and the rest of the G7 from other criminal threats – like corruption, fraud, and terrorist financing. Support for vulnerable countries: The G7 also committed to continue supporting the poorest and most vulnerable countries as they address health and economic challenges associated with COVID. Building on their milestone backing of $650bn general allocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) earlier this year, Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors called for swift implementation by the end of August. G7 countries also agreed to actively consider voluntarily channeling a proportion of their allocated SDRs to support further health needs, including vaccinations, and help enable greener, more robust economic recoveries in the most affected countries. Tackling debt vulnerabilities and promoting debt transparency is essential in unlocking sustainable and inclusive growth in developing countries. The G7 also committed to publishing the detail of new lending on a loan-byloan basis and hope the G7 leading the way on debt transparency will pave the way for G20 nations and private-sector creditors to do the same.

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The G7 also welcomed the World Bank’s efforts on global health and vaccines and urged them to use their financial firepower to help poor countries obtain vaccines, including through COVAX. The G7 also called on the IMF to ramp up its efforts to finance vaccines and agreed that the private sector, including the pharmaceutical industry, to play their parts more too. In recognition of the need to continue learning lessons from Covid-19, and being prepared for future pandemics, Finance Ministers also agreed to develop new proposals to unlock the market incentives for producing antibiotics to prevent anti-microbial resistance. Finance Ministers agreed that they must act now to secure the health and economic prosperity of citizens across the G7 and that of future generations. Facebook has welcomed the global tax move with its vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg Tweeting, “We welcome the important progress.” Al Jazeera reports Oxfam slammed the deal as inadequate. “It’s absurd for the G7 to claim it is ‘overhauling a broken global tax system’ by setting up a global minimum corporate tax rate that is similar to the soft rates charged by tax havens like Ireland, Switzerland, and Singapore. They are setting the bar so low that companies can just step over it,” Oxfam said. “Stopping the explosion in inequality caused by COVID-19 and tackling the climate crisis will be impossible if corporations continue to pay virtually no tax …. This is not a fair deal.”


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community

South Asia Times

JUNE 2021

Sri Lanka Cuppa Tea on the ‘International Tea Day 2021' refreshing & aromatic M By SAT News Desk

ELBOURNE, 21 May 2021: An evening organized by the Sri Lankan Consulate here and co-sponsored by the SriLanka Tea Board, to mark the International Tea Day, turned out to be refreshingly aromatic. At St. Kilda Road Cinnamon’s Restaurant, while the softspoken Consul General of Sri Lanka Kapila Fonseka welcomed the guests and introduced the subject, the aroma of Sri Lankan tea mesmerized those attentively listening to the virtues of Sri Lankan Tea. Sri Lanka Tea or Ceylon Tea industry was initiated by James Taylor in 1867, a British planter who came in 1852. Since then Sri Lanka Tea is world-famous with an ever-growing fan following. Among the prominent people present to grace the evening included Victoria’s

Sri Lankan origin Craig Ondarchie MP. Addressing the gathering he thanked the Consul General to make people meet with this program. Addressing those gathered S. P. Mohan, Manager Australia & New Zealand SriLankan Airlines explained the situation in the aviation sector and the SriLankan Airlines

work approach during the pandemic and the flight situation. Sri Lanka Cricket Team’s former Captain Dilshan sprung a surprise by introducing the ‘ Dilshan’s Cup of Tea’ (Deavon Tea) Box which is being marketed in Australia and exported to many countries. The beautiful

box has 120 pyramid Tea Bags in six varieties. No doubt the mix of cricket and Tea is a unique blend. Dilshan says, ” Growing up in Sri Lanka means cricket and Tea are part of life. I was lucky to have the chance to follow my passion and to reach so many of my goals in the cricket world. I get to watch

my passion for tea take the stage as I share some of my favorite Ceylon blends with you. I welcome you to have and let me pour you a cup.” The evening of Ceylon Tea, side snacks, a Cricket genious blending with tea, and lovely people on a Friday evening, was a towering tribute to Tea on International Tea Day 2021.

Sydney Town Hall lit up in solidarity with India By SAT News Desk

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he Sydney Town Hall, George Street was beautifully lit up on 29 May 2021 in solidarity with COVOD-hit India facing the deadly second wave. India’s Consul General in Sydney Mr. Manish Gupta was among those present on the occasion. In a Tweet Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said, “India is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis due to the global pandemic, and we know it has deeply affected our city’s Indian community. The City of Sydney offers its sincere condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives as a result of Covid-19 and those who continue to be directly affected by the pandemic in India.”

Photos- The Indian Subcontinent Times, Sydney

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community

JUNE 2021

South Asia Times

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India’s HC to Australia Manpreet Vohra to address ‘State of the Nation 2021' conference By Neeraj Nanda

Australia.

ELBOURNE, 31 May 2021: India’s High Commissioner to Australia, H E Manpreet Vohra will address Australia’s top policy ‘State of the Nation 2021' forum organized by the Committee For Economic Development Of Australia (CEDA) from 23-25 June 2021 in Canberra. Mr. Vohra will speak on Thursday 25 June 2021 under the segment ‘Australia and Asia – what does a mutually beneficial relationship look like?’ Ambassadors of Indonesia and Japan will also address this segment. CEDA’s State of the Nation policy forum has been driving the quality debate about Australia’s economic development for more than 40 years. This year’s forum will focus on key topics for Australia’s future prosperity:

Speakers include: Federal Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Anthony Albanese, Federal Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon. Karen Andrews, Kmart Group Managing Director, Ian Bailey, CSIRO Land and Water Business Unit Director, Jane Coram, Federal Minister for Defence, the Hon. Peter Dutton, BAE Systems Australia Chief Executive Officer, Gabby Costigan Mitchell Institute for Education and Health Policy Professor of Economics, Peter Dawkins AO Author and University College London Chair in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value, Professor Mariana Mazzucato. The full conference will be livestreamed and includes an in-person dinner on 23 June and in-person day program on 24 June at Parliament House.

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H E Manpreet Vohra, India’s High Commissioner to Australia

Australia and Asia · Securing economic dynamism · Future-proofing exports and working with China · Rethinking tertiary education · Getting the cyber balance right

· Defence funding and capability · Sustainable infrastructure · Reforms to drive the circular economy · State Treasurers’ panel – big reform and View from the Opposition.

This conference will bring together Australia’s top decision-makers and experts for face-to-face discussions and interactive live streams on the most pressing policy issues facing

More than 50,000 Australians want Australian Govt. to stop blocking the TRIPS waiver By SAT News Desk

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YDNEY, Ahead of the WTO TRIPS Council meeting, a group of civil society organizations including Amnesty International Australia, GetUp!, NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA, AFTINET, Public Services International, and the Humanism Project gathered outside the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in Sydney today to hand over more than 50,000 signatures in support of fair access for vaccines for all. The Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is an international treaty which regulates intellectual property rights. In October 2020, India, South Africa, Kenya, and Eswatini proposed a temporary waiver on provisions of the TRIPS Agreement due to the ongoing COVID-19 emergency. This waiver would entail the removal of the hefty barriers to

research, creation, and supply, which are large obstacles to the ‘prevention, containment, and treatment of COVID-19. Addressing the gathering Tim O’Connor, Amnesty International Australia Campaigns Manager, said: “Amnesty International is calling on the Australian government to stop blocking the TRIPs waiver and not put big pharma

ahead of people. Australia has a vital role to play in the equal access of vaccines, particularly in our region. We want Australia to be the good global citizen when it comes to promoting and defending human rights, especially in the time of COVID-19.” Dr. Haroon Kasim from The Humanism Project said: “We urge the Australian government to recognize

their human rights obligations, recognize the right to health and life for all, stop blocking a consensus decision on TRIPS waiver and support developing states to more readily protect themselves and their citizens from this raging pandemic. The right to health and life should be the most important consideration in these decisions.”

