Most Clinical Trials for COVID-19 Are Disorganised, Says

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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Hyderabad: Private Hospitals Overcharge for Covid-19 Cases

Hyderabad: Private Hospitals Overcharge for Covid-19 Cases


Yashoda Super Speciality Hospital, Hyderabad. | Image Courtesy: Justdial

On Tuesday morning, 28-year-old Naveen Kumar died in a private corporate hospital in Secunderabad while undergoing treatment for Covid-19. As the hospital charged Rs 11.5 lakh bill for the treatment, the patient’s family who had earlier paid Rs 6.5 lakh against the bill asked the hospital staff to keep the dead body against the pending amount, Telugu daily Sakshi reported.

As the family protested in front of the hospital demonstrating their helplessness, the management asked them to pay Rs 20,000 and handed over Naveen Kumar’s dead body to them.

This is one of the many such cases of distress among families approaching private corporate hospitals in Telangana capital for coronavirus treatment in the last few weeks.

On the other hand, the number of Covid-19 positive cases have been rising in the state with nearly 90% of cases being reported in Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC). On July 7, the state reported 1879 new positive cases and seven deaths taking the total number of reported cases in the state to 27,612 and death toll to 313. A total of 1,6287 are recovered. 

Meanwhile, the Telangana High Court on Tuesday questioned the state government on a petition alleging that private hospitals were excessively charging from COVID-19 patients beyond rates fixed by the government. 

While hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by by advocate Srikishan Sharma seeking directions to the state government to “take action against the private hospitals for charging exorbitant and issuing guidelines for maintaining transparency in the matter of treatment and billing against all the patients,” a division bench comprising Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice B Vijaysen Reddy had issued notices to the state and central governments, and four private corporate hospitals including Medicover hospital, Yashoda Super Specialty hospital, Sunshine hospital and Care hospital in Hyderabad. 

The case has been posted for July 14. 

“Corporate hospitals overcharging for Covid-19 treatment is not surprising,” says Sharada, a Hyderabad-based senior doctor, but “their exploitation of patients has only increased during this pandemic.” 

Also read: COVID-19: Pessimism Pervades Jewellery Trade, Exodus of Karigars Continues

As per the state government order (GO 248) put out on June 15, the state government has fixed a ceiling on prices chargeable for COVID-19 treatment by private hospitals. Accordingly, charges for routine ward and isolation are fixed at Rs 4,000 per day and charges for ICU with ventilator and isolation is fixed at Rs 9,000 per day. 

“Common people are struggling to even get tested for the virus or to find an ambulance to reach hospitals in times of emergencies. Many patients have died after being rejected for treatment by private hospitals,” said Sharada while adding that the state government has failed in assuring its people of overcoming the virus.

In another case, a government doctor in Hyderabad was allegedly charged Rs 1.19 lakh for one day of treatment for COVID-19 by a private hospital. Reportedly, Doctor Sultana, who works at Hyderabad’s Fever hospital was detained by the staff of Thumbay hospital in the city when she refused to pay the overcharged bill for Covid-19. The doctor’s video explaining her ordeal has gone viral. 

Telangana Junior Doctors Association (TJUDA) and the Telangana Government Doctors Association have demanded action against the private hospital. Presently, Sultana is admitted in the Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences hospital. 

Also read: COVID-19: Kerala Gears up to Nip in the Bud the Threat of Community Transmission



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COVID-19: Kerala Gears up to Nip in the Bud the Threat of

COVID-19: Kerala Gears up to Nip in the Bud the Threat of


Kerala’s COIVD-19 tally on Tuesday touched 5,894 with 272 fresh cases reported. Out of these, 157 are from among the abroad returnees, 38 from other states, and the rest, 68, have been infected through contact. Origin of infection for 15 of the 68 cases could not be traced, said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. 

On Monday, 193 people had tested positive. Among these, 92 patients had come from abroad, 62 from other states, while 35 have been infected through contact.

The increase in the number of positive cases through contact is becoming a serious concern for the state administration and health officials. On Monday evening, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that community spread was a threat and the government was taking various steps to prevent it, including the triple lockdown and widespread testing.

