Vidya Profile picture
Health & science journalist. Probably listening to a podcast. Bylines: The Atlantic, LA Times, The Hindu, @thecaravanindia
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15 Jun 20
If you are a Brahmin who identifies as 'not-castist' but has a lower caste person cleaning your bathroom, ur in fact v. casteist

Its 2020. Clean your own effing crap! Be the change... etc
PS: pls dont use this to deduct salaries of ppl who do this. India doesnt have a common min. wage & we already under pay lower caste employees across sectors.
PPS: Having a lower caste person clean your bathroom...while claiming to not be casteist.... is like having a white American family in the South claiming to not be racist ... while forcing a black family pick cotton.

Its 2020. Stop normalizing casteism FFS.
Read 3 tweets
26 May 20
Media briefing (don't even remember when was the last time this happened)

DG ICMR is speaking. But without audio. LA just assured us how things are well, & if you fall ill reach out to the govt (coz.. you know caring this govt is.. )
Dr Bhargava, ICMR: We are testing immensely - almost 1.1 lac each day (this is nothing by India's standards)

We are inc manpower, RT PCR machines etc. Most states have been asked to test asymptomatic & home quarantined people.
J: You say India has great infrastructure. Yes, in Delhi, A SHO had to wait for 24 hours-- what will be the state of a common man if a police official cant get care?

LA: I'd appreciate individuals cases be sorted at state level. In terms of infra creation, we have done well. :/
Read 14 tweets
22 May 20
India's Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan taking charge as the chairman of the World Health Organisation is being reported as somehow a reflection of how well India has done in responding to the pandemic.

This is wrong. 1/3
Dr HarshVardhan will succeed Japan's Dr Nakatani, the current Chairman of the 34-member WHO Executive Board.

It was the turn of SEARO (S.E. Asia Region Office), & in 2019, the bloc had decided that India's nominee would be elected to the executive board for a 3 yr beginning May
If anything, the question to ask here is how is a man who hasn't addressed a single briefing since the pandemic began, going to lead.

This is ** not in anyway ** WHO's endorsement of India's botched up pandemic response. 3/3
Read 3 tweets
20 May 20
Its been 10 days since the health ministry addressed a media briefing.

India crossed 100,000 infections, 3300+ deaths, & at least 128 migrants were killed on the streets

Today's briefing is COVID + #AmphanSuperCyclone

Here's what happened:
First part of the briefing is on #SuperCycloneAmphan

National Disaster Response Force/ NDRF: The landfall has started happening. (in Odisha & W.Bengal)

The next 24 hrs crucial. This is a long haul.
COVID + Cyclone is playing out rn. The state authorities say WB has evacuated over 5,00,000 people.

In Odisha: nearly 120000 evacuated.
Read 19 tweets
11 May 20
67152 infections 2206 deaths 

16 sleeping migrant workers were crushed by a train (!!) and then 5 more died when their truck turned over yest.

COVID cases continue to surge.

Here's what happened in today's briefing
PSS, Home Affairs: talking about flights bringing in around 4000 Indians stranded abroad.

5lac migrants have boarded trains to get back home (nearly 20 lac were stranded)
PSS: We had a VC yest- Home ministry has requested states to ensure migrants aren't on train tracks on roads. Pls arrange buses or trains for them, arrange food till their transport is arranged

No mention of the deaths/ no condolences
Read 31 tweets
4 May 20
42533 cases, 1372 deaths

Maha is leading the death toll (543 dead) Guj & M.P are right behind (290 & 156 deaths respectively)

Delhi govt is favouring Mylabs- a pvt diagnostic co- by purchasing testing kits at 4x of ICMR rates at 4500/-

Here's what happened in today's briefing
Punya Salila Srivastava from Home ministry: we are ensuring trucks are not facing problems crossing inter-state borders.

Growing infection in police & security forces (!) fresh advisory has been issued (we dont have any data on this from the govt)
During this phase of lockdown 3.0, the country has been divided in red, green, & yellow zones.

State govts & health ministry revisit this categorization on a weekly basis. Air, metro, rail, road transport is still banned except for essential services. Schools still shut
Read 18 tweets
29 Apr 20
Why is Delhi govt & @AamAadmiParty paying full price?

Have you ever bought something in bulk, & not asked for a discount? This is how taxpayer money goes to pvt sector..

