Category Archive : Cover Story

Is Justice Accessible To Dalit Employee In Private Workplaces?

Caste came as a shock to the international audience when the State of California filed a law suit on caste discrimination against CISCO systems. While California is trying to locate caste within the parameters of religion, one would assume that the Indian legal system is adequate to protect a Dalit against caste discrimination.  #innlive unravels the hurdles posed for ascertaining a conviction for caste based discrimination in workplace in Indian laws.

In June, the State of California sued CISCO Systems on the grounds of caste-based discrimination. The lawsuit outlined harassment faced by an Indian American employee on the basis of his caste.

California has alleged that the technology giant failed to guarantee a workplace free from hostility and unlawful discrimination. However, since Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does not mention ‘caste’, the case before the California Court lies in interpreting to read caste into an already prohibited ground of ‘religion’.

Efforts have been previously made in the international fora to prohibit caste discrimination by including it under the ambit of ‘descent’ or ‘religion.’

This instance is indicative of the persistent problem of caste discrimination in employment. While the United States lacks a legal structure that prohibits caste discrimination explicitly, in India on the other hand, caste discrimination has been constitutionally prohibited.

So the question is, does India possess enough safeguards to hold a private employer accountable for caste-based discrimination at the workplace in a court of law?

Inadequacy of Existing Provisions

The Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955 [PCR Act] was enacted to punish preaching and practicing of ‘Untouchability.’ The PCR Act outlaws enforcing a “social disability” on the grounds of untouchability in the practice of any profession.

As noted by the Supreme Court in the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights versus Union of India, the Act fails to specifically target indirect and direct acts of workplace caste discrimination, in addition to overall poor implementation.

Due to the inadequacy of the PCR Act, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act [POA Act] was enacted in 1989. The Act enlarged the scope of criminal liability for actions not covered under the Indian Penal Code [IPC] and the PCR Act.

Though Section 4(za)(E) of the Act penalises obstruction of a member of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes community from practicing any profession. However, the range of acts criminalised are ‘severe’ in nature.

While these provisions could be utilized to punish an individual, the larger culture and discriminatory structures underlying the working of the organization are neither addressed nor dismantled.

Discriminatory behaviour at the workplace, akin to the incidents described in the CISCO petition, are made up of microaggressions and specific non-observable moments which prima facie would not qualify as casteist. This would make it hard for incidents of caste-based employment discrimination to pass the criminal standard of ‘atrocity’ under the Act. Moreover, like the PCA Act, the POA Act has also not been properly enforced.

The laws are vague, non-specific, and fail to sufficiently engage with workplace discrimination.

Firstly, neither of the laws outline any procedure for complaints, inquiry, or the procedure after the punishment to be followed by the employee. Secondly, the provisions import criminalisation only on the individual(s) – with no focus on the role of the organization.

In his critique of anti-discrimination law, Neil Gotanda argues “when  laws  focus only on bilateral employment relations, they exclude any understanding that race has institutional or structural dimensions beyond the formal racial classification.”

Similarly, the extant provisions exclude any understanding that Caste can have institutional or structural dimensions. While these provisions could be utilized to punish an individual, the larger culture and discriminatory structures underlying the working of the organization are neither addressed nor dismantled.

On these counts, it’s safe to say that India lacks a legal framework to address caste-based discrimination in employment effectively.

There is a Right to Equality at Work guaranteed under the Constitution, and a corresponding duty on the State not to violate this right.

Though India has certain laws prohibiting caste discrimination, these laws fail to recognize the various ways in which discrimination manifests in the workplace.

Duty of the State to protect the Right to Equality at the Workplace

The Constitution not only recognizes a right against discrimination but also obligates the State to eradicate caste discrimination through labour law.

Article 14 & 15(1) recognizes the right to non-discrimination based on caste, and Article 19(1)(g) recognizes the freedom to practice any profession.

There is a Right to Equality at Work guaranteed under the Constitution, and a corresponding duty on the State not to violate this right. Flowing from this duty of the State, legislation like the Equal Remuneration Act 1976 [ERA], the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2016 [RPD Act], and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 [POSH Act] prohibit discrimination based on gender and disability at the workplace.

The purpose of labour law is to ensure that inviolable rights are safeguarded even in the private sphere. This is evident in the scheme of the POSH Act and the RPD Act.

The rights enumerated in Part III are vertical in nature, enforceable only against the State and its instrumentalities. Hence, a claim for violation of fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 14 and Article 15(1) cannot be brought against a private employer. However, the verticality of these provisions cannot be an impediment to prohibit non-discrimination.

Part III of the Constitution casts an obligation on the State to regulate private employers and prohibit discrimination in employment.

This was the principle underlying the Supreme Court’s decision in Vishaka & Ors v State of RajasthanThe Court declared the failure of the State in regulating both private and public workplaces is violative of the petitioner’s fundamental rights under Article 14, 19, and 21.

By recognizing the lacunae in law, the Court issued the famous Vishaka guidelines – which later on led to the enactment of the POSH Act.

The purpose of labour law is to ensure that inviolable rights are safeguarded even in the private sphere. This is evident in the scheme of the POSH Act and the RPD Act.

Enacting another law is not an end-all solution for caste discrimination at work. Especially when organizations indulge in “discrimination laundering”

The Constitution asks the State to promote the educational and economic rights of Dalits and Adivasis (Article 46 and part XVI), as well as ensure just and humane conditions of work (Article 42).

Hence, there is a duty on the State to ensure that there is no discrimination on caste in any workspace. Shashi Tharoor’s Anti-Discrimination and Equality Bill 2016 and CLPR’s Equality Bill 2019 are examples of how a norm prohibiting caste discrimination in employment spaces can be framed.

