Author: Salil Zohaib Khan

What Is India’s ‘R-Factor’ In Corona Virus Calculations?

India has recorded most steep surges in the COVID-19 pandemic. As cases continue to surge across regions, there is no confirming when we will see the end.

However, a good recovery rate, low mortality rate and the increasing push towards developing a stable and safe vaccine are making our battle a bit easier. Now, experts have also found that the virus’s ‘R’ factor, which indicates the reproduction rate and is a critical parameter to map the spread of the disease went below 1, for the first time since the pandemic started to spread in India.

02/6Are good recovery rates indicating positive news?

According to experts, many of the high-burden states in India, which are experiencing a heavy caseload have witnessed a drop of the R-value below 1 in the recent weeks.

While Delhi, which is in the middle of a second wave is seeing the R-value hover just a little around one, states like Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Karnataka, which were the worst-affected have registered a rate of 0.90.

If the trend continues, and good interventions, both medical and non-pharmaceutical are continued to be practised, we might be nearing the end of the deadly pandemic in the coming months.

As of today, India has crossed the 5.82 million infection mark, with over 92,000 deaths.

03/6What is ‘R’ rate?

According to epidemiologists, when R number drops below 1, it also acts as an indicator of the pandemic waning out. If the R rate dips below 1, it means the number of recoveries is outweighing the total number of infected cases, meaning that the outbreak would soon die naturally.

For example, if R equals 2, it would mean that an infected person could spread the infection onto two people, who, in turn, could further spread it to others, which is exponential.

If R is less than 1, an infected person may not spread the infection at all or at max spread it to 1 person, which will make it easier to manage the spread.

04/6Why is this so important to track?

R number could signify how good or bad a given region is doing in the fight against coronavirus. It could also indicate the states where COVID-19 is seeing exponential growth and the ones which could be doing good.

In Delhi, which was hailed for being a model state to flatten the COVID rate, the R number dropped to 0.75. It has only bounced back to a little over 1, in the middle of the second wave.

05/6It could tell us about how slow or fast the virus is spreading

A rapidly and steadily increasing R rate could mean that the virus is spreading at a much faster, and in a dangerous way than it should be.

As long as states continue to see a downward spiral in the R number, defeating coronavirus could be easy.

06/6R number could point to areas of concern

According to Professor Sitabhadra Sinha, Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai, who has extensively worked on graphing the R number trends during the pandemic, figures could be a key to emphasize areas which need better care and attention. Speaking to the Print, he said,

“We will still see new infections happening, but the important point is that recoveries are more. If the R-value can be maintained below 1, the epidemic will eventually die out but we need to have R less than 1 for a considerable length of time for this to happen,

States, such as Delhi, who are now mapping a high R number could also be reversing the progress they made in the fight against COVID-19, he added.

“…Earlier we had seen that in Delhi, after keeping R less than 1 for more than a month, the R suddenly increased beyond 1, thereby losing the gains they had made,” #innlive

Why Four Bollywood Actors Under NCB Scanner In SSR Case?

It is being said that the NCB will be conducting more raids after Jaya Saha gave out some big names from the film industry.

The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) has rocked the Bollywood industry after it sprung into action into Sushant Singh Rajput’s death investigation. The NCB targetted the drug angle into the actor’s death case and many big names like Deepika Padukone, Sara Ali Khan, Shraddha Kapoor and Rakul Preet Singh are now under the agency’s radar. And if the latest reports are to be believed, the names of four male actors will soon be revealed in the drugs case. 

According to a report in Times Now, talent manager Jaya Saha has named more A-list actors during the interrogation by the NCB. Four male actors are now under NCB scanner and it remains to be seen when will the agency reveal the names of these actors. It is being said that the NCB will be conducting more raids after Jaya gave out some big names from the film industry. They might also send summons to more people in the days to come. 

The NCB, on Wednesday, said that it has summoned Bollywood actors Deepika Padukone, Sara Ali Khan, Shraddha Kapoor and Rakul Preeet Singh for questioning in a drug-related case. A senior NCB official related to the probe told IANS, “Summons have been issued to Deepika, Sara, Shraddha and Rakul for questioning. “Besides four Bollywood actors, the NCB has also summoned fashion designer Simone Khambatta.” 