@ArvindKejriwal why aren't you negotiating better rates like EVERY OTHER STATE is doing?
This from @lalpathlabs

State govts & @PMOIndia turning a blind eye to this systematic price-gouging is inexplicable

@ICMRDELHI ICMR approved rate for
RT PCR: ₹740-1150
Antibody test: ₹528-795

Rates charges:
4500 for pcr
2000/- antibody test

FYI, when pvt sector leaders ad nauseam said small pathlabs need profits to sustain while batting for 4500/-

@lalpathlabs is a pan-india, multi-city MASSIVE franchise which is making money hand over fist because govt is not taking action against this highway robbery
Read 4 tweets
28 Apr 20
934 deaths/ almost 30,000 cases

Worst affected states: Maha (369 Deaths), Guj (162 D), M.P (110 D)

Profiteering in pvt labs/hosps is becoming a huge challenge to India's pandemic response.

Here's what happened in today's briefing
NITI Aayog has been sealed due to COVID cases. And the media briefing has been moved out of National Media Centre, after a journalist has tested positive

But.."we are over-prepared"
PSS, Home Affairs: i talking about migrant workers being fed. They are being paid salaries etc

(we have NO information about how many migrants are tested/ sick. They have been in quarantine for over 2 weeks, if they arent siick...why have they not been allowed to go home now?)
Read 14 tweets
27 Apr 20
27,800+ cases 892 deaths 

A court case has unearthed a massive procurement scandal of antibody kits- with ICMR allowed kits to be purchased at 145% inflated rates during the pandemic.

At that inflated rate, the kits were faulty as well.

Here's what happened in today's briefin
PSS from Home Affairs is talking about how 2cr farmers have found employment (!?)

migrant labourers have found jobs in various sectors.
LA: 1396 cases reported since yest.

Positive news is our recovery rates are increasing (if we dont count so many dying with co-morbidities+COVID19 ..of course.. our rates will be great.)
Read 17 tweets
25 Apr 20
Of course. Happily.

When private sector leaders bat for a 4500/- price cap & later arbitrarily change the amount to Rs2000/- (with ZERO justification of costing) we have errant labs like @thryocare who turn the govt approved price gouging into high art.
At Rs 2000/- tests are STILL expensive. When cos are making kits at Rs 500/- why is there no transparency about how these costs were arrived at?

Who took these decisions? Shouldn't govt- which is bulk procuring get discounted rates- AS WE ALL DO WHEN WE BUY something wholesale?
Secondly, it is incredible that *I* have to answer for a private lab behaving badly!

This is fertile ground tilled by private sector lobbyists & leaders.
Read 3 tweets
24 Apr 20
Jumping in midway through the conference because.. Dr Vinod Paul (NITI Aayog) has made an appearance today! I think we have @nit_set & Kumar Sambhav Srivastava to thank for this.

If you haven't read the Article14 reports yet, you really must…
Dr Sujit Kr Singh, Dir of National CDC is saying we have reduced our 'doubling time'

(There is NO way of saying this with the limited testing & NO antibody testing.)
Dr Paul: The doubling rate has now increased to 10days. Since Mar23rd, our doubling rates inc. This is India's achievement

(1. This is a mistruth if not entirely a lie. We dont test enough
2. if this is true,why did we keep blaming T.Jamaat when infections were slowing down?)
Read 13 tweets
23 Apr 20
Almost 16,500 cases. 681 deaths

ICMR supplied faulty antibody kits to states & has now stalled testing

In welcome news, W.Bengal govt'll bear COVID treatment costs for patients they refer to private hosps

Media briefings now happen on alternate days. Here's what happened today
PSS, Home Affairs: Home ministry has informed states that nurses for senior citizens are essential services, milk processions units etc are allowed to function...

(again, I do not understand why non-health stuff can be dealt in a diff briefing)
The PSS at Home Affairs basically lists out meetings on video conferences, every notification signed, & meeting held-- most of which are not urgent questions- for eg- those 12lac migrants stranded in 23 THOUSAND relief camps
Read 23 tweets
21 Apr 20
Almost 15,000 cases. Nearly 600 deaths.

Situation in M.P (Indore esp) seems to be spiralling. 2 police officials & a doctor passed away this week.

Here's what happened in today's presser
Arun Panda, health ministry : we've created a Covid Warrior dashboard- master database of HCWs working on the frontlines. & volunteers (no idea who they are)

I didn't understand what kind of data is being collected.
I'm nothing is making sense. By I know the volunteers are from Red cross volunteers, NCC cadets, AYUSH ppl & ex servicemen.

(No RSS in this but we know they are out & about 'volunteering', if we call it that)
Read 17 tweets
18 Apr 20
OpIndia has done a report on me, w/ reaching out to me ofcourse. But their entire argument is that I'm interested in politics.

Well, yeah! Health.IS.POLITICS.
Secondly, people assume I mixed up RT PCR with antibody kits.