Enacting another law is not an end-all solution for caste discrimination at work. Especially when organizations indulge in “discrimination laundering”– where they shape anti-discrimination laws to remove any pressure on themselves and keep discriminatory structures intact.

Nonetheless, it is a starting point in addressing a pressing social issue and an opportunity to fulfill the vision of anti-discrimination enshrined in the Constitution.

(Author Riddhi Shetty is a student at NALSAR University of Law. Views are personal.)

‘Immunity’ Products Are Fastly Off The Stores, Are They Really Works?

The unpredictability of COVID-19 and the desperation for a vaccine are boons for pharma companies, natural-food manufacturers and plant-based nutrition products whose consumers are in panic.

Since the virus was affecting weakened immune systems more, the obvious answer must have been, why not make a drug that contains Ayurvedic ingredients such as ashwagandha, giloy, tulsi and rudanti, and throw in a few minerals? The result was Coronil.

Ramdev called it a breakthrough and claimed that successful clinical trials were conducted on 15-65-year-olds affected by the virus who were cured by the medicine. Soon Patanjali walked a few steps back, saying that it had never claimed that Coronil was a cure against Covid-19 but it was an effective immunity booster against the virus.

The ‘Coronil Kit’ now comes with the tag line, ‘Covid-19 Immunity Booster Kit.’ The Madras High Court recently rapped the company’s knuckles for “exploiting the fear and panic among the general public by projecting a cure for the coronavirus,” and fined it Rs 10 lakh. As for the kit itself, it has been a smash hit. Patanjali claimed that it was selling over 10 lakh kits per day, each priced at Rs 545.

Immunity is the holy grail of the Covid-19 age, which some medical scientists predict will last two or more years, or perhaps forever, hibernating like a beast of prey until some act of nature wakens it to strike again.

The pharma companies aren’t complaining. The immunology drugs market is projected to grow from $65.1 billion in 2016 to $113 billion in 2023, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.2 percent.

The body’s only defence against a virus and other pathogens is the immune system, the most complex network of cells and molecules outside our brain.

They deal with viral intrusions as shapechangers, warriors, honey traps and provocateurs, and even produce calm. The medical world has never seen a virus so complicated as the current coronavirus nicknamed SARS-CoV-2. It is sly, changes form and acts unpredictably across neural systems, age and geography. 

On the immunity battleground

Immunity is of two types—the innate and the adaptive. Innate immunity is dependent on a person’s genetic constitution, which he or she has inherited from their parents. Imagine the body as a battlefield and the body’s airways as the scene of the first attack.

The innate immune system contains white blood cell soldiers called B-cells, which are the first line of defence. The body’s intelligence system kicks in when it senses enemy molecules and launches proteins called cytokines.

They activate the B-cells to engulf, digest and launch a barrage of chemical warfare, which incidentally releases more cytokines. Inferons interfere with the replication of viruses. The result—inflammation that proves the innate system is working. But SARS-CoV-2 is a resilient enemy.

The problem with System 1 is that it goes for broad-based attacks while this requires specific areas to target.

The adaptive (or acquired) system goes into action mode. The sleeper network of chemicals and proteins alerts the T-cells, which have antibodies of the specific size and shape of the virus. These cells are specialists with different skills.

Each one is like a laser-guided torpedo with different receptors on its surface that recognise specific antigens. The missiles are released in the form of antibodies, which bind to a specific antigen, putting the virus in its crosshairs. The virus’s armour is accurately neutralised. 

Immunity is not bulletproof

It’s a perfect war plan. Then what’s going wrong with the immune system’s anti-Covid battle plan? Its time and memory.

Once the virus is demolished, most of the mobilised warrior cells back off and die. Except for a tiny fraction of commandos who stay back in the vital organs and patrol the bloodstream.

These seasoned soldiers rely on memory and counter-attack a fresh raid immediately because they remember what to do.

The difference is that Covid is a guerilla. It delays the relaunch of the commandos by stopping the production of interferons—molecules that block viral replication in the first stage.

This delay gives the invading virus a small time window for it to multiply its population unnoticed before the trip wires aren’t activated. These delays have a multiplier effect causing both innate and adaptive sections to lag behind.

Different persons, regardless of age or health, respond differently to the virus. Since coronavirus affects the respiratory tract initially, one patient could’ve inhaled a large dose of it in the beginning unlike another.

Their innate immune system could’ve weakened by old age or chronic illness. Sometimes the levels of T-cells start diminishing. All these open the gates to the lungs, kidneys, blood vessels, and the gastrointestinal and nervous systems. The immune system doesn’t stop working, which causes a serious backlash.

It’s designed to explode with maximum force, and destroy cells and release harmful chemicals to kill invaders. But when the virus escalates its offensive, the immune system will react equally furiously, thereby causing collateral damage to the body.

This protracted uncontrolled violence could kill people who are already cured. The immune system is engineered to counter three broad groups of pathogens: viruses and microbes that infect cells, bacteria and fungi clinging on outside cells, and parasitic worms.

Each group has proprietary cells and molecules which will be activated during an invasion. Covid-19 being virus-caused, only the first should be switched on.

But all three are activated in serious cases, because the immune system has gone amok. Doctors call it cytokine storm—“a hyper inflammation caused by the body’s immune chemicals in response to certain infections like Covid-19 when the immune system has unpredictably gone awry. This is happening even in persons who are otherwise healthy. This hyperactive immune system as a reaction to Covid-19 has, in fact, led to many deaths during the pandemic.”

Dr Aviral Roy, Consultant, Critical Care, Medica Superspecialty Hospital, Kolkata, calls our immune response a “very delicately balanced and beautiful system.”