On July 5, 38 patients had reportedly contracted the disease through contact; on July 4, the number was 17. On July 3, of the total 211 new cases, 27 were infected through contact.

Source: Chief Minister’s daily press conferences.

 

On Sunday, Thiruvananthapuram district had the most number of cases through contact at 22, forcing the administration to strengthen the implementation of the health protocol. The state government has imposed a triple lockdown for a week in Thiruvananthapuram corporation limits from Monday morning owing to which all the government offices, private establishments are shut and public transport is off the roads. 

On January 30, India’s first COVID-19 case was reported from Kerala when a medical student who had returned from Wuhan in China had tested positive. The state government, however, had started passenger screening at airports from December itself. 

Kerala’s public healthcare system has stood out for having dealt with the pandemic effectively so far and Health Minister KK Shailaja, along with the Left Front government in the state, has garnered appreciation internationally for the ‘Kerala model’. 

Kerala had recorded only three deaths early in May. But, by this time, Italy, the European country which had recorded its first case around the same time as Kerala, had recorded deaths of over 30,000 people. The case fatality rate over there was 14.4%. By May 3, no new cases were being reported in Kerala with only 95 active cases. 

However, two months later, by July 3, the total number of positive cases in the state had climbed up to 4,465, which is nearly nine times the tally of May 3. On July 6, it increased to eleven-fold with the total number of cases standing at 5,622. How did this happen?

When the Centre announced the first lockdown from March 25 to curb the further spread of the virus, many Keralites were stuck in various parts of the country and also in other countries. They could not return home amid the pandemic as the flight services had been suspended. However, with the launch of Vande Bharat Mission by the Centre, the process of repatriation was kicked off. The first flights to Kerala arrived on May 7, together carrying 363 passengers [one flight each had landed in Kochi and Kozhikode from Abu Dhabi and Dubai, UAE]. 

Then on May 8, two flights landed at the Kozhikode and Kochi airports carrying 325 passengers from Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh and Bahrain’s Manama. On May 9, three flights carrying 545 passengers had landed at the Kochi airport from Kuwait, Muscat in Oman, and Doha in Qatar. On May 10, Indian Navy’s INS Jalashwa, under the mission Operation Samudra Setu, reached Kochi port with 698 Indians from Maldives on board. An Air India flight with 177 passengers also landed in Kochi, coming from Kuala Lumpur. 

In the coming days, more and more flights landed in the state, most of which were from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Meanwhile, the first passenger train departed from New Delhi carrying stranded Keralites and it reached Thiruvananthapuram on May 15. Many other special trains followed. 

With these arrivals, from May 13, Kerala started reporting two-digit numbers of cases. There were 26 new cases on May 14. 

As the checkposts were also opened in May, many were coming back by road as well. 

On June 5, Kerala recorded 111 fresh cases when for the first time the number was three-digit for a single day. On June 6, there were 108 fresh cases. 

Since the imposition of the nationwide lockdown, 4,99,529 people have returned to Kerala. Of these, 1,85,435 have returned from abroad and the rest are from other Indian states. 

As on July 7, the number of active cases in the state stood at 2,413. Till July 6, 2,04,452 samples have been sent for testing.

On Monday, Chief Minister Vijayan said that testing will be intensified in the border areas, especially in Manjeswaram of Kasaragod district from where people commute to Mangalore in Karnataka on a daily basis.

This is also causing the spread of the virus, he said, adding that daily travel in this manner cannot be allowed.

(With inputs from PTI)

Also read: COVID-19: People in Kashmir Flout Distancing Guidelines Despite Increasing Cases



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COVID-19: CBSE ‘Rationalises’ Syllabus, Chapters on

COVID-19: CBSE ‘Rationalises’ Syllabus, Chapters on


Representational image. | Image Courtesy: digital learning magazine

New Delhi, Jul 7: The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has “rationalised” the syllabus for classes 9 to 12 for the academic year 2020-21 by up to 30% in order to reduce the course load on students amid the COVID-19 crisis, Union HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ announced on Tuesday. Interestingly, the chapters that have been sacrificed include those about democracy, nationalism and secularism, among others.

