The Rs 100,000 crore Burden on Farmers in the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020

IN this bitter winter cold, lakhs of farmers have been protesting at the Delhi border against the three Farm Acts. Along with the Farm Acts, farmers are also demanding the rollback of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020. This Bill if passed, is likely to add Rs100,000 crore of additional burden on the farmers and increase their costs of irrigation by 500 per cent.

Climate Cloud and Thin Silver lining: Virtual Climate Ambition Summit

A VIRTUAL Climate Ambition Summit attended by around 70 government leaders was held on December 12, 2020 on the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement (PA). This Summit, organised by the UN, France and the UK, was expected to push governments to declare deeper emission cuts than their commitments under PA in the lead up to the next Conference of Parties (COP 26) in Glasgow next December.

Vaccine Rollout Battle: First Past the Post May Win Major Market Share

SIX vaccines for Covid-19 have either released, or likely to release within a few weeks of their figures of vaccine efficacy, or how effective their vaccines are. Those who get the initial green signal from the regulators to roll out the vaccine will get a huge market advantage. That is why there is intense media focus on the US and the UK approval processes of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. In India, three vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer-BioNTech, Serum Institute for the Oxford-AstraZeneca, and Bharat Biotech have also applied for emergency use.

Some Good News on the Vaccine Front but Challenges Remain

THE scientific community has responded to the Covid-19 pandemic in a way that would have been thought impossible earlier. Within only 12 months, we are now likely to have a set of vaccines for Covid-19. This is an astounding achievement, as the fastest vaccine development till date was mumps which took nearly four years. Equally important is that the first four vaccine candidate frontrunners – Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Gamaleya – have all shown efficacy well-beyond the target of 50 per cent success rate set by the regulatory agencies.

Delhi-NCR’s Winter Pollution Woes

HERE we are once again in the midst of the seemingly inevitable problem of air pollution in Delhi and the neighbouring National Capital Region. The Air Quality Index (AQI) over the past fortnight shot up to “very poor” and even reached the “severe” category for a few days around Diwali. The situation was exacerbated, as usual, by seasonal pollution-generating activities and seasonal as well as other weather conditions.

Good News on Vaccines but What About its Delivery?

A COVID-19 vaccine is back in the news with the recent Pfizer's press release claiming 90 per cent efficacy from the very early figures in the Phase 3 trials of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. BioNTech is the German company that Trump had attempted to buy, leading to a furore in Germany. Pfizer, the US pharma giant, is now its partner, with US big capital successfully wooing the German company where Trump's crude tactics had failed. The figures are from a Pfizer press release, so the scientific community has little to analyse independently Pfizer's claims.

India Signs BECA: Sealing the US-India Military Alliance

INDIA finally signed the BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement on Geo-spatial Cooperation) accord with the US during the 2+2 Meeting between the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries in New Delhi on October 27, 2020.  BECA is the fourth of the so-called foundational defence agreements between India and the US. The US has variations of these four agreements with its NATO and other allies or close international partners, as well as with many countries to which it sells military hardware.

DST’s Super Model: Or How Not to Model an Epidemic

THE Department of Science and Technology has sponsored a model, described as a “Super Model” that – according to the governmental hype –claims India’s lockdown was highly successful and we perhaps have reached herd immunity. The media has widely reported that according to the DST Super Model, the lockdown saved nearly two million lives, and by February 2021, even without a vaccine the epidemic in India will be over.

The 2020 Nobel in Physics and the Monster of a Black Hole in Our Galaxy

THE Nobel Prize in physics this year has been shared by Roger Penrose, the mathematical physicist, for his work on the theoretical basis of black holes, and Reinhard Genzel, and Andrea Ghez, two astronomers, who led independent teams, for verifying the existence of such a black hole at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy.  Penrose showed that the consequence of Einstein’s general theory of relativity is the formation of black holes, not simply of collapsing stars, but also in certain dense regions of space.  Such black holes capture everything: nothing can