The drug law enforcement agency has also summoned Deepika’s manager Karishma Prakash and Sushant’s former manager Shruti Modi for questioning. Another NCB official said that it has summoned Khambatta, Rakul and Sushant’s former manager Shruti Modi on September 24. Deepika, along with Karishma, has been called for questioning on September 25 and Sara and Shradhha have been called on September 26. #innlive

Company With No Ventilator Model Got Rs 373 Cr PM CARES Order To Make 10,000 Ventilators

Trivitron Healthcare told that they began designing the ventilator and procuring the components only after they were given the contract.

In early April, Trivitron Healthcare, a 23-year old Chennai-based medical technology company, got government orders to build 7,000 “basic” and 3,000 “advanced” ventilators, paid for from the PM CARES fund. But when Trivitron got the order, neither of their basic nor advanced ventilator models existed—not even working prototypes.

The total value of Trivitron’s order works out to Rs 373 crore, based on a simple cost-per-unit calculation including Goods and Services Tax.

The “advanced” model was priced at Rs 8,56,800, five times the “basic” model which was priced at Rs 1,66,376, information accessed through RTI requests filed by transparency activist Venkatesh Nayak have revealed. 

These prices for Trivitron models – which were yet to be developed at the time — were based on the costs submitted by its competitors: the cost of the basic model is exactly the same as a competitor product by AgVa; while the advanced model was Rs 8,56,800, just Rs 5,600 cheaper than the bid submitted by Allied Medical Limited. (Prices are inclusive of GST)

But the tender documents contained only one set of qualifying technical specifications, and no stated provisions for procuring two different types of ventilators at such vastly different prices. The tender was issued by HLL Lifecare Limited, a public sector enterprise tasked with procuring Covid-19-related supplies, including ventilators, for the Narendra Modi government.

Trivitron’s order did not come from HLL. It came from Andhra Pradesh Medtech Zone (AMTZ), a public sector enterprise under the government of AP, which has a 270-acre zone dedicated for medical device manufacturing. HLL gave AMTZ an order to manufacture 13,500 ventilators and AMTZ passed on 10,000 of these to Trivitron. Trivitron told HuffPost India that they got the orders when they responded to a request for procurement put out by AMTZ, at prices set by AMTZ.

Five months later, this opaque two-step contracting process between HLL and AMTZ has unravelled into a shambles even as Trivitron, the private company, says they are stuck in the middle bearing the consequences.

PM CARES ventilator order
PM CARES ventilator order details

Trivitron told HuffPost India that they have manufactured the ventilators at great cost and effort in the midst of a pandemic, but HLL is yet to issue them a dispatch order for their ventilators. As a consequence, Trivitron has not supplied a single ventilator that they say they developed specially for this contract.

“Immediately after we received the order, we started the process of procuring the components and simultaneously designing a ventilator to meet specs given by HLL,” said Satyaki Banerjee, Trivitron’s co-CEO.

“Despite huge exposure of our investments into this project, we have no certainty of supplies, despite following everything which was mentioned in our P.O. given by AMTZ endorsed by HLL,” Banerjee said in an email. “We do hope better sense prevails and a fair and transparent procedure is followed by the Tendering authority and DGHS [Directorate General of Health Services] and they fulfil the purchase order given to us.”

(A “P.O.” is a purchase order)

The strange case of how Trivitron, a company that had never made a ventilator before, won an emergency government contract to make 10,000 ventilators and is now still to receive a delivery dispatch, is illustrative of the Modi government’s opaque, arbitrary and misguided attempts at procuring 58,850 ventilators for a total cost of around Rs 2,000 crore from the PM CARES fund. While defence public sector enterprise Bharat Electronics Limited was directly tasked with making 30,000 ventilators, procurement for the remaining orders was handled by HLL.

As the following account makes clear, every step of the Modi government’s ventilator procurement process has been riddled with anomalies. 

Trivitron, for its part, says it proceeded “honestly and sincerely”, motivated by a desire to help India’s fight against Covid-19.

“Despite being one of India’s largest Medical Technology companies, whose factory was inaugurated by our Hon Prime Minister in 2016, we are being pulled and pushed in different directions in this project,” Banerjee said in the email.  

