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  • Oh 16 January, India is rolling out one of the biggest vaccination programmes in the world. 2 crores health workers and frontline workers will be vaccinated over the next several weeks. And by 30 July, the government aims to vaccinate 30 crore people.

    This is a milestone in India’s fight against the COVID pandemic and our readers and listeners have sent us their questions about the vaccines and the whole process involved. And to answer some of these questions we’ve invited Dr Shahid Jameel who’s a virologist and the Director of the Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University, to join us in this podcast. Tune in!

    Host: Vaishali Sood
    Guests: Dr Shahid Jameel, Virologist and Director of Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University

    Producer: Shorbori Purkayastha

    Music: Big Bang Fuzz

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  • Amid reports of rampant harassment and arrests of interfaith couples over anti-love jihad legislations, came an important judgment from the Allahabad High Court, which allows interfaith couples to have a safer registration of their marriages under the Special Marriage Act.

    On 14 January, a single-judge bench of Justice Vivek Chaudhary held that there is no need to mandatorily publish notices for marriages under the Special Marriage Act as is currently required.

    The court observed that such mandatory notices invade the fundamental rights of liberty and privacy and also affect a couple's freedom to marry a person of their choice, due to interference from state and non-state actors.

    What this judgment does, is uphold right to privacy and individual autonomy by leaving it up to the couple if they want to request a marriage officer to publish the notice of their union or to not publish it.

    This, coming at a time when fringe right-wing mobs and even the police have started interfering in unions of interfaith couples in states like Uttar Pradesh, makes it a significant judgment.

    While this is legal pushback against interference in interfaith marriages under Special Marriage Act, will this be able make a change on the ground as well? And can this judgment in anyway be able to challenge love jihad ordinances?

    Producer and Host: Shorbori Purkayastha
    Guests: Vrinda Grover, Lawyer & Human Rights Activist

    Editor: Shelly Walia

    Music: Big Bang Fuzz

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  • Vaccination drives, that are taking place across the world, are giving some hope that perhaps we'll overcome the COVID pandemic soon.

    As India prepares for what is being touted as a historic immunisation drive, it is the efficacy of the inoculation programme that will rebuild confidence among people, but what kind of challenges are likely to come up along the way?

    The country's first vaccination drive, that is set to commence on 16 January, aims to immunise three crore healthcare workers. But given the uncertain circumstances, and the absence of a detailed data before the emergency approval of Covishield and Covaxin, can the government implement a successful vaccination programme? Tune in!

    Producer and Host: Shorbori Purkayastha
    Guests:
    JVR Prasad Rao, Former Union Health Secretary
    and Prof. NK Ganguly, Former Director-General of the ICMR

    Editor: Shelly Walia

    Music: Big Bang Fuzz

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  • Months after the three contentious farm laws were passed by the Centre, the Supreme Court decided to step in and stayed the implementation of all the three laws until further notice on 12 January.

    But what does this mean for the ongoing farmers' protest?

    As the Centre failed to find a breakthrough so far in this problem, the top Court also announced its decision on constituting an expert committee which will talk to relevant stakeholders regarding the farmers’ concerns.

    This development comes just a day after CJI SA Bobde expressed extreme disappointment with the centre's approach on the ongoing farmers' protest saying that the court doesn't understand "why there should be insistence on implementation of the laws at all costs".

    While some BJP leaders like Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar have welcomed this decision, what do farmers have to say about this order? Tune in!

    Producer and Host: Shorbori Purkayastha

    Editor: Shelly Walia

    Music: Big Bang Fuzz

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  • What's up with WhatsApp? WhatsApp’s update to its privacy policy has been causing a great deal of concern, confusion and cacophony among users since its release on 4 January.  

    The in-app notification alerts users that they have time till 8 February to accept the terms or risk having their accounts rendered inactive. WhatsApp’s coercive ultimatum has only added to user dilemma about staying on in a potentially less secure app but one that has all their friends, family and work contacts.  

    So, how much of a threat to our privacy is the new update? What kind of data would be shared with Facebook? Does one continue to stay on WhatsApp? Or should one migrate to a different platform? The Quint spoke with Anivar Aravind, a senior software engineer and public interest technologist who has been a vocal proponent of open software digital rights. He explains the core issues at hand and what’s exactly at stake. 

  • The government wants to hold a countrywide free online test to pique people's interests in the desi cow. But it's the study material that's piquing all the interest instead.

    “Indian cows are hygienic, hardy and clever enough not to sit at dirty places."
    “Jersey cows are lazy and not as emotive."
    “Indian cows have traces of gold in their milk."
    “Panchgavya is a panacea for health and wellness."

    These are some lines from the syllabus for the Kamdhenu Gau-Vigyan Prachar-Prasar Examination.