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d91f8912-4543-4e50-bc40afe32d027496 Paul Oosting, GetUp National Director, said: “It’s abhorrent that Australia is one of twelve member states blocking this lifesaving proposal. Over 50,000 people have signed petitions to demand the Morrison Government stand with people and not profits for big pharmaceutical companies. The COVID-19 vaccine waiver is more than just intellectual property – it’s a matter of life and death.” Others who addressed those gathered were Kate Lee, APHEDA EO, Michael Whaites, Manager – Public Health Organising Team, NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, and Dr. Patricia Ranald, convener of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network. Today’s action was supported by Amnesty International Australia, Getup, The Humanist Project, ACTU, AFTINET, PSI, and the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network. Photo- Supplied.


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COMMUNITY

South Asia Times

JUNE 2021

PM Scott Morrison visits Shri Shiva Vishnu temple By SAT News Desk

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ELBOURNE, 20 May 2021: PM Scott Morrison and Minister Jason Wood yesterday (19 May 2021) paid a visit to the Shri Shiva Vishnu Temple, Carrum Downs. The PM and the Minister were welcomed by the temple authorities and invited devotees. A cultural program was organized to welcome the guests. The guests went around the temple and the PM addressed the gathering. In his address, the PM acknowledged the “Hindu, Sikh, Gujarati, Tamil, Malayali and Indian and Sri Lankan community and temple leaders from all around Victoria” and the leaders of “the other faiths who have joined” the function at the temple. He said, “When I talk about multiculturalism in Australia I often talk about it in the, as if in the context of masala. And you’ll think about a masala, a wonderful masala and how it brings together all the different spices and the smells and the colours.

And they all come together, the different tastes, the bitter and the sweet, and then it makes something as you taste it, and you smell, and the aroma is something wonderful. And then you mix it in with your onions, and your chillies and your garlic, and I’m looking forward to the cooking. And it creates something absolutely magnificent. And this is, I think, a wonderful metaphor of what multiculturalism is in this country. And in particular, I think what the Hindu community and Sikh communities and so many

other communities of faith bring to this country.” About India, the PM said, “The tragedy that we see in particular in India, at the moment, and throughout the developing world, is so hard. It is so hard to see occurring. And for so many of our family and friends caught up in what is a terrible humanitarian tragedy, all I can say is that Australia will continue to do all we can to provide support to our friends, not just in India, but in other places where we know that we can provide some support. Our consular

staff is providing support right now to roughly 11,000 Australians who are registered to return to Australia, including 970 who we know are particularly vulnerable. But over the course of the pandemic, more than 20,000 Australians we’ve been able to bring home from India, 20,000. And that has included almost 40 facilitated flights to bring Australians who have been in India back home to safety here. But we know it’s not just the Australian citizens and residents and direct

family members that you have concerns for. I know that your concerns go far broader than that, and they go to the Indian people more broadly. And that is why that Australia has continued to provide support. We’ve now had our second assistance flight that has gone to India, carrying oxygen concentrators and ventilators and personal protection equipment, and all of these supports. And as I’ve spoken to other leaders around the world, as well, they have equally, they have equally been wanting to provide that support.”

Stuck in the pandemic & confused how to celebrate ‘Raksha Bandhan’ 2021? – Here we are! By SAT News Desk

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ELBOURNE, 24 May 2021: Raksha Bandhan is almost knocking at our doors, but we all are stuck in this pandemic. Protection, safety and long life are the reasons behind celebrating Raksha Bandhan. So, to maintain safety and protect our loved ones, people are shifting towards online Raksha Bandhan celebrations with their siblings. We understand how difficult it becomes to stay away from your sibling on this special day. But don’t worry because we have decided to help you with the online Raksha Bandhan celebration 2021. Many siblings have been celebrating Raksha Bandhan while staying miles apart from each other. By ordering online Rakhi and doing video calls or calls and celebrating their special day.

You can also order Rakhi online with exclusive designs, patterns for your brother from a portal rakhi.com. Whether your brother stays in India or abroad, rakhi.com delivers door to door Rakhi with proper safety and precautions. Are you looking for different types of Rakhi? Here we have so many! It is impossible to go out in the market and look for a Rakhi for your brother, especially during this pandemic. So, we have decided to bring a whole new variety of Rakhi to

you! You can select your favourite Rakhi and order it with a few simple clicks sitting at the comfort of your home. Whether you are looking for a Swastik Rakhi, Rudraksh Rakhi, Om Rakhi, Pearl Rakhi or Silver Rakhi we have many. If you have a younger brother and are planning to surprise him with a cartoon Rakhi, you can check our Kids Rakhi collection. From Superman Rakhi to Motu Patlu to Ben 10 to Dora Dora, your name; we have it. We have traditional Rajasthani Rakhi to fancy

and modern ones; you can get them at an affordable price. Now, you don’t have to feel sad as we offer you on-time delivery of your Rakhi to your brother with proper precautions. If your brother stays abroad then, we deliver Rakhi to New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and other different parts of the world. All you have to do is select your favourite Rakhi, order it, and we will deliver it to your brother in the given time frame. Get ready and do a video to your brother and ask someone to perform rituals on your behalf. Don’t let distance kill your Raksha Bandhan vibe. Raksha Bandhan gift ideas for sisters from Rakhi.com Want to plan a special surprise for your sister, who you cannot meet due to a pandemic? Here are a few suggestions to make your sister feel special! We have stunning jewellery pieces like a

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bracelet, pendant, earring, neckpiece and many more. There is a good collection of chocolate hampers, sweet boxes, flowers. From Nestle to Cadbury to Ferrer Rocher to choose from. You can also order a customised Rakhi cake to surprise your sister. There are customised gifts for brother or sister like a mug, cushion, frame, keychain and many more varieties. Relive your childhood memories or cheer the weird memories that you share with your sibling. We all understand Raksha Bandhan is the most special day in the life of every sibling but maintaining safety and precaution is also important. So, let’s celebrate Raksha Bandhan 2021 with Rakhi.com even when the pandemic is hitting us hard. Remember, we are here for you! Enjoy your Raksha Bandhan! - Supplied


JUNE 2021

VIEWPOINT

South Asia Times

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A religious symbol, not a knife: at the heart of the NSW kirpan ban is a battle to define secularism By Renae Barker*

