In Focus by The Hindu
About this podcast
A podcast from The Hindu that delves deep into current developments with subject experts, and brings in context, history, perspective and analysis.
About this podcast
A podcast from The Hindu that delves deep into current developments with subject experts, and brings in context, history, perspective and analysis.
In Focus by The Hindu
Covid-19 Origins: How plausible really is the ‘lab leak’ hypothesis?
More than a year after COVID-19 first made the headlines, the most basic questions about the origins of SARS-COV-2 remain unanswered. We still don’t know how the first human being got infected. We don’t know if this virus naturally evolved the proteins needed to infect humans, or if those mutations were engineered in a lab. At the same time, these questions – which need scientific answers – have become heavily politicised. Until early 2021, the hypothesis that the pandemic originated in a leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology was dismissed as a crackpot theory. But now a series of in-depth media reports have given the lab leak hypothesis new respectability. How do we understand this sudden shift? What are the various interests and agendas trying to influence the origins narrative? And will we ever know for sure what exactly caused a pandemic that has dislocated modern life in so many profound ways? To better understand these fascinating questions, we speak to Thomas Abraham, adjunct associate professor at the University of Hong Kong and author of Twenty-First Century Plague: The Story of SARS.
Tejpal verdict: Can India move the needle on gender justice? The Hindu In Focus Podcast
Seven years after the allegations were first made, a sessions court in Goa has acquitted journalist Tarun Tejpal of rape charges. The 527-page judgment has come under close scrutiny and many legal experts, including feminists, have found the verdict problematic. Some of the purported flaws that have been pointed out include the focus on victim’s sexual history and a certain presumption about so-called “normative behaviour” of a rape victim. The Goa government has appealed against Tejpal’s acquittal in the Bombay High Court. In its appeal, it has also argued that this is a fit case for retrial. So, how do we really understand the outcome of this high-profile case, whose trial and verdict took up seven years? Has the needle on gender justice moved at all, since the Nirbhaya case, and the celebrated amendments to our rape laws? We discuss these and other questions thrown up by the Tejpal verdict with Arti Raghavan, advocate at the Bombay High Court. Hosted by: G Sampath
The online investigators leading the search into the COVID-19 lab leak theory | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
When proposed a year ago, the theory suggesting lab-leak origins for the coronavirus was broadly dismissed as conspiracy. Today, it is back in the reckoning. World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General Tedros said in March, after a WHO-China joint mission to Wuhan dismissed the theory as being "extremely unlikely", that it required further investigation. His unexpected comments renewed interest, as did a statement from U.S. President Joe Biden in the last week of May ordering a probe into whether the origins were zoonotic or from a lab accident. One reason behind the renewed attention is the information dug up, although still only circumstantial, by a group of online investigators, called DRASTIC. In this episode, we are joined by The Hindu's Ramya Kannan who has been following their work, explains what they have found so far, and what we know and don't know about the origins of the pandemic. Show Notes Ramya Kannan, Online group digs deeper into coronavirus leak theory https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/online-group-digs-deeper-into-coronavirus-leak-theory/article34746341.ece
Facing a new coalition to oust him, what’s next for Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
In this episode we discuss the political situation in Israel where Benjamin Netanyahu, the country's longest serving Prime Minister, may finally be on his way-out. Eight political parties, from the right wing Yamina to the Arab-majority Ra’am have come together to form a new coalition, which, if proves majority in the Israeli Parliament, could oust Mr. Netanyahu, who has been in power since 2009. So why did this coalition form? Who are its members and what options does Mr Netanyahu have before him as things move forward? We discuss these questions today with The Hindu’s International Affairs editor Stanly Johny.
Explaining China’s move to a three child policy and how it is being received | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
In today’s episode we turn again to China and to policy decisions on family planning and population control. On May 11 we discussed China’s population census figures and why their declining birth rates were a cause of concern. The reaction to those numbers has been swift, and just six years after abandoning the “one child policy” of 1979, China’s Communist Party has now introduced a “three child policy”. The move, according to the Politburo, is to “improve China’s population structure, actively respond to the ageing population, and preserve the country’s human resource advantages'. We will discuss this issue once again with The Hindu’s China Correspondent Ananth Krishnan. Show notes: https://www.thehindu.com/podcast/why-indias-population-may-overtake-chinas-sooner-than-expected-the-hindu-in-focus-podcast/article34536778.ece https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/chinas-coercive-population-measures-serve-as-warning-for-india-experts/article34701448.ece https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/233009/1/GLO-DP-0819.pdf
Jaishankar’s U.S. visit, and the challenges of diplomacy post the Covid-19 second wave | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
In today’s episode we’ll look at External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s visit to the U.S. last week, a trip that was largely seen as a mission to secure various agreements relating to the supply vaccines or raw materials for vaccine production. Taking off from Dr. Jaishankar’s visit, we’ll also use the second part of the podcast to discuss some of the major diplomatic challenges that India now faces post the COVID-19 second wave. I’m joined by The Hindu’s national and diplomatic affairs editor Suhasini Haidar.