    'Gau Vigyan' literally translated means cow science, but in its scientific pursuit of the value of Indian cows, the Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog — which is the government body behind this exam, seems to have provided many dubious observations with little evidence.

    While the exam will be held free of cost on 25 February, for anybody who is interested, in this episode we fact-check a few excerpts from the study material.

    Producer and Host: Shorbori Purkayastha
    Guest: Aniket Sule, Associate Professor at The Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education

    Editor: Shelly Walia

    Music: Big Bang Fuzz

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  • The glory of American democracy turned into a horror show on 6 January, as thousands of Trump supporters breached barricades and stormed into the US Capitol while the US Congress had met to certify the Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden.

    This was one of the last formalities remaining for Biden to be confirmed as the President of US, when Members of the Congress found themselves taking cover from this violent scene instead. But hours after the event, US Congress went ahead and affirmed Biden and Kamala Harris's victories.

    Even though the brief siege wasn't really about changing the results, it did what it was set to do: interrupt a democratic process.

    Shocking videos and photos poured in from Washington DC showing MAGA hat wearing protestors flying the Confederate flag as they attempted to break into the House Chamber, smashing windows and occupying legislator's offices.

    And as the unprepared Capitol police struggled to hold back the mob of insurrectionists, four people were reported dead including a woman who was shot by the police.

    As many as 52 people were arrested in the aftermath, while a string of resignations also came in from the outgoing Trump administration.

    But even as both GOP and Democratic lawmakers were urging Trump to call off his supporters, he made only but a weak effort to end the siege.

    In fact, in a video message he continued to claim that the US elections were stolen, prompting social media platforms to get proactive and do something never done before: suspend his social media accounts temporarily.

    But as DC remains in a state of public emergency for the next 15 days, the question is, what are the consequences of this attack on democracy for America and most importantly for Trump? Tune in!

    Producer and Host: Shorbori Purkayastha

    Editor: Shelly Walia

    Music: Big Bang Fuzz

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  • While we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, some Indian states are also reporting an outbreak of the Bird Flu now with nearly 25,000 birds being reported dead in a fortnight.

    In Himachal Pradesh, close to 3,000 migratory birds — most of them being the endangered bar-headed goose were found dead. Over 600 crows have died in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, in Kerala at least 20,000 ducks died. And Haryana reported around 4 lakh poultry deaths in 10 days, but the state is yet to confirm the outbreak.

    How serious is the recent outbreak? How does the infection spread? Are humans at risk? What measures should we take to stay safe? Tune in!

    Producer and Host: Shorbori Purkayastha
    Guest: Dr Mala V Kaneria, Consultant, Infectious Diseases at Jaslok Hospital

    Editor: Shelly Walia

    Music: Big Bang Fuzz

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  • Over the past two weeks Madhya Pradesh has been witnessing a spate of such communal clashes, during fund collection drives organised by right-wing groups for the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. There been reports about chanting of provocative slogans that lead to violent clashes in Ujjain, Indore and Mandsaur.In fact, a viral video showed a mob attacking a Mosque in Mandsaur district, where people were seen mounting a saffron flag atop the dome. But despite such incidents, there’s been reports of fresh violence in Rajgarh district, as people gathered outside a mosque bearing saffron flags and wielding hockey sticks while chanting slogans.In several of these episodes, eyewitnesses claim that the police remained "mute spectators"; in one case, authorities even razed down the house of a Muslim daily wage earner.But curiously the MP state government's focus amidst all this seems to be on punishing stone pelters. On 3 January, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan announced that his government is looking to implement stringent laws against stone pelters that will include a provision to auction their assets to repay for any damages.For the most part of his political career, Shivraj Singh Chauhan has enjoyed the goodwill of his people, maintained a peaceful status quo in the state, and garnered praises for his graceful political demeanour (which is said to be lacking in the BJP's new guard), but is his response to the violence in the state suggesting a shift towards a communal rhetoric?Producer and Host: Shorbori PurkayasthaGuest:Kashif Kakvi, MP-based JournalistJaved Alam, MP-based JournalistEditor: Shelly WaliaMusic: Big Bang FuzzListen to The Big Story podcast on:Apple: https://apple.co/2AYdLIl (https://www.youtube.com/redirect?q=https%3A%2F%2Fapple.co%2F2AYdLIl&redir_token=G9sQMbbppKv-LEFD29gDyTmPMzt8MTU3MTM4MDU5NkAxNTcxMjk0MTk2&v=xkpX1V6aUFo&event=video_description)Saavn: http://bit.ly/2oix78C (https://www.youtube.com/redirect?q=http%3A%2F%2Fbit.ly%2F2oix78C&redir_token=G9sQMbbppKv-LEFD29gDyTmPMzt8MTU3MTM4MDU5NkAxNTcxMjk0MTk2&v=xkpