BILL GATES’ WARNING ON COVID-19!

LOGISTICS: The major problem in vaccinating the bulk of the population in India is the transport, shortage and trained manpower. Bill Gates, who helped to eliminate polio in India, has advised setting up huge mRNA vaccine factories.

AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when predictably a Mallu, Harilal B Menon, has been chosen as the vice-chancellor of Goa University. For a Saturday following the week when Goans lost the exclusive privilege of getting preference for jobs in Portugal. For a Saturday following the week when the Supreme Court remained firm on the exclusion of the creamy layer from the reservations for backward classes. For a Saturday following the week when Tar balls greeted those who went to immerse the idols of Lord Ganesh on the fifth days. For a Saturday following the week when Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, talked about setting up gigantic mRNA factories in India to deal with present and future pandemics.

POLITICS IN UNIVERSITY

AND a few stray thoughts on a Mallu, Harilal B Menon, being appointed as the new vice-chancellor of the Goa University. Historically, a panel appointed by the government choses the vice-chancellor. Even before Menon’s appointment, it was concluded that Goa now having a Mallu governor in PS Sreedharan Pillai, he would appoint a Mallu vice-chancellor. We can understand the political party in power wanting to choose its own nominees for important positions. But this is the first time the academic world has been politicised.
There would have been no objection even to a Mallu being appointed as the vice-chancellor provided he is an outstanding personality from academia. Particularly in the post covid-19 era, when the focus is shifting to technical/digital education, it would have been most appropriate to appoint a technologist as the vice-chancellor.
We could have appreciated it if somebody from the field of pharmacy were appointed vice-chancellor, as this is the fastest growing industry. We don’t see the logic in appointing an expert in marine sciences as the vice-chancellor of Goa University. Particularly, when those interested in marine sciences may use the facilities and training offered by the National Institute of Oceanography and the Antarctica Institute, both located in Goa.

ELIGIBLE GOANS IGNORED

IT IS not as though there are no distinguished Goans for the post of vice-chancellor. For instance the academic who holds the GD Kosambi chair in the Goa University is Dr Peter Ronald D’Souza. Dr D’Souza was not only the first Head of Department of Political Science at Goa University, but also the director of the Indian Institute of Advance Research at Shimla. Presuming he did not apply for the post, there are many senior Goan scientists and technologists who would have been the right candidate, when education worldwide is going through a critical stage.
There is no explanation why one of the Goans who was shortlisted, Bernard Rodrigues, who is senior faculty in the Botany department, was not chosen. He probably would not have been the right choice because Goa University now requires technocrats and not a botanists or marine science experts. If I recall right amongst those who applied were former directors of the Indian Institute of Technology. Some of the top most technologists in the country include Dr Raghunath Anant Mashelkar, who was head of the Indian Council of Scientific Research (ICSR). There is also Anil Kakodkar, who was the chairman of the Bhaba Institute of Atomic Research. There are many Goans occupying very senior positions in the IT industry.
It is not a question of whether a vice-chancellor is Goan or non-Goan. In the world of academics you have to choose the best irrespective of whether he or she is from Goa or the North East. The former head of the Indian Space Research organisation and President of India Abdul Kalam, was from Kanyakumari. The immediate former vice-chancellor who had an extended term, Prof Varun Sahni, is a Sindhi. As far as I can recall, the only vice-chancellor of Goan origin at Goa University, was Satish Ramnath Shetye, who was earlier with the NIO.

METHOD OF CHOICE

IT IS not just the choice of the vice-chancellor that we object too. We also strongly object to the inclusion of Dr Jagmohan Singh Rajput, former chief of National Council for Education Training and Research in the selection panel. It is well known that Rajput is a very staunch supporter of both the BJP and the RSS. It is not just the vice-chancellor but the majority of the heads of departments in the Goa University at least till recently, were from outside the State. When the Goa University started 90% of the faculty was from outside and they had to be tempted with bungalow- type furnished quarters. Even Radhika Naik, who was the outgoing Registrar, would have been a better choice. In the 38 years I have been in Goa I have not heard of any significant research or academic achievements of Harilal Menon.