Any imbalance can cause havoc in the body and lead to complications like multi-organ failures seen in Covid-19-infected patients. “It’s such a new virus that our immune systems haven’t learned how to deal with it,” says Dr Roy, while asserting that 80 percent of people have immune systems that know exactly what to do.

“Taking immune-boosting foods is unlikely to alter this response by the body,” says Dr V Ramana Dhara, professor at the Indian Institute of Public Health, Hyderabad, and infectious diseases expert.

In other words, human immune systems are well-equipped or sometimes, too well-equipped to our own detriment. Says Dr Surya Kant, Professor and Head, Department of Respiratory Medicine, KGMU, Lucknow, “Our immune system is designed to fight external agents, but can be compromised.” 

Market is booming

The unpredictability of SARS-CoV-2 and the desperation for a vaccine are boons for pharma companies, natural-food manufacturers and plant-based nutrition products whose consumers, both at home and work, are in a panic. Immunity is their new playground and immune boosters, both natural and processed, are in huge demand. Says Mohit Malhotra, CEO of a top natural health products manufacturer, “There’s a strong surge in demand for chyavanprash, honey and giloy tablets, among other things. The first quarter of 2020-21 saw a nearly seven-fold growth in demand for chyavanprash and an over 60 percent surge in demand for honey.

This is despite April being a complete washout.” The company has expanded its capacity recently since it claims medical stores are out of stock. Ayurveda-based preventive healthcare and hygiene are gaining prominence in the consumer mind-space.

“People are now more inclined to prophylactic health remedies, especially immunity-boosting products. This trend would sustain, going forward,” adds Malhotra. People are exploring novel foods and supplements to strengthen their immune system as never before. Rajasthan’s camel milk manufacturers are a happy lot. Their claims that the milk contains elements to fight diabetes, improve blood circulation, and yes, provide immunity are perhaps being taken seriously.

A Rajasthan-based company has seen a surge in demand for the milk by 30 percent over the last three months. “Our raw camel milk powder and flavoured camel milk powder have been getting an overwhelming response from cities, particularly Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Delhi after Covid,” says Shrey Kumar, co-founder of the company.

The demand for plant-based nutrition food has grown too. “It improves gut health and therefore you’re better equipped to absorb nutrients that support the immune system,” says Aarti Gill, co-founder of a plant-based nutrition product manufacturer. To keep the immune system balanced and harmonious, gut health is crucial. Over 70 percent of immune system cells are connected to the digestive tract. Intestines contain around 10 times more microorganisms than human cells in the entire body.

This balance will boost the strength of intestinal microflora to ward off harmful bacteria. Gill says immunity-boosting products that contain elderberry, guduchi (giloy), plant Vitamin C and plant protein have gained over 100 percent popularity in the last few months. Bottled water brands have dived into the immunity pool too.

One such company claims its bottled alkaline water is black in colour because it contains more than 70 minerals, sourced from the “depths of the Earth”, is 100 percent natural, provides superior hydration and better detoxification, and reduces acidity throughout the day. The company’s co-founder Aakash Vaghela claims the demand for his water is up by nearly 20 percent in the last four months.

“Overseeing the current pandemic situation and immunity concerns of consumers we’re receiving queries and orders on a regular basis from across the country from all age groups, with metros and tier-1 cities contributing to about 70 percent of the orders,” he says. For Amit Agarwal, 38, a Delhi-based banking professional and his family of three, kaadha (an Ayurvedic concoction of tulsi, ginger, jaggery, cardamom and other ingredients) is a must, every day. “I feel this is what has kept my family safe from the coronavirus,” he says. After the pandemic, he has become a regular consumer of supplements such as chyavanprash and multi-vitamins. 

Dr Dhara isn’t surprised at this rush for anything that is an immunity enhancer. “In the absence of a specific treatment for Covid-19, this is natural. It’s people’s way of allaying anxiety about this unknown and changing disease,” says he. According to the India Brand Equity Foundation, Indian pharma companies supply over 80 percent of the antiretroviral drugs to combat AIDS. Pharmaceutical exports from India that include bulk drugs, intermediates, drug formulations, biologicals, Ayush and herbal products, and surgical products stood at $20.70 billion in FY20. India’s domestic pharmaceutical market itself was worth Rs 1.4 lakh crore in 2019, up from Rs 129,015 crore in 2018. 

Return to roots but be careful

It is not just families that are closely monitoring eating habits and incorporating ‘healthy’ and ‘immunity boosting’ foods in daily diet. Sandipan Mitra, co-founder and CEO, HungerBox, India’s leading institutional food technology company, knows that corporates are asking for immunity-boosting food to be served in cafeterias.

“The pandemic has forced us to turn towards our traditions and roots. For example, amla rice has become extremely popular since amla is considered to possess immunity-enhancing properties. Citrus-based foods such as lemon and coriander soup are in demand,” Mitra says. Office cafeteria counters have changed with anti-inflammatory juice, ginger peanut curry, beetroot juice, etc finding space over poori aloo and fried rice.

Nutritionists, immunologists and internal medicine experts understand the race to gain the extra edge with immunity boosters to prevent SARS-CoV-2 attacks.

But they feel this demand may not be based on scientific evidence. The Indian dietary supplements market is expected to reach $4 billion by 2020.

Kinita Kadakia Patel, well-known sports nutritionist, and health management professional, thinks that immunity products are useful only in case of an existing deficiency of a certain vitamin or mineral. These should be taken keeping in mind age, gender and body’s needs.

“Even during this pandemic, consuming multiple immunity-boosting products in a single day doesn’t improve immunity overnight. Building immunity is a process and takes time,” says Patel. Stop popping those multivitamin tablets indiscriminately.