Other ventilator manufacturers, some of whom also won contracts and some who didn’t, have blamed HLL, the public sector enterprise tasked with procuring the ventilators.

“HLL messed up from day zero,” one ventilator manufacturer who bid for HLL’s contract said on condition of anonymity. “The process was opaque, arbitrary and designed to fail.”

Nayak, the transparency activist who shared information obtained under RTI with HuffPost India, said the botched procurement illustrates just why the PM CARES fund must be under the purview of the Right to Information Act with regular audits and the results made public. 

“In the RTI response, HLL did not provide specific queries related to formation of technical committees, quantities of ventilators which failed to perform or did not meet technical specifications, and details of hospitals where ventilators were supplied,” said Nayak of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. “Several of these companies do not have a well-established track record of manufacturing crucial medical supplies to be used in critical patients. Withholding such crucial information is problematic.”

HLL, the Union Health Ministry, and AMTZ did not respond to HuffPost India’s requests for comment.  

Tender Surrender

When HLL first announced tenders to procure ventilators, several Indian companies prepared their bids. Some had an established business of manufacturing ventilators, some like Trivitron were medical device companies looking to get into the ventilator business, and some were start-ups.

Ventilator makers told HuffPost India there was no clear-cut procurement process.  

The confusion began with the price at which HLL was willing to buy the devices.

A review of 8 different procurement orders issued by HLL between March 27 and April 17 for a total of 28,963 ventilators reveals that the company agreed to pay a per unit price of between Rs 1.67 lakh for AgVa’s basic-model ventilator to Rs 15.34 lakh for the Elisa 600 model ventilator supplied by BPL.  HuffPost India relied on information obtained by Nayak from CHRI and Anjali Bhardwaj of the Satark Nagrik Sangh under the Right to Information Act.

HuffPost India has reported on the many problems with the AgVa ventilators here and here.

So how did HLL justify paying such widely divergent prices for ventilators that corresponded to a common set of specifications?

A ventilator manufacturer who had bid for the HLL tender said the price bands were communicated verbally. 

“These details were not put in the public domain, but shared on a need to know basis,” the manufacturer said. “There was no such differentiation at the specification level. But later on, based on some unknown criteria, HLL categorised some machines as ‘advanced’ and some as ‘basic’.”

“The price was fixed by HLL with two sets of different specifications but the specifications kept on changing as the time progressed,” Trivitron co-CEO Banerjee told HuffPost India, adding that the pricing and specifications discussions were held between HLL and AMTZ.

Eventually, Banerjee said, the procurement committee created two price bands and specified the price HLL was willing to pay for both. “They gave manufacturers this option and let them choose if they wanted to take that,” he said.

Former government officials familiar with how government departments normally go about their procurement expressed surprise at how HLL conducted this tender.

EAS Sarma, a retired former secretary to the Government of India in the power and finance ministries, said the objective of any public tender is to ensure competition, transparent procedure, and obtain a product that conforms to the prior-stipulated technical specifications and is offered at a competitive price.

“The way the tender process has been described in the mail I have received does not appear to comply with the CVC’s guidelines,” Sarma said in an email correspondence, in which HuffPost India shared its findings.

“If the tender issuing PSU wishes to procure two different kinds of ventilators, for the sake of transparency, the tender enquiry should specify not only the two different sets of technical specifications in advance but also the threshold prior-experience criteria,” Sarma said. 

Fluid Timelines

The procurement price wasn’t the only goal post that HLL shifted. Ventilator-makers said HLL initially required that companies deliver their ventilator by June 30. As a consequence, some established companies bid for small orders that they could realistically deliver within the mandated time period.

Yet, the June 30 deadline was subsequently relaxed for companies that won the bids.

Allied Medical Limited (AML), a 40-year-old company that has been selling ventilators for years, bid for and received an order of only 350 ventilators because of HLL’s insistence that all deliveries had to be made by June 30.

“We were given a clear-cut understanding that no supplies will be accepted after 30th June. And the last date of supply had to be 30 June,” Aditya Kohli, the Managing Director of AML, said. “That is the reason why we bid for 350 ventilators. Otherwise we would have also said that we could supply 10,000 or 30,000 or whatever quantities.”

