PERSPECTIVE

Monthly Archives: APRIL 2020


SCIENCE AND RELIGION
All religions are superstitions and false
29.04.20 - Markandey Katju
All religions are superstitions and false



I read Umer Farooq's article 'Will Pakistan's Mullahs ever stop opposing modernity' online. The writer has referred to the opposition by Mullahs to womens' empowerment, minority rights, and modern political ideas. Perhaps what was in Farooq's mind was the recent statement of Maulvi Tariq Jameel blaming women dressed 'immodestly' for the spread of Covid-19 in  Pakistan.

Farooq's question creates the impression that according to him Mullahs, if they so wish, or if they can be so persuaded, can stop opposing and start supporting modernity. With respect to him I submit he is labouring under an illusion. So I may present my own views.

Religion and Science are diametrically opposed to each other. They are poles apart, and it is nonsense to say ( as some people contend ) that they complement each other. Since a Mullah is a man of religion, he can obviously not support modernity, which is the product of science, and will always be a reactionary, as long as he is a Mullah.

Religion says that there is a supernatural entity called God, which is immortal, permanent, all powerful, merciful, all good, etc.

Science does not believe in supernatural entities. It does not believe that anything in the Universe is permanent. Everything in nature is changing and in flux, in accordance with some laws, which can be discovered by scientific research.

Science holds that there are no supernatural entities like God, angels, fairies, demons,witches or soul (and therefore there is no such thing as transmigration of the soul, or resurrection on Judgment Day), and that nothing is permanent, everything is changing.

Science holds that the only reality is matter, which is in different forms, and is in motion according to certain laws.
 
Some people ask: who created matter?
 
The answer is: there is no creator of matter. Matter came from matter, though the form keeps changing.

With every step science advances, religion recedes. Thus, people at one time thought that small pox is due to the anger of a goddess (mata), but now we know it is because of a virus, and can be prevented by innoculation.
 
People at one time thought that rains are caused by a rain god, Indra, and so if there is drought we have to propitiate that god in some way (many people in India still believe that).
 
Today we know that rains are caused by the build up of low pressure areas over a heated land.
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At one time people believed the sun is a god, but now we know it is a huge furnace in which nuclear reactions are taking place by the fusion process, emitting radiation energy.
 
People at one time believed that Adam and Eve were created by God. Later Darwin, in his book 'Origin of the Species' proved that men evolved from the apes.
 
Religion relies on faith and divine revelation. 

Science relies on observation, experiment and reason.
 
Religion claims to say the final word, and cannot be changed. Thus, the Vedas, the Quran, the Bible, etc cannot be changed.

In science there is no final word, and scientific theories can, and have been, regularly tested and changed. 

For example, Newton said in 1666 that light travelled as particles (the corpuscular theory). But in 1678 the Dutch scientist Huygens' propunded his Fresnel principle that light travelled as waves.
 
Much later Max Planck propounded his Quantum theory which said that light travelled as discrete particles. Still later, Quantum mechanics, as propounded by De Broglie, and as developed by Heisenberg, Schrodinger, etc, said that particles can be conceived of as waves (and vice versa)

Religion says that the Universe was created at a particular time by God, with all living beings. But Darwin proved by his theory of evolution, that creatures have evolved.

Religion says that there has to be a Creator of the Universe, which is God (the Creationist theory).

Science says that there is no such Creator (the Evolutionist theory). The only reality in the Universe is matter (or rather matter-energy, since matter and energy are two forms of the same substance, as Einstein proved by his formula e=mc2), and matter is in motion, in accordance with certain laws, which can be discovered by scientific research. If it is asked where did matter come from, the answer is matter came from matter.

If it is said that every thing must have a creator, then that creator too must have a creator. i.e. a super creator, and that super creator too must have a creator, i.e. a super super creator, and so on. This is known as the fallacy of the infinite regress.

Religion says that God is all powerful, merciful and all good. If that is so, then why do millions of children in the world suffer from hunger, cold, etc, as the great Russian writer Dostoevsky asked in his famous novel 'Brothers Karamazov'? Why does God, who is said to be merciful, not have mercy on them and give them food, clothes, shelter, etc ?

Why is there so much poverty, unemployment, malnourishment, sickness etc in the world? If God is powerful and merciful, why does He not abolish these and give everyone a decent life? Why does He not abolish novel corona virus which has spread today throughout the world and is killing so many people?  

It is true that some scientists believed in God. But that only proves that scientific and unscientific ideas can co-exist in the same head, and it will take a long time, probably several generations, before unscientific ideas are altogether eliminated.

All religions are superstitions and false. The truth lies in science, which is constantly developing.

