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The recent inclusion of sign language and the recognition of the deaf community and other disabled individuals in the National Education Policy, 2020 is definitely a welcome move. This move has included the perpetually polarized disability sector into the mainstream discourse. However, I would also like to point out that not only sign language standardization among other things should be done. There should also be tremendous thrust to improve the written English Language skills of the deaf community.
Sign Language is a form of language where hand gestures and facial expressions are used and not proper attention is paid to English grammar. There is no proper English language structure in sign language commonly found and used in everyday spoken and written English language. Therefore, a deaf person with sign language as his first language fails to grasp the essential grammar skills employed in the written and spoken English language.
This becomes cumbersome to them and acts as obstacles toward pursuing higher studies and also in applying for jobs in the government and non-government sectors. Therefore, it is my earnest hope that the government would do something to remedy this.
Masters in Social Work,
Assam Don Bosco University.
Containment zones and residents’ plight
If only we were rich and could afford t stay at home would things be better? With the onslaught of Covid-19 the authorities have started demarcating areas as containment zones. But the gravity of the hardships faced by people within the containment zones are difficult to assess unless we put ourselves in their shoes. Many feel they have been treated inhumanely and neglected when it came to the supply of food items even while movement has been totally restricted. Imagine the plight of residents who are not allowed to go out to buy their day-to-day essential food-items for nearly a week at a stretch?
While agreeing that in the current pandemic, all interventions are needed to prevent people-to-people contact in order to break the chain of transmission/infection to the maximum level. However, one’s inner feeling also says that the containment zone restriction can be imposed only after making elaborate “arrangements” for procuring essential commodities. The authorities cannot be heartless and overlook the current plight of the people who have lost their sources of income or exhausted their bank balance. Hence declaring an area as a containment zone without pragmatically considering the situation is totally unjustified.
Also, there is a huge chunk of people who have suffered tremendous “mental anxiety” due to long periods of lockdown coupled with loss of livelihood. Very importantly, each citizen in the containment zone must have better “immunity” to fight the virus. But how on earth can we expect the people to combat the virulent coronavirus with their depressed minds and malnourished bodies!
I also appeal to the concerned authorities to kindly opt for the “micro containment zone” formula as in Pune, Mumbai, and New Delhi. This will drastically reduce the responsibility of the government authorities and the police forces. We should salute the volunteers who are helping the residents in the containment zones in procuring the essential items. They ought to be honored with certificates for their selfless service.
Race for Covid vaccine
The world has descended into fear and uncertainty since the outbreak of COVID-19. Many drug companies across the world have been in a race to find an effective vaccine against COVID-19 for a while. According to the WHO, there are approximately 160 coronavirus vaccines around the world that are in various stages of development. According to scientists at Oxford, the vaccine developed in collaboration with Astra Zeneca increases levels of both protective neutralising antibodies and immune T-cells that target the virus. As for India, the initial phase of the clinical trials for indigenously developed Covaxin have begun at AIIMS, Delhi. The results of Covaxin trials should be available to the public within the next few months.
If our aim is to make India COVID free at the earliest, the Centre must set aside a sizeable budget for a mass vaccination programme and devise plans to implement it. Even though the vaccine gets necessary approvals, our choice must not be restricted to it. Beyond availability, we should go by effectiveness, cost calculations and the abilities to produce sufficient quantities. The logistical aspects of vaccine distribution must be worked out. Those at the highest risk of COVID-19 exposure will have to be vaccinated first. Adequate loads will need to be quickly sent to hotspots across the country. Subsequently, emerging infection areas will need to be provided with sufficient quantities. An army of healthcare workers must be recruited and trained in preparation for this arduous task.
It is difficult to predict which country or which drug company will win the race for a vaccine against COVID-19. Whoever the winner , India must ensure access to the vaccine for the majority of its population when it is developed. Suppose it is the Oxford-Astra Zeneca vaccine that is ready for mass distribution first. Pune-based Serum Institute of India has a licence to produce the vaccine and its availability may not be a problem. But suppose it is some other drug company’s vaccine that is ready for mass distribution first, then what would happen ? In that case multilateral cooperation is the solution. India and other low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) must gain access to the vaccine by cooperation. Given that India is a large LMIC with the capacity to mass manufacture vaccines, it could play a vital role in this. India plans to join the WHO-Gavi alliance platform, Covax. It negotiates with companies to secure supply using money from member countries and distributes the vaccine among member countries. Covax has a deal with Astra Zeneca, which is developing the Oxford University vaccine. But only 20% of the population will get the vaccines. The drug companies would give priority to rich countries such as the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. They would sell vaccine doses to Covax after fulfilling the deals reached with such countries. India must increase its manufacturing capacities to increase production and secure global access. Through collective bargains LMICs could obtain licences.