Kohli said the procurement process was handled with “no common bidding ground”, and each company struck individual agreements with HLL. 

Delivery Delays

As of September 7, only 18% of the 28,963 ventilators ordered by HLL from private manufacturers have been delivered. The delay in delivery, companies say, is because HLL is yet to issue a dispatch order for the thousands of ventilators the Modi government has ordered.

“Our dilemma is that we received an order, invested a whole lot of money and efforts in developing a ventilator, and we want to supply them at a time when it’s really meaningful,” Banerjee from Trivitron said in an interview. “The number of Covid-19 cases in India are rising everyday, and we are ready to supply ventilators. All we need is a supply schedule.” 

The controversial healthcare start-up AgVa, which won a contract to make 10,000 low-cost ventilators, has delivered only half its order of 10,000 ventilators, while Jyoti CNC—the company whose ventilators have come under scrutiny for underperformance in Gujarat hospitals—has not delivered a single device.

In an emailed response, AgVa also said it’s awaiting a dispatch order for the next 5,000 machines. 

Thus far, the only company to have delivered a lion’s share of its order is Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), a public sector enterprise under the Ministry of Defence, that was contracted to manufacture 30,000 ventilators by the Health Ministry. As of September 7, BEL had delivered 24,332 ventilators, or 80% of its order. The BEL ventilator has been manufactured in collaboration with Skanray, a Mysuru-based ventilator maker. 

HLL was not involved in the BEL contract.

What Impact Of Plagiarism Seen In Indian Cinema?

  • Indian cinema is flush with plagiarized plot, character, themes and narratives 

“Plagiarism” is a term generally used in association with literature of all kinds – fiction, non-fiction, essays, even Ph.D. Thesis. But it also applies to other cultural and creative fields like drama, fine arts and cinema. But cinema is perhaps the biggest violator of the norms and principles of plagiarism across the world perhaps because it is easier for a filmmaker to pass off a ‘copy’ or an almost copy of any film across the world made perhaps in the 1970s and wrap it up with updated characterisations, a little switch in the plot, perhaps retaining a slight similarity in the narrative as his/her own.

The most recent example is a 47-minute Bengali short film shot completely during the lockdown is Tasher Ghawr which means “House of Cards.” As watched the film, I began to guess which way the film would turn because it seemed to have a very uncanny resemblance to a Canadian-English film calledDancing in the Dark (1986) directed by Leon Marr and enriched by the unforgettably incredible performance of the sole protagonist Edna by Martha Henry.

Dancing in the Dark won the Genie Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, Genie Nominee for Best Direction. TIFF Award for Best Canadian Feature Film – Special Jury Citation for Martha Henry. But the talented director Leon Marr did not ever make a feature film again. He had made a couple of short films and television plays before but nothing after this iconic film.

Tasher Ghawr, directed by Sudipto Roy and scripted by Sahana Dutta is all about Sujata (Swastika Mukherjee), a married woman from an upwardly mobile family who addresses the audience in a long monologue about what her life is all about. The story is therefore, completely from her perspective and the other characters she talks about, specially her husband, are either not visible at all and the husband is ‘visible’ in sliced out frames without giving him a full screen image. So, the characterisation is also entirely Sujata’s and the value judgements are also her own.

Film Still: Tasher Ghawr

She moves about her well-decorated apartment that extends out to a terrace garden she is very fond of and talks completely without any moral inhibitions about how her life is nothing but drudgery filled with housework and baking and cleaning and how she is aware of her husband’s torrid affair with his secretary but accepts it without making any noise about it. She addresses the audience directly cutting out the fourth wall of cinema where talking into the camera is not the general rule.

Dancing in the Dark has a completely different structure but the story is basically the same and so is the twist in the end. This tells the story of Edna, who worships her husband but does little else by clean, broom, sweep the floors of the apartment she lives in, cooks, cleans and works so hard quite happily that it makes you wonder if she suffers from OCD though OCD was lesser known when the film was made.