Dr Kant is of the opinion that while combining vitamin B complex, C, D along with Zinc is recommended to boost immunity among high-risk groups, they should be taken only after consulting the doctor and bought from reputed pharma companies. A 2015 study released by Assocham-RNCOS concluded that 60-70 percent of dietary supplements sold across India are fake, counterfeit, unregistered and unapproved.

Last year, Amazon warned that some of the supplements were fake and even issued refunds. India’s food regulator, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, is checking the claims of many immunity-boosting products in the market.

It didn’t respond to queries, but has on its website guidelines for manufacturers and warnings to people not to buy unverified products.

The World Health Organization denies that micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) supplements can prevent Covid-19 and recommends micronutrient intakes from a nutritionally balanced and diverse diet that has fruits, vegetables and animal source foods.

Agrees Dr Roy, “There is no one magic food or drink that can build up your immune system overnight. It takes months if not years of good nutrition, good exercise, good habits, not smoking or drinking in addition to all the above to have a good immune system.”

Myth, commerce and health

“Claiming that some foods have instant immunity-boosting powers is a myth,” says Dr AB Singh, Secretary, Indian College of Allergy and Immunology, Delhi.

He is betting on herd immunity as the ultimate defence against the raging pandemic. If a large enough proportion of a population becomes immune, it’ll prevent the virus from multiplying simply because its spread through contact is blocked.

Even people with no immunity will be safe because the pathogens encounter too many immune people. This crucial point in pandemic control is “herd immunity”—everyone is effectively immune because enough people have become immune.

Their proportion depends on the virus’s infection power. Many immunologists agree. They emphasise that the prevalence of a large number of Covid cases and relatively a smaller number of casualties means that herd immunity could be at play in India already, and immunity-boosting foods have little role in this.

“For healthy individuals who have a normal diet, immunity-boosting foods are a needless expense,” says Dr Dhara. The unintended silver lining is that India’s traditional remedies have caught large-scale public attention.

Drug companies are determined not to lose this new profit opportunity. Many are expanding their immunity-boosting product mix with, for instance, tulsi drops, considered a natural immunity booster that also helps build respiratory health.

Products with haldi drops, introduced recently in the market, are touted to be another immunity builder. In times of trouble people tend to depend on the familiar and the past.

Mitra of HungerBox says we’re going back to our traditional roots. “The highly recommended immune-boosting items have traditionally been part of our palate which came to be overlooked by the majority of us. These have now reclaimed their place in our lives,” he says.

From a loosely used term in times of a mild flu or a serious ICU-stuck disease, immunity has become a worldwide concern. In spite of the many vaccines being developed, Covid-19 continues to occupy both mind and physical space. Immunity could be the final frontier of healthcare.

Virus prevention: Myths and Realities

Myth 

Handwashing ‘kills’ viruses

Reality: It doesn’t. Viruses aren’t alive, so they can’t be killed. Soap sticks to the membrane of viruses, pries them away and renders them harmless. It means microbes can be rinsed away with water. When you wash your hands, you are literally washing off the viruses that can make you sick. After you have washed your hands thoroughly, dry them thoroughly too. It is harder for viruses to transfer from dry hands. 

Myth 

Hand sanitiser is more effective than hand washing   

Reality: Wrong. Hand sanitisers with 60 percent alcohol destroy microbes, stopping pathogens from transferring from hands to the mouth, nose and eyes. First, remove visible dirt and debris before using sanitiser. Having said this, hand sanitiser is practical but not as effective at removing microbes as hand washing.

Myth

Exercise weakens the immune system

Reality: Exercise boosts immunity against germs because it boosts cell turnover in your body and stimulates the production of immune cells. Stick to walking, jogging, or swimming. Move your body daily to keep your immune system in shape. 
Source: https://askthescientists.com

Supplements manual

Take: 

  • Probiotics: Look for LA-14 Lactobacillus Acidophilus probiotic which is the top immune-boosting strain
  • Zinc: 20mg 
  • Vitamin C: At least 300 mg 
  • Vitamin D3:  Helps lower risk of respiratory infections 
  • Vitamin B: These vitamins, including B12 and B6, are important for healthy immune response

Avoid:

  • Glorified Vitamin C supplements, which contain high dosages of only Vitamin C
  • Supplements without probiotics
  • Unproven vitamins and minerals 
  • Supplements using sugar/sweeteners since sugar suppresses the immune system  
  • Extremely low or high price: Do proper research before buying

Fighting the virus through immune boosters

Source: Samaritan Health Services

Eat nutrient-rich foods

Colourful fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants
Antioxidants such as beta-carotene and Vitamins C and E are plentiful in fruits and vegetables. Choose brightly coloured ones such as spinach, bell peppers, strawberries, and sweet potatoes. Have citrus fruits like oranges and limes. All the above are full of Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant. Vitamin E is found in seeds and nuts. Add vegetables to an omelette or breakfast wrap, and fruit to oatmeal. 

Lean protein to build up immune system cells and antibodies
Protein actively helps to heal and recover after an illness. Eat plant-based protein, such as beans, nuts and seeds, and lean meats, low-fat dairy, eggs and fish. A plate must be half vegetables and fruits, a quarter protein, and a quarter whole grains or healthy starch.

Zinc is important
Low zinc levels can make you more susceptible to diseases since it helps the immune system and wound healing. Zinc is abundant in lean meats such as chicken and turkey, some seafoods, whole grains and milk.

Feed your gut with probiotics and prebiotics

About 75 percent of immune-boosting activity begins in the gut, with naturally occurring healthy bacteria, fighting off bad bacteria. Healthy bacteria thrive with prebiotics. Have fibre-rich prebiotics in natural fermented food products like yogurt, kefir, and kombucha. Non-digestible fibres of fruit and veggies, beans and whole grains contain prebiotics. Because the body doesn’t process them away, they act as a kind of fuel to help healthy bacteria thrive.

Choose whole foods over supplements

Eating well-balanced diets rich in nutrients eliminates the need for supplements, which don’t have all the nutritional benefits of whole foods.

Stay hydrated with fluids

This maintains regular body temperature and eliminates bacteria through the gastrointestinal tract.  Eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day should suffice. Occasionally replace water with no-sugar-added drinks, sparkling water, soup, tea, broth, milk and juice.

How the Immune System Works
The immune system has a vital role: It protects the body from harmful substances, germs and cell changes that could make you ill. It is made up of various organs, cells and proteins.

How is it activated?

The immune system can be activated by a lot of different things that the body doesn’t recognise as its own. These are called antigens. Examples of antigens include the proteins on the surfaces of bacteria, fungi and viruses. When these antigens attach to special receptors on the immune cells (immune system cells), a whole series of processes are triggered in the body.

Once the body has come into contact with a disease-causing germ for the first time, it usually stores information about the germ and how to fight it. Then, if it comes into contact with the germ again, it recognises the germ straight away and can start fighting it faster. The body’s own cells have proteins on their surface, too. But those proteins don’t usually trigger the immune system to fight the cells. Sometimes the immune system mistakenly thinks that the body’s own cells are foreign cells. It then attacks healthy, harmless cells in the body. This is known as an autoimmune response.

Innate and adaptive

There are two subsystems within the immune system known as the innate (non-specific) and the adaptive (specific) immune systems. Both of these are closely linked and work together whenever a germ or harmful substance triggers an immune response. The innate immune system: It provides a general defence against harmful germs and substances, so it’s also called the non-specific immune system.

It mostly fights using immune cells such as natural killer cells and phagocytes (“eating cells”). The main job of the innate system is to fight harmful substances and germs that enter the body, for instance through the skin or digestive system. The adaptive immune system: It makes antibodies and uses them to specifically fight certain germs that the body has previously come into contact with. This is also known as an “acquired” (learned) or specific immune response. Because the adaptive immune system is constantly learning and adapting, the body can also fight bacteria or viruses that change over time.

Seventy per cent of immune system cells are connected to the digestive tract. Intestines contain around 10 times more microorganisms than human cells in the entire body

Eighty per cent of people have immune systems that know exactly what to do, says  Dr Aviral Roy of Medica Superspecialty Hospital, Kolkata.

To fight disease-causing germs (pathogens) like bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi, and to remove them from the body.

To recognise and neutralise harmful substances from the environment To fight disease-causing changes in the body, such as cancer cells.

Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine

COVID and your kid

The innate immune system is inherited and is active from the moment your child is born. Its cells are called phagocytes. The acquired immune system, in cooperation with the innate system, produces antibodies developed by cells called B lymphocytes after the body has been exposed to the pathogen.

The antibodies stay in your child’s body. It can take several days for antibodies to develop. But after the first exposure, the immune system will recognise the invader and defend against it. The acquired immune system changes throughout your child’s life. Immunisations train your child’s immune system to make antibodies to protect him or her from harmful diseases.  

Where are the cells of both systems made?

  • Adenoids: Two glands located at the back of the nasal passage. 
  • Bone marrow: The soft, spongy tissue found in bone cavities.  
  • Lymph nodes: Small organs shaped like beans, which are located throughout the body and connect via the lymphatic vessels.  
  • Lymphatic vessels: A network of channels throughout the body that carries lymphocytes to the lymphoid organs and bloodstream.  
  • Peyer’s patches: Lymphoid tissue in the small intestine.  
  • Spleen: A fist-sized organ located in the abdominal cavity.  
  • Thymus: Two lobes that join in front of the trachea behind the breastbone. 
  • Tonsils: Two oval masses in the back of the throat. 

Repeated questions:

Are Covid-19-infected young people safer than older people? 

Not necessarily. There are cases of near-centurions surviving and teenagers dropping dead. Dr Vanessa Bryant  at the University of Melbourne thinks that this could be a genetic problem in some young and healthy people severely affected by Covid-19 because they could be missing a key component specific to the virus and hence cannot be targeted by T-cells. 

Can the infection resurface?

Not imperative. Labs test basically for viral RNA to detect infection in the body. RNA may stay in the system for months even after recovery from Covid-19 even though the infection has been contained. When someone gets a flu and is compelled to go for a Covid test, results may come back positive. The patient would be wrongly diagnosed and treated for reinfection. 

Is a Covid-19 vaccine forever, or for example, must it be injected once a year like a flu shot?

A vaccine that gives the immune system new defences is created by basing research only on a part of a virus. Not all people have equal immunity, which is the reason why vaccines don’t fully protect everyone injected.

Is AP Govt Robbing ‘Ram’ To Pay ‘Robert’ And ‘Rahim’?

How can any secular government allot taxpayers money for the purpose of religious propagation?

Andhra government is controlling temples, looting them and also in some cases diverting the funds for the welfare of other religions.

Andra Pradesh government under the chief ministership of Sri Jagan Mohan Reddy proposed the state budget recently. There is one crucial announcement which caused a lot of furore among Hindus, especially those who oppose religious conversions. The Andhra Pradesh government proposes to pay monthly salaries to Christian PastorsMuslim Imams, and Mouzzans. A total of 948.72 crores is allocated for this scheme for the year 2019 – 20[1]. On the other hand, Hindu pujaris/pundits don’t find any mention

A few are comparing the salaries that pujaris working in Hindu temples get, to the new scheme of Sri Jagan Mohan Reddy. This is nothing but ignorance. Those who are doing this and even others should know that most of the Hindu temples in states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Odisha and Maharashtra are in the hands of the state and the salaries given are from the money which belongs to temples and not from the state budget. It is a different story that lakhs of acres of temples were encroached upon and thousands of crores of temple wealth looted by the government both “legally” and illegally. Those who want more details may please watch Sri J Sai Deepak‘s videos and read his writings online. So, salaries being paid to Hindu pundits should not be compared with the proposed salaries to Pastors and Imams.

