SATURDAY Chipko movement pioneer Sunderlal Bahuguna dead 22 MAY, 2021 The 94-year-old environmentalist died of Covid-19 at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Rishikesh on Friday epaper.morningstandard.in CREMATED WITH FULL STATE HONOURS facebook.com/TheMorningStandard twitter.com/TheMornStandard NARADA SCAM HOUSE ARREST FOR WEST BENGAL MLAs Court undecided on bail plea against CBI move, bigger bench constituted A CAPITAL VIEW OF NEWS PAGE 8 NEW DELHI J8.00 PAGES 12 Bahuguna had been undergoing treatment in the hospital since May 8. He was cremated with full state honours at the Poornanand Ghat. He, along with other environmentalists launched Chipko in 1973 in Uttarakhand (then part of UP) as a nonviolent social and ecological movement of villagers to protect trees slated for government-backed logging | P7 PTI SUNDERLAL BAHUGUNA 9 JANUARY 1927 21 MAY 2021 BAHUGUNA LED A PROTEST MARCH ACROSS HIMALAYAS DURING 1981-1983 Breather to UP as SC stays HC’s ‘Ram Bharose’ order Direction to provide two ambulances each in 97,000 villages with ICU beds impossible to implement within a month, agrees bench K A N U S A R D A @ New Delhi A doctor treats a patient infected with mucormycosis at the NSCB Medical College and Hospital in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, on Friday | PTI Industrial O2 tied to black fungus spurt? S U M I S U K A N YA D U T TA @ New Delhi AT the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (MGIMS) in Sevagram in Wardha, a major tertiary care centre in rural Maharashtra, nearly 4,000 Covid-19 patients had undergone treatment before March this year. None developed mucor mycosis, a deadly fungal disease that is posing a fresh challenge to the healthcare system in India. Beginning April through the first week of May, when nearly 1,000 Covid patients were treated at MGIMS, 20 of them went on to develop mucormycosis, which has a reported fatality rate of nearly 50%. At present, the hospital has at least 15 patients of black fungus, in which a group of molds infect sinuses, lungs and the brain. Raymond Savio, a critical care expert from Chennai, explains that there are multiple reasons for this fungus to infect those with Covid-19. “It’s a combination of the virus, nature of treatment, steroid and other immune-suppressants, nature of body’s response to Covid infection (ferritin level), uncontrolled blood sugar and humidification systems for oxygen that makes it appropriate for Need thorough study A senior doctor at AIIMS, Delhi said she has been treating autoimmune disease patients with steroids for years but mucormycosis cases were rare. “Something has changed now. Whether it is the use of industrial oxygen or the way oxygen has been instituted in health facilities, I am not sure. That is for researchers to find out.” the spores to infect patients,” he said. The sudden and unprecedented rise in mucormycosis cases, however, has prompted S P Kalantri, a senior doctor and medical researcher at MGIMS, like many others in different parts of India, to question whether the popular perception that indiscriminate use of steroids, suppressed immunity his, tory of diabetes and unhygienic conditions in ICUs may be triggering this spurt in cases. “It’s my assumption and I may be completely wrong but maybe Covid-19 virus and mucor are now hunting together. Something about the Covid-19 virus has changed over the months,” he said adding that more research is required to understand the rise in the disCONTINUED ON: P8 ease. A Supreme Court bench on Friday stayed a bunch of orders on Covid management issued by the Allahabad High Court to the Uttar Pradesh government recently, agreeing they were impossible to implement. It also advised high courts dealing with coronavirus cases to refrain from dealing with issues that have trans-national and international ramifications, since the top court itself is seized of pan-India matters. The Allahabad High Court had on May 17 ordered the UP government to upgrade its health facilities on a war footing, specifically directing it to provide two ambulances with ICU facilities to each village within a month. But a Supreme Court bench comprising justices Vineet Saran and Bhushan Gavai agreed with the state’s position, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, that UP has 97,000 villages and an order of this magnitude was impossible to implement within the HC’s deadline. “We are of the opinion that high courts should normally consider the possibility of execution of their directions. If such directions cannot be implemented, then such orders may not be passed. The doctrine of impossibility is equally applicable to courts,” the bench said. It added that the No stay on further proceedings “We are staying the order but we are not staying the proceedings before the Allahabad High Court. The matter be listed on July 14,” the Supreme Court bench said while appointing senior advocate Nidesh Gupta as amicus curiae to assist in the matter high court’s May 17 order can be treated as advice and not directives. The