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he New South Wales government has put a temporary ban on Sikh students carrying a kirpan in public schools. The kirpan is a ceremonial dagger baptised Sikhs carry to symbolise their duty to stand up against injustice. The ban was put in place after a 14-year-old boy used a kirpan to stab a 16-year-old at a high school in Sydney. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said “students shouldn’t be allowed to take knives to school under any circumstances”. But framing the controversy as whether or not students should be allowed to take knives to school oversimplifies a complex issue. This issue is not just about knives in schools. It is also about what it means to be a secular school in a multicultural and multi-faith Australia. Denied the ability to practise their faith There is a long history of controversy over wearing religious symbols in Australian schools, both religious and secular. In 2017 the family of a Sikh boy launched legal action against his school after the Christian college banned the boy from wearing a patka (a turban worn by children). The Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal later ruled the school breached the Equal Opportunity Act. In 2018 the Secular Party of Australia brought a case against the Victorian education department alleging the department had discriminated against a child by permitting her to wear “religious style clothing that covered her body, leaving only her face and hands exposed”. The case failed. And in 2019 a Western Australian Catholic high school banned a Hindu girl from attending class after she had her nose pierced for cultural and religious reasons. After six weeks and many meetings, the school appeared to back down and allow the student back to class. While some of these cases occurred in private and specifically religious schools, they all raise the same issue — to what extent do we accommodate the religious beliefs and practices of minority groups in our community? In NSW, section 11C of the Summary Offences Act 1988 makes it an offence to carry a knife in a public place or school. The act provides a number of exceptions such as for the preparation of food, or for recreation or sport. Carrying a knife for “genuine religious purposes” is also an exception. This exception is currently under review by the NSW government. In the meantime, a temporary ban has been put in place. As a result, Sikh

school children are being denied the ability to fully practise their faith. What is a secular country? Controversies like the kirpan ban often occur due to a fundamental disagreement about what a secular education looks like. Western secular democracies have taken two different approaches. Australia’s government school system is secular. This does not mean it is, nor should be, religion free. Instead, Australian secular education means a space where religion is one of many options. Countries that conform to this version of secularism are religiously plural. In France, secular education means it is religion free. Since 2004 all religious symbols have been banned from state schools. The aim is to create a religiously neutral environment that supports state secularism. Canada, South Africa and the United Kingdom have adopted a similar approach as Australia. In these countries, secularism means to permit, or even encourage, the expression of multiple faiths in schools to various degrees. The aim is to create a multicultural environment. The kirpan is fundamentally a religious symbol. It is one of five markers of faith worn by baptised Sikhs, including kesh (unshorn hair symbolising respect for God’s will). Wearing the kirpan is not optional for baptised Sikhs. The kirpan is similar to the hijab worn by some Muslim women, the kippah worn by Jewish men or the cross or crucifix worn by some Christians. As the Supreme Court of Canada put it, describing the kirpan as a knife is “indicative of a simplistic view of freedom of religion”. Banning the kirpan because it resembles a knife heads Australia down a path of religion-free schools. This would be inconsistent with Australia’s commitment to multiculturalism.

schools more generally need to find ways to safely accommodate this important religious symbol. This does not mean there should be no restrictions. In 2006 the Supreme Court of Canada found that a school had discriminated against a Sikh boy when it banned him from wearing his kirpan. A fundamental part of the court’s decision was there were alternatives available to the school. The student was prepared to accept restrictions on how he wore

There are other options besides a ban Instead of an outright ban, the NSW government and Australian www.southasiatimes.com.au - 0421 677 082

his kirpan to ensure it could not be used as a weapon. The restrictions included wearing it enclosed in a wooden sheath sewn inside a cloth envelope, which must itself be attached to a shoulder strap worn under the student’s clothing. Similar restrictions could be implemented in Australia. The current debate about the kirpan in schools is an opportunity to educate both school children and the wider public about Australia’s secular multicultural society. As the Constitutional Court of South Africa noted in a case about wearing nose studs for religious and cultural reasons: “Granting exemptions will also have the added benefit of inducting the learners into a multi-cultural South Africa where vastly different cultures exist side-by-side.” Allowing kirpans, and other symbols of faith, to be worn in Australian schools is an important part of a multicultural secular education. *Senior Lecturer, The University of Western Australia Source: The Conversation, May 26, 2021


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SOUTH ASIA

South Asia Times

JUNE 2021

Once upon a time in Lakshadweep… Almost everything on an island must be brought from elsewhere. People of Lakshadweep only want the mainland to not ship its problems to their tranquil isles. By Ron Bastian

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hy don’t we go to Lakshadweep?’ my brotherin-law Noush asked. That is how it began, a six-month string of phone calls, frequent visits to the Lakshadweep Administrative Authority Office at Willington Island, and talks with officers just to get a permit to travel to the island. When we would get a permit, no tickets were available. If tickets were available, the permits would have expired... What Actor Prithviraj said after shooting for Anarkali is true in letter and spirit, “You can go anywhere in the world, but if you want to go to Lakshadweep, it’s not that easy.” But our toil and moil finally bore fruit as we got a permit to visit Kavaratti island and tickets for MV Corals, a cruise ship that was recently dedicated to the nation, at the same time. My wife Sabeena, our daughter Charu Gulnar, Sabeena’s mother, brother, sister-inlaw, their kids, my cousin Adarsh and I were at the passenger terminal at noon and in our reserved bunks soon after. The economy class on a Lakshadweep cruise is more or less like a 2AC compartment on a train. OK, to be frank, it is a whole lot better than a train in terms of berth space and cleanliness. (A bunk is at the bottom of the cruise ship.) As departure was delayed, we rested, and I fell asleep. Suddenly, Noush and Adarsh woke me, saying the ship had cast off. I took it for a prank at first, but when I peered into the bullseye—they were right! We were in the middle of the Arabian sea; the very first sea voyage of our life had begun. After seventeen hours in the company of dolphins flashing past, we reached Kavaratti in the wee hours. It was fascinating to see civilisation emerge, seemingly out of nowhere, in the form of bulbs glowing within homes. Later, I set out for the local store for supplies. An amused storekeeper heard me demand the very first— innocuous—item on my list: Bananas. He told me that a primary aspect of survival on the island is that bananas go to those diligent customers who have

booked them in advance, maybe a week earlier. So, except coconut and fish, almost all essentials arrive from the mainland in ships or Manchus (small cargo vessels). Nearly everything on the island costs twice its price on the continent. The second surprise came within no time. When we asked the homeowner we were renting from for a lock and key before we step out on our first day in Lakshadweep, he could not stop laughing. He said nobody on these islands locks their homes. On Minicoy island, even doors are not that common. Curtains are considered more than sufficient. Thieves and robbers are fairy-tale characters as far as the islanders are concerned. Later, to our solace, we came across a locked building while we crisscrossed Kavaratti. It was the Lakshadweep Jail! Locals told us it remains mostly closed as inmates are rare since the crime rate is very low. Only three or four murders are recorded in the history of Lakshadweep, some of them attributed to mental illness. While going to a seaside eatery for breakfast, we saw one of the magnificent sights ever: a picturesque turquoise lagoon. The water was calm and clear. We swam and played in the sea without a worry about giant waves swallowing us, for there were none. It was like a thousand splendid swimming pools had combined just for us. No other swimmers were around. Then came a call from Abdulla Koya, a government officer whom we had met on ship,

inviting us to tea. In the backyard of his beachside house, we experienced the unique delicacies and hospitality of the island. In the neighbourhood, we saw young people practising a traditional art form with great vigour as they prepared to perform at the coming Republic Day celebrations at Kavaratti. On the following day was a get-together at the house of Yazar Arafat, a scubadiving trainer who happened to be the canteen manager of the ship. We realised these warm welcomes were not exceptions. Invitations poured in on almost every day we spent there. As we were guests, we got served vegetable dishes exclusively, though fish is available aplenty. (“Rarity gives a charm...”). Scubadiving in the company of

multicoloured lagoon fish was another charm we experienced. We have travelled much, but no other place remains so close to the heart. Our acquaintances in Lakshadweep have grown into friendships. When we think of the islands, only serenity and happiness come to mind. Yet, recently, we reminisced about those days for all the wrong reasons. The recent standoff between the newly-appointed Administrator and the people of Lakshadweep has seriously damaged peaceful life on the island cluster. The Administrator has kicked off a controversy with a series of “reforms” including the decision to implement the Goonda Act! The moves have raised plenty of eyebrows as even skirmishes are infrequent on these islands,