If we are to progress, we must give up religion and go over to science. No doubt science does not have the answers to all problems today, e.g. the cure of many kinds of cancers, but by scientific research the answers can be found in future.
 
At one time TB was regarded an incurable disease. Later, streptomycin and other antibiotics were found which could cure it. So science never claims to be final, but is always developing.

The answer to Mr Farooq's question is in the negative. Either one can be a Mullah, or one can be modern, one cant be both.
 

 

Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India.

  
 
 
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Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

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Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT




 





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Comment by: Amit Patel

This is the best Article/Truth I ever read on Science vs. Religion. It's an eye opening effort by the most Respectful person Justice M. Katju. Many Congratulations, Sir...

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Comment by: Riya

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The Pandemic Panic
A wildly exaggerated threat
20.04.20 - Nalamotu Chakravarthy
A wildly exaggerated threat



India has adopted one of the world's most draconian responses to fight the spread of Covid-19. The University of Oxford’s ‘Coronavirus Government Response Tracker’ gave India the worst possible ‘Stringency Index’ of 100.

The lockdown in India is having far reaching consequences, particularly bringing economic ruin to the poor and the downtrodden. Acuite Ratings estimated that the 21-day lockdown uptil April 14 would cost the Indian economy $4.64 billion per day, in other words, a loss of over Rs 35,000 crore every day, or $98 billion in three weeks.
 
The recent extension of the lockdown to May 3 will only make these numbers worse. The weekly unemployment rate reported by CMIE was 6.74% on March 15, and it dramatically spiked to 24% on April 12.

So, is the coronavirus pandemic as deadly as we were all led to believe? Is the harsh clampdown imposed by the government justified?

A good case study to gauge the severity of this pandemic is the Diamond Princess cruise ship. On January 20, an 80-year-old passenger embarked this cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan. He later tested positive for Covid-19. The ship was quarantined by Japan on Feb 4 in the port of Yokohama.

The ship had 3,711 people on board -- 1,045 crew and 2,666 passengers. While the average age of the crew was 36, the average age of the passengers was 69. The ship was like a mini-city whose borders were sealed. Everyone on the ship were living in close quarters. A vast majority of passengers on the ship were elderly. Also, the contagion on the ship was totally mismanaged.

So, what was the final outcome of this nightmare scenario? Out of the 3,711 souls on board, a total of 696 were infected. Of those infected, 12 passengers died. There was not a single fatality among the 1,045 crew. Why has the entire crew survived? They were all young, with an average age of 36. The epic failure called Diamond Princess, with practically all elderly passengers, resulted in a mere 0.3% deaths.

Covid-19, no doubt, is highly contagious, but it is not as deadly as people were originally led to believe.

The total number of Covid-19 deaths in India as of April 16 were about 414. As per the WHO Global Tuberculosis Report 2019, TB alone takes the lives of 440,000 Indians annually. TB, like Covid-19, spreads when people who are sick with it expel bacteria into the air. Has India ever locked the country down to stop the spread of TB?

The New York Times on March 16, 2020, citing a British scientific report, wrote: "Without action by the government and individuals to slow the spread of coronavirus and suppress new cases, 2.2 million people in the United States could die." This kind of media sensationalism generated unprecedented panic among people and the politicians. 

Now, let us take a look at Covid-19 fatalities across the globe.

Since China's Covid-19 data is not deemed trustworthy, let us look at Italy. Italy has reported 21,645 Covid-19 deaths so far. In a comprehensive study done by Italy's national health authority, it was found that 99% of the coronavirus patients who died had pre-existing medical conditions. Has anybody noticed that 24,981 people died of flu in Italy during the 2016-17 season as per the International Journal of Infectious Diseases? Given these numbers, was Italy's stringent response to the pandemic justified?

In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported 24,582 Covid-19 deaths as of April 14. Out of the 6,589 who lost their lives to coronavirus in New York City as of April 14, only 133 were identified as having no pre-existing conditions. This, in a city of over eight million people. The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an organisation on which the White House relies for projections, is estimating 68,841 Covid-19 deaths in the US by August 4, 2020. Now, compare that with a total of 2.8 million deaths in the US in 2017 reported by the CDC; especially relevant is the Influenza virus, which killed 55,672. Now, given these numbers, is the US government's response to Covid-19 justified?

The UK is another country that is hit hard by coronavirus, taking the lives of 12,868 so far. Despite all the hue and cry about coronavirus, the UK government, while quietly downgrading the pandemic status of Covid-19, wrote: "As of 19th March 2020, Covid-19 is no longer considered to be a high consequence infectious disease (HCID)...public health bodies…have determined that…more information is available about mortality rates (low overall)”. Looks like even the UK Prime Minister is going to make a full recovery.