If one carefully studies the similarities between world ‘religions’ that existed before Christianity and the strategies implemented by Christianity to destroy them, one will find strikingly similar.

This is not the only one such incident, readers of PGurus might already know about the ‘illegal’ detention of Sivaji, a Hindu activist belonging to Siva Sakthi and the controversial order release by Visakhapatnam police to provide protection only to Churches and Christian minorities, which they later altered to religious places of all the religions. Thanks to the protest of various vigilant netizens[2].

There is one more incident that took place in a village called Dasaripalem near Vijayawada, wherein 3 women who came back to Hindu dharma from Christianity were threatened to be removed from Dwarka group. As per the news reports, their lives were made miserable and even the police are not registering their complaint[3]. These are only those incidents which came out and we do not know how many more happened since the new administration took charge.

Is Bharat A Secular state?

By definition, yes, but practically, no, we are not a secular state. A secular state, by definition, should keep itself away from religion. But it’s not the case with Bharat. In Bharat, most parties in the name of secularism snub the majority Hindus and appease so-called Minorities. Perhaps Bharat is the only country where majority people fight for equality and the only country where a religion with a population of nearly 20 crores is considered a minority. I am not sure where our political parties borrowed this definition of secularism, but what is happening in Bharat cannot happen in ay truly secular state. I can quote several examples to prove my case and the recent decision by Andra Pradesh government is another such example.

Historical Roots

All the countries, with the only exception of Bharat, got culturally destroyed after Christianity/Islam set foot. It’s not that we didn’t loose anything but are far far better than the rest. All the other countries got almost completely disconnected with their own culture and become Christianized or Islamized. Be it Europe or the Middle East or South/North America or Africa, all the ancient cultures are more or less lost. Bharat is the only ancient civilization that has not just survived but also in a way thriving. The fact that now Yoga, which was considered a superstition by most Western-educated 30 – 40 years ago, is now being practised across the world, is a proof of that. More than 3.6 crores Americans practice Yoga and it’s only growing[4]. We shall see a similar thing happening with Ayurveda too.

If one carefully studies the similarities between world ‘religions’ that existed before Christianity and the strategies implemented by Christianity to destroy them, one will find striking similarities. In 313 CE Constantine made Christianity legal in the Roman Empire[5]. Since then, support of those in power has played a vital in Christianity across the world. After coming to power Constantine supported the spread of Christianity in many ways like giving financial assistance to Bishops and others, grants and other facilities to construct churches etc. Though the destruction of temples on a large scale started little late, Constantine did start it. He destroyed at least 5 temples and converted them to churches as per “Life of Constantine” written by Eusebius. Eusebius is a very prominent church historian and is called “The father of church history”[6].

Whatever has happened in the Roman empire is happening in Bharat now and perhaps would have happened in a lot of other countries too.

All the other Roman emperors after Constantine, except for Julian, who just rules for 19 months, were Christian. As time passed by, the Christian population and along with that support of emperors to the religion only grew. Not only that, but the restrictions on the native religions also increased. The restrictions on native religions only got worse. It all started with making Christianity legal, then comes state support to Churches, then temples were taken over by govt, a lot of times temple money too was diverted to churches, new temple constructions banned, repair of old temples banned, divination (something similar to Jyothisham), animal slaughter, public celebrations, worship inside temples, going into temples, going anywhere near temples, worshipping at home and finally Theodosian who was the Roman emperor from 379 CE to 395 CE not just banned all the native traditions but also made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire[7]. There was also active destruction of temples across the Roman Empire. Many a time Christians themselves lead by the local bishop destroyed the temples. Bishops in some cases used to get prior approval of the emperor to destroy the temple and construct a new church or converted the temple into a church, by quoting verses from the bible which ask Christians to destroy temples belonging to other gods.

Ban on animal sacrifice deserves some explanation. Please note that the ban on animal sacrifice has nothing to do with cruelty towards animals. For some theological reasons it is banned in Christianity and only because of that, it was banned in Roman Empire and for the very same reason, though not overtly called so, activists even today oppose animal sacrifice at temples. A true animal lover would promote vegetarianism. But these activists specifically target a Hindu practice.

Whatever has happened in the Roman empire is happening in Bharat now and perhaps would have happened in a lot of other countries too. If you take Andhra govt as an example they are also doing the same. They are controlling temples, looting them and also in some cases diverting the funds for the welfare of other religions. Also, governments are providing financial assistance to those who preach religion like in the case of Andhra Pradesh and also sponsoring the construction of churches and other institutions which are traditionally associated with a church like a hospital, school etc.

For example, the Andhra government has given the following grants[8].

1. New church construction: Upto Rs.1,00,000
2. Church Repair: Upto Rs. 30,000
3. Christian Hospital: Upto Rs. 10,00,000
4. Christian School Building: Upto Rs. 5,00,000
5. Christian Orphanage: Upto Rs. 5,00,000
6. Christian Old Age Home: Upto Rs. 5,00,000
7. Christian Community Hall cum youth resource centre: Upto Rs. 5,00,000

So, what is happening now in Andhra and most probably in many other states of Bharat and what has happened in the Roman Empire are strikingly similar. Luckily we are still, relatively in the initial stages and we have time to reverse things. But if we let the things continue as they are, we will also meet the same fate what the Roman pagans met and our temples will also get destroyed and be converted into churches as well.

No Jati survives without learning from their and others’ history. Roman pagans though got destroyed are a great source of history to us. Now it is up to us to at least react. The reversal should start NOW.

