Why Modi Cannot Admire both Buddha and Savarkar

Why Modi Cannot Admire both Buddha and Savarkar

Why Modi Cannot Admire both Buddha and Savarkar

On 4th July, celebrated as Dhamma Chakra Day to commemorate Buddha’s first sermon, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on the enduring legacy of Buddhism. He said, “Buddhism teaches respect—Respect for people. Respect for the poor. Respect for women. Respect for peace and non-violence…” He also said that the ideals of Lord Buddha were “relevant in the past. They are relevant in the present. They will remain relevant in the future.”

Modi’s speech contradicted Hindutva’s philosophical position on Buddha and Buddhism. Hindutva blames Buddha’s ideal of ahimsa or non-violence for enfeebling Indians, turning them away from acquiring strength, whether physical or military, and paving the way for the marauders from Central Asia to conquer India in the ancient past.

This position on Buddhism was most forcefully articulated by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who coined the term Hindutva. Even though Savarkar never became a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, he is arguably among the most revered leaders of the Hindutva pantheon.

In his book, Essentials of Hindutva, published in the early 1920s, Savarkar says Buddhism was wiped out of India because the spread of Buddhism in India proved “disastrous to the national virility.” This made India susceptible to conquests, triggering a reaction among the people against Buddhism.

Truly, it [Buddhism] was a law of Righteousness,” Savarkar writes. Yet its fault was that it did not take into account the human nature, which is driven by “animal passions”, “political ambitions” and “individual aggrandisement”. India did not, therefore, think it safe to exchange “her sword for a rosary”, eventually leading to the decline and extinction of Buddhism from the land of its birth.

Savarkar’s tone of criticism is solemn in Essentials of Hindutva. For instance, he notes, “Buddhism has conquests to claim but they belong to a world far removed from this our matter-of-fact world—where feet of clay do not stand long, and steel could be easily sharpened and trishna—thirst—is too powerful and real to be quenched by painted streams that flow perennially in heavens.”

Buddhism, from Savarkar’s perspective, has little relevance in the temporal world.

Forty years later, his critique of Buddhism acquired a sharp, mocking, rancorous edge, evident from his book, Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History, which he completed in 1963. In it, he records how Indians, more specifically the “Vedic Hindus”, valiantly struggled to expel foreign conquerors from India. Not only did the Buddhists stay aloof from the national resistance, they were guilty of “treachery” that spanned over centuries.

Savarkar links the origin of their treachery to Buddha’s propagation of ahimsa, which had them shun weapons and wars. Buddhists were consequently rendered defenceless against those wishing to subjugate them. They became cowardly over time. Incapable of defending their land, they took the side of conquerors in the hope of converting them to Buddhism.

Yet ahimsa did not psychologically debilitate Indians for well over 150 years after the death of Buddha, usually dated to either 486 BCE or 483 BCE. This was because Buddhism was one among the many religious and philosophical systems existing in India. Since it did not dominate India’s consciousness, ahimsa could not smother India’s martial spirit.

India’s fighting prowess was on display during its stout resistance to Macedonian ruler Alexander, whose military expedition in the country lasted between 327 BCE and 325 BCE. That fierce resistance, Savarkar says, prompted Alexander to appoint a Greek governor to oversee his conquests and leave India. Ultimately, Chandragupta Maurya and his Brahmin advisor, Chanakya, combined to expel the Greeks from India altogether.

The downturn in India’s history, Savarkar argues, came about because of the conversion of the third Mauryan ruler Ashoka, who ascended to the throne either in 272 BCE or 268 BCE. He adopted ahimsa as the ideology of the Mauryan state. Conquests were no longer extolled. Instead, Savarkar points out, religious victory was hailed over martial glory. He lists a few of Ashoka’s prescriptions that irreparably damaged India—“anger should be conquered by the negation of anger”; “non-violence is the supreme religious duty”; “never kill any animal”. These ideas negated the very essence of the Vedic religion.

Worse, Savarkar says, was the role of bhikkus or mendicants, who, in thousands, roamed around preaching that “army strength of every sort was violent and sinful, and that all those who followed the life of a Kshatriya were violent and so irreligious!” Bhikkus were parasites, declares Savarkar, because they lived in monasteries, where they were provided free food and clothing at the state’s expense.

No longer was the Kshatriya the role model for the society. Their position had been usurped by the bhikku, who was considered, writes Savarkar, “greater, holier and so more praiseworthy than the brave Kshatriya soldier who fought and bled and died in the defence of the nation.”

Any society condescending of warriors is bound to become vulnerable to foreign foes, Savarkar feels. This is what precisely happened—the Bactrian Greeks under Demetreos (or Demetrius) invaded Northwest India around 200 BCE and vanquished the Mauryan army. They occupied southern Afghanistan, Punjab and the Indus Valley, and undertook forays into the Gangetic heartland. The most powerful and well known of Bactrian Greek rulers was Menander (166-150 BCE).

Not only did the Buddhist successors of Ashoka fail to defend India, their co-religionists played a treacherous role. Savarkar claims Buddhist preachers spread the canard that the Greeks had come to fight the Hindus alone. The canard acquired more than the veneer of truth at Menander’s conversion to Buddhism. Savarkar writes, rather bitterly, “The Buddhist scholars and bhikkus proudly strutted in the Indian courts of those Greeks, as if they were moving in some national court.”

Playing upon Buddhist sentiments, Menander declared that his goal was to teach a lesson to the Vedic Hindus whom he accused of conspiring to overthrow the Buddhist-Mauryan rule. Buddhists were not even alarmed when Menander conquered Ayodhya. This was because, Savarkar points out, the Buddhists were “not much concerned with the alien nationality of the Greeks. Buddhism did not recognise the differences of caste, race or nationality! This was the anti-national and anti-Indian wicked way in which the Buddhist preachers began to delude the people of India!”

It fell upon the Vedic Hindus to resist the Bactrian Greeks. Savarkar writes, “The Indian Buddhist populace showed clear signs of defection…to Menander. The nationalist Indian leaders, therefore, formed a revolutionary body with a view to dethrone the vacillating and weak Brihadrath Maurya from the royal seat of Magadha and replace him with one of the Vedic sect, who was of proven metal like Chandragupta Maurya.”

Savarkar ecstatically describes how Pushyamitra, the Brahmin general of the Mauryan army, beheaded Brihadrath and usurped the Mauryan throne. It was under his aegis that the Bactrian Greeks, by and by, were expelled from India. As for the Buddhists, Savarkar condemns them for their “brazen-faced treacherous role”.

Savarkar defends Pushyamitra’s persecution of Buddhists, who were killed in large numbers, their monasteries and stupas destroyed. Savarkar writes, “It was a just punishment for high treason and for joining hands with the enemy, in order that Indian independence and empire might be protected. It was no religious persecution.”

Yet the treachery of Buddhists, Savarkar tell us, did not abate. Under pressure from the Huns, the Kushans established their kingdom in northwest India and expanded its frontiers all the way into the Gangetic plain. The most famous of Kushan rulers was Kanishka (died 78 CE), who converted to Buddhism, made inroads into China and spread his religion there.

But Indians, Savarkar warns, should not feel proud of Kanishka’s conquests even though “Buddhism itself was an Indian religion.” Why? We must not feel proud because “the Buddhism that was embraced by Kanishka was not the unadulterated original one of Lord Buddha nor that of Ashoka. It was the Kanishkan edition of Buddhism.”

This should have made Savarkar happy, for Kanishka’s conquests negate the ideas of Buddha and Ashoka, against whom the Hindutva ideologue rails. But because Savarkar must undermine the original Buddhism as well, he asks a puerile question: How could Kanishka spread Buddhism in the Chinese territory beyond the Himalayas?

Savarkar answers, “It was possible because he had first conquered those provinces with his weapons of war…. All this was possible for him because he had under his command a very powerful empire, i.e., he had a mighty armed strength. Wasn’t it?”

In other words, Savarkar has problems with Buddha because he propagated non-violence; he has problems with Ashoka because he adopted ahimsa as his policy and weakened India’s martial spirit; he has problems with Kanishka because he deviated from the teachings of Buddha, violated Ashoka’s policy, and engaged in military forays.

