There are two aspects to the news- knowing the headline and understanding the intricacies of it. We at The Connectere focus on both. While The First Forum edition gives a brief about the headlines, The Weekly Analysis Edition is meant to educate the reader on what do various news mean and what are their intricacies. This initiative is meant to educate the reader on how to understand the important news. In the Fortieth Edition we are covering the following news:

  1. Two Covid-19 vaccines approved but 69% Indians still hesitant to take the vaccine, reveals survey
  2. FSSAI Slashes limit for transfat in food
  3. Qatar and Saudi Arabia reconciliation – exhaustion or compromise?
  4. Global economy in the new decade
  5. The Antithesis of Democracy

Minamata Disease

Two Covid-19 vaccines approved but 69% Indians still hesitant to take vaccine, reveals survey

The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) gave a green signal to Oxford-Astrazeneca’s and Serum Institute of India’s Covishield, along with Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin last week. Covishield has been authorised for emergency use only and final contours are reportedly being worked out as it is yet to fulfil additional conditions.
The big question, however, is how many Indians are ready to take the vaccine?
As per latest survey by an online platform, 69 per cent reported that they are in no rush to take a vaccine against coronavirus. The question ‘The first Covid-19 vaccine in India now stands approved. What will be your approach in taking this vaccine’ received 8,723 responses and only 26 per cent of citizens said they will get the vaccine shot as soon as it becomes available.
Since October 2020, the platform has been collecting responses from citizens to know their approach on taking the Covid-19 vaccine, aimed to understand if the percentage of reluctance or hesitancy has increased, reduced or remains unchanged.
With vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna announcing success on efficacy results, the aggregate percentage of citizens in India hesitant about the vaccine reduced to 59 per cent in the November survey.
The vaccine developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca via Serum Institute came as hope for India. A survey by LocalCircles, however, showed a dramatic increase in the percentage of citizens to 69 per cent who were hesitant to take a vaccine against coronavirus.
Citizens belief that enough information is not available when it comes to vaccine side-effects, efficacy from trials, which combined with declining caseloads in India are top reasons why people are hesitant to take the Covid-19 vaccine.
Few experts warn of lack of transparency regarding the approval process, too, with DCGI not taking any questions from media when announcing the approval of Covishield and Covaxin on January 3, 2020, is of concern.
Earlier, when the Serum Institute was conducting trials for Covishield, a participant who undertook the trial had alleged that the vaccine was causing him serious side-effects, both neurological and psychological.
The Serum Institute dismissed these claims as “oblique pecuniary motive” maintaining that the participant’s suffering was independent of the vaccine trial he underwent and threatened to seek damages for malicious allegations in excess of Rs 100 crores (20 times the damages claimed by the participant). All such issues have led to a level of distrust amongst citizens.

organic food

FSSAI Slashes limit for transfat in food

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has capped the amount of trans fatty acids in oils and fats to 3 percent for 2021 and 2 percent by 2022. From the current permissible limit of 5 percent through an amendment to the FSSAI regulations.
It was not the first time the regulatory body took this move. It was in 2011 that India first passed a regulation that set a TFA limit of 10% in oils and fats, which was further reduced to 5% in 2015.  The revised regulation applies to edible refined oils, vanaspati, margarine, bakery shortenings and other mediums of cooking such as vegetable fat spreads and mixed fat spreads.
Trans-fat or trans-fatty acids are a form of unsaturated fat. Artificial trans-fat are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. Since they are easy to use, inexpensive to produce and last a long time, and give foods a desirable taste and texture, they are still widely used despite their harmful effects being well-known.
Some well associated risk of TFA include higher risk of heart disease, the risk of type 2 diabetes, weight gain and abdominal fat and lastly behavioural irritability and increased general aggression.

Steps Taken by FSSAI:-

  • Heart Attack Rewind- the 30 second public service announcement that will help support FSSAI’s global target of eliminating trans-fat in India by the year 2022, a year ahead of the global target by the WHO for complete elimination of trand-fat.
  • Eat Right Campaign- launched in July 2018. Edible oil industries took a pledge to reduce the levels of salt, sugar, saturated fat and trans-fat content by 2% by 2022.
  • Swasth Bharat Yatra- an initiate started under the “Eat Right” campaign is a Pan-India cyclothon to engage citizens on issues of food safety, combating food adulteration and healthy diets.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia reconciliation – exhaustion or compromise?