It’s NOW or maybe NEVER.

Note:
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

References:

[1] ఆంధ్రప్రదేశ్ బడ్జెట్ 2019-20 SakshiEducation.com

[2] 2016 Yoga in America Study Conducted by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance Reveals Growth and Benefits of the Practice YogaAlliance.org

[3] Christianity took over Andhra Administration? July 22, 2019 PGurus.com

[4] గుంటూరు,కృష్ణా జిల్లాలలో మతమార్పిడి వివాదాలు ,మతం మార్చుకున్న వారి ఇళ్లపై స్థానికుల దాడి July 23, 2019

[5] The Triumph of Christianity by Bart D. Ehrman – page number: 290 (2018)

[6] Ibid 230 – 231

[7] Ibid 250 – 252

[8] Andhra Pradesh State Christian(Minorities)Finance Corporation Go to downloads section and download the applications. All the details are on the application form.

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 Cryptocurrencies Have Got A New Life In India?

As winter gives way to spring in India, the country’s crypto community, too, has got a fresh lease of life.

Yesterday (March 4), India’s supreme court overturned an April 2018 central bank order barring banks from providing services to cryptocompanies. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had, in its diktat, assumed that virtual currencies posed a systemic risk to the banking system. This was purely facetious.

Now with the apex court quashing the ban, the cryptocommunity hopes that the Indian government will not take another stab at them by legislating around the verdict. Instead policymakers should take a cue from central banks across the world.

The Chinese model

In 2019, China announced plans to launch a sovereign cryptocurrency—the crypto renminbi or, to refer to it by its technical term, the DCEP (Digital Currency Electronic Payment). The move was prompted by the need to develop an alternative to the US dollar as a reserve currency. In the light of China’s trade war with the US, a sovereign cryptocurrency would help challenge the US’ economic dominance.

To be sure, cryptocurrencies in China are regulated. Even so, it is the thriving heart of the crypto ecosystem as the government is pushing multiple blockchain projects, funds and local crypto champions.

In parallel, China could find synergies between its proposed crypto renminbi and the multi-billion-dollar One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative. The major infrastructure project, which involves building a network of roadways, railways, and ports across the globe, is also an opportunity to internationalise the usage of the renminbi. A crypto renminbi will speed up this process.

The current geopolitical climate is also fertile ground for nations such as Iran and Russia to double down on their cryptocurrency efforts.

Even Bank of England governor Mark Carney has called for a digital Synthetic Hegemonic Currency (SHC), similar to Facebook’s Libra cryptocoin, as an alternative to the dollar.

Cryptocommunity’s wish list

To stay relevant amid the global interest, India needs to get its act together. The 2018 RBI order had pushed the country’s cryptocommunity a step back. Once fastest-growing exchanges like Unocoin, and Zebpay have either shut down or moved their operations overseas.

Despite the regulatory ambiguity, there is a fair bit of home-grown talent that served the global crypto market in the past two years. Two of the largest DeFi (distributed finance) players in the world, Instadapp and Nuo, are from India. Binance, a leading Chinese global exchange, recently acquired the Indian cryptobourse Wazir-X.

To further nurture this talent, the following regulatory steps would be welcomed by the Indian cryptocommunity.

Cryptocurrency advisory council:

 The government should set up an advisory council that will guide future policy on bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. Besides regulators and lawmakers, the council should include representatives from national and international crypto operators. It can work with leading players in the cryptocommunity to jointly police the ecosystem and minimise “bad-actor” use cases. In parallel, the government should champion a global regulatory body for cryptocurrencies, working with other central banks and enforcement agencies.

Sandbox facility:

 Most national regulators now have sandboxes that facilitate testing of ideas for R&D and instructional purposes. A sandbox is a virtual, isolated space where untested software can be run securely. The RBI’s sandbox explicitly excludes cryptocurrencies, which should be reviewed. A sandbox would spur the development of corporate cryptocurrencies like Facebook’s Libra or JP Morgan’s proposed coin for payments and settlements. There is no reason why India’s leading companies cannot launch such “network coins.” In China, payment majors such as Ant Financial (a major stakeholder in Paytm) are collaborating with regional and local governments to design such payment technology and lending infrastructure.

Crypto rupee: 

A sovereign cryptocurrency in India would be an interesting proposition for the central bank. With a crypto rupee, the central bank could directly control the supply of cash. Another advantage would be the ease with which this money can be tracked and traced across bordeers for perpetuity on the blockchain. This will also significantly eliminate the problem of the parallel economy. A crypto rupee will have many benefits to specific sectors, such as payments, remittances and providing credit to small and medium enterprises.

State investments in crypto:

 Central banks around the world are stockpiling gold, especially in a post-Covid-19 scenario, and it will be a surprise if they are not adding to their bitcoin holdings as well, as Ryan Selkis of Messari, a research firm, points out. It impossible to ignore bitcoin as an asset class. It has returned a whopping 2,332,803% over 2010-2019. Compare that to the 189% returns of the S&P 500 and the 19% returns that gold has given over the same timeframe. In a scenario of anaemic growth, and falling income from tax revenues, India’s sovereign wealth fund should consider investing in bitcoins.

Consider this upside scenario. If the RBI were to slowly accumulate even $1 billion worth of cryptocurrencies, it would likely drive up the price of bitcoin ten-fold, to around $100,000 as a major nation like India would now be legitimising bitcoin as an asset class. The $10 billion in bitcoin holdings, with some prudent yield-harvesting, would take care of around 10% of India’s outstanding fiscal deficit for the year 2019. It would also be equal to one-sixth of the overall defence budget outlay for the year and would take care of most of the education budget for 2019.