Savarkar’s tendency to find faults with Buddhism any which way springs from his desire to bolster his thesis that only the votaries of the Vedic religion can be loyal to India, and defend it from foreign depredations. It is religion that maketh the man. He, therefore, points out that the Vedic Hindus fought against Kanishka as “his was not at all an indigenous Indian empire”.

What were the Indian Buddhists doing at that time? Savarkar writes, “They tendered their submission to the Mlechcha [barbarian] enemy, the Kushan emperor, as soon as he courted the Buddhist cult and began to perpetrate acts of treachery against the Indian nation and the brave patriotic Vedic people, who were fighting for her liberty!”

By contrast, the Hindus refused to support foreign rulers even when they embraced the Vedic religion. Not only was the ruler’s faith important, but also whether or not he was born in India. This was why the Hindus, Savarkar says, fought against the Hun ruler Mihirgula (sixth century), although he had accepted the “Vedic cult of God Rudra and brutally oppressed the Buddhists, who had become the inveterate enemies of the Vedic Hindus.” The Vedic Hindus did not support Mihirgula because they looked upon him as a “foreign aggressor and as such a national enemy,” Savarkar says.

Savarkar barely conceals his glee over Mihirgula liquidating, after invading Kashmir, a huge number of Buddhists there. “It is very difficult to say if fate had brought to life this Mihirgula only to give a practical lesson to the Indian Buddhists.” And pray, what was that lesson? “That without one’s own armed support even religion cannot survive the onslaught of the barbarous enemy’s fire and sword.”

This lesson the Buddhists were also taught, according to Savarkar, when Mohammad bin Qasim, in the eighth century, invaded Sindh, which was ruled by Hindu king Dahir. The Buddhists, according to Savarkar, thought Qasim would, like Menander and Kanishka, embrace Buddhism and torment the Hindus.

Savarkar says the Buddhists approached Qasim and pleaded to be left alone. Savarkar even imagines their conversation with Qasim: “We have nothing to do with Dahir and his Vedic Hindu cult… Our Prophet, Lord Buddha, has taught us ‘Ahimsa’. (Total abstinence from violence). We never take arms and dabble with political affairs of the state… So we pray that the Buddhists should not be subjected to any indignities or troubles at your hands.”

Qasim, Savarkar says, assured safety to Buddhists, who rang bells in their monasteries at the defeat of Dahir. Savarkar notes, “As there was no armed opposition in Buddhist viharas and Buddhist localities, the Muslims cut them down as easily as they would cut vegetable. Only those of the Buddhists who took to the Muslim faith were spared.”

All these examples, Savarkar writes, should establish, beyond doubt, the impracticality of ahimsa. The Buddhists compounded their historical mistake of embracing ahimsa by their treachery against India and the Hindus.

Suddenly switching gears, Savarkar tells the untouchables, or Dalits as they are known today, that the condition of their ancestors was no better under Buddhist rulers. Sample what Savarkar writes, “Those of the untouchables…should do well to remember that the Chandals, the Mahars and other untouchables were far more miserable under the violently non-violent Buddhists than under the Vedic people who accepted the principle of Ahimsa with its limitations.”

Savarkar’s decision to address the Dalits is understandable. He completed the Six Glorious Epochs in 1963, just seven years after Dr BR Ambedkar had converted to Buddhism along with his lakhs of Mahar followers. Their conversion negated the idea of Hindu unity, which Savarkar sought to forge all his life.

Indeed, Hindutva’s project of uniting the followers of the Vedic religion has Savarkar view the past as a saga of Hindus fighting the “other”, or all those who came into India from outside as well as those who did not subscribe to the Vedic religion. This has him accord primacy to virility, engage in fantasies of battles and bloodshed, and superimpose modern ideas of nation and nationhood on his story of the past.

India and its people were oblivious of ideas such as nation in the ancient past. India was then divided into myriad kingdoms, which were periodically melded, to a degree, under an imperial rule. For the most part, these kingdoms fought against each other, long before the Muslims swept into India, desecrated temples and abducted deities patronised by their Hindu rivals.