PORTUGAL OPEN TO ALL

AND a few stray thoughts on Goans losing the exclusive privilege of getting preference for jobs in Portugal. Till recently only Goans, whose ancestors were born in Goa before its Liberation in 1961, were eligible for Portuguese passports. The bitter ground reality is that Portugal never accepted the loss of Goa. Indeed, for many years, till a former Goan Mário Soares, was the President of Portugal in 1976, that the sovereignty of India over the former Portuguese colonies was officially recognised. It is not widely known but for a twist in history, Bombay which is now Mumbai, would have been part of Goa. Bombay was given by the then Portuguese king as dowry when one of its princesses married an English king. But even after the formal recognition of India’s rule over Goa, the Portuguese continued to offer visas to its descendants or Goans born in the Portuguese colonies in India before Liberation.

PASSPORTS FOR GOANS!

WHICH is why not only Goans but a lot of Gujaratis from Daman and Diu, also Portuguese colonies, used to line up before the Portuguese Consulate in Goa. Not that many Goans wanted to go to Portugal for jobs. It is well known that Portugal is amongst the poorest countries in Europe. The interest in acquiring a Portuguese passport was because Portugal was a member of the European Economic Community (EEC). Most of the countries in Europe and the UK were members of the EEC. The rule was that you did not require a separate visa to work in any of the EEC countries if your country was part of EEC. The very large number of Goans, exceeding five lakh by one count who migrated to the UK, did so on the basis of their Portuguese passports.
Unfortunately for Goans the UK recently decided to drop out of the EEC. So much so a Portuguese passport will not automatically entitle you to work and live in the UK. Goan Portuguese passport holders can still go to other EEC countries like Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, etc. The problem is language, while most Goans are familiar with English, they are not proficient in German or French.
We do not know the provocation behind the Indian government signing an agreement with Portugal to permit Indians to work in Portugal. The fact remains that now Goans have lost their exclusive right to jobs in Portugal. It is not clear if those who take advantage of the new agreement will get Portuguese citizenship.
It is also possible that India or rather the Narendra Modi government want to offset the special rights given to Goans to acquire Portuguese passports. Now that any Indian can take up a job in Portugal, Goans have lost their special privilege. It is also not clear if Goans will continue to be able to secure a Portuguese passport if their parents or grandparents were born in Goa before Liberation. Portugal is apparently facing a skilled labour shortage and therefore has decided to invite Indians to come and work in the country. The details of the new opportunity to migrate is given here elsewhere (pages 5&6).

CREAMY LAYER EXCLUDED

AND a few stray thoughts on the Supreme Court remaining firm on the exclusion of the creamy layer for reservations for backward classes. Initially, in the Constitution, only scheduled castes and tribes were allowed reservations for admission to professional colleges and to government jobs. This was on the insistence of Dr BR Ambedkar, who was one of the framers of the Indian Constitution. Dr Ambedkar, who was himself from the lowest caste, got millions of Harijans to convert to Buddhism. Ambedkar’s argument was that the expression Harijan used by Mahatma Gandhi became a kind of abuse of the lower caste.
Subsequently, besides the Harijans or Dalits and the tribal population, other backward classes also started demanding reservations. Initially this was limited to the really backward groups like toddy tappers and landless agriculture labour. But more recently even higher caste like the Bhandari Samaj in Goa, the Marathas of Maharashtra and the Jats of Punjab have started demanding reservations. This is because most of them make up the agricultural communities. With the mechanisation of agriculture many of them are of jobs. Vacancies for various field jobs have fallen sharply. The generation next of these communities do not want to do farming but have become doctors and engineers. Everyone of course wants a government job which guarantees security and a generous pension.

PROMOTIONS NOT INCLUDED

WHEN the demand for more and more reservations shot up, some of the representativeS of the upper caste went to Court. They argued that reservations could not be forever and for the backward caste and those who call themselves backward. The logic behind reservations was that a particular community was poor and did not have the benefit of education. It was to compensate this group and bring them up to the level of the top most classes that reservations were introduced.
There came a time when the groups who got reservations became very rich. They were no longer then poor needy people in need of deserving reservations. It is in this context that the Supreme Court ruled that the creamy layer of the backward classes would no longer be entitled to reservations.
To give you an example, even if Babu Azgaonkar claimed that he was from a schedule caste, his children would not benefit from reservations, as he has enough money and resources to educate his children. Indeed, most of the new groups in the Maratha and Jat communities are economically and socially very well off.
The Marathas claim that they are descendants of Shivaji Maharaj. Recently, a group of 132 filed a petition against the denial of reservations to backward classes, irrespective of their economic status. The SC made it clear on Tuesday, September 14, 2021 that there was no question of granting reservations to the creamy layer of the backward classes. It is also made clear that reservations are limited to the initial jobs and are not valid for promotions. Which affectively means that no backward class person, who may have got a government job, can claim promotion to a higher posts as a matter of right.