Webinar fatigue: Are you at risk? | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown measures have meant work-from home for many. And work-from-home means plenty of Zoom meetings and webinars, which often involve both audio and video. Studies by mental health researchers suggest that web-based official meetings are far more demanding than face-to-face, offline interactions, and over a period of time, a heavy dose of webinars can cause a host of problems – ranging from anxiety and eye strain to restlessness and disturbed sleep. These and other symptoms are often tagged together as webinar fatigue. With the pandemic looking unlikely to recede very soon, web meetings will remain a staple of professional life for some time to come. This makes it all the more important that there is greater awareness about webinar fatigue, so that people can manage it better. So, what exactly causes webinar fatigue? How is it diagnosed? Are there steps that workplaces and managers can take to prevent it? To answer these questions, we speak to Dr Manoj Kumar Sharma, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the National Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences, Bangalore. His area of specialisation includes the management of technology overuse, and the healthy use of potentially addictive technology.
Decoding the cryptocurrency crash and what happens next | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
Bitcoin and other leading cryptocurrencies crashed last week, with prices falling by nearly 50%. A mind-boggling $1.3 trillion of market value was wiped out. Despite such a massive crash, investors and traders on Wall Street and elsewhere continue to be bullish about cryptos such as Ethereum. And in all the mayhem, the role of tech billionaire Elon Musk remains a puzzle. And yet, diehard crypto-investors still believe that in the not-so-distant future, many banking functions will be displaced by decentralised, blockchain protocols, smart contracts, and so on, making cryptos an attractive investment option in the present. To help us decode what’s going on, and where the cryptocurrency scene is headed, we speak to Vivek Kaul. Kaul is the author of five books, including the bestselling Easy Money trilogy. His most recent book is called ‘Bad Money: Inside the NPA Mess and How it Threatens the Indian Banking System’. Host: G Sampath
Explaining the new intermediary rules for social media, the Twitter-Centre spat, and more | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
One is on the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 which came into effect on May 26. The rules apply to various categories of online content providers such as social media platforms, OTT streaming services and online news providers. Some of its key points relate to the setting up of grievance redressal systems and having local personnel to ensure compliance with rules. One requirement for large social media providers is that under certain conditions, they will have to trace the originator of a message. This is a problem for messaging apps like WhatsApp, whose key feature is end-to-end encryption. The fear is that if an option is given to break this end-to-end encryption, it will lead to mass surveillance. WhatsApp has now approached the Delhi High Court against the rules. The other set of headlines are on the back and forth between the Centre and Twitter on the 'toolkit' issue. Twitter had marked a tweet from BJP leaders Sambit Patra on an alleged 'toolkit' by the Congress party, as 'manipulated media'. This has led to the government accusing the microblogging site of defaming India and to the Delhi police visiting the company offices. The San Francisco-based company has called the police visit an intimidation tactic. Now, where do these two sets of headlines intersect? What are the nittie gritties of the new IT rules? What are the prevailing rules on privacy? We explain in this podcast. Guest: Apar Gupta, Executive Director, Internet Freedom Foundation Host: P.J. George
Mucormycosis: What it is, and why it is associated with diabetes | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
India has so far recorded close to 12,000 cases of mucormycosis, or black fungus infection as it is commonly known. The Central government has now declared it a notifiable disease. Mucormycosis was not unknown in India, but it is now, with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to rage, that the country has seen a surge in these infections. While the increased use of steroids, needed for the treatment of severely ill COVID-19 patients is being cited as one possible reason, experts have also said that a majority of cases are seen in those with poorly-controlled diabetes. Mucormycosis can affect many organs in the body, but what is being seen now, is the rhino-orbito cerebral form -- the infection affects the sinuses, nose, eyes and then brain. Doctors have reported that patients come to them a few weeks after recovering from COVID-19, with symptoms of mucormycosis. Amphotericin B is the main antifungal drug used in treatment, though stocks are running low now in the country due to high demand. The Centre recently said five new pharma companies had been approved to produce Amphotericin-B. Earlier, only six firms were manufacturing it. To speak to us about this fungal infection, its link with diabetes and what can be done to prevent it, is Dr. V. Mohan chairman, Dr. Mohan's Diabetes Specialities Centre in Chennai
The many challenges in counting India's Covid-19 death toll | The Hindu in Focus Podcast