Savarkar has glossed over historical evidence and invented or exaggerated a few to rewrite history to suit the Hindutva project.

For instance, Ashoka did not persecute the Vedic Hindus, as Savarkar will have us believe. One of Ashoka’s rock edits, in historian Romila Thapar’s translation, has him advise his subjects thus: “On each occasion one should honour the sect of another, for by doing so one increases the influence of one’s own sect and benefits that of the other, while, by doing otherwise, one diminishes the influence of one’s own sect and harms the other… therefore concord is to be commended so that men may hear one another’s principles.”

Nor did Ashoka practice an extreme form of non-violence, nor did he disband the Mauryan army. Thapar writes, “He [Ashoka] recognised that there were occasions when violence might be unavoidable, for instance when the forest-dwellers were troublesome… He also states that he would prefer his descendants not to conquer by force, but should it be necessary he hopes they will conduct this conquest with a maximum of mercy and clemency.” We also have evidence that animals continued to be slaughtered, even though in lesser numbers than previously, in the royal kitchen.

All this suggests that Ashoka’s decision to patronise Buddhism did not lead to the decline of the Mauryan Empire. Its decline, in fact, has been ascribed to the debasement of the Mauryan coin, to imposition of tax on every person, to the failure of rulers to build a centralised bureaucratic structure.

Hindutva’s disdain for Buddhism was not confined to Savarkar alone. In his recently published book, The RSS and the Making of the Deep Nation, journalist Dinesh Narayanan counts Deendayal Upadhyaya among those who were in agreement with Savarkar’s thesis on Buddhism. Narayanan writes, “…Buddha threw the baby out with the bathwater, Upadhyaya says, when he sought to cut off India from the Vedic roots. He not only stopped ancient rites and rituals, Buddha also preferred Pali over Sanskrit in popularising his new religion.”

Given Hindutva’s view of Buddhism, Modi’s admiration and love for Savarkar and Buddha is decidedly a contradiction, as they represent philosophical positions that are poles apart. But then, politics maketh the leader, his thoughts and actions.

The author is an independent journalist. The views are personal.

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Job Situation Continues to Be Grim Despite ‘Unlock’ and

Job Situation Continues to Be Grim Despite ‘Unlock’ and

The average jobless rate in India was pegged at 11% in June 2020, while the labour participation rate was estimated at 40.3%, according to latest data from the sample surveys periodically carried out by Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). These are the only current estimates of employment available in India.

While the jobless rate of 11% is a sharp fall from the very high levels reached during April and May this year, it is still a very worrying trend. The high level in April-May was a direct result of the ill-conceived and badly planned lockdown that went on for over two months and brought the Indian economy to a juddering halt. Since the lockdown didn’t control the pandemic – cases are still rising steeply in India – the combination of the disease and its remedy had a lethal effect on employment across the board. 

It was expected that once Unlock 1.0 began on June 1 this year, the economy will bounce back as will employment. This did happen to an extent (see chart below), but the level at which the jobless rate has settled now is a cause of serious worry. Unemployment has been ranging at about 7-8% last year. Now, it has settled at 11%. Latest weekly data of CMIE, in fact, shows that this could be the new normal in pandemic-stricken India.

Most Jobs in Farming

Meanwhile, the number of employed persons too has shrunk by a whopping 3 crore (30 million) compared to the pre-pandemic levels. [See chart below] In February this year, the number of employed was estimated by CMIE to be about 40.6 crore (406 million). This plummeted in April and May to unprecedented levels, but recovered somewhat in June to 37.4 crore (374 million). That still leaves 3 crore Indians who were employed just a few months ago on the streets. 

Employed person

It is estimated that most of this return to work from locked down April and May took place in farming. Average employment in farming in 2019-20 was 11.1 crore (111 million), June 2020 has witnessed a huge increase to a record 13 crore (130 million). So, nearly 2 crore (20 million) people have been absorbed in farming this June.