LORD GANESH TAR-BALLED

AND a few stray thoughts on tar balls greeting those who went to immerse their idols of Lord Ganesh on the fifth day of Ganesh Chaturthi. The tradition in Goa depending on locals and the large number of visitors coming in from outside, Chavath is celebrated for one-and-a-half day, to five or seven or ten days.
The worshipped deity or Lord Ganesh idol is immersed in the nearest water body. Goa being a coastal State, the images of Lord Ganesh are immersed in the beachside sea. To the shock of those who went to immerse their images of Lord Ganesh on the second and fifth day they were greeted by huge tar balls on the beach. So what is considered a religious, joyous occasion of bidding farewell to Lord Ganesh, became a nightmare.
Nobody wants to go into the sea with the Lord Ganesh idols if there are tar balls littering the beaches and water, let alone immerse the sacred deity of Lord Ganesh amidst such polluted water bodies. Though Drishti and other government agencies cleared the tar balls from beaches like Miramar and Morjim, the tar balls are reportedly back in larger quantities.
THERE is always been a mystery on how these ugly tar balls get washed ashore on the beaches of Goa. This pollution is traced to ships which dock at Mormugoa Port Trust wash their bilges in the waters just of the shores. It is presumed that it is the cleaning of the ships that causes the tar balls which turn the beaches into an ugly oily site. Normally, this happens at the peak of the shipping season. What is strange about the recent incidents is that shipping has come down very sharply. Since the suspension of the export of ore, very few big transport ships come to the MPT or the new Goa port which is just off Panaji in the high seas.
THE only conclusion that can be drawn is that though mining has been suspended, more and more ships carrying coal are landing at MPT. These ships, some of which are very huge, drop anchor outside the harbour and wash out the bilges before coming into port. The biggest joke is that Minister for Science & Environment Nilesh Cabral is claiming that he does not know anything about the origins of the tar balls. May be the Goa government or rather the people of Goa should asked Gautam Adani or Nitin Gadkari about it.

TACKLING PANDEMICS

AND a last stray thoughts on Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft Foundation, talking about setting up gigantic mRNA factories in India, to deal with present and future pandemics. This would presume that Bill Gates either expects the present covid-19 pandemic to continue or is expecting larger pandemics in the future. Last year Bill Gates had spoken about bringing the covid-19 epidemic under control by 2022. But there is no signs of covid-19 going away.
On the contrary there are fears of a third wave affecting our children. The Bill Gates Foundation has contributed over $300 million to the Serum Institute of India which makes Covishield, so that it can be made available to Indians at an economic price. In India the problem has been not so much vaccine hesitancy but vaccine eagerness. But it is not easy to vaccinate a population of 130 crore people. Despite all the promises of the BJP government, less than 50 crore people have got even a single dose.

PROBLEM OF LOGISTICS

IN an interview to BBC, Cyrus Poonawala of Serum Institute of India, the largest manufacturer of Covishield, claims that it is problem of logistics. The vaccine has to be transported and stored at a particular temperature and used within 24 hours. In fact once it is taken out of refrigeration the vaccines have to be used up within two hours.
But the problem in India is lack of discipline, as people continue to celebrate festivals on large scale, ignoring the need to wear masks and maintaining a physical distance to minimize the spread of the infection.
THERE are also a large number of very highly educated people who object to the covid-19 vaccine, because unlike other vaccines it operates on the principles of manipulating genes. These mRNA vaccines are being used without carrying out adequate tests. It’s a matter of concern that Bill Gates should be talking about mRNA factories in India and poorer countries, so that pandemics like Covid-19 can be controlled in time.

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