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let alone organised crime. The forced closure of dairy farms has compelled people to buy milk powder, which is being shipped from Gujarat. I learned that not a drop of milk is available on Lakshadweep even as the Administrator unilaterally decided to lift restrictions on alcohol consumption. The air ambulance facility has also been curbed. A draft regulation envisages high-end “development” by earmarking areas for buildings, quarrying, mining, national highways, arterial roads, ring roads, major streets, railways, tramways, airports, the list goes on. All this is to happen on a tiny, thickly-populated and ecologically fragile tropical archipelago. The largest of the inhabited islands is Androth, with a landmass of 4.9 square km and a high population density of 2,312 per sq km. Curiously, the administration is talking about highways and ring roads for a place where the usual mode of transport is bicycles, motorcycles and auto-rickshaws and where fuel is supplied once a month and is rationed at somewhere near 5 litres per month. There are allegations that the so-called development plan is a ploy to usurp the eco-region from the people and hand it over to corporate interests, as happened in Daman and Diu. In the evenings, on this sublime coral isle, youngsters regularly ride their motorbikes through narrow concrete lanes and head towards the edges of the island. Until sunset, they gaze at the infinity beyond the vast seas. Their world ends here, everything they have is here—the rest is on the mainland. Public opinion on the island and the continent is definitely in favour of the people and their isles. Let us hope a just solution awaits on the horizon that the youngsters stare into every evening. Let it be so and the blue lagoon returns to its delightful tranquillity. The author is a lawyer practising in the High Court of Kerala. He is currently a government pleader and has practised at the Supreme Court. The views are personal. Source- Newsclick, 29 May 2021


SOUTH ASIA

JUNE 2021

South Asia Times

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How getting a Vaccine in India is a ‘Privilege’ especially for those in rural areas

Indian states have been left to compete with each other in the global market for vaccine procurement. Photo- ANI

By Ruhi Bhasin

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f the month of April was marked by images of endless rows of burning funeral pyres from major Indian cities, the images of floating bodies in the Ganges River near the north Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in May were a grim reminder of the unchecked spread of the virus in rural India where a majority of Indians, without access to basic health care, vaccines or infrastructure, have been fighting the virus. The second surge of the virus in India has wreaked havoc in the largely unconnected and inaccessible rural areas, and according to an analysis by Down to Earth, these areas have accounted for “more than half of India’s… COVID-19 deaths” in April. There is not only a lack of information and facilities provided by the government to the rural population on how to protect themselves against the virus but also a lack of access to medical facilities or even vaccines, which had led to the rural areas being left completely vulnerable to the virus. In India, efforts to vaccinate enough people to create the much-needed herd immunity and manage the number of infections and deaths in the country during the second wave have been marked by confusion and a lack of planning by the government, especially the BJP-led government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the center that has mostly left it to the states to figure out how to vaccinate their residents. The result is that vaccinations have become a privilege that seems mostly unattainable by the poor and marginalized populations of the country. According to a doctor that I spoke with, Dr. Harjit Singh Bhatti, “it is mostly a privilege vaccine meant for the rich and influential… the system is anti-rural and antipoor.” The question those working on the ground in India are asking is how the vaccines will reach people, especially the poor—

who in most cases have no access to the internet or do not have the digital know-how to book vaccine appointments. And even those with internet access and tech-savviness still face the difficulty of trying to register for a vaccine on the government’s CoWIN website, which is reported to be difficult to navigate and subject to technical glitches and long wait times. The Privilege of Getting Vaccinated Dr. Bhatti works in a private hospital in New Delhi where he has been responsible for treating COVID-19 patients. While treating them, one thing became clear to him: the system wasn’t set up to treat the poor and the marginalized. To help this section of society, he and some other doctors have started an initiative, DoctorsonRoad for rural India, to help create awareness about COVID-19 and vaccines and also provide basic facilities for rural Indians to fight the virus. Bhatti says India’s vaccine rollout is mostly meant for the privileged and that “the system wasn’t set up for the poor people who have to walk 100 kilometers to access health care. The irony of the situation is that, even when they reach [health care

facilities], there isn’t any help available because these centers in rural areas don’t have the requisite resources or manpower or are not operational,” says Bhatti, who is also the national president of Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum. According to him, there is a lack of adequate testing taking place in rural areas, which contributes to the undercounting of cases. Furthermore, even if the tests do take place, the results can come seven to ten days later, and Bhatti says that by then a patient may have passed away from the virus—but these deaths are not included in the official COVID-19 death count due to the lag in test results. “The vaccination policy wasn’t meant for the poor, underprivileged and those living in rural areas. Look at the government’s intention. There are two vaccine manufacturers [the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech], and Sputnik V will be manufactured by Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories for about Rs 1,000 [almost $13], and we don’t know what price they will eventually sell it for and if the [state or central] governments who procure it will bear the entire cost for it. Can a middle-class or a poor family of five in India afford to pay so much for vaccinations when they

don’t have a livelihood due to lockdowns? The system is anti-rural and anti-poor,” he says. In an interview with the Economic Times published on May 15, Dr. Anurag Agarwal, the director of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research’s Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology and the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics, said, “Vaccination levels… [in rural areas] are not going to be good… I am not adequately informed to comment on the rural side, in terms of personal direct knowledge or insight or access to data. I know that India has very large hinterlands, I know that facilities there are very poor. Just like any other rational person, I would worry about rural India.” Talking about the lack of awareness about how to treat the virus, Bhatti says, “There is no proper death registration in rural areas, and no proper diagnosis of the virus is taking place, so many of the deaths due to the virus are not counted into the figures.” He adds that many people living in rural areas and slums in urban centers don’t have access to masks and soap and don’t know how to isolate a person who has been infected. For most of

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them, isolation is a privilege they cannot afford, with many family members living together in a small room. In Manipur, a hilly state in northeastern India, Sadam Hanjabam and his team from Ya All, a nonprofit organization working with the youth and the LGBTQI community, have been trying to organize medical aid for people there through crowdfunding. He talks about the difficulty in getting to a medical facility in the face of an emergency and the lack of clarity on vaccines. “The medical clinics—which in most cases are privately owned—are located in the city center, and to get there, people in rural areas have to take some sort of public transport. But during lockdowns, public transportation is not available, and getting medical help in such a scenario is increasingly becoming a challenge.” In India, while there is no national lockdown in place presently, various states have implemented lockdown measures. Hanjabam talks of the stigma attached to getting sick with COVID-19, leading to many in rural areas hiding the fact that they are sick. “This is accounting for the rise in deaths.” “I am not vaccinated. We were told that vaccinations for [people age] 18 and above would be available by May 17, but very few slots are available [in Imphal, Manipur]. I don’t think I will be vaccinated anytime this year,” he adds. “The vaccination centers are also not properly managed. The crowding at these centers by people waiting to get vaccinated has led to fear of getting infected by the virus from visits to these vaccination centers,” says Hanjabam. According to him, since there are very few shots available per center, those in rural areas who don’t know how to book appointments have already lost hope of getting vaccinated. CONTD. ON PG 12