While early monsoon rains this year and consequent surge in early kharif sowing has led to this dramatic rise in farming jobs, this swelling of farming jobs also denotes an over-saturation of the sector. People without jobs are flocking to do whatever farming work they can get, or simply helping out in families’ own farming work. It does not mean any additional income – the same pie is going to be cut in smaller pieces. It also means that already depressed wages of agricultural labourers will remain depressed, or may fall even further. Too many workers for the same work can have only that effect. So, this rise in farming employment is actually disguised unemployment. It is neither sustainable nor of any great use to people.

Other categories where CMIE estimates that jobs have increased after the lockdown eased include small traders and daily wage labourers, and ‘business persons’. Seen together, all these categories of workers/earners are mainly self-employed people or those who are hired for doing physical work on a daily wage basis. It is obvious that these people will return to work earlier because they would usually be doing individual work, near their homes, and also because they would need to start working at the earliest.

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But among salaried employees, the CMIE estimates show a dire situation. Some 8.6 crore (86 million) persons, making up over a fifth of India’s workforce of about 40.4 crore (404 million), were working as salaried employees. They range from factory workers to employees in the services sector, including offices. The lockdown saw over 1.76 crore (17.6 million) of these employees lose their jobs in April – a massive blow to a large chunk of the population. Yet, the so-called opening up of the economy and Unlock 1.0 has done little to bring back this hapless section to work. That’s because no amount of monetary incentives like easy bank credit have lured MSMEs or large factories and establishments to resume productive activities. According to CMIE estimates, only about 39 lakh such employees have rejoined work, thus leaving another 1.4 crore (137 million) people out of work.

People Opting Not to Work At All

Fear of the raging pandemic and the lack of confidence in governments’ abilities to control it, coupled with the lack of decent jobs in nearby places has caused a large number of people to simply become hopeless and effectively opt out of the labour force itself. A large share of them are women who appear to have suffered more, according to some studies. This can be seen in the drop in the labour participation rate (LPR), which is the share of the working-age population that is either working or willing to work. In other words, it is the sum of employed and unemployed taken as a proportion of the whole working-age population. 

As the chart below shows, LPR had remained steady at around 43% through last year and the early months of this year before precipitously dropping to just 35.6% in April this year, as a direct consequence of the lockdown. Since then it has recovered to around 40% in June this year – still below last year’s levels.

Labour participation

What this means is that a large number of persons – approximately 2.5% of the working-age population or about 2 crore (20 million) persons – have stopped even looking for work after losing jobs in the lockdown. This is also a huge chunk of unemployed people.

Government policy, blinkered by its dogmatic commitment to incentivising the rich in the fond hope that it will help boost investment and employment, has spectacularly failed. The lockdown shock has brought out this failure in stark relief. And, there doesn’t seem to be any major rethinking on the government’s part to correct their course. India thus continues to go through a distressing time as the people fight, both, the pandemic and their sinking earnings and livelihoods.

Also watch: Corporate Interests are Determining US Response to COVID-19

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Ranjit Bajaj Makes His Pitch to Buy Quess East Bengal Shares

Ranjit Bajaj Makes His Pitch to Buy Quess East Bengal Shares

It remains to be seen whether Quess and indeed the Quess East Bengal FC board of directors will give their approval to clear the path for Ranjit Bajaj.

Amidst the confusion over East Bengal’s relationship with their current investors, Quess Corp, Chandigarh based Minerva Academy owner Ranjit Bajaj has thrown in his hat to buy 70 percent of Quess East Bengal FC shares and bag the club’s sporting rights for football and cricket.

“I have been in talks with Quess bosses for the last couple of weeks. I am ready to pay the money and buy the 70 percent shares that Quess is holding at the moment,” the former Minerva Football Club owner said on July 8.

Bajaj said, he along with Quess have already prepared a preliminary draft document to start the process, but will wait till the end of this month to make any further moves.

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“As per the agreement between East Bengal and Quess, the club has the right of first refusal in case the investors decide to sell the shares to a third party. Quess is currently negotiating with East Bengal officials on several issues. I will have a chance to step in if East Bengal and Quess fail to agree. Till then, I am waiting on the sidelines,” he said.

Bajaj, who earlier this season sold his club Minerva FC to Mohali based RoundGlass Sports, however, has no idea whether Quess has more offers from other investors.