The curriculum has been rationalised while retaining the core elements, the Human Resource Development minister said.

Among the chapters dropped after the rationalisation exercise are lessons on democracy and diversity, demonetisation, nationalism, secularism, India’s relations with its neighbours and growth of local governments in India, among others.

Looking at the extraordinary situation prevailing in the country and the world, CBSE was advised to revise the curriculum and reduce course load for the students of classes 9 to 12. To aid the decision, a few weeks back I also invited suggestions from all educationists on the reduction of syllabus for students and I am glad to share that we received more than 1.5K suggestions. Thank you, everyone, for the overwhelming response (sic),” Nishank tweeted.

“Considering the importance of learning achievement, it has been decided to rationalise syllabus up to 30 per cent by retaining the core concepts (sic),” he added.

The Union Minister said the changes made in the syllabi have been finalised by the respective course committees with the approval of the curriculum committee and the Governing Body of the Board.

“The heads of schools and teachers have been advised by the board to ensure that the topics that have been reduced are also explained to the students to the extent required to connect different topics. However, the reduced syllabus will not be part of the topics for internal assessment and year-end board examination. Alternative academic calendar and inputs from the NCERT on transacting the curriculum using different strategies shall also be part of the teaching pedagogy in the affiliated schools,” a senior official of the HRD ministry told PTI.

For classes one to eight, the National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT) has already notified an alternative calendar and learning outcomes.

According to the updated curriculum, among the chapters deleted from class ten syllabus are – democracy and diversity, gender, religion and caste, popular struggles and movement and challenges to democracy.

For class 11, the deleted portions included chapters on federalism, citizenship, nationalism, secularism and growth of local governments in India.

Similarly, class 12 students will not be required to study chapters on India’s relations with its neighbours, changing nature of India’s economic development, social movements in India and demonetisation, among others.

Universities and schools across the country have been closed since March 16 when the central government announced a nationwide classroom shutdown as one of the measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

A nationwide lockdown was announced on March 24, which came into effect the next day. While the government has eased several restrictions, schools and colleges continue to remain closed.



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COVID-19: People in Kashmir Flout Distancing Guidelines

COVID-19: People in Kashmir Flout Distancing Guidelines


Srinagar: There has been a steep rise in the number of symptomatic patients of COVID-19 in the past two weeks, which has raised the fear of pandemic to new levels in the Valley, claim doctors in Kashmir.

According to official data, as many as 246 new cases were reported from the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir on Monday with a majority of 210 cases from Kashmir division and the rest from Jammu, taking the total number of cases in the region to over 8,500 cases. Of these over 3,200 persons are active cases.

The region also witnessed a spike in the number of COVID-19 deaths in the past week. Since the outbreak, over 140 persons have died after contracting the virus, a majority of them in Kashmir division and over 40 since past week, implying a sharp rise in the overall COVID-19 numbers.

Of the total deaths occurred in the region since the first death was reported in March, nearly 30% deaths have occurred in less than past two weeks, raising concern among healthcare professionals.

Dr Naved Shah, head of Chest Disease Hospital in Srinagar, said the situation continues to remain “alarming” as the number of cases continue to mount in Kashmir valley.

“Earlier, we used to receive patients that were asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, but now we are admitting more sick patients,” Dr Shah told NewsClick.

Currently, at CDH, a designated COVID-19 hospital which has 20 ventilators, Dr Naved said there are as many as 80 infected persons with symptoms. “Out of these three patients are on ventilators,” Dr Shah said.

“There has been an increase in the number of symptomatic cases as the number of overall cases are also increasing. More the number of cases, there will be an increase in both symptomatic as well as asymptomatic cases,” Dr Masood Rashid, a consultant anesthesiologist said.

Also read: COVID-19: Abandoned in Kashmir’s Hospitals, Patients Complain of Negligence by Authorities

Dr Masood warns that the situation is likely to worsen and that the region is heading towards a disaster. “We will get more symptomatic cases in the coming weeks and our limited resources will get exhausted. People will not even get access to oxygen as there is limited access to uninterrupted central oxygen pipeline to manage the flow of O2 as per the patient requirement,” he said.