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How getting a Vaccine in India... CONTD. FROM PG 11 Prime Minister Modi, meanwhile, issued a press release on May 15 and “asked for augmentation of healthcare resources in rural areas to focus on door to door testing and surveillance.” According to Down to Earth, while more than “65 percent of India lives in rural districts, as per the World Bank… only 37 percent of beds in government hospitals are in rural India, according to the National Health Profile 2019.” In urban India, the situation is no better. Ambalika Banerjjee, a senior lawyer who lives in Mumbai, has been trying to book an appointment to get vaccinated for most of May. “Why did the government open up the vaccinations for all adults if they didn’t have sufficient vaccinations?” Banerjjee says. “I have been spending three to four hours to get an appointment without much success. The CoWIN website is hard to navigate because you can’t move away from your laptop for a moment, otherwise you have to start the login process again. The right to a vaccine is a right of every citizen; instead, it is being treated as a privilege. I am willing to pay up to Rs 900 ($12) for a shot [administered through a

private hospital]. It’s not even like it is being provided for free,” says Banerjjee. The pricing of the vaccines depends on many factors including a person’s age, the type of hospital it was administered by (whether public or private), and the way in which it was procured (whether it was purchased by the center, state, or private sector, and which vaccine manufacturer sold it). The Reality of the Vaccine Rollout India started its vaccination drive in mid-January, offering it to the priority groups of frontline and health care workers. The second phase saw the vaccination of people 60 years and over and those between 45 and 59 with underlying health conditions. By April 1, vaccination had opened up to all people 45 years and above, and by May 1, the country opened up registration for vaccinations to all adults over 18, in spite of facing vaccine shortages. In fact, many states have had to shut down vaccination centers in May with the shortage persisting. Currently, the center is responsible for providing the states with 50 percent of all COVID-19 vaccine doses produced by two private Indian manufacturers: Bharat Biotech,

which, along with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology, developed Covaxin; and the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, which is producing Covishield (licensed from AstraZeneca). The center bought 50 percent of the vaccine supply to offer it to states for free, leaving the other 50 percent up to states and private hospitals to buy directly from the manufacturers. Out of the 25 percent of the vaccines being procured by private hospitals, however, “very little” is reaching the rural areas, according to an analysis by the Times of India. The crippling shortage of vaccines, meanwhile, has forced state governments to float global tenders for the procurement of vaccines, resulting in states being pitched against one another to ensure that their citizens are inoculated. Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has pointed out in a tweet how this procurement strategy portrays a “bad image” of the country, saying that the process should be centralized instead. If the global community of vaccine manufacturers and countries had been approached by a united “‘India’ rather than individual states, our bargaining power” would be much greater, he further tweeted, because the central government “has much more diplomatic space to negotiate with their countries.” Indeed, Pfizer and Moderna have reportedly refused to “deal with [the] Indian states for vaccines.” India’s vaccination program is hamstrung by its lack of centralization twofold—not only by how successful the central, state, and private sector are in procuring the vaccines, but also in the pricing offered by manufacturers to each buyer. Manufacturers are quoting different prices for the vaccines to the central government, state government and private hospitals. India’s highest court has questioned the “rationale” behind this “differential vaccine pricing.” The center while responding to this has maintained that “the difference in the prices fixed for Central government, state governments and private market are because of the volumes sought by them,” Business Today reports. While the majority of states have decided to provide free vaccines to adults, those getting a shot from a private hospital will most likely have to pay out of their own pocket, even as most countries have made vaccination free for their citizens. Talking about the implications of the differential pricing or the increase in prices for vaccines being provided to state governments and private hospitals, economist R. Ramakumar told Firstpost in an interview, “It will have major

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implications in the way that it will push and exclude millions of poor people in India out of access to this health measure.” The central government, while facing pressure on vaccinations, has come up with a new plan where it claims that it will have 2 billion vaccines available between August and December to vaccinate the whole population by the end of 2021, which seems ambitious to say the very least. How Lack of Action Has Cost Lives As of June 1, 3.3 percent of India’s population was fully vaccinated as against 40.7 percent of the population in the U.S. or 10.5 percent of the population in Brazil. India is reporting around 3,000 deaths per day and is second only to the U.S. in the total number of COVID-19 cases that have been reported from the country so far. Despite this, the central government’s messaging has focused on controlling its image rather than on taking charge of the health crisis. It has denied its own failure and has made no effort to share useful information to prevent the spread of the virus, with India’s health minister, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, even telling people to eat “dark chocolate to beat COVID-19 stress.” More recently, he tweeted to support a rebuttal of a recent Lancet report criticizing the handling of the crisis by the government. The misinformation and downplaying of COVID-19 by the right-wing Modi government is similar to that of America’s former President Donald Trump, who said that people should consume disinfectants to fight coronavirus, only to later say he was being “sarcastic.” Many other parallels can be drawn regarding the handling of the COVID-19 situation by Trump and the Modi government. The state governments in America were also left pleading with the federal government for basic medical facilities, as seen in India. Much like Trump, who was against calling for a national lockdown, Modi is now averse to the idea, even as experts feel it will help curb infection rates. This is mostly due to the criticism Modi faced of calling a lockdown on short notice during the first wave. Despite receiving a clear mandate, both the leaders squandered the faith of the people who voted them to power. Meanwhile, India and its slow vaccination rollout have become a cautionary tale for the rest of the world. “The tragedy in India does not have to happen here in Africa, but we must all be on the highest possible alert,” said Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa. Source- Globetotter (@BhasinRuhi)


THE WORLD

JUNE 2021

South Asia Times

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UN Human Rights Council forms commission to probe rights violations in Palestine; Israel won’t cooperate The commission will investigate violations of all humanitarian and human rights laws in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel over the past two months.

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special session of the United Nation Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on the “grave human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem” on Thursday, May 27 decided to constitute a permanent international commission of inquiry. The commission will investigate violations of all humanitarian and human rights laws in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel in the last two months, including the recent Israeli attacks in Gaza. The decision for constituting an inquiry was taken after a heated debate on the resolution and a vote in which 24 countries voted in favor and nine against. 14 countries abstained out of the total 47 members. The resolution says that “the Council decides to urgently establish an ongoing independent, international commission of inquiry” which will be established by the President of the Human Rights Council, “to investigate in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel all alleged violations of international humanitarian law and all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law leading up to and since 13 April 2021”. It also mandates an investigation into “all underlying root causes of recurrent tensions, instability and protraction of conflict, including systematic discrimination and repression based on national, ethnic, racial or religious identity.” The resolution was presented by Pakistan on the behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and supported by China, Russia and Cuba among others. The resolution was opposed by France, Italy and Brazil among others. Germany, the UK and India were among the countries that abstained. Accountability of the perpetrators

The resolution was presented by Pakistan on the behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and supported by China, Russia and Cuba among others. The resolution was opposed by France, Italy and Brazil among others. Germany, the UK and India were among the countries that abstained. The resolution asks the commission to gather facts and evidence of human rights violations, including “systemic discrimination repression based on national, ethnic, racial and religious identity” in order for them to be used in a legal process to hold the perpetrators accountable. This would amount to an investigation into the rights violation of Palestinian citizens of Israel as well. The adoption of the resolution came after a prolonged discussion on the recent Israeli attacks on Gaza in which 248 Palestinians, including 66 children, were killed. The speakers criticized Israel’s indiscriminate use of violence inside civilian areas and accused it of expanding illegal settlements and forcefully displacing Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah and other residential areas. Earlier, opening the