Quess, which presently holds the sporting rights for football and cricket of the historic Kolkata outfit, have made it clear they wanted the club to buy the shares out before they decide to part company officially.

Without saying in as many words, Quess Corp chairman and managing director Ajit Isaac said: “We are ready to move on. We have sent them [East Bengal Club] a draft agreement. But they are yet to take a call in terms of its conclusion. Since we are under definite timeline to take this agreement to closure, in the absence of EBFC’s timely response, we will be constrained to hand over the rights to any prospective buyer.”

As per the agreement between Quess and East Bengal, out of the 14,78,571 total shares of QEBFC, investors hold 10,35,000 with them. The club through their nominees have 443,571 shares with them. In case Quess takes the hard decision of selling its shares to someone else, then Bajaj would get an opportunity to proceed with the bargain.

Things, however, will not be easy. To hand over the shares and virtual control of the club to a third party, the decision has to be passed by QEBFC’s board of directors. Currently, both sides have four members each in the board, but the investors can still clinch the deal through certain clauses in the share subscription agreement. 

Bajaj refused to say how much money he would have to put up on the table to bag the majority shares of East Bengal. “We have drawn up a draft agreement but to reveal the amount will be a breach of trust,” he said.

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Asked whether it was a rather impractical idea for a complete outsider to try and run one of Indian football’s most iconic institutions in Kolkata, Bajaj said it was too early to comment. “Let us keep an eye on the development. All I can say at the moment is that I will feel proud to be associated with a club like East Bengal.

“The problem is, even if I go for an honest deal without disturbing the legality of the issue, there are forces in the Indian football fraternity, who will come together to foil my bid. That’s my biggest worry,” he said.

The relationship between East Bengal and Quess, who joined hands in 2018, turned bitter within months. It went from bad to worse in the 2019-20 season before Quess announced its intention to pull the plug. Sources said the Bangalore based company, however, wanted the club to pay an unknown amount of money before they released the majority shares and sporting rights for football and cricket. 

Given the present scenario, East Bengal are definitely in a spot of bother. Without acquiring the ‘release order’ for their sporting right from Quess, the red and yellow brigade would be in no position to participate in domestic competitions, something that has been made ample clear by the All India Football Association (AIFF). 

At the same time, it is now a well-known fact the agreement between Quess and East Bengal is a rather lopsided one and heavily tilted towards the investors. It has all the ingredients to make East Bengal’s task tougher.  

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Pritam Kotal Establishes Academy for Less Privileged Young

Pritam Kotal Establishes Academy for Less Privileged Young

Pritam Kotal, 26, recalls that he himself faced many challenges and worked very hard to reach where he is today.

Indian defender Pritam Kotal has, in collaboration with other current players, established a football academy to provide help to underprivileged footballers fearing that malnutrition could damage the future generation. 

“I have seen boys not getting proper food pre and post-training. Even after training, they take meagre rations which are not enough for a budding footballer. It is going to be our loss, Indian football’s loss,” Kotal told the All Indian Football Federation.

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“Proper food besides training is the need of the hour for them. One day, when they mature enough, they’ll handhold their juniors. This is a cyclic process to run the show seamlessly,” he said.

The 26-year old footballer has played 36 internationals and recalls that he himself faced many challenges and worked very hard to reach where he is today.

“I faced hardship during my childhood. I wish no one faces the same. That’s the reason behind my tiny efforts to lend a hand towards them who need an extra bit of push,” he said.

“We were fortunate enough to get support from our seniors. If we don’t give it back to those who need it, then honestly, we don’t deserve to be here where we are today.”

Theatre Restores Crowd Noise for QPR

The largest theatrical sound company in the UK, Autograph has combined efforts with Queens Park Rangers to restore crowd noise by experimenting with simulation inside Loftus Road.

Autograph established their name over the last 40 years having worked with theatres like the Royal Opera House, the National Theatre and the Royal Court. As their regular venues are closed due to the lockdown, they decided to use this opportunity to try something new. 

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“We had a lot of equipment come back to us that would otherwise have been out on shows,” the company’s hire manager, Will McGonagle said. “Our chairman, who is a huge Manchester United fan as well as a huge cricket fan, came up with the idea of giving it a go.”