My report on B'desh allowing free testing - RT PCR testing for FREE- will be shortly up, with expert quotes from Bangladesh, ofcourse.
I didnt notice this 3 days ago. But was just informed that PIB fact check blurred my byline (because of my Hindu name criticising this govt.)

The bile on my TL + the targeting of minorities + deliberately blurring our Hindu names is... i dont recognise this country anymore.
Read 4 tweets
18 Apr 20
480 deaths, nearly 12000 cases (as of yest)

Testing cost for COVID in India is among the steepest at 4500 ($60) 

Things in M.P look pretty grim: no one from BJP has even acknowledged the political crisis that fuelled MP's cluster outbreak

Here's what happened today
PSS, Home Affairs: Foreigners stuck in India will get visa extensions till May 3.

We've pretty much stopped acknowledging the migrant crisis. We have 23 THOUSAND relief camps across India w. 12lac stranded migrants.
You'd think we dont have a migrant crisis at all. One man died from exhaustion/starvation in the Prime Minister's constituency yesterday.…
Read 17 tweets
17 Apr 20
Nearly 12,000 are infected. Nearly 500 are dead.

Surging death toll in MP (Indore esp) is a damning indictment of BJP govt's mishandling of the pandemic

Health Minister/ health Secy & PM yet to take single ques from the media

Here's what happened in today's briefing
PSS,MHA: Lockdown is being implemented. Be "satark" at banks & markets (?!)

it had stuff abt laghu udyog/bhartiya daak/ pensioners but nothing at all relevant to 23,000 RELIEF CAMPS across India where migrants are stranded.

But she'd like you to know everything is fine
LA: 23 deaths yest. Our doubling rate is 6.2 days. 19 states & UTs have a lower doubling rate.

( we dont test enough to say this with any surety, fyi)
Read 14 tweets
15 Apr 20
I missed the start (because of that other thing going on.)

377 people are dead. Almost 10,000 infected.

Scientists are being ignore while the govt makes hollow statements about India's COVID response.

Here's what happened in today's briefing
We are discussing animal husbandry, farmers & fisheries today. Because.. what's there to discuss about India's smooth as silk COVID response.
J: Did nCoV originate from bats? (sigh. This is what happens when health reporters aren't asking ques)

Dr Ganga: The virus found in bats. Research in China shows it jumped species- possibly with pangolins being an intermediary host. We dont know all yet
Read 13 tweets
15 Apr 20
Modi's 21 member scientific task force did not weigh in on the lockdown extension. Or on making testing chargeable, as Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General wrongly claimed in the Supreme Court on April 12.

I report for @thecaravanindia…
The solicitor general submitted in court that, they shouldn't intervene as the centre had arrived at the decision after considering all relevant issues.

But the disclosure by multiple members of the task force told me that the govt did not discuss the policy with them.
So, who did they discuss this with?

Kiran Majumdar Shaw (@Bioconlimited ) & Sangeetha Reddy(Apollo) who decided Rs 4500 price with no reasoning. The clash of interest to allow KMS a final say in the pricing is appalling

Scientists estimate that tests could cost as low as Rs500
Read 4 tweets
13 Apr 20
We don't have antibody testing kits.
Delhi isnt giving free rations.
M.P has no govt
U.P is going after @svaradarajan

Deaths have crossed 300 mark, cases have crossed 8000.
And the govt continues to lie about pretty much everything.

Here's what happened in today's briefing
PSS, Home Affairs says NCC cadets are helping with the lockdown.

(Why are paramilitary Hindu vigilante groups like RSS checking though?)
Dr Ganga, ICMR: 2,06000 test conducted.
*he is rambling*
We have enough stock to test for 6 weeks.
Read 19 tweets
12 Apr 20
M.P is in complete chaos. @mohfw@ICMRDELHI are peddling fake studies to make the lockdown look successful. We have 23,000+ relief camps coz of it.

273 dead. 7367 infected (as of yest). Not a peep has been heard from the health minister

Here's what happened in today
PSS, Home Affairs: In hotspots we are leaning on NGOs, army units, & volunteers to get food to people.

Inter & Intra state cargo is allowed to be transported.

(Don't forget how Modi in his first term DESTROYED the ngo sector)
PSS: because of wfh & online transactions & social media have increased. We have a a new twitter handled for cyber security tips. Please follow our twitter handles

(is this even a COVID briefing at all)
Read 17 tweets
11 Apr 20
239 deaths. 6500+ infections.

Origins of MP govt cluster not traced (because they are not Muslims I guess)

Here's what happened in today's briefing.
PSS, Home Affairs: health workers to get security.

(because our govt has no control over the frankenstein monster it created)
Dr Ganga, ICMR: 16000+ samples tested yest. We have 146 labs as of yest.
Read 16 tweets