A building destroyed in the Israeli bombing of Gaza. Photo: UNRWA/Mohamed Hinnawi

session UNHRC chief Michelle Bachelet said that Israel has attacked civilian areas destroying the infrastructure and killing non-combatants in its recent Gaza offensive and “if found disproportionate, such attacks might constitute war crimes.” She also asked Israel to halt the eviction of the residents of Sheikh Jarrah calling it a violation of Israel’s obligations under international law. She also criticized Hamas’ use of rocket attacks inside Israel calling it violations of international humanitarian laws. The resolution asked all the relevant parties to cooperate with the commission of inquiry. However, immediately after the resolution was passed, Israeli prime minister

The US mission in Geneva issued a statement criticizing the adoption of the resolution, calling it “unfortunate” and threatening to “imperil the progress that has been in recent weeks” in achieving lasting peace in the region. Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement calling the decision “shameful” and

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an example of UNHRC’s anti-Israel obsession.” Israel also said that it won’t cooperate with the commission. The US mission in Geneva issued a statement criticizing the adoption of the resolution, calling it “unfortunate” and threatening to “imperil the progress that has been in recent weeks” in achieving lasting peace in the region. Hamas and other Palestinian groups, however, welcomed the decision to constitute the commission. The Palestinian Authority called the decision, “international recognition of Israel’s systemic oppression and discrimination against the Palestinian people”. Source: Peoples Dispatch, May 28, 2021


14

CINEMA

South Asia Times

JUNE 2021

Caste in Indian Cinema, Satyajit Ray to Mari Selvaraj

In 1981, Satyatji Ray made Sadgati (1981), which means “salvation” or “deliverance” in Bangla. It is a brilliant film, in which Om Puri acts as Dukhia and Smita Patil as Jhuria, his wife. Mohan Agashe plays a brahmin and Gita Siddharth plays his wife.

By Jeroo Mulla

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n 1981, Satyatji Ray made Sadgati (1981), which means “salvation” or “deliverance” in Bangla. It is a brilliant film, in which Om Puri acts as Dukhia and Smita Patil as Jhuria, his wife. Mohan Agashe plays a brahmin and Gita Siddharth plays his wife. What is interesting about the film is that Dukhia makes every possible arrangement to feed the brahmin, since he is supposed to visit his home in order to fix the date for his daughter’s wedding but doesn’t. When the brahmin finally agrees to visit the house, Dukhia is asked to work for him for free. On an empty stomach, an unwell Dukhia is made to chop hard wood by the brahmin. At one point, while the brahmin has his lunch, he suggests to his wife that she give him some leftovers. Since the rotis were not enough, the brahmin suggests the wife makes some more food, but she refuses to take the trouble for it. Dukhia goes on chopping wood. Jhuria becomes anxious as she keeps waiting for him. At this point, another person from a lower caste stops by, to whom Dukhia says that he simply cannot chop more wood without a smoke. The person offers to get it for him and does, and Dukhia goes to the brahmin’s house to light it. As he tries to step inside, the wife throws the light at home, which hurts his feet. He immediately apologises for stepping into the house. The story takes an even more tragic turn when Dukhia finally dies chopping wood, and in protest, the person who offered him the smoke orders all others not to handle the body themselves. The brahmin is then forced to drag the body out, but since he refuses to touch it, he throws a rope around one of Dukhia’s legs and then drags it towards a pond, in which he dumps it. The next film, Fandry (2013), is by Nagraj Manjule and in Marathi. The word “fandry” translates to “pig”, and one of the tasks that the protagonist Kachru (Somnath Awghade) or Jabya’s father is made to do by the region’s upper castes, is chasing pigs. A lower caste boy from the Kaikade community, Jabya falls in

Somnath Avghade in Fandry, 2013

Om Puri as Dukhia in Sadgati, 1981

love with Shalu (Rajeshwari Kharat), from who belongs to an upper caste. Jabya and his friend believe that if they catch and burn a distinctive black sparrow and it’s ash is then applied on someone, it hypnotises the person to fall in love with the one who applies it. Sadly, these are only Jabya’s dreams, of which he has plenty. Another of Jabya’s dreams is to buy a pair of jeans. Jabya goes to the store, sees a pair of jeans, looks at the model’s face and comes back and takes a clothes pin and clamps his nose with it so he can look like the model. Towards the end of the film, we see Jabya exploding with rage, grabbing a rock and throwing it at his oppressors. However, he does not get to meet Shalu nor does the oppressive caste system around him disappear. The film is peppered with paintings of Ambedkar and in one instance, a teacher speaks of a dalit poet in a classroom. Karnan (2021), a Tamil film made by Mari Selvaraj, is based on a real life incident. The village of the lower castes portrayed in the film has no bus stop of its own. No matter how many times the village elders have tried to get one built, their pleas have fallen on deaf ears. In fact, the upper caste village nearby and the police officers have joined hands in ensuring that

this village suffers in silence. Interestingly, this is perhaps the only dalit issues-based film that suggests a revolution of sorts. In response to the system’s indifference to their demands, the villagers gather and unleash an attack on a bus, shattering all its window panes. The police arrive to settle the issue and the scene ends there. Also Read | How cinema signals caste power In another incident, Karnan (Dhanush), the protagonist, is then shown persuaded by those around him to apply for the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). He tries but doesn’t get in due to his caste. Karnan refuses to leave and returns to fight. The film makes use of multiple symbols, all of which are crucial to the story. The horse is the most interesting — it’s known widely that in many parts of India, dalits are not allowed to ride horses at their weddings and such. Yet, the only thing one of the young boys in the film wants to do is to ride a horse, and he makes sure he gets it. One day, the police round up all the villagers and take them to the police station. They ask one of them (G. M. Kumar) what their name is and he replies “Duryodhanan”. He immediately gets beaten up and is asked how he, a dalit,

Dhanush as Karnan in Karnan, 2021

can be “Duryodhanan”, a character in the Mahabharata. At another point, Karnan frees a donkey whose legs are tied. Yet another symbol of freedom for dalits, perhaps. We’re also shown another scene in which Karnan picks up a sword and rides back on a horse with it. He attacks all the cops who have been attacking them. The other cop who attacked Duryodhanan earlier is asked his name, to which he replies “Kannapiran” and that his father’s name is “Kandaiah”. Karnan then asks him, “why can’t Maadasamy’s son be named Karnan?” Another image that keeps appearing throughout the film is that of a young girl with a mask — the dead sister of Karnan. Early on in the film, she appears before her father to say that she has a treasure buried under their hut. Following this vision, they dig the floor and actually find a treasure there. Each time the villagers emerge victorious, she seems to appear and clap in joy. At the end of the film, Karnan is shown as married to his lover. The village is shown to have finally

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received a bus stop. The kids can finally go to school and the young girl, Karnan’s sister, claps in joy. Jeroo Mulla has taught film appreciation, photography, communication and supervised student documentaries for over 30 years. She was the Head of the Sophia Institute of Social Communications Media (2012-2013) and the Head of the Social Communications Media Department, Sophia Polytechnic (1986-2012). Mulla has also served as a Jury for the National Film Awards (2010), a Selection Committee member for the International Children’s Film Festival Hyderabad (2011, 2013), and as an Advisory Panel Member at the Film Censor Board (1987). She is currently a visiting faculty at Sophia and various other media institutes. She is also on the Advisory Board of Women in Film and Television (WIFT) and of the Asia Society for their New Voices Fellowship for Screenwriters. Courtesy: Indian Cultural Forum Source- NEWSclick, 02 Jun 2021


CINEMA

JUNE 2021

South Asia Times

15

A Cataract, Irreparable!