Both Dr Naved and Dr Masood said that there is an increase in the number of cases in Kashmir as people are not adhering to the guidelines and social distancing norms.

Consultant pediatrician Dr Suhail Naik, who is president of the Doctor’s Association Kashmir (DAK), told NewsClick that people in the region have stopped taking the infection seriously even as the number of cases are rising.

“It is urgent that people realise that the virus has not left us and it is a reality. The situation is grim and given the indications, there will be more cases and more deaths in coming months,” Dr Naik said.

After the restrictions were eased in the region weeks ago, with the return of economic activity, people in the Valley have been thronging the market places and have even been participating in religious as well as social gatherings in several areas. There has been an apparent fall in adherence to social distancing norms across the region. This, Dr Naik said, is a result of people’s “complacency” and “belief in hoaxes and conspiracy theories.”

“There is a need for awareness among people as the disease in making its way through the community.There is a need for people to avoid delusions as we are heading towards a critical situation,” he said.

The adherence to social distancing norms and precautions has decreased to a great extent in Kashmir, many say, as a result of various government actions carried since even before lockdown restrictions were relaxed.

A resident of Srinagar, who requested anonymity, told NewsClick that the government’s hot pursuit of militants and introduction of Domicile Laws and announcement of tourism has fueled people’s complacency.

“The encounters have increased, then the government introduced domicile law and now they are planning to facilitate Yatra. We have also come to know that tourism will start and parks will open. You do that and ask people to stop praying in mosques, people are bound to take orders with a pinch of salt,” he said.



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Educational Institutions in the Times of COVID-19 Crisis

Educational Institutions in the Times of COVID-19 Crisis


Education in its fundamental form is a process of socialisation. Whenever the form of society has changed, there has been talk of changes in the form of education. Today, in the times of COVID-19 crisis, policy framers are aggressively pushing for a change in the form of education through online education. In such a context, it is important to look at the changes in the structure and goals of the society which is leading to the claims of these changes in education as absolute necessities.

Is it the case that the post-Independence nationalist universal model of education based on liberty, fraternity and brotherhood has lost all its relevance today? Have the ideals of social-economic-political equality been realised? What kind of socialisation is being envisaged through online education and the New Education Policy which is being pushed along with it? Online education is not merely a ‘technology’, it is a new process of socialisation through which the policy and motives of the government and policy makers can be understood; and it must be seen from this perspective.

The use of technology for education while maintaining physical distancing is one thing. Anyway technological advances have always been incorporated in education from time to time and this is necessary as well. The move from blackboard to smart board was made to strengthen classroom teaching, to make it interesting. Digitalisation of libraries is a part of the same process. Recording of lectures and making them available online is also a part of the incorporation of technological advances in the teaching-learning process. These technological advances have been used from time to time to expand the process of socialisation through education. The New Education Policy and online education which is being touted today is not related in any way to this process. It is related to the model of privatisation of education, the roots of which can be traced to the Birla-Ambani Committee Report. In such a context, it is difficult to understand this without going into the historicity of the processes.

It is in itself very interesting that the tradition of framing of education policy by educationists, which had been in place since Radhakrishnan’s time, was broken by the government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee when the task of framing education policy was handed over to a committee headed by capitalists like Birla and Ambani. It is obvious that this would change the approach towards education, and this is what really happened as well. For the first time, the education sector was seen as a multibillion dollar global market. It was suggested that this field be opened up for profit. The process of privatisation in education was already in place; now the push was towards commercialisation.

Also read: Draft National Education Policy – Seductive Sophistry in Service of the RSS

There was a constant global pressure to bring education into the commercial ambit as per the World Trade Organisation- General Agreement on Trade in Services (WTO-GATS) agreements. The clear meaning of all this was end to all forms of government subsidies and grants. It is for this reason that today the UGC is being sought to be dismantled through the New Education Policy. The setting up of the UGC was based on the understanding of creating a mechanism of granting funds for development of education at the national level and that of regulation of higher education institutions. When subsidies are to stop, then the UGC can evidently be dispensed with. The manner in which an autonomous allocatory body like the Planning Commission was previously dismantled is sought to be repeated with the UGC, an autonomous body that deals with allocations in higher education.

