NEET-PG exam postponed for at least 4 months as India battles covid

News Network
May 3, 2021

New Delhi, May 2: The Centre on Monday announced that NEET-PG exam will be postponed for at least 4 months in a bid to make more personnel available to fight teh Covid-19 situation in the country.

The NEET-PG is a competitive examination for postgraduate studies in the field of medicine.

"A decision was taken to postpone NEET-PG for at least 4 months and the exam will not be held before 31st August 2021. Students will also be given at least one month of time after the announcement of the exam before it is conducted. This will make a large number of qualified doctors available for Covid duties," the release said.

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News Network
April 24,2021

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Indore / Lucknow, Apr 24: Kalawati Bhuria, a Congress MLA in Madhya Pradesh, died at a private hospital here early on Saturday while undergoing treatment for coronavirus, family sources said. She was 49.

Kalawati, who represented Jobat assembly constituency in Alirajpur district, was admitted to Shalby Hospital 12 days ago, the family sources said.

Hospital's medical superintendent Dr Vivek Joshi said that her lungs were 70 per cent infected and she was on ventilator support.

Her condition deteriorated and she could not be saved, he said.

She was former Union Minister Kantilal Bhuria's niece. She had become a legislator after winning the Jobat seat in 2018.

Several politicians, including state Congress chief Kamal Nath, expressed grief over her death. 

"The news of the sad demise of Jobat MLA Kalawati Bhuria is very disturbing and shocking. She was an active, gutsy, strong-willed and friendly legislator," Nath tweeted.

2 BJP MLAs die of covid in UP

Two BJP MLAs who were being treated for Covid-19 died on Friday in Uttar Pradesh. Both BJP MLA from Auraiya (City) Ramesh Diwaker and Lucknow (West) MLA Suresh Srivastava succumbed to Covid-19.

Diwaker (57), a first-time MLA, died while undergoing treatment for Covid-19 in Meerut. Party’s district president for Auraiya Shriram Mishra said he had contracted the infection a few days ago. “It is a huge loss for us,” said Mishra.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath expressed grief over the death and extended condolences to the MLA’s family.

Srivastava died at Lucknow’s Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences on Friday evening. BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi confirmed that Srivastava was undergoing treatment for the last one week. A source said his wife and some other family members were being treated for the virus.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who is an MP from Lucknow, expressed grief over Srivastava’s death in a tweet on Friday night. “…News of demise of MLA and senior BJP leader from UP Suresh Srivastava is tragic. He set an example as a public figure with his dedication and simplicity. My condolences to his family,” he wrote.

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Mafazah Sharafuddin
May 4,2021

The IPL is being suspended now in the wake of several players testing positive for COVID. This occurred despite the prior claims of the bio bubbles being an effective way to prevent transmission. 

Despite many accusation of insensitivity, the BCCI were content to let the IPL go on until this development. This is despite the massive COVID crisis India is suffering through.

As Indians on social media clamored for help due to the lack of beds and oxygen in the hospitals in the middle of the pandemic, names of cricketers fill the headlines. The IPL has always been a massive event in India. However, in the wake of a global health crisis that required the 2020 Olympics to be postponed, the fact that the IPL was conducted comes as a shock. 

Several cricketers withdrew from playing this year. Their reasons ranged from having relatives who have tested positive, being wary of putting their vulnerable loved ones at risk, fear of being unable to return home as international airport ban travelers from India etc. However, several big names still lent their support to the IPL being conducted mid-pandemic among players and patrons alike. Notably, there is Jay Shah, BCCI Secretary and son of the Home Minister, Amit Shah. A senior Indian cricket board official had told Reuters that the IPL must go on as it lifts spirits in times of such negativity. 

This of course, is a gross oversimplification as cricket does give entertainment, it is also a group sport. Despite claims of being extensive in taking precautionary measures, multiple players are now infected, and everyone who has interacted with the players have been exposed to the virus. 

This raises the question whether the BCCI will rethink its statements regarding T20. The BCCI had priorly stated that T20 would be conducted. They added that in case they are unable to conduct T20 in India due to COVID, their plan B is to have it hosted in UAE, rather than cancelling the event.

While the BCCI’s move to conduct the IPL can be considered disgraceful, the reactions to the same were not much better. Media houses, too, rushed at the opportunity of giving news coverage to the IPL. Several people like Faye Dsouza and Rana Ayyub are using social media to shed light on the severity of the COVID situation in India. This includes posting videos of crematoriums etc. that are not getting covered by mainstream media. Amidst this, big media houses seemed to be content in highlighting cricket. 

The New Indian Express stood out among other reputed media houses in India.  They posted an announcement from the Editor stating that they will not be covering the IPL as they disagree with it being held in the midst of such a tragic time. 

Each match so far has been extensively covered by several media houses. Meanwhile, the SC had to give specific orders to stop booking people for asking for help finding oxygen, beds or medicine in the wake of scores of cases of the same occurring in UP, Maharashtra and Haryana. 

There is no doubt that the move to suspend the IPL was a wise one, but the timing of it is still questionable. It seems as though to the IPL organizers and player, the issue that is causing people to die in thousands in the country did not matter until it reached their arena. It is also dubious to the ethics of news to have media houses covering cricket at this time. 

While ‘to entertain’ may be one of the functions of the news, it seems as though ‘to inform’ and ‘to educate’ have taken a backseat.