Given that bitcoin is here to stay, the supreme court judgment is an opportunity to take a progressive stance in a nascent sector that has transformational potential. It is high time our top policy makers wake up and smell the crypto. #innlive

The Definition And Politics Of ‘Surgical Strikes’

The term “surgical strike” has now truly entered our lexicon, with an entirely different connotation. Now even the Bengal BJP president wants to do a surgical strike on Jadavpur University.

This misuse of terms is quite typically Indian. We call loudly dressed police guards with carbines commandos when commandos are special warfare troops capable of operating behind enemy lines. We use the term trouble-shooter to describe a trouble-maker, when it actually means a person who gets rid of a problem or trouble.

The Modi regime celebrates the “surgical strike” as one of its high points. The dictionary describes a surgical strike as an attack (usually without prior warning) intended to deal only with a specific target. In other words it is an attack that is intended to seize or inflict serious damage on or destroy an objective. It is a swift and targeted attack with the aim of minimum collateral damage to the nearby areas and civilians.

The neutralization of targets with surgical strikes also prevents escalation to a full-blown war. Surgical strike attacks can be carried out via air strikes, airdropping special operations teams or by swift ground operations by sending in commandos or even regular troops.

The great strategist Sir Basil Liddell Hart described a surgical strike as being akin to a single arrow shot by Paris (the fellow who seduced Helen that caused the war.) at Achilles’ heel, which was the only vulnerable spot.

In modern times a surgical strike is a single action that decapitates or significantly reduces the enemy’s capability. The 1967 Israeli surprise air attack that destroyed most of the Egyptian air force on the ground was a surgical strike.

On the morning of December 14, Indian intelligence intercepted a message about a high-level meeting of the Pakistani civilian administration at the Governors House in Dacca. Within 15 minutes an IAFs 28 Squadron launched a strike with four MiG21 fighters. No sooner the meeting started the MiGs blasted the Governors House with 57 mm. rockets, ripping the massive roof off the main hall and turning the building into a smoldering wreck.

The Governor of East Pakistan, A. H. Malik, was so shocked after the incident that he resigned on the spot and renounced all ties with the West Pakistan and fled to take refuge at the InterContinental Hotel under UN flag as a designated safe haven. Now that was a surgical strike.

At another place on the spectrum was the slaying of Osama bin Laden by US SEALs in a helicopter borne attack. The June 2006 US attack that killed Abu Musab-el- Zarqawi was by a single F-16C dropping two 500 lb guided bombs on a safe house in the village of Hibhib near Baqubah in Iraq’s Diyala province on very specific information; and the single Hellfire missile launched by a CIA drone that killed Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the 5000 fighters strong Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in August 2009 were classic surgical strikes to decapitate enemy leadership to demoralize his forces.

Surgical strikes are also undertaken on a larger scale. The bombing of Baghdad in the initial stages of the first Gulf War, Operation Shock and Awe, was a well coordinated set of surgical strikes on government offices and military and communication installations to cripple the Baathist regime. It clearly had a very specific objective and succeeded.

On the other hand the carpet-bombing of Dresden that set that historic city on fire was clearly not a surgical strike.

A successful surgical strike has a devastating effect. By these measures what happened post Uri doesn’t qualify. Instead the Pakistan backed terrorists struck back three days later at Baramulla. The Pakistan Army too has resorted to firing at several places. Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi of Pakistani Punjab and Syed Salahuddin (Mohammed Yusuf Shah of Sohibug in Kashmir) still sleep soundly and safely every night with their many wives. They still give press conferences. To pin them to a place and time is not very difficult. Even the IAFs Mirage 2000 attack on a terrorist training camp in Balakot did not have a salutary effect. The terrorists attack in Kashmir with the same regularity and the Pakistan Army quite openly covers their infiltration with artillery fire.

I have always advocated raising the ante with Pakistan by undertaking deep strikes at terrorist leadership centre’s to make their activity costly. It is not required that we send men across to do this job. The IAF and even the Indian Navy have missiles of great precision. The fear always cited by many military men is that Pakistan will react with strikes of their own as they did in the aftermath of Balakot.

The PAF put up a big air show with over a dozen fighters and lured an IAF MiG21 Bison into close combat, after its Su30MKIs were unable to close in due to a serious missile ranges mismatch. This had been gamed many times but yet the IAF was caught unprepared as the file for approving new long range air-to-air missiles rested in the MoD.

There is no doubt that the Indian Army sent forces across the LoC and hit several places where terrorist foot soldiers were gathered. But they have done this several times in the past without any accompanying fanfare. As a matter of fact the decision to do this was delegated to the Corps level. It was the government’s policy. There is no doubt that this time too they drew blood and took no prisoners as has been happening for several years now.

By misusing a nomenclature to describe the action to be something bigger and major is sheer charlatanism. Maybe it was Ajit Doval’s vivid imagination formed after “several years as an undercover agent in Pakistan”, as his many hagiographers claim? If they had gone in and took out Salahuddin or brought him back it would have qualified to be called a surgical strike.

If Ram Madhav said it was a surgical strike and an achievement of the Modi government then we might all loudly applaud it. But why the then DGMO described it as that when it is not that is something I am unable to fathom?

I have known several DGMO’s and they were all distinguished soldiers with great integrity and very precise in their speech. A DGMO has always got to be that. The job demands that they are clinically accurate in making an assessment and surgically precise in determining an action. I have no doubt that this DGMO too is of that lineage. But sometimes they have to act out a script. However one retired DGMO loudly exclaimed it was a brilliant surgical strike to be rewarded with a paid sinecure as head of a military think-tank.

Calling what happened as surgical strikes is clearly political. How a bunch of cross border raids became surgical strikes is still a story waiting to be told? But the term surgical strike has gained a currency, like counterfeit notes often do. #innlive