Allahabad High Court has been scathing in its observations of the state government’s handling of the pandemic, going to the extent of saying that the state’s health- care system is Ram Bharose (at God’s mercy). Mehta also sought a direction from the bench to transfer all Covid-19 related matters pending in various high courts to benches headed by their respective chief justices. “In the Allahabad High Court, there are other public interest litigations (PILs) which is listed before other benches in which notice has been issued. Similar cases in other high courts too. But let such matters be placed before only Chief Justice-led benches,” he urged. However, the court said it could not pass such sweeping orders as the constitution of benches was the prerogative of the chief justice of the high court. “We cannot demoralise the high courts,” it said. At this, Mehta said, “Health infrastructure can never be ignored. But these directions are impossible to comply with...we understand the anxiety of the court. But this is a matter of concern. Courts should also have some judicial restraint and not pass orders which are difficult to implement.” WEDDING RIDE A newly married couple cross the Hooghly on a boat during Covid-induced lockdown, in Bengal’s Nadia district on Friday | PTI RBI hands out generous dividend amounting to 0.5% of GDP to govt Promoters liable for their companies’ debt, rules SC Samyukta Kisan Morcha had recently announced to observe May 26 as ‘black day’ to mark six months of their protest at Delhi borders | FILE ONUS ON YOU TO RESUME TALKS: FARM BODY TO PM H A R P R E E T BA J WA @ Chandigarh Several rounds of talks between farmers and the governTHE Samyukta Kisan Morcha ment have failed to break the (SKM), an umbrella body of deadlock over the Central legover 40 protesting farmer un- islations. A government panel ions, on Friday wrote to PM had met farmer leaders on Narendra Modi, urging re- January 22. There have been sumption of talks over the no talks between the two sides three farm laws they have been since January 26 when the agitating against at Delhi bor- farmers’ tractor rally in the ders since last year. n at i o n a l c ap i t a l t u r n e d Morcha leaders Balbir Singh violent. Rajewal and Darshan Pal said “The SKM has always reiterthe letter touched upon several ated its resolve and faith in aspects of the farmpeaceful mass strugers’ movement, and gles and democratic the “ignorant attisolutions through tude” of the governdialogue. During the ment. The morcha, first two months of During first two in a statement, said months of the the struggle, the govstruggle, govt held while the protesting er nment held 11 11 rounds of talks farmers do not wish rounds of discusto expose anyone to with us in which we sions with us in extended full the health hazards which we extended cooperation... Yet of the Covid-19 panfull cooperation in the government demic, it “cannot failed to address the good faith, despite also give up on the the repression and bare minimum struggle, as it is a defamation undemands of the protesting farmers matter of life and leashed by your govdeath, and also of fuernment against the SKM letter ture generations”. movement. Yet the “Any democratic government failed to gover nment would have address the bare minimum derepealed the three laws that mands of the protesting farmhave been rejected by the ers,’’ it reads. farmers in whose name these The farmers’ body had rewere enacted, and seized the cently announced to observe opportunity to provide a legal May 26 as ‘black day’ to mark guarantee of MSP to all six months of their protest at farmers... as the Head of the Delhi borders. Farmer leader government of the largest Balbir Singh Rajewal had apdemocracy in the world, the pealed to people to raise black onus of resuming a serious flags at their houses, vehicles and sincere dialogue with the and shops on May 26 to protest farmers lies with you,” the against the contentious farm letter reads. legislations. INSOLVENCY CODE S E SA S E N @ New Delhi THE Reserve Bank of India on Friday sprang a pleasant surprise for the Centre, announcing a handsome dividend of `99,122 crore for FY22. Constituting 0.5% of the GDP this is , more than double the Budget estimate of `45,000 crore and comes as a major relief for the gover nment reeling under strained public finances owing to the pandemic. The surplus transfer will help the Centre provide more pandemic relief measures. However, RBI’s generosity may not be enough. In FY22, the government expenditure is set at `34.83 lakh crore. Reve- Big transfer Dividend (J cr) FY14 33,010 FY15 52,679 FY16 65,876 FY17 65,876 FY18 30,659 FY19 50,000 FY20 1,75,987 FY21 57,128 FY22 99,122* Year *RBI is transitioning to April-March accounting year (earlier July-June). Hence, FY22 is a 9-month year (July ’20- March ’21) Source: RBI nues may come in at `16.5 lakh crore. So, the government will still have to raise `1.75 lakh crore via disinvestments to pursue its FY22 fiscal deficit target of 6.8% of the GDP . RBI’s surprise handout may have been driven by higher re- turns from domestic assets. “RBI recently allowed itself to book profits on its forex transactions from a weighted average cost perspective. This move could have helped the central bank boost yields on its foreign asset holdings. Increased holdings of domestic government securities likely further amplified RBI’s income,” said Rahul Bajoria, Chief India Economist, Barkclays. According to Aditi Nayar, chief economist at ICRA, the higher transfer will offer a buffer to the Centre to absorb the losses in indirect tax revenues that are anticipated in May-June 2021 due to the localised lockdowns. E X P R E SS N E WS S E R V I C E @ New Delhi IN what may make high-profile corporate honchos such as Anil Ambani personally liable for the loans their companies have taken but not repaid, the Supreme Court on Friday upheld the constitutional validity of the Centre’s November 15, 2019 circular that brought personal guarantors of corporate loans under the ambit of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. The verdict has come as a major boost for banks, which can now seek recovery of dues from the promoter guarantors even while bankruptcy processes against the companies are pending. The order came on a plea by industrialists Anil Ambani, Kapil Wadhawan, Sanjay Singhal, and Venugopal Dhoot – whose firms are facing insolvency proceedings – challenging the 2019 notification. According to the promoters, the Centre targeted them though the law was for individuals, corporate guarantors as well as partnership firms. The SC held that the government’s intent was to implement the provisions of the IBC in a phased CONTINUED ON: P10 manner. EXPRESS READ Absconding Sushil last traced in Bathinda New Delhi: The last location of absconding multiple Olympic wrestling medallist Sushil Kumar, wanted in connection with a Chhatrasal Stadium brawl that led to the death of a wrestler, was traced to Punjab’s Bathinda. Several police teams have been formed and they are conducting raids in parts of Haryana and Punjab to nab the wrestler. A court has refused anticipatory bail to Kumar. May 20 14,56,088 doses May 21 13,83,358 doses TOTAL DOSES: 19,32,97,222 JAB-O-METER TAKE YOUR SHOT NATIONWIDE MAY 20 Fresh cases Recoveries Deaths MAY 21 2,76,110 2,59,551 3,69,077 3,57,295 3,874 4,209 VAX DIP NUMBERS FALL AS DAYS GO BY After 24.7 million shots from April 3-9, figures drop to 7.8 million from May 15-21 | P7 GAME-CHANGER? ‘DRDO’s drug was effective on brain cancer patients, can’t say about Covid-19’ SOMRITA GHOSH @ New Delhi ORAL anti-viral drug 2-deoxyD-glucose (2-DG), developed by the DRDO and being touted as a potential game-changer in the battle against Covid-19, was first used in a human clinical study on brain tumour patients by Dr A K Banerji at AIIMS, Delhi, along with Dr Viney Jain, former director of INMAS LAB (DRDO). Dr Banerji, who has served at AIIMS’ neurosurgery depart- ment for 30 years, told this newspaper that the drug was reasonably effective on cancer but could not comment on its efficacy on Covid-19 patients. “We used the drug for brain cancer. I can tell you that it was reasonably effective. And we had hoped that it would get approval for commercial production, but that didn’t happen. But Covid is not cancer. I don’t want to make presumptions whether it will work for Covid-19 patients or not,” Dr Ban- DELHI COVID WATCH MAY 20 MAY 21 Positive cases 3,231 3,009 Recovery 7,831 7,288 Active cases 40,214 35683 Deaths 233 252 Containment zones 56,833 50,074 Tests 58,744 63,190 Positivity rate 5.50% 4.76% erji said. 2-DG, developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO’s) leading laboratory — Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences (INMAS) — in collaboration with Hyderabad-based Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, has been granted First used in clinical study on brain tumour patients DRDO’s drug was first used in a human clinical study on brain tumour patients by Dr A K Banerji at AIIMS, Delhi, along with Dr Viney Jain, former director of INMAS LAB (DRDO) emergency approval by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) for Covid treatment. It has been studied in over 200 clinical trials for the treatment of various cancers globally . “Components are the same as the drug, then and now. Dr Jain, a friend of mine from AIIMS, was working at the DRDO laboratory He had convinced me to . use the drug on cancer patients. We had used it as a radiation sensitiser,” Dr Banerji said. Dr Jain had joined the faculty as an assistant professor in the biophysics department of AIIMS in 1973 and played a crucial role in bringing the drug to India for the first time. “It had to be imported from the US at that time and was expensive. If we had to use it, it had to be pre-ordered. Then the DRDO gave a patent to a firm in MP so that it could be commercially viable. But another company was competing for the same drug and that became popular,” Dr Banerji said. P5
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