The recent Gulf Cooperation Council summit saw Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani finally willing to resolve their differences but there was no mention of concessions, or further ultimatums, such as those that had led to the rift. The reconciliation seemed borne more of exhaustion than compromise and the end to it all more about the incoming US president than regional politics.
Wins from the three year dispute, which saw Saudi Arabia, and the rest of the GCC oust Qatar from the alliance, are hard to define – not so the cost, both economically and politically; while Qatar bore the burden of the former, Saudi Arabia shouldered much of the latter.  However, the final toll has fallen on the very issue that the Saudi-led sanctions aimed to safeguard – Gulf solidarity.
When the heir to the Saudi throne, together with the UAE ruler, moved against Qatar in late 2017, the charge sheet against it was long. They, and other GCC members, as well as Egypt, accused their neighbour of backing Iran’s ambitions, and supporting Islamist groups. A growing alliance with Turkey was also seen as a threat, and the removal of a Turkish garrison from Qatar listed as another demand. Qatar, the smallest – and richest per capita – of the Gulf states had long tried to position itself as a go between on regional issues. It contested that its relations with Iran and support for Islamist groups should be viewed through that prism. Qatar and Turkey became closer than ever over the last 3 years. Together with the remnants of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, in exile in Turkey, they became the linchpin of an axis. In Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Doha, state media helped deepen the enmity.
Over the past year, Riyadh had led attempts to break the ice. However after Biden’s election win last November, resolving the Gulf dispute became a priority. Qatar could do without further headaches and also benefit from a diplomatic reset. And, as talk in the summit turned to fraternal bonds and common foes, there was no attempt to grandstand by either side. State media in Qatar had dutifully changed its tune. A cooperation agreement was signed in private unlike the public shaming of 2017. Wounds however, remain raw and it remains to be seen whether rallying against a common foe – Iran will be enough to overcome a spat. A fear remains that the detente may only tape over a fault-line that has deepened over 3 unnecessary years.

Global economy in the new decade

Looking back at the past few decades, it’s clear that economic upheavals have often been succeeded by promising periods of reinvention and revival. For instance, the devastations of the Great Depression of 1929 and the World War II were followed by several decades of prosperity in the Western world. Then, following the global financial crisis of 2008, there was an expectation that nations would move towards more social democracy. Instead, the last decade has witnessed bailouts for the corporates and banks, on one hand, and austerity for the people, on the other. The pandemic has raised a question whether the economic shock of the Covid-19 pandemic will herald a renewed economic thinking that has been long overdue in this new decade.
In the latter half of the previous decade global real wage growth has fluctuated between 1.6% and 2.2% as per International Labour Organisation statistics. During this period, average global GDP growth fluctuated between 2.3% and 3.3% implying that the labour share in global income has been declining. In fact, the real wages have been barely keeping pace with the contribution of the labour to the overall output. Needless to say, the global economy is in dire need of fresh ideas.
The consequences of such trends are not just economical but also political. When the rise in real wages falls behind output growth and productivity numbers, it implies that capital owners are commanding a larger share. Consequently, the sections in society that can afford to invest in capital assets can accumulate income and wealth at a faster pace. As the focus on development remains on aggregate gross domestic product numbers, these underlying trends of growing inequality remain unnoticed until they surface in different and dangerous ways. The previous decade was jammed with such outcomes on the political front and the general feeling of discontentment with the prevailing economic order led to the emergence of populist leaders like Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro.
The pandemic has further worsened the situation – the economic shock caused due to the lockdowns is estimated to leave over 100 million people in developing countries on the verge of extreme poverty and the social discontentment from such an outcome will be unprecedented. It has also taught the world valuable lessons. First, it has highlighted the importance of the competent governance and responsible public investment in ensuring equitable outcomes. Second, the abrupt pause in global flows of goods and people due to the pandemic has allowed nations to reconsider their movement towards hyper-globalisation and lastly, it has proven that the world can unite behind a global threat and work together for solutions to combat them.
The need for a fresh developmental outlook that is more equitable and sustainable has become more crucial than ever.

The Antithesis of Democracy

When does the idea of a democracy fail? When the people refuse to believe in the elected representatives or when the same elected representatives refuse to acknowledge the power of the people who are the most important pillar of the democracy. Wednesday morning saw would some describe as the darkest day in American political history. Violent mobsters stormed into Capitol Hill to protest against the 2020 presidential election, where the elected representatives of the government had gathered to confirm the election of Joe Biden as the US President. President Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the results of the election even after a recount confirmed Joe Biden’s victory. The President of the United States of America is elected to protect the constitution of the United States and not to blatantly misuse and abuse the powers vested in him/her by the constitution.
Let me define democracy for you, this is just to reiterate what a democracy stands for, a democracy is a form of government of the people, by the people and for the people. It becomes important then that the elected representatives realize the power of the people and respect the decisions made by the public in a free and fair election. Inciting the general public with false rumours to ensure that you remain in power is the failure of the idea of a democracy. This is the antithesis of democracy.
Let us also look at India, a trend can be observed in the world’s largest democracy, where the countries’ single largest party, although acknowledges their defeat in an assembly election but forms a coalition with other minority parties and attempts to form the government overnight or horse, trades MLAs leading to a breakdown of an already running government.
The want and desire to remain in power leading to an absolute disregard of the wants of the public that allowed you to have power in the very first place is the abuse of democracy we refer to. This simply gives power and opportunity to other such mobsters and political groups to storm through the senate at their own will and disrupt the proceedings of the government because they were manipulated. It becomes equally important to say that to protest, peacefully, is the right of the people in a democracy in order to express discontent with the government but that does not give you the power to put lives in danger. As much as it is the responsibility of the government to uphold the ideas of a democracy, it is equally important that the people be circumspect at all times.

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