As per worldometers.info, which is compiling comprehensive coronavirus data, 99.8% of the infected people under 40 years of age will recover fully. Similarly, 99.6% under 50 will recover fully. Even among those over 80 years old, 85% are recovering from the infection. These numbers will be much lower once the pace of testing picks up.

A total economic lockdown, like the one the Modi government has imposed, will destroy the livelihoods of millions of poor and under-privileged. It will cripple the economy. Instead, there is a more prudent approach to tackle this pandemic.

All those who are over 70 must quarantine themselves. Similarly, those with pre-existing conditions should also quarantine themselves. Certainly, all infected by Covid-19 should be quarantined. Then, to the best abilities of the state governments, those who came in close contact with a known Covid-19 patient must be identified and asked to quarantine.

Once this is done, the rest of the population may resume their normal daily activities. The general population should be educated to take precautions like wearing masks and gloves, regular handwashing and practicing social distancing to the extent practical.

Sweden, Belarus, Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong are able to tackle Covid-19 without destroying their economies. India must end this economic self-destruction and learn from these countries.

The writer is Founder-Director, Centre for Individual Liberty, Hyderabad. Courtesy: deccanherald.com 

 
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Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

Most shared Punjab Today articles:

 

Amarinder govt’s nefarious plan to steal Shamlat Lands will spell death knell of Punjab

KYUN KE HUM HAIN HINDUSTANI

Three Women of 1984

 FROM 1984 TO BARGARI - Hurt & angry, we’ve tried rage, anger. Did we miss karuna?   

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Welcome to 1947. Happy Independence Day. Would you like to step out?

In Pakistan, a donkey pays for democracy – bleeding, its nostrils ripped apart

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The Comrade In Punjab - Lost, Irrelevant, Asleep, Even Bored!

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MR PRESIDENT, PLEASE TAKE BACK HIS GALLANTRY MEDAL       

A SAFFRON JOURNEY VIA CANADA

BAD, BAD WOMAN!

 


 

_______________________________________________________________

Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT


    






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My Quarantine Diary
How everything changed in a month!
15.04.20 - CHETNA GILL
How everything changed in a month!



IT IS A few minutes before midnight on 13th April and I am immediately reminded that it has been a month since I boarded the fateful flight from Australia to India. As I sit to write my diary, I flip through the pages and look at how life has changed in the past month. Not just my life but also the life around me.

11th March

I saw the beautiful full moon outside my inner-suburban house in Australia.
 
I clicked a picture of the moon with my phone and posted that picture on my Facebook. Then, as usual, I started scrolling through the news on internet. A lot had happened in the past month in In-dia: The anti-CAA protests, the Delhi elections, Trump's visit and then the Delhi riots. I had also been following the international news about the coronavirus but until then, in Australia, there was more humour about the toilet paper hoarding than any real danger.

By now it was past midnight. I read that WHO had declared Covid-19 a pandemic. A little after that I read that India has announced some travel restrictions which will come into ef-fect on 13-March. As per the restrictions, we would not be able to go home for our planned trip in the end of March. I called up my mother and we both wondered what would happen.

12th March 

I knew, if I wanted to reach India, I had to act soon! My moment of truth lay in this one question: If I were to get stuck inside the house for months, where would that be? Here in Australia where I had an unstable part-time job, my children were to school and I had a sibling in a neighbouring town; or in India, where I have my parents, a permanent home and a larger community of friends and relatives? It is a question I had been struggling to answer last few months.
 
I knew that I probably had better access to healthcare if I stayed put in Australia. But at a time like this, I wanted to be home. Over a phone call, my psychiatrist brother seemed to agree that the months to come might bring unknown challenges and it makes sense for me to be home with my parents.

The rest of the day is a blur. I had a meeting with the deputy principal in my children's school. I changed my tickets to take the morning flight the very next day from Sydney. We packed bare minimum clothes, books and documents and left for Sydney. My brother drove for 2 hours after work to see us off. When I waved ‘Bye’ to my brother, it hit me that I had no idea when I will see him again. We spent the night at a hotel close to Sydney International Airport.

13th March

When we checked-in for our flight, it seemed like a regular day at the Sydney airport.
 
Not many people wore masks. The lady at the check-in counter struggled to put three of us to-gether in adjacent seats as this was a full flight. She did mention that the flight had to take off on time (10.15 am) because the travel restrictions come into effect after 11.00 am local time. The 12-hour flight was relatively quiet. Everyone wore masks. There wasn't much of a chit chat. Even the air-hostess served very quickly without the regular gestures.

Upon landing at the Delhi airport, we filled a travel history form which asked if in the last 14 days, we had travelled to any of 7 countries including China, Italy, Iran (where there was a wider spread of coronavirus). We had not travelled to any of those countries. We went through thermal screening where airport staff checks your temperature with a distant ther-mometer. After that we were let go to get our immigration clearance and baggage. I won-dered how useful the thermal screening is given the virus has a 14-day incubation period. No instructions were provided to us to home quarantine. Maybe some instructions were being given to people travelling from those 7 countries as there was a separate queue based on travel history forms. 

14th March

We arrived from Delhi to Mohali in a taxi and it just seemed best to stay in self-isolation for a few days just in case we caught the virus during travel. This was the first time in many years when we didn't hug my parents upon arrival. We had tea at a separate table in an adjoining area and moved to our rooms upstairs. Luckily my parents live in a two-storey house and we always sleep upstairs so we could self-isolate. 

15th March

My maternal grandfather Sh S N Sethi (in pic) expired. Nanaji was 100 years old. He was born in 1919 amidst the Spanish flu and left during the current pandemic. My parents left for Punjab for the last rites. I could not go because of our self-imposed 14-days home quarantine. I do not know how my mother felt about it. We are grateful to my mother’s house-help who cooked food for us every morning and left it in the kitchen. Each day, we would pick it up after she left and eat. 

My son managed to activate internet and tv channels. The hardest part of the home qua-rantine was to isolate from each other within the house. (I have an autoimmune condition so had to be extra cautious). I spent much of my time in my room or my balcony while children stayed in their room or the living area. We divided the space within the house. 

24th March

My parents were able to rush back to Mohali before the lockdown. Nanaji’s ashes were immersed in Beas river near Goindwal Sahib. Nanaji was a Hindu Arya Samaji. My father is a Sikh. Within both the families, none of this ever mattered. In 1984, I realised for the first time that my mother and father were from different castes and religions.

27th March

While our home quarantine has ended, India is already under a lockdown. So we just have to stay put. But the self-isolation within the house has now ended.
 
We now eat together and sit down with my parents to chit chat. We feel free and connected. On another plane, we were much more isolated when we were overseas.Waking up to the sabziwala's familiar voice or hearing the neighbour's children playing in their backyard is music to the ears. The mornings and evenings have a ritual, with the characteristic sounds from various houses in the neighbourhood. I never knew I would enjoy these.

Due to the looming uncertainty, my rental house has been vacated in Australia in my ab-sence with the help of my brother and a Nepali student. I had soaked Rajmah (Red beans) overnight to cook a month ago. I never knew I wouldn't cook those the next day. I didn't even know that I will never cook in that kitchen again. 

But this is too small in comparison to the pain of the people who couldn't reach home in the midst of the sudden lockdown in India. There are thousands of migrant workers either walking hundreds of kilometers to reach home, or living in temporary shelters or even worse just living on the roadside. On a certain level, I connect with them and see myself as a migrant  worker who just returned home from another country.

—————

Today: 14th April 

Unlike all other times, living in India is a very different experience this time. We can't say we live here, however we don't know if we will go back. We are not on a holiday. It's not a time like any other. 

The news stories range from a middle class talk of practising social distancing to thou-sands of stranded poor families huddled together next to each other.  There were news stories of people escaping quarantine facilities. There were parallel news stories of the condition of government run quarantines. 

Some stories claimed NRI's are hiding, I wonder why anyone would hide if the information would be clear. If it is known who should self-isolate, who should get tested, without the fear-mongering and stigmatisation. Some of the victims were blamed for spreading the disease. A 70-year old man who died of the virus without having known he was infected was cursed widely after his death. He was blamed for ignoring the self-quarantine guide-lines while the factual information states that no such information was provided when he travelled back into India from Italy.
 
The first travel advisory was issued on 10th March as per the website. An aged woman who retuned from UK and later found positive was blamed for resenting treatment but upon watching the full video being circulated, one can see she is asking to be taken to a better hospital, as many local government hospitals lack facilities. The fear, stigma and the drama is in abundance. The information is staggered. 

The doctors and nurses are working hard. (I am trying to avoid the military terminology like frontline workers). The non-profits and good citizens relentlessly offer food to the poor and at the same time someone attacks doctors or policemen. The virus has had its own journey from being called a Chinese virus to Muslims now being blamed for its spread.  Some have formed this view based on the incidental timing of a religious gathering. The distraction politics seems to work well. The virus is less pathological and more psychological.

Most of my middle-class friends in India are working from the comfort of their home. They have food and shelter and are enjoying family time. Some are out on their duties in banks, hospitals, media-houses, NGO's. Some engage in intellectual conversations. Some of them post pictures in Sarees and play online games. Some are bored. I feel that boredom is also a privilege. A starving child doesn't know what is boredom, he or she only knows hunger.