Apart from allocation, UGC also looks after the regulation of higher education across the country. It defines the service conditions of staff, researchers and teachers of the higher educational institutions. Education was a state subject that was brought under the concurrent list during Emergency and today it is being centralised through the New Education Policy. The role of state governments in the process of policy framing has been reduced to a minimum. The centralised body which was being envisaged was to be headed by the Prime Minister but now this has been slightly modified and will be headed by the education minister. The role of educationists in this body has been reduced to mere symbolism. The role of commercial entities and political powers has undoubtedly been increased manifolds in this new structure.

Apart from policy framing, all kind of regulations and service conditions of employees is to be decided by the Board of Governor of the higher education institutions. The New Education Policy proposes autonomy for all institutions. The meaning of this autonomy is that the institutions will no longer receive any grants and the board of governors or the management of the institution will have complete autonomy. The institutions will now be run like the private businesses of these governors. These managers will now be the policy framers of education and will frame all the rules. They will decide the aims of educational institutions. Service conditions of the teachers and non-teaching staff, too, will be formulated by them. They will decide everything, from promotion to suspension. They will decide everyone’s fate. One can clearly see that the UGC, a national autonomous institution, which was formed with the objective of nation building and was given the responsibility to formulate rules and service conditions in order to advance this objective, is today being dismantled. Instead, the slogan of nationalism will usher in a company raj. A company that wants profits at all costs. It is in this context that we must understand online education. It should not be seen merely as an immediate response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The New Education Policy has changed the very definition of students and teachers. Modern India ended the medieval guru-shishya tradition of Eklavya and put in place a new definition of the teacher and student. This was related to the universal form of education. The definition of University was based on the values emanating out of the worldview based on universal knowledge. The very meaning of education was centred on nation building, based on these values. Education was to create a citizen based on the universal values of liberty, equality and fraternity. The relationship of student-teacher, too, was a part and parcel of such a perspective. In the vision of the Company Raj today, the teacher will be reduced to the role of a “facilitator” and student to that of a “consumer”. All this is being done in the garb of opposing Macaulay’s education system. It is obvious that only those with money or the means to avail loans can become consumers. Only time will tell how those who see reservation as an ‘attack on merit’ will see all this; but it is clear that the mechanism to exclude merit present on the fringes of society has already been put in place. Preparations have been made to not merely cut Eklavya’s thumb, but to kill him in the womb itself.

Also read: How Online Education Deviates from Vision of Constitution

These higher education companies will seek to minimise costs so as to maximise profits. All over the world we see that wherever such a system is in place, contract teachers are being hired instead of regular teachers and the staff is forced to work in pathetic conditions. The same model is now being brought here. Introducing technology so as to minimise costs, too, is a part of this proposal. Contract appointments in place of regular ones are gradually becoming the norm, so that the costs can be reduced manifolds. Apart from this, online content too is being pushed with this very motive. It is interesting that hefty fees are being charged from students by advertising this model. You would find this in the advertisements of all private institutions. The push towards online education, which the present government is doing by taking advantage of the COVID-19 crisis, needs to be seen from this perspective.

Online education appears as an obvious alternative for educational institutions in the wake of difficulties arising out of this ongoing pandemic. It is difficult to say for how long our educational institutions will continue to be affected by the need to enforce physical distancing, lockdown and limiting gatherings. In such a context, devising mechanisms to engage with students was and is a clear need. This could have been done only through the online medium. However, calling it an alternative to quality education will be unjust for the future of the country. We all are facing technical difficulties.

The process of linking body language/facial expressions with the arguments and using relevant examples is not really possible through the online medium. If everyone switches off their mikes then it becomes a one way exercise; while if everyone switches on their mikes, then the entire class is drowned in cacophony. There are noises from the TV in someone’s house while in another house, the noises come from the kitchen. You cannot even begin to understand the situation of those girls who have no private spaces in their homes, and for whose families their education is not even a priority. How many household have the conditions to facilitate long hours of online learning with smart phones? Then this country also has Kashmir where there is no 4G connection. How can one visualise online education in those far off places where electricity and roads have not even reached so far? Is it possible to reproduce the collective atmosphere and concentration of a classroom even in those homes which do not face any of the above mentioned problems? It is completely impossible. In such a context, online education might be a necessity in the time of crisis, however, it cannot be an alternative to quality education in any way.