But the film opens in a mental institution where Edna has been confined to with an all-tome attendant ascribed to her as doctors believe that she is mentally imbalanced which led to her murdering her husband cruelly. She keeps a journal in which she writes down her thoughts in detail and the film keeps flashing back and forth between Edna in the mental home, Edna’s journal being read out from her journal in bits and pieces and Edna scrubbing and cleaning and sweeping every corner of her home scrupulously and has decided that that is her sole purpose in life – to keep a scrupulously clean house for the husband she worships.. She has absolutely no feeling of guilt for what she has done and stands firmly by her decision. But for the three years that she has been in the mental hospital, she has not uttered a single word with anyone including her attendant. So, the entire film is almost a silent document and a tribute to Edna as a woman betrayed completely by life, by relationships and of course, by her husband. She kills her husband by stabbing him repeatedly with a kitchen knife. We see her dancing away beautifully in her room and the film closes on this confusing note.

For a debut film shot completely within the lockdown restrictions made mandatory in the circumstances, and the outstanding performance by Swastika Mukherjee, Tasher Ghawr does not acknowledge the “inspiration” from the original where copyright laws have not been violated because of the more than three-decade gap, ethical violation has been done. Besides, Tasher Ghawr, for those who have watched the original Dancing in the Dark, is an extremely watered-down version of the original which makes no attempt to make it the sharp and edgy indictment against patriarchy and domestic violence within marriage the original film displays so brilliantly.

This is plagiarism. It refers to the use of another’s ideas, information, language, or writing when done without proper acknowledgement of the original source. Essential to an act of plagiarism is an element of dishonesty in attempting to pass off the plagiarised work as original. Plagiarism is not necessarily the same as copyright infringement, which occurs when one violates copyright law. Like most terms from the area of intellectual property, plagiarism is a concept of the modern age and not really applicable to medieval or ancient works.

Hindi cinema is flush with plagiarized plot, character, themes and narratives “borrowed”, “inspired from”, “motivated by” or “adapted from” some earlier film, Indian or International. The first film that comes to mind is Raj Kapoor’s Sri 420 which has sometimes been attacked for taking “inspiration” of Charlie Chaplin’s films that popularized the tramp image that made Charlie Chaplin to an all-time star.

Chori Chori (1956) featuring Raj Kapoor and Nargis in the romantic lead in a non-RK production was a “copy” of the Hollywood hit It Happened One Night (1934) produced and directed by Frank Capra featuring Clark Gable and Claudia Colbert. Phir Subah Hogi (1958) also starring Raj Kapoor in the main role known mainly for its rich musical score and songs was along the lines of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, a social comment. The film did not do well in commercial terms though the music remains a hot favourite till this day.

Flash forward to 1991 when we witnessed a very modernized and glamorous “remake” of the same film in Hindi directed by Mahesh Bhatt and starring his daughter Pooja Bhatt and Amir Khan called Dil Hai Ki Maanta Nahin. If the name of the director and/or film which is the “source” of the copy is mentioned in the credit titles, then plagiarism has not been committed. But mostly, this is never done so they are guilty of violating honesty in an ethical sense even if not in a legal sense.

The John Abraham and Nana Patekar starring Taxi number 9211 (2006) is said to have been a copy of Ben Affleck and Samuel Jackson’s Changing Lanes (2002), which saw a wealthy brat placed by circumstances at the mercy of a cab driver.

Some films lift from not one but more than one film and one example of this is in the film Barfi (2012) and though it was India’s official entry to the Oscars in 2013, the dying of the aged couple in each other’s arms in the end of the film is a direct lift from The Notebook (2004) while Ranbir Kapoor’s constant hide-and-seek game he plays with the police inspector (Saurabh Shukla) is borrowed generously from Charlie Chaplin’s short film The Adventurer.

The show, however, goes on and plagiarism continues without break. #innlive

Nuvoco Launched ‘Artiste Signature Collection’ In Association With Gauri Khan Designs

Nuvoco Vistas Corp. Ltd., a leading building materials company, today unveiled the ‘Artiste Signature Collection’, its first-ever collaboration for concrete designs with Gauri Khan Designs and International Designs through a virtual launch programme. The Artiste Signature Collection is a ‘Proprietary Signature Collection’ that is specially crafted and available exclusively for Nuvoco’s customers, in a limited edition only.

