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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Daily briefing: Centre sparks fresh row with Bengal, Why Naikoo was Kashmir’s most wanted

From fresh criticism over West Bengal's handling of the Covid crisis to why Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Ahmad Naikoo's encounter to a huge win for counter-terrorism operations, here are the top stories from today's edition.

Written by Leela Prasad , Liu Chuen Chen | New Delhi | Updated: May 8, 2020 3:25:25 pm
Express daily briefing: Church in Kerala sets up Sena; India vs Bangladesh T20I today; and more Top stories from The Indian Express print edition.

Dear readers,

The UK government, roundly criticised for initially downplaying the coronavirus threat, has come up with five parameters that need to be met for easing lockdown restrictions.

Test 1: Can the country’s medical system cope with the cases?
Test 2: Consistent fall in daily deaths
Test 3: Infection rate coming down to manageable levels
Test 4: Can meet demand for virus test and personal protective gear
Test 5: Avoiding a second peak that would risk overwhelming the medical care system

India, whose population size and density widely differs from the UK, and which has eased some of the lockdown restrictions, should, may be, look at meeting most of these tests before thinking of a complete lockdown exit. That said, common findings of 14 studies on transmission patterns across nine countries could also provide some pointers as the Centre and state governments work on exit strategies ahead of May 17. Find out what they are and what lessons can our country take from China, whose population size and density is similar to India’s.

# The Centre and West Bengal continue to disagree over the state’s handling of the coronavirus. In a fresh letter, which is likely to worsen relations between the two, the Union Home Ministry accused the state of not enforcing Covid-19 containment measures effectively, allowing “specific groups in specific localities” in Kolkata and Howrah to violate the curbs as well as attack police and healthcare workers. Among the violations, according to the letter, include the plying of rickshaws, children playing cricket, and people bathing in rivers.

# Wednesday’s encounter killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Ahmad Naikoo was a huge morale boost for counter-terrorism operations in Kashmir, especially after losing eight security personnel in two separate incidents in Handwara.

How did he become Kashmir’s most wanted man? Naikoo was behind behind a string of attacks on police, security forces and civilians including the killing of six migrant labourers in Kulgam, fruit traders and a trucker in Shopian following the abrogation of J&K’s special status last year and the killing of a sarpanch and two civilians. Our Kashmir Bureau chief Bashaarat Masood profiles the dreaded militant.

# Here are some green shoots, though small. After a steep decline in sales due to the lockdown, car manufacturers have witnessed their first bookings and deliveries over the last 42 days at least as dealerships across districts resumed operations following the relaxation in lockdown norms. With dealerships opening, companies are saying they are focusing on digitising the entire process of purchasing a car.

# So, where are we on the Covid-19 vaccine? A recent announcement by the University of Oxford that researchers there had started testing a vaccine against the novel coronavirus disease has raised hopes. Over the last few weeks, there have also been somewhat conflicting reports about the performance of a drug candidate, remdesivir, while Israel has announced a breakthrough in another possible line of treatment, that with antibodies.

# With the entire focus on the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a sharp fall in non-COVID treatment procedures in private and government facilities, a report by National Health Authority data has revealed. The Indian Express editorial, says why this is particularly worrying. It shows the lockdown has compromised the PMJAY’s ability to reach out to critically ill patients — including those afflicted with cancer — below the poverty line.

# Pratap Bhanu Mehta argues why it is difficult to wean many states away from the political economy of alcohol. He reminds us that it lubricates not just the state coffers but whole political machines. PB Mehta writes: There is something odd about converting alcohol into an ideology.

# Staying on the topic of booze, Zomato is considering delivering alcohol to cash in on the high demand as well as ease out the unprecedented rush to stores amid the extended lockdown.

# Meanwhile, there are some geopolitical clouds on the move. The India Meteorological Department has started referring to its meteorological sub-division of Jammu and Kashmir as “Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh, Gilgit-Baltistan and Muzaffarabad”. Yes, there is more to this than a daily weather report.

Bonus reading

# Justice Deepak Misra had an online farewell. While he rued that the legal system in the country favoured the rich and powerful, he left everyone chuckling when he thanked his wife Poonam Gupta for giving him a haircut for the event so that he could look presentable.

# Space X CEO Elon Musk and Canadian singer Grimes had a baby. Awesome. Congrats to the couple. But why is this news? They named their son X Æ A-12 setting off a social media storm as many worked overtime to decode the meaning. Many thought Musk was joking until Grimes revealed the meaning to her fans.

The BBC reckons the name is illegal as Grimes may have given birth in California which has strict laws when it comes to baby names.

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