In this episode we’re talking about the challenges of counting or estimating the death toll from COVID-19 in India. This is, of course, a complicated and polarising subject. Due to a combination of factors such as the size of India’s population, and the lack of good and accessible data in many instances, there is a difference between the officially reported figures for deaths from the pandemic and the actual death count. But to what degree is there under-reporting? This is the cause of much speculation -- the subject of many mathematical models and projections even. As we record this podcast today, the 26th of May, the New York Times has an article that projects a likely scenario in which there are 1.6 million deaths in India as against the reported figure which, as of May 24, stand at a little over 300,000. We're going to take a slightly broader approach to this issue in the podcast today and break down some of the issues with counting deaths in India, the various methodologies that are used, and the challenges of each. We are joined today by Dr. Anand Krishnan, professor at the centre for community medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). He has also written two recent columns for The Hindu on counting the COVID 19 toll in India. We go through a lot of technicalities during the conversation about the processes through which mortality, not just from COVID-19 but other causes as well, are calculated. We hope that it will give you a more comprehensive picture on this issue. Episode notes: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-many-challenges-in-estimating-deaths/article32537264.ece https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/counting-the-covid-toll-in-india/article34582009.ece
When Covid-19 goes to the villages: challenges of managing the pandemic rurally | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
The COVID-19 pandemic has now entered rural parts of our country, where 65% of our population lives. Data from May shows that the case load is now 65% in rural and semi-rural areas versus 35% in urban and semi-urban areas. Even as hospital in our cities are towns are overloaded and overwhelmed, our rural infrastructure is in danger of collapsing -- with inadequate testing kits, drugs and trained healthcare professionals. There are reports of village residents having to travel for hours to try and secure a hospital bed and with deaths increasing, images of bodies floating on rivers as the people of India attempt to deal with an unprecedented crisis. The Central Government has released an SOP on Covid-19 Containment and Management in Peri-urban, Rural & Tribal areas, but how much of this is feasible? Were we unprepared for the surge of the virus in rural India? What measures can now be put in place to revamp our primary health systems that have, in many parts, been consistently ignored and under-funded for decades? To speak to us about this, we have with us today, Dr SP Kalantri, Professor of Medicine at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences and Medical Superintendent of Kasturba Hospital, Sevagram Hosted by Zubeda Hamid
Steroids and COVID 19: All you need to know | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
In this episode we get deep into the use of steroids, in medicine more generally and in the treatment of Covid-19. Steroids like dexamethasone seem to have a very positive effect on people who have COVID that's been proven, but Experts have warned that irregular and overuse of steroids causes severe infections like pneumonia and mucormycosis. The latter disease has just been declared an epidemic in India as several states report cases. In this podcast we try and get to the root of the issue. Is the issue with the use of steroids itself and when? Or is it a problem of how much to give and how it should be carefully calibrated? Guest: Dr Vincent Rajkumar: Professor, Mayo Clinic and Editor, Blood Cancer Journal Hosted by Ramya Kannan
WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan on virus variants, vaccinations and the undercounting of fatalities | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
Among the key voices of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Soumya Swaminathan with her clarity of thought, articulation and deep awareness of the Indian context, has emerged as a reliable voice amid the covid 19 pandemic maelstrom. In an online interview, she provides detailed responses to a range of topics that are simmering, resolves some doubts, and advocates strategies to adopt gainfully. Investments in health care are crucial, she says, because it is now clear that there is nothing without health and without sufficient physical and mental well being, it would be impossible to take the path to recovery. Host: Ramya Kannan
The roots of the latest Israel-Palestine violence | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
We’re talking today about the big international story that’s dominated this week and that's the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Palestine. There is very little that I need to say by way of introduction, even as we record despite some truce efforts the conflict between the two sides only seems to be escalating and there's real danger now that this could be a long drawn-out affair that could spiral out of control. The number of casualties is already high. So, in this episode we’re going to look at the immediate triggers for this conflict, look at where things stand between the two sides now and as we always do on this podcast, we will pan out and look at how various geopolitical factors have brought us to this point. Guest: Stanly Johny, International Affairs Editor, The Hindu