We are witnessing social discrimination in online education. The argument is that the underprivileged sections do not have smart phones, computers, data, etc. and hence, will remain cut off from the gains of online education. This concern is quite valid and it is an outcome of the immediate situation due to the COVID-19 crisis. If we see the difference in the required investment in online education on the one hand and classroom teaching on other, then it is clear that this very logic is being used to exclude dalits and backward sections from quality education. They are being pushed towards online education. The government is talking about providing technical facilities to the poor, dalits and underprivileged sections so that they can avail online education. This is what they are touting as affordable and quality education. The insistence on MOOCs, too, is due to this very reason.

Education institutions were built in the country after independence keeping in mind the needs of the country. The teaching of law, too, was given an emphasis along with medical and engineering education. The perspective inherent to it was the intention of developing a citizen who has liberal values like liberty, equality and fraternity, along with critical consciousness. Moral values were sought to be created through literature and social sciences. Today, this whole policy is being negated. The values of Indian-ness, sought to be inculcated in the name of attacks on ‘secularism’, are nothing but the values of communalism. Communalism is inimical to any form of critical consciousness. That is why this policy proclaims that only vocational education is the need of the country. Liberal universal values are being attacked by branding them as western values imparted by Macaulay’s education policy. The unequal Brahminical values of Indian-ness are touted as an alternative to liberal values. This is the reason that they are pushing for ‘communalism in the name of moral values’ instead of liberal universal values and vocational education instead of critical consciousness building.

Also read: ‘Food is a Priority, Not the Internet’: India’s Schools’ Rush for Online Education Runs into Digital Divide

Nationalism which arose out of liberal universalism is being negated by ‘Neo-Nationalism’. The meaning of education’s role in nation building is being reduced to professional education, whose sole purpose is to create jobs. Jobs are directly related to the economy and have nothing to do with vocational education. Today, technical education is being touted as an alternative to basic sciences and skill as an alternative to education. The fundamental motive of all this is only one – reducing education to a profit making business and removing any obstacles that may come in its way.

People who have money for quality education can go to a few institutions like Ashoka and Jio, whose fees will run into lakhs. For the rest, a system of professional education is being created through privatisation and commercialisation of various institutions. It is the government’s plan to create an affordable system of online education for the oppressed dalits, backwards, poor and women. After all, this was the form of education in the Indian tradition – education of scriptures for the Brahmins, education of weapons for the Kshatriyas and ‘Skill India’ for the rest. The Chamar’s son has to remain a Chamar, a Dhobi’s son can only be a Dhobi and a Luhar’s son a Luhar – the transmission of skills is from one generation to another. This is the goal of Skill India as well. They will be kept away from education, so that the overwhelming majority doesn’t get to inculcate critical consciousness. And we know that no consciousness of resistance can develop in this system of economic, social and political inequality.

This is the future of not only education. From agriculture to small petty trade – every sector is to meet the same fate. While on one hand they are being ravaged by big capital; on the other hand, systematic efforts are on to ensure that they are not able to organise. Labour laws are being changed. The daily hours of work are being increased, while the law guaranteeing the right to form trade union is being demolished. Students and teachers are being prevented from forming any kind of union by bringing new rules and regulations. Seventy per cent of the people have slipped below the poverty line. The rate of unemployment is continuously increasing due to the COVID-19 crisis. This crisis is a major challenge for the Indian economy which was already moving towards a slump. The buying capacity of the masses is at a low. In such a context, when the way forward should be to strengthen public health and education through increase in government spending, so that the buying capacity of people can increase and the economy can be brought back on track, the intentions of the government are diametrically opposite. It is pushing forth the capitalist policies of Birla-Ambani in the name of COVID-19. It is said a true friend is one who stands with you in times of crisis. The character of the present government, too, becomes clear in this time of crisis.

The author teaches at the University of Delhi. The views are personal.



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