I feel privileged to have a comfortable home and enough to eat. But living with a generation above and a generation below you, all coping with sudden change can get over-whelming sometimes. Our challenges are fairly small. As the summer arrives and mosquitos started humming around, I am struggling to get ceiling fans installed amidst the lockdown. Some friends are out there distributing rations. We try to do our tiny bit by helping those in our contact. The rest of the time, the privilege weighs heavy enough to make me feel guilty. We spend a part of the day cooking or cleaning. 

My mother's house-help hasn't been around since the lockdown but she had collected money a few times and is doing fine with her family. My teenage sons have learnt to broom and mop the house. They help my parents order online groceries and get online mobile recharge.

The other day a friend asked what I missed of Australia and I think it's the way information is presented, as mere facts, not as twisted tales. She asked me if anything makes me an-xious here in India and I must admit I am a bit jittery about two things: the readiness of medical facilities and the worry for the homeless. 

A doctor friend from New York shares every day the scale of the disaster from the emer-gency room. Can we rely on the government hospitals for the adequate facilities like venti-lators if the numbers of hospital admissions suddenly increase? Are the CARE funds being utilised where they should be? Will the homeless get fed if the situation continues for months? Are we asking the right questions or getting distracted by the grand spectacle?  

As the country goes into second stage of the lockdown, there is conversation on planning how to come out of the lockdown, I keep pondering what prevented us from planning the lockdown itself say over a week, giving time to people to reach home, keeping dhabas open as take away only so thousands on highways could get cheap food, letting delivery trucks reach their destinations, giving farm labour some incentive to stay put for harvesting, giving time to the local bodies to organise shelters for the homeless. I wonder how much of it can still be worked out. 

As I finish a month at home, I see new reports that hundreds of migrant labourers are out on the streets again in Mumbai and Surat, demanding transport to go home. Trains and buses remain suspended during extension of lockdown and the the government continues to flash ‘Stay Home’ messages through the media. 

Some among us feel lighting Diyas will take care of it all and I am learning to deal with the intellectual diversity along with the economic disparity around me. I am also wary of the fact that until a month ago, I was content with a picture of the moon from my suburban Australian house. A lot has changed since then.
 

Chetna Gill is an IT professional who likes to write.

 
 

 --------------
Watch video: 
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

Most shared Punjab Today articles:

 

Amarinder govt’s nefarious plan to steal Shamlat Lands will spell death knell of Punjab

KYUN KE HUM HAIN HINDUSTANI

Three Women of 1984

 FROM 1984 TO BARGARI - Hurt & angry, we’ve tried rage, anger. Did we miss karuna?   

REVISITING 1984 – RIOT AROUND A POLE     

KARTARPUR SAHIB: A CLARION CALL FOR PEACE IN AN AGE OF CYNICISM

If it could happen to Arun Shourie, imagine what could they do to you?

Healers & Predators – The Doctor is In, & is very corrupt

Amarinder, Badals, AAP — Every party in Punjab is now an Akali Dal

Welcome to 1947. Happy Independence Day. Would you like to step out?

In Pakistan, a donkey pays for democracy – bleeding, its nostrils ripped apart

WOOING THE PANTH: Amarinder a little less Congressy, Akali Dal a little more saffron

"Captain Amarinder Singh ji” and "Rahul”: Reading Sign Language In A Relationship

The Comrade In Punjab - Lost, Irrelevant, Asleep, Even Bored!

WATERS ROYALTY - The Loot that Rajasthan Committed

AMARINDER GOVT's LOVE FOR FARMERS, AND MY DAD's FOR HIS SCOOTER

OF SUNNY KID & HORSE SENSE: The Punjab-Punjab Ties  

TRUDEAU VISIT AND RIGHT-WING MEDIA MACHINE         

 OF NIRMAL SINGH'S EYES 

Mr. CHIEF MINISTER, PLEASE CALL OFF JANUARY 7 FUNCTION         

MR PRESIDENT, PLEASE TAKE BACK HIS GALLANTRY MEDAL       

A SAFFRON JOURNEY VIA CANADA

BAD, BAD WOMAN!

 


 

_______________________________________________________________

Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

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'87% people likely to get affected in Punjab!'
COVID-19: Should You Believe What the Mathematical Models Say About India?
11.04.20 - Gautam I. Menon
COVID-19: Should You Believe What the Mathematical Models Say About India?



The 21-day national lockdown that Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in his address to the nation on March 24 ends on April 15. What happens next?