The China border crisis one year on: What a live LAC means for India's two-front challenge | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
The border crisis with China in eastern Ladakh that began in early May 2020 is nowhere near resolution after one year of tensions, even if the stand-off along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) has faded from newspaper front pages amid India's coronavirus crisis. In this episode, we look at the LAC situation one year on, and ask what it means for relations with China and the broader security challenges it poses for India. What is the state of play now at the LAC? How has the past year and the Ladakh crisis changed how the Indian Armed Forces approach guarding the frontiers and deployments along the border? What are the demands on India's resources? Is India ready to face a two-front challenge as the LAC turns "live" and a deepening China-Pakistan relationship? What options does India have as it seeks to mitigate the two-front threat? Guest: Sushant Singh, Senior Fellow, Centre For Policy Research, New Delhi
Why India’s population may overtake China’s sooner than expected | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
On this episode we discuss China’s once-in-a-decade population census, the results of which were released today (May 11). The numbers show that China has recorded a slowing population growth rate that will likely see its population peak - and be overtaken by India’s - by as early as 2025, according to experts, with the number of births falling for the fourth consecutive year. This seventh census, released on Tuesday by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in Beijing, noted 12 million babies were born last year, the lowest number since 1961, a year when China was in the midst of a four-year famine unleashed by Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward policy in 1958 that devastated the farm sector and claimed millions of lives. So there is a lot to breakdown in this episode, to understand how China got to these numbers, what is says now about the changing composition of China’s demographics and what will be its long term economic impact. There is the overarching question also of what this means for the comparison with India and the window of time in which a demographic dividend could come into play. We’re joined by the Hindu’s China correspondent Ananth Krishnan to discuss.
Understanding banking reforms in India after the Narasimham era | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
Hosted by G. Sampath The Covid-19 crisis continues to dominate our news coverage, as it rightly should, and while we’ve doing many episodes on the pandemic, a couple of deep dives into policy issues, which is a trademark of this podcast, got lost along the way. We recorded this podcast last month, just after former RBI governor M. Narasimham passed away, with the aim of understanding his legacy in the context of the current challenges facing the banking sector. Narasimham is perhaps the most influential banker of post-independent India. The reports prepared by the two Committees that he chaired – the Narasimham Committee on Financial System (1991) and the Narasimham Committee on Banking Sector Reforms (1998) – are still the foundational documents for any discussion on banking sector reforms and banking policy. He is also credited with paving the way for epochal moves such as bank mergers, the emergence of new generation private banks, and asset reconstruction companies. But more than two decades after the two Nararimham Committees gave their reports and recommendations, India’s banking sector remains plagued by a host of problems, from high NPAs to poor governance, and a disconnect from developmental priorities. So what has been the legacy of Narasimham and the two committees that he chaired? How will India’s banking history view his role and contribution to India’s banking sector? To throw light on these questions, we spoke with Amol Agrawal, an economic historian and faculty at Ahmedabad University.
What works in COVID-19 treatment and what doesn't | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
The second wave of the coronavirus pandemic is raging in India. Hospitals are overflowing, oxygen is in short supply in some parts of the country, patients are prescribed with a number of drugs and patients' relatives are desperately looking for drugs that are also running in short in some cases. What works in the treatment for Covid-19 and what should our treating protocol be? Does plasma therapy work? Are drugs like Remdesivir useful? And what will happen if the many antibiotics taken now lead to antimicrobial resistance in the future? To speak to us about this, we have Dr. Anup Aggarwal. He is the lead author of the ICMR-led Trial on convalescent plasma (PLACID trial) and is a physician at Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital Healthcare Services, Gallup, New Mexico, U.S. Hosted by Zubeda Hamid
How good is the data the government is using to predict coronavirus trends? | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
On this news update podcast today, we discuss various aspects of the coronavirus crisis that the country is still very much in the grip of. We focus particularly on the quality of data that the government is using as it plans its way forward. The big question on everyone's minds now is when this deadly second wave will peak, and cases will see a downturn. However, there are already projections for a third wave later in the year. Our ability to navigate that depends very much on vaccinations, which are still progressing at an alarmingly slow rate. Guest: Jacob Koshy, Deputy Science Editor, The Hindu JS