I have never before detested a character like Sudhakaran in THIMIRAM (Cataract) in my moviewatching experience! And, that’s irreconcilable by all means. By Suresh Nellikode*

a

ctor K K Sudhakaran confuses the audience by calling the lead character the same name through a film, THIMIRAM, recently released on an OTT platform, NeeStream. K K Sudhakaran is not an actor new to Mollywood movies but found a niche in acting through his debut movie, INNALE (Yesterday) directed by P Padmarajan and a handful followed. In THIMIRAM he delivers his best as an actor and ‘the worst’ as a character. A character who turns to be a persona non grata, by all means. When an actor takes up a character in the same name, it’s a matter not to be trifled with and brings in an identity crisis that prompts a tittle-tattle about his own private life. THIMIRAM is a movie replete with things you loathe to experience in your daily life. These scenes you encounter daily are almost worn out in shaking you up as a commonplace experience. Women do not need liberation. They only demand parity with men just to stand in line with the tedium of this workaday world. They demand equal status with men and not to stand below to carry through commands received. She needs an equal shoulder to fall back on with her fears and concerns. The director, Shivaram Mani unpacks decades-long male highhandedness in the family and other social strata. Where do women go with all their anguish, anger and loneliness? It has been countered everywhere as a ‘women’s issue’. Gender inequality is a nightmare in Indian households. A lot of barriers are still to be jumped over for them in workplaces too. Besides spending most of their time on unpaid neverending household chores and childcare, they face frictions and challenges everywhere in their personal life. Man, in his self-styled role of a guardian, enjoys the upper hand everywhere in family and social circles. He prefers ruling the family to sharing responsibilities as he brings in income to support the family. He prefers to hide his inability through his loud commands. He enters everywhere uninvited and without permission. He blames women if something goes astray in his family. In THIMIRAM, Sudhakaran is a run-of-the-mill domestic guardian expecting a

daughter-in-law to bring in a hefty dowry to pay off his debts. But he is down on his luck as his son’s love finds its own way without a dowry. He never talks directly to his daughter-in-law but through

THIMIRAM is a movie replete with things you loathe to experience in your daily life. These scenes you encounter daily are almost worn out in shaking you up as a commonplace experience. Women do not need liberation. They only demand parity with men just to stand in line with the tedium of this workaday world. They demand equal status with men and not to stand below to carry through commands received. She needs an equal shoulder to fall back on with her fears and concerns.

his wife or son as he thinks women are beneath him. He carries on with his heavy look that can’t see beyond his nose. People around him recoil to his persona but most of the time they disregard it as silly or as the arrogance of a septuagenarian. THIMIRAM is a movie full of such erratic events for which the antihero takes the brunt. That’s the way the cookie crumbles! No one likes him as he doesn’t trust anything that comes up as feminine. He doesn’t believe in women as he too had such a childhood where he was lucky enough to be a boy in getting all the benefits. He used to get an extra fish fry from his mother for he is a male child to grow up and rule the family in the future. He escapes punishments from many a fight he had picked up with his older sister. He used to get a bail everywhere as ‘boys are boys, always!’ It shows visible instances of how it robs girls of their childhood and limit their chances in coming up with their potential. It disproportionately affects the women to raise voice for their rights. Her voice remains undervalued, if at all it’s heard. Sudhakaran, the central character of the film, never spares a chance for inappropriate sexual advances verbally and physically. He says , ”Man comes first everywhere and woman to follow.” He didn’t allow his wife to get a job as he wanted her to look after the family. He cocks a snook with anyone he bumps into, if that’s a woman. A basic instinct of hostile psychological attrition

is displayed everywhere in the life of Sudhakaran. He is detested by the public with his own deeds wherever he pops in. These types of behaviours, in place of dealing with it seriously then and there seem to be knowingly discarded by the victims. The public generally have a feeling that this is a way of life and by default they live with it. Eventually, he was hoist with his own petard when he was caught hell with his cataract. Everything recants finally and he was left with no other means but to be refined to catch up with the society. Vyshakh and Meera Nair have given their best performances as the son and daughter-in-law. Rachana Narayanan Kutty, Asha Nair, G Suresh Kumar, Baby Surendran, Karthika, Ameya and the many came in cameo roles reminded me of a host of real people in life. KK Sudhakaran, although acted in a number of movies, is generally known as a theatre artiste and has performed all over the Arabian countries besides his home stages. An engineer by profession he had spent most of his years in Abu Dhabi and Doha. Had he been in India, he would have been a renowned mainstream actor by now. THIMIRAM has certainly to say something new to our society. It’s a get away from the common stultifying themes. If the movie makes you abhor the character it is the hemming talent of the director Shivaram Mani on the screenplay combinedly done by both of them.

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THIMIRAM has certainly to say something new to our society. It’s a get away from the common stultifying themes. If the movie makes you abhor the character it is the hemming talent of the director Shivaram Mani on the screenplay combinedly done by both of them. Unni Madavoor’s cinematography certainly deserves praise. The film stands a proof of the best team work be it in front or behind the camera. THIMIRAM is not a ‘beautiful film’ in the traditional sense but a penny for your thoughts definitely as it packs a punch on the burning issue of gender discrimination. *Suresh Nellikode is a writer from Canada Source- counttercurrents.org, 4 June 2021.


18

South Asia Times

SPORTS/CRICKET

JUNE 2021

Cricket Australia appoints Nick Hockley as CEO By SAT News Desk

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ELBOURNE, 31 May 2021: Nick Hockley has been appointed as the CEO of Cricket Australia. The board of Cricket Australia (CA) has confirmed the appointment, says a media release today. Hockley has served with distinction as CA’s Interim CEO since June 2020, overseeing the successful delivery of last season’s international and domestic competitions in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Hockley has spent almost a decade in cricket with highly successful stints as the CEO of the ICC T20 World Cup 2020 Local Organising Committee, Head of Commercial Projects at CA and as General Manager, Commercial and Marketing, at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. Prior to cricket, Hockley was Head of Commercial Negotiations for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games prior to which he held senior corporate finance roles at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Sydney and London, where he also qualified as a Chartered Accountant. Hockley says he is honoured to be announced as CA’s new CEO. “As Australia’s national sport, cricket is at the heart of our national and cultural identity. I am under no illusion about the importance of cricket to the lives of so many Australians, nor the magnitude and responsibility of this role. Leading Cricket Australia is the greatest privilege of my working life, and I am committed to doing all I can to making a positive contribution to the game and the community,” Hockley said. “Over the past 12 months, I have learnt firsthand about the breadth, scale and importance of the role. My approach has been and will continue to be to bring people across the game together, as I believe this is fundamental to achieving our full potential.