Should we anticipate a rise in cases once the lockdown is lifted, so that we’re back to about where we started before the lockdown? Will a further set of lockdowns of varying intervals, interspersed with ‘open periods’, help? The mathematical models that epidemiologists use to predict how infectious diseases spread can help answer such questions.

The simplest epidemiological models are called SIR models. They divide a population into ‘compartments’ depending on how individual people can be described in relation to the disease. The compartments are: ‘susceptible’, ‘infected’ and ‘recovered’ (S, I and R, for short). The rules that determine how the numbers of S, I and R change define the model.

More complicated models of the same type, which researchers use to describe different diseases, typically have more compartments. For examples of other types of models, read the companion article.

Of the many models projecting the spread of COVID-19 through India, I’ll describe four.

The first is a model developed by scientists at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and their collaborators. I’ll call this the ICMR study.

The second is a model produced by a group of epidemiologists and statisticians largely from the University of Michigan. I’ll call this the Michigan study.

The third is a set of reports published by the Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy (CDDEP) at Johns Hopkins University. I’ll call this the Hopkins study.

Finally, there is a recent study from scientists at Cambridge University, with one of the authors also affiliated with the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai. I’ll refer to this as the Cambridge study.
India’s coronavirus case trajectories as on April 11. Image: covid19india.org

The ICMR study has two parts; the second is relevant here. It assumes that the pandemic has begun and asks whether quarantining just those people who test positive for COVID-19 after showing symptoms would be an effective way to control the virus’s spread. The study partitions the population into S, I and R compartments but adds an additional ‘exposed’ (E) state between the S and I states. Such models are called SEIR models. Among those infected, some fraction may be quarantined if they can be identified. If infected individuals are not identified, they can infect susceptible people before they themselves recover or die. Those who have been quarantined can’t infect anyone.

This study explores a number of scenarios based on different values of the basic reproductive ratio and different levels of intervention. In an optimistic scenario, the ICMR group suggests that the disease will peak when there are about 100 cases for every 10,000 people. In their most pessimistic scenario, the peak numbers range between 200 and 1,000 cases for every 10,000 people. Effectively, this model suggests that between 1% and 10% of the population will be infected at the peak of the epidemic, depending on its severity.

The Michigan study uses a model most closely related to the classic SIR compartmental model, and differs from the SEIR model. There are, however, sound epidemiological reasons to expect that an SEIR and not an SIR model is more appropriate to forecast the spread of the new coronavirus. The Michigan model uses the observed number of cases to constrain the model. It can then be used to predict future events, including the effects of interventions, quarantines and lockdowns. In the absence of any interventions, the Michigan model predicts there will be about 16 cases per 10,000 people.

The authors of the Hopkins study say it applies both standard epidemiological modelling as well as  agent-based modelling, which is a more computationally intensive method. This model originates in an older model called IndiaSim developed by the same group. The Hopkins model provides state-level information for the number of infected people as a function of time. A brief description provided of the model says it takes in information such as when these cases were first seen, the presence of metros where they could be more rapidly spread and demographic variables describing the population.

IndiaSim, as of March 24, had predicted that the total number of people with COVID-19 in India could peak at 1 crore to 2.5 crore between March and August 2020, with the difference in numbers arising from assumptions about the spread of the disease. The April 2 version provides the number of those expected to be hospitalised in each state, across each age bracket, assuming that only 0.5%, 1% or 5% of the population is infected; it doesn’t provide India-level estimates.

According to the March 24 version of IndiaSim, the maximum number of people who could be hospitalised with COVID-19 in Uttar Pradesh ranges from 2 to 5 lakh. According to the April 2 version, the range widens to 0.8 to 9 lakh. The authors say they are "continually updating the model as new data on parameters and the Indian population become available”.
The Cambridge model, the last, is again an SIR model. The authors of this model split each compartment into multiple age brackets. What is new here is the way different age brackets interact with each other. In India, the common presence of three generations or more within a single family unit implies greater social – and presumably physical – contact across generations.

The Cambridge model describes the effects of a lockdown by changing parameters to represent a total ‘switching off’ of infections. They find that a single lockdown of 21 days has little effect, at least beyond a temporary suppression of the case growth rate. Instead, it recommends a single 48-day lockdown for a more long-lasting effect.

Note that the Cambridge model is an SIR model and not an SEIR model. As a result, it predicts the numbers of people with COVID-19 in India will decline immediately  after a lockdown is imposed. In contrast, an SEIR model would have predicted that the case load would continue to increase before beginning to drop. This is why the daily data on new infections, published by the Union health ministry, disagrees sharply with the Cambridge model’s predictions. Another problem with this model is that it ignores asymptomatic infections – people who have the virus but show no outward signs of it.