The Artiste Signature Collection comprises unique patterns, splendid textures and preeminent designs that are versatile, providing endless design options when combined together. Along with the offerings from International Designs, with its earthy patterns and hues this entire collection represents brilliance in creativity that can convert a dream abode into a masterpiece. This venture also marks Ms. Khan’s debut in creating designs for concrete flooring, which blend modern clear-cut patterns with distinctive design elegance and exclusive taste.

Sharing his experience during the virtual launch Mr. Arbaaz Shaikh from Gauri Khan Designs, said, “Nuvoco approached us for putting together one-of-its-kind designs that are a fusion of contemporary and modern, versatile and best in the market, which imbibes Mrs. Khan’s unparalleled sense of aesthetics. The designs are presented in Organic and Geometric patterns offering weaved and symmetric & asymmetric designs respectively that can fluidly blend with the architecture and the landscape making it a perfect fit. With this association, we are happy to offer a solution that is exclusive, versatile and durable and thank Nuvoco for extending extraordinary support and sharing their experience in bringing this exclusive signature collection for its discerning customer, in times like these.”

Mr. Prashant Jha, Chief Ready-mix Business, added, “The Artiste Signature Collection in association with Gauri Khan Designs and International Designs is a first-of-its-kind collection where a celebrity designer has collaborated with Nuvoco to create such modern, yet timeless, and versatile designs for landscape floorings. The Artiste Signature Collection is available pan India, and with a special launch offer for our first twenty customers. With this launch, Nuvoco is raising the benchmark in shaping a more beautiful, smarter and sustainable new world.” 

The Artiste Signature Collection will be a new addition to Nuvoco’s Artiste range of concrete that presently comprises Lumos, Engrave, Coarse, Bare and Hue. Nuvoco offers end-to-end services including placing and finishing a variety of designs, patterns and colours, specially designed concrete mix by an experienced team of applicators with proper technical supervision ensuring a perfect delivery. #innlive

Hyderabad Filmmaker Slapped Legal Notice To ‘Jhund’ Makers Over Copyright Infringement

Hyderabad-based short-filmmaker Nandi Chinni Kumar, has sent legal notices to the makers of forthcoming Hindi film “Jhund” and megastar Amitabh Bachchan, the lead actor of the movie, over alleged copyright infringement.

Kumar, a Telugu short-film maker, through his advocate sent the legal notices in October first week to eight persons including “Jhund” director Nagraj Manjule, producer Krishan Kumar, T-Series chairman and managing director Bhushan Kumar, Bachchan, along with Akhilesh Paul and Vijay Barse, on whose life the film is based, among others.

According to Kumar, he wanted to make a biopic titled “Slum Soccer” on Paul, a slum soccer player who was the Indian captain at the Homeless World Cup. The filmmaker claimed that, in 2017, he bought the exclusive copyrights from Paul under ‘Life Story Rights Agreement’. Bachchan is essaying the role of Vijay Barse, a Nagpur-based retired sports teacher who starts a slum soccer movement, in the film. Kumar told PTI here that Paul, had also signed a ‘No Objection Certificate’, declaring that the director is the authorised person for exclusive rights for making the biopic in any language and it was not given to anyone else. “But he (Paul) went back on the promise and entered into another agreement with ‘Jhund’ producers,” Kumar alleged.

Following this Kumar said, he sent several e-mails to “Jhund” producers seeking clarification on the issue but to no avail. Kumar further said he had bought the copyright’s from Paul, and alleged “Jhund” producers indulged in deceit and cheating and thus delayed his project by threat and criminal intimidation over phone. The legal notice also accused “Jhund” producers of “colluding and conspiring and committing infringement of copyrights and indulging in making of the film ‘Jhund’, being aware that it infringed the copyrights of our client (Kumar)”. “You addressees infringed copyrights of our client, and not only violated his copyrights, but also damaged our client’s future prospects of making the film ‘Slum soccer’,” the legal notice read.

Kumar said he also sent e-mails to Bachchan in September last week. The legal notice called upon the addresses to desist from shooting, producing, post production, releasing film teasers, trailers and film posters, marketing, censor certification, broadcasting, selling satellite digital rights and promoting the film “Jhund”. Kumar said he got a reply only from T-Series and now “shortly” plans to move court seeking to stop screening of “Jhund” movie. #innlive