“It started as a passion project but it quickly evolved into something that might offer some help to the teams as it was going to be so weird playing in a silent stadium,” he added.

Ih the first match of QRP against Barnsley post lockdown, the team adopted a very cautious approach. “The game itself was quite bitty,”  McGonagle said. “We didn’t want to be too obtrusive in the first game, but we proved the concept. We were often doing the chants after the ball had gone out of play so as not to interfere with the momentum because there was a lot of coaching and you could tell the players really needed to hear those instructions.” 

As McGonagle has been a QPR fan, it helped him envisage the threats and it worked out in his favour.

“It took a bit of getting used to for the players,” head of operations for QPR, Josh Scott said. “But the beauty of this system is the ability to tailor the noise and adjust it. Compared to Sunday’s game at Middlesbrough – when they played some generic noise at the same level through a crackly PA system – ours definitely provides a psychological benefit as the volume and intensity can be increased from different parts of the ground, for example at a corner.”

ECB to Mandate Boardroom Diversity 

A footballer’s demands have been answered by cricket. If you feel a sense of unease at reading that sentence, brace up. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have to mandate black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) inclusion at boardroom level. Their announcement comes after former England striker Eni Aluko’s demand for a 30 percent leadership role in sports to the ethnic minorities. 

ECB chief executive, Tom Harrison acknowledged that cricket indeed does have ‘very difficult truths to face’ and highlighted the lack of involvement with the African-Caribbean community. The ECB board said they will now ensure to increase the ethenic diversity as early as possible. 

Merely 4 percent of people for black or Asian background acquire a governance role in cricket. Although the ECB has not given out a target number, Harrison has declared that they will go through the Sport England code of government, review and determine the targets.

“We have made strong strides in many areas to become a more inclusive and diverse sport but we realise there is a great deal more to do,” he said.

Football for once lags behind. Aluko provided more evidence to the digital, culture, media and sport select committee inquiry and clearly stated that more needs to be done for BAME representation at senior levels of football .

“I take heart in the fact we have progressed in terms of representation on the pitch … but there’s still some issues at boardroom level and in senior management,” she said. “When we are looking for the best talent are we fishing in a wide enough pool or doing what we’ve always done? People that we all know and all look like us?,” she said.

Another Romanian Referee COVID-19 Positive

The Romanian football federation (FRF) have confirmed another referee tested positive for coronavirus. This takes the total number of referees testing positive in the league to three.

The FRF stated that those who were in contact with the referee in the past few days have been put under isolation and will be tested again before they are allowed to conduct matches this season. 

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Robert Avram, the referee incharge of the top flight match between Dinamo Bucharest and Sepsi OSK on June 21 and Lulian who officiated the game between Academica Clinceni and Sepsi OSK on July 1 were also Covid-19 positive. 

However, despite these cases, The FRF decided to go ahead with the games and said to postpone any matches at this stage is not required. 

David James Seeks Coaching Role 

Former Liverpool and England goalkeeper David James has expressed an interest in seeking a coaching role in England. 

The 49-year old James, who also coached the Kerala Blasters in the Indian Super League (ISL) wants to now look for opportunities close to home. 

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Impressed by Raheem Sterling’s comments about under-representation in coaching roles amongst the BAME community, James said, “Solely looking at Raheem’s comments, I think someone has to be looking into opportunities that are available.”

“It’s not just saying there are 92 clubs and 92 jobs available, so there should be X amount of positions available for Black or Asian coaches. The question is how many qualified coaches from that community are there?” he added. 

“The British population, it’s something like 15 or 20 percent non-white. So, like in football, would you expect around 15 or 20 in coaching positions in football?” 

“I’m not sure the data exists but how many qualified coaches are there to fill those roles? Out of those, how many actually go for those positions?” said James.“I’m a Pro Licence holder and I’m now considering looking for jobs with regards to management in English football, whereas I haven’t in the past. I might be one of those statistics that hadn’t applied for something.”