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News Network
April 27,2021

New Delhi, Apr 27: Under the high tin roof, 50 funeral pyres burned fiercely on Tuesday, the hot air filled with smoke, fine ash and muted sobs of shell-shocked famlies.  

Nearby, lying unattended on the floor, and in scores of parked vehicles, more corpses awaited their turn, which relatives were told would come 16 to 20 hours later. 

Shaking Delhi's spirit and soul, an unimaginable tragedy is unfolding at New Delhi's crematoriums struggling to cope with the deluge of the dead arriving at frightening pace.  

"I have not seen such a bad situation ever before in my life. People are moving with the dead bodies of their loved ones from pillar to post ... almost all Delhi crematoriums are flooded with dead bodies," Vineeta Massey, the owner of Massey Funerals, told PTI.   

By official count, 3,601 people have died this month, of them 2,267 in the last seven days alone in the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic which is terrorising and tormenting the city. In all of February, the death toll was 57, and in March 117. 

As if the trauma of losing a loved one to the virus so suddenly is not enough, there is more grief in store for relatives who are not even able to give them a proper send-off.

They arrive at crematoriums with bodies, only to be turned away. They drive to another facility, and yet another, traversing the city with the mortal remains in personal cars or ambulances, desperately seeking a graceful exit for their father, mother, son or daughter from the material world.

The trauma is no less for the relatives of those who died of non-Covid causes but are being swept up in the collective national tragedy driven by the pandemic.  

Aman Arora, a young entrepreneur from West Delhi's Ashok Nagar, lost his father M.L. Arora to a heart attack on Monday afternoon. 

"We rushed him to many private hospitals when he started feeling discomfort in his chest but he was not even checked by the medical staff there. They demanded that we produce a Covid-negative report. He eventually passed away," said Aman.  

On Monday afternoon, Aman was told by the staff in west Delhi’s Subhash Nagar crematorium to wait until Tuesday morning to perform the last rites.   

When Aman realised there was no point in pleading, he arranged for a refrigerator to prevent his father's dead body from decaying.  

"What could I have done when there was no space? We kept the body in a rented fridge and have come early today (Tuesday)," said Aman, waiting for his turn as many other people milled around silently with dead bodies lying on the floor.  

Outside, ambulances and  cars honked and competed for parking space but inside all one could hear was the crackling of dry wood from the burning pyres -- all 50 of them roaring simultaneously.  

A few sobs arose over the sound of the fires,  and one could hear the unemotional intonations of instructions being given by the crematorium staff.  

"Apna dead body uthao aur udhar line mein ja ke khade ho jao (Pick up your dead body and go stand in line)," said a young staffer.  

A woman in her 40s was so stunned she couldn't make out what was 'nabhi' (navel) or 'chhati' (chest) when a staff member asked her to place sandalwood sticks on the body of her father who had died of Covid.

The body was still packed in a white sack, which was placed on the pyre without opening.

Holding the sandalwood sticks in trembling hands, she moved around the body before being helped by someone.

"I didn't even see the face of my father," wailed the woman, who was alone.      

Manmeet Singh, a 40-year-old assistant professor, also carried his father Gurpal Singh's dead body in his car to the Subhash Nagar crematorium on Monday afternoon.

But the staff politely told him his father couldn't be cremated because the pyre chambers were already full and the CNG crematorium at the centre could only accommodate two bodies at one time.

It takes about 90 minutes to dispose of one body in a CNG chamber and a PTI correspondent counted 24 bodies waiting in queue for a slot.  

With no option left, Manmeet left for the MCD crematorium in Pashchim Vihar about six kilometres away and luckily got space with the help of an MCD inspector.

"If you can't provide oxygen to the patients in hospitals, then at least provide some space in the cremation ground so that people leave the world comfortably," said Manmeet.  

The ground at the crematorium was full of filth and covered with leftovers of the previous cremation. It was muddy and rotten fruits were scattered all over. Plastic bags, sacks, buckets, mugs littered the ground. But none of that mattered to the relatives. What mattered was enough space to light  a pyre.

According to rules, said a senior official at the Delhi Health Department, if somebody dies of Covid-19 in hospital, the district administration has to arrange a hearse van, and the hospital is supposed to deploy staff for the disposal of the dead body at the crematorium and graveyard.

But the crush of the dead has made it impossible for hospitals to provide hearses. So relatives are simply taking the bodies in their vehicles. 

"If family members move with the body of their loved ones in their personal vehicles, there are chances of being infected," another government official said.   

Ajeet, a staff member at the MCD crematorium, told PTI they have created more than 100 extra makeshift chambers in an adjacent space to accommodate the increasing number of dead people -- both Covid-19 and natural deaths.  

"I can't move my arms, I am dead tired. The whole day we arrange for cremation and then in the night we have to take care of the pyres, so that the fire consumes the bodies properly," said Ajeet.

The chaos at the crematoriums has raised questions about the Delhi government's preparedness for the second wave, which Chief Minister Arvind Kerjriwal said, had left the healthcare system on the brink of collapse. Many deaths have also been attributed to a severe oxygen shortage for the last 10 days.  

The fixing of responsibility will happen later.

But for now, "this is the time for us to build solidarity and enough compassion for the poor people fighting the pandemic," said Harsh Mander, a former IAS bureaucrat who is now a civil rights activist. 

"The wealthy and the influential thought that they have an escape route to all this but this pandemic told us that we are all in this together," he said.

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