Hafta 268: Coronavirus hits India, Modi speaks, Gogoi goes to Rajya Sabha, and more

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In this episode of NL Hafta, Abhinandan Sekhri, Manisha Pande and Mehraj D Lone of Newslaundry are joined by Suhasini Haider, diplomatic editor of the Hindu newspaper, and Dr Arjun Dang, CEO of Dr Dang’s Labs.Starting off with a discussion on the coronavirus pandemic, Abhinandan wonders why India’s approach to containing it differs from that prescribed by the WHO, and what impact this will have. To Abhinandan’s question about the government not allowing healthcare professionals to use existing kits to test for coronavirus, Dang explains that this is to ensure uniformity in and quality of testing. All testing kits for coronavirus must be approved by the National Institute of Virology, Pune. “If the testing isn’t done in a controlled and regulated manner, we will actually go from the frying pan into the fire”. To Mehraj’s question about India’s testing capacity, Dang points out that the pandemic has disrupted the supply chains of the kits manufactured in Europe and China. India now faces an uphill battle to get more kits. So, it should judiciously use the kits it has.Talking about Modi’s address to the nation on the pandemic, Suhasini says it lacked substance but was reassuring. Abhinandan remarks that it was the first speech in which Modi showed some humility. Manisha notes that he talked up solutions taken from Western countries without thinking whether they would work in India. While it was high on emotion, it lacked substance. Abhinandan doesn’t think India has a plan to tackle the economic fallout of the pandemic. Mehraj argues that the prime minister didn’t address the nation but only those privileged sections of society that can afford to stay home; he didn’t address the anxieties of those who have no choice but to go out to feed their families. The panel also discuss Ranjan Gogoi’s nomination to the Rajya Sabha. Abhinandan wonders why Indians do not want to retire. Mehraj quips, “This is probably the only country in the world where people agitate for the retirement age to be raised rather than to be lowered.”They also discuss the political stalemate in Madhya Pradesh; the Press Council of India’s notice to the Telegraph for a headline that allegedly mocked India’s president; nepotism and mediocrity in the media industry and other sections of society, and much more.

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