Which one of these models should we believe or, indeed, should we believe any of them?

The answer isn’t straightforward. Models like SIR and SEIR are simple and intuitive, even though only a computer could chart out their detailed predictions. However, the ICMR, Michigan and Cambridge models ignore many features we know are important to the spread of an infectious disease.

Perhaps most importantly, thinking of the entire population of India as a single unit ignores important differences, such as the high population density of Mumbai and the relative sparsity of Arunachal Pradesh. And we do know that infectious diseases that require close contacts to spread from one person to another also spread more easily in more densely packed areas.

The simplest models don’t account for different mobility patterns either, or the role of public places such as schools, public transport and crowded workplaces – all of which help infectious diseases spread faster. There are also crucial differences between rural and urban India. Isolated ‘super spreaders’, a label for people from whom the virus spreads to a lot more people than the average basic reproductive ratio indicates, aren’t accounted for.

Agent-based modelling is capable of accounting for some of these variations. However, there is a tradeoff: if you make a model more complex, you also need to make more assumptions to see the calculations through. As a result, it’s important to ensure the model’s output does not depend very sensitively on the assumptions. If it did, even slightly different assumptions could yield very different outcomes.

For these reasons, none of the numbers in the models should be taken at face value. Whether the models can be trusted to provide an idea of what specific interventions are likely to be more powerful than others is a different, and more delicate, matter.

A good point of view from which to address modelling studies today is that they are, to use the words of Wolfgang Pauli, "not even wrong”. There is simply too little trustworthy data right now to suggest the predictions of one model (that might fit the data better now) should be trusted more than the predictions of another (which appears to do a worse job). Overreacting to a particular modelling claim in the here-and-now does more harm than good.
-----------
Punjab CM briefing the media on current Covid-19 situation in Punjab
Watch video
-----------------
The only useful way to compare models with each other at the moment should be on the basis of what we know about the disease and what the model’s inputs are, together with some scepticism about the assumptions that accompany each model.

Second, local models are more useful than global models. A model that shows state-wise behaviour is better than a model that purports to be India-wide. It is indeed more rational to think of different policies at the level of individual states or districts than to demand a single nationwide policy be applied uniformly across India, mindless of local circumstances.

Third, researchers are constantly improving their models. The best modelling studies are those that build on previous work, incorporate feedback and can easily be updated.

While the authors of the ICMR model, the Michigan model and the Cambridge model have all explained their work in sufficient detail, and/or have made their code available in the public domain so that their results can be checked by others, the moving parts of the Hopkins model remain out of view. We don’t know what went into the current version of the Hopkins model; without this information, it’s impossible for a modeller to understand the ‘how’, much less critique it.

Older papers about IndiaSim are not particularly relevant to the current work on COVID-19 either since none of them modelled a respiratory pathogen that spreads very fast.

This brings us to a simple but important point about modelling: the guiding philosophy of responsible modelling is transparency and honesty. This requires, among other things, descriptions detailed enough to enable someone else to question the approach intelligently, making software programs available to those who might want to run them, and publishing the methods used on a public preprint server so other experts can check them. Broad summaries on organisational websites don’t count.

In fact, a lot of the work of scientists around the world studying COVID-19 is currently available on preprint servers. Such ‘knowledge commons’ is a relatively new feature of how scientists share their work with the world. And it certainly brings more democracy and sunlight into the practice of science.

Gautam I. Menon is a professor at Ashoka University, Sonepat and, at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai. The views expressed here are his own.

Courtesy: thewire.in 
 
  
-------------
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Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

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_______________________________________________________________

Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT


    






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AFTER COVID-19
In what ways will the world be different?
09.04.20 - M Khudadad Chattha
In what ways will the world be different?



COVID-19 has transformed our lives in ways that will leave a permanent mark on all of humanity. While it is impossible to predict the exact type of scar that Covid-19 will leave, we do know that the world after this catastrophe will look very different. The big question is: in what ways? This is an incredibly tough question, but recent developments provide us with some hints.

First, an economic recession isn’t just about to arrive, it is already here. With countries going into lockdown and non-essential businesses shut down, it is no surprise that we are already experiencing an economic slump. The consequences of this economic downturn are straightforward: increase in unemployment and poverty, decrease in average income and productivity.

The depressing list goes on. The worrying part is that the economic impact of Covid-19 will be worse for developing countries like Pakistan. Since the developed world has more fiscal space, they are able to afford a situation where businesses shut down for a significant amount of time while their governments foot the bill.
 
The recent examples of the fiscal packages by the US and countries in Europe signify this point. The US fiscal package amounts to a whopping $2 trillion which is equal to 10 per cent of their GDP. Developing countries unfortunately do not have the fiscal space to pay for people to stay home for a long duration.

This lack of fiscal space leads to a situation where countries like Pakistan have to choose between a lockdown they cannot pay for and the countless lives that will be lost if Covid-19 is allowed to run amok. So far, most countries have chosen a lockdown in the hopes that this will help stop the virus in its tracks.

But if a situation arises where Covid-19 persists in spite of a lockdown, developing countries will have no option but to start opening up some parts of their economies. If this happens, developing countries will bear more of the human cost too.
 
Healthcare facilities in developing countries aren’t great, which makes it easy to see this. As a result, we might have an entire world that is battered both in terms of human and economic costs. But the impact will be disproportionately shared by developing countries.

Second, government power has been used in unprecedented ways across the world which will have implications for how governments function in the future. Sacrosanct freedoms such as freedom of movement and religion have taken a back seat, at least temporarily.
 
In East Asia, concerns about data privacy have been ignored to tackle the virus. The main question is whether this unprecedented use of power will change governments permanently.

If temporary measures are being used today, having a precedent would help governments set aside freedoms and rights to pursue other goals. This might very well be the right approach to prevent future catastrophes, but a big concern remains that such powers can be abused. The same data that can be used to prevent a pandemic can be used for other more nefarious purposes. It is quite likely that governments in the post-Covid-19 world will be bigger and more powerful. This is something that citizens around the world need to guard against.

Third, international trade and globalisation might take a hit. The fact that the impact of Covid-19 was made possible through an interconnected world system is not likely to be forgotten. Supply chains around the world have come under stress as a result of this same interconnectedness in this crisis.
 
We can see a situation where governments around the world are spooked by this factor and decide to roll back some forms of globalisation and trade.
 
For instance, it is not unimaginable that countries decide to produce strategically important commodities at home, even if these commodities are at a higher cost. A lot depends on the response of leaders around the world and their commitment to globalist or anti-globalist values.

Fourth and finally, Covid-19 might shift the global power structure from the Western world towards East Asia.
 
Ignoring the possibility of a second wave of infections in the future, current evidence has pointed towards the effectiveness of countries like China, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore in ‘flattening the curve’ even when these countries had less response time compared to Western nations. Power shifts in the global world order are unlikely to happen quickly, but the Covid-19 crisis can certainly act as a potent catalyst in this process.

These four major changes could give birth to a completely new world after the current crisis is over. As frightening as the implications of these changes might be, it is important to confront them because, soon enough, we might have to inhabit this new world.

The writer is a PhD candidate at the University of Oxford and a graduate of Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Courtesy: dawn.com

 

 

 

 ---------------

Watch video:


Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

Most shared Punjab Today articles:

 

Amarinder govt’s nefarious plan to steal Shamlat Lands will spell death knell of Punjab

KYUN KE HUM HAIN HINDUSTANI

Three Women of 1984

 FROM 1984 TO BARGARI - Hurt & angry, we’ve tried rage, anger. Did we miss karuna?   

REVISITING 1984 – RIOT AROUND A POLE     

KARTARPUR SAHIB: A CLARION CALL FOR PEACE IN AN AGE OF CYNICISM

If it could happen to Arun Shourie, imagine what could they do to you?

Healers & Predators – The Doctor is In, & is very corrupt

Amarinder, Badals, AAP — Every party in Punjab is now an Akali Dal

Welcome to 1947. Happy Independence Day. Would you like to step out?

In Pakistan, a donkey pays for democracy – bleeding, its nostrils ripped apart

WOOING THE PANTH: Amarinder a little less Congressy, Akali Dal a little more saffron

"Captain Amarinder Singh ji” and "Rahul”: Reading Sign Language In A Relationship

The Comrade In Punjab - Lost, Irrelevant, Asleep, Even Bored!

WATERS ROYALTY - The Loot that Rajasthan Committed

AMARINDER GOVT's LOVE FOR FARMERS, AND MY DAD's FOR HIS SCOOTER

OF SUNNY KID & HORSE SENSE: The Punjab-Punjab Ties  

TRUDEAU VISIT AND RIGHT-WING MEDIA MACHINE         

 OF NIRMAL SINGH'S EYES 

Mr. CHIEF MINISTER, PLEASE CALL OFF JANUARY 7 FUNCTION         

MR PRESIDENT, PLEASE TAKE BACK HIS GALLANTRY MEDAL       

A SAFFRON JOURNEY VIA CANADA

BAD, BAD WOMAN!

 


 

_______________________________________________________________

Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT


    







[home] [1] 2  [next]1-5 of 6


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