“I am extremely grateful for the support and trust of our partners and the millions of fans in Australia and around the world who cheer on our teams. We are committed to being an organisation which you can be proud of and a sport where everyone belongs. “It has been extremely rewarding to be part of CA, State and Territory Associations and the Australian Cricketers’ Association working together like never before over the past 12 months, to overcome the challenges presented by Covid-19 and deliver a summer for the ages. I look forward to building on this momentum and playing my role in deepening those relationships further, as well as playing a leading role in growing the game internationally alongside fellow ICC members. “From community cricket to the international arena, Australian Cricket is in excellent shape, due to the hard work and dedication of thousands of volunteers,

coaches, players, match officials and employees across the country, all of whom are an inspiration to me. “I am extremely grateful for the support and trust of our partners and the millions of fans in Australia and around the world who cheer on our teams. We are committed to being an organisation which you can be proud of and a sport where everyone belongs. “I would also like to thank the CA board for the faith they have placed in me to continue to lead CA at this important and exciting time for the sport. The change and complexity brought about by Covid-19 has created lots of challenges, but also

plenty of opportunities. By working together with our partners across the game, I feel confident and optimistic about cricket’s ability to rise to the challenges of the modern world and thrive.” Earl Eddings, CA Chair, congratulated Hockley on his appointment. “Nick’s contribution to Australian Cricket has been immense and, on behalf of the board, I am most pleased to confirm his appointment as CEO, which was unanimously endorsed by the board,” Eddings says.

worth ethic and vision for the game, Australian Cricket emerged stronger than ever. For that, Nick deserves enormous credit. “In addition to his excellent record of strategy and delivery, Nick has been pivotal in galvanising Australian Cricket and strengthening relationships with our partners. I have no doubt those bonds will deepen further under his stewardship, which will serve to grow the game at all levels.

“From delivering the historic T20 Women’s World Cup to ensuring a safe and successful 202021 season, Nick has already proven himself to be in the very top echelon of sports administrators both in Australia and around the world.

“Only 14 people have served as CEO or secretary of Australia’s national cricket body, and just 12 since the then-Australian Board of Control for International Cricket was formally established 116 years ago. I firmly believe Nick will be regarded among the very best of them and carry on their legacy of ensuring cricket is a sport for all Australians.

“Nick was named Interim CEO at an incredibly challenging period for Australian sport, and society in general, and there were many instances where the once-in-ageneration obstacles in his path must have seemed overwhelming. But through his leadership, resolve,

“The role of CEO of CA is one of the most highly regarded in sport and, accordingly, we were fortunate to have many outstanding candidates apply for the post. The board and I thank every one of them and wish them well in their future endeavours.”

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JUNE 2021

SPORTS/CRICKET

South Asia Times

19

ICC announces schedule of events from 2024-2031

By SAT News Desk

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ELBOURNE, 2 June 2021: The ICC Board today confirmed the schedule of ICC events from 2024-2031 with both the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup and ICC Men’s T20 World Cup to be expanded and a Men’s Champions Trophy to be re-introduced. The ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup will become a 14 team, 54 match events in 2027 and 2031, whilst the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup will be expanded to a 20 team, 55 match events in 2024, 2026, 2028 and 2030. An eight team Champions Trophy will be hosted in 2025 and 2029. ICC World Test Championship Finals will be hosted in 2025, 2027, 2029 and 2031. The ICC Women’s event schedule has already been confirmed with the expansion of both the Cricket World Cup and T20 World Cup forming part of the ICC’s long-term commitment to growing the women’s game. ICC Acting Chief Executive Geoff Allardice said: “Having the ICC event schedule confirmed through to 2031 is a significant step forward for cricket and will form the basis of our growth strategy for the next decade. “The revised approach to selecting hosts for our events will give us much more flexibility to grow the game and engage new fans. There is a smaller pool of countries with the infrastructure needed to host our senior Men’s events which narrows the selection process. Additionally, many of our Members expressed interest in hosting Women’s and U19 events which gives us a great opportunity to stage events in established and emerging cricket nations.” The ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup format will have two groups of seven, with the top three in each group progressing to a Super Six stage, followed by semi-finals and final. This is the same format that was used in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2003. The format of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup will consist of four groups of five, with the top two from each group going through to a Super Eights stage, followed by the knockout stages of semi-finals and a final. The Champions Trophy will follow previous editions with two groups of four, semi-finals and final. The ICC Board also approved the process for determining the hosts for all Men’s, Women’s and U19 events in the next cycle. The hosts for the Men’s events will be decided in September following a selection process that will get underway this month. The hosting process for

ICC Acting Chief Executive Geoff Allardice said: “Having the ICC event schedule confirmed through to 2031 is a significant step forward for cricket and will form the basis of our growth strategy for the next decade. Women’s and U19 events will commence in November and will be an opportunity to engage with a wider range of Members including first-time hosts. The ICC Board has requested management focus its planning efforts for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 on the event being staged in the UAE with the possibility of including another venue in the Middle East. A final decision on the host country will be taken later this month. The Board also confirmed that the BCCI will remain the hosts of the event regardless of where the event is played. www.southasiatimes.com.au - 0421 677 082


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LAST PAGE

South Asia Times

JUNE 2021

WHO renames SARS-CoV-2 variants as Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta… By SAT News Desk

Epsilon B.1.427/B.1.429 (USA), Zeta P.2 (Brazil), Eta B.1.525 (Multiple countries), Theta P.3 (Philippines), Iota B.1.526 (USA) & Iota B.1.526 (India).

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ELBOURNE, 1 June 2021: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced “simple, easy-to-say labels for different SARSCoV-2 variants”. The decision is aimed at stopping the names of countries from where the variant originates being associated when the variant is pronounced. Instead, key variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, have been assigned letters of the Greek alphabet, Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta. It remains to be seen whether this move will curtail the use of country names with the varients where it allegedly originated. Interestingly, news reports from Vietnam have indicated the variant surging there is a mix of variants from the UK and India. No country-free name has

Illustration courtesy: Aïda Amer/Axios

been assigned to it. Media outlets have been using the names of the UK, India, Brazil, South Africa, etc. along with the word ‘variant’ and the Indian government had objected to its country name being used with the variant which reportedly originated in India. In 2019 the COVID-19 pandemic first reportedly emerged

in Wuhan, China, it was widely described as the China virus. The move to use the Greek alphabet for different SARS-CoV-2 varients aims not to use country of origin names with it. So, Alpha is the B.1.1.7 (UK), Beta is the B.1.351 (South Africa), Gamma is the P.1 (Brazil), and Delta is the B.1.617.2 (India). Other variants named:

WHO, in collaboration with partners, expert networks, national authorities, institutions, and researchers has been monitoring and assessing the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 since January 2020. During late 2020, the emergence of variants that posed an increased risk to global public health prompted the characterization of specific Variants of Interest (VOIs) and Variants of Concern (VOCs), in order to prioritize global monitoring and research, and ultimately to inform the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The established nomenclature systems for naming and tracking

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SARS-CoV-2 genetic lineages by GISAID, Nextstrain, and Pango are currently and will remain in use by scientists and in scientific research. To assist with public discussions of variants, WHO convened a group of scientists from the WHO Virus Evolution Working Group, the WHO COVID-19 reference laboratory network, representatives from GISAID, Nextstrain, Pango, and additional experts in virological, microbial nomenclature and communication from several countries and agencies to consider easy-to-pronounce and non-stigmatizing labels for VOI and VOC. At the present time, this expert group convened by WHO has recommended using labeled using letters of the Greek Alphabet, i.e., Alpha, Beta, Gamma, which will be easier and more practical to discussed by non-scientific audiences, says a WHO media release.

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