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Expansion of the Scope of Postal Ballots and Shrinking

Expansion of the Scope of Postal Ballots and Shrinking

After the initiative and recommendations of the Election Commission, the government has approved the amendment of the rules to increase the scope of the postal ballot system in elections. This has been done under the pretext of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. People aged 65 years and above now will vote using postal ballots. The Opposition parties have reservations about this because according to them, this will make it easier for the ruling party to rig the elections. Senior journalist Urmilesh analyses various aspects of this development. 

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Most Clinical Trials for COVID-19 Are Disorganised, Says

Most Clinical Trials for COVID-19 Are Disorganised, Says

The clinical trials aimed at testing treatment and prevention strategies against COVID-19 are marked by disorder and disorganisation, according to a report published by STAT. An analysis of the staggering 1,200 clinical trials that have been taking place since the beginning of the current year was conducted by STAT in partnership with Applied XL, a Newlab Venture Studio company, in which it was found that one in every six trials was designed to study the malaria drugs hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, which have been shown to have no benefit in hospitalised patients.

The analysis found that many of the studies are so small—39% are enrolling or plan to enroll fewer than 100 patients—that they are unlikely to yield clear results. About 38% of the clinical studies have not even actually begun enrolling patients. “It’s a huge amount of wasted effort and wasted energy when actually a bit of coordination and collaboration could go a long way and answer a few questions,” Martin Landray, a professor of medicine at Oxford University and one of the lead researchers on the RECOVERY study, a large trial of multiple treatments being run by the U.K. government, told STAT.

According to the report, 2,37,000 patient volunteers were to be enrolled in studies of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, which is 35% of the 6,85,000 patient volunteers whom researchers hoped would be enrolled in any study. The report pointed out that since patients willing to enter studies are one of the scarcest resources in medicine, this means that other potential treatments, such as ivermectin or favipiravir, were not studied.

As the pandemic started spreading, new studies were started at a remarkable speed. The report said, “Experts said the start of some small studies, particularly of new, experimental drugs that were previously being tested in other diseases, makes sense as a way of figuring out what might work. But such “phase 1” studies represented only 12% of the total in the analysis.” America’s research infrastructure mobilised quickly when the pandemic began. According to the STAT analysis, in January, 10 studies were to be started, followed by 43 in February and 99 in March. In April, almost 400 studies for dozens of different treatments and preventatives were to begin, according to the clinicaltrials.gov, the US government database.

The STAT report pointed out that experts have said that because the prognosis for patients with COVID-19 varies so dramatically—some patients have no symptoms, while others die on ventilators—only large studies that randomly assign patients to a treatment or placebo can deliver real insight into whether or not medicines are actually helping patients. Otherwise, researchers are fooled into thinking that differences between groups of patients with varying degrees of illness are caused by the medicines they are testing.

Clinical trials can routinely cost $10 million or more, with some studies costing hundreds of millions of dollars. Of the 1,200 studies that have been conducted since the beginning of this year, almost all the certain knowledge — and the proof that two treatments are effective — has come from two: RECOVERY and a study conducted by the U.S. National Institutes of Health that showed Gilead’s intravenous drug Remdesivir speeds the time it takes for hospitalised patients to recover from COVID-19.

Data collected by AppliedXL and STAT show that researchers had very little interest in studying dexamethasone, the only medicine that has been proven to save the lives of COVID-19 patients. There have been seven studies of the drug in total, enrolling 13,600 patients, 12,000 of whom were in the RECOVERY study. Two other steroid drugs, prednisone and methylprednisolone, are being studied in another 2,500 patients.

On Saturday, July 4, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that its own large study had found no benefit for either hydroxychloroquine or lopinavir-ritonavir. It’s still possible that one of the ongoing studies of hydroxychloroquine will show a benefit, perhaps earlier in the disease, the report said.

Also Read: Covid-19: Dexamethasone Provides Some Hope for Severely ill

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Let’s Talk: Indian Journalism’s Woes; COVID-19 in US

In today’s episode, we talk to Bhasha Singh on the situation of Indian journalism in the context of the tragic death of journalist Tarun Sisodia on Monday. She talks about the crisis facing the sector and its professionals, which has worsened in the aftermath of COVID-19. We also bring you a segment of an interview with Dr. Hani Serag of the People’s Health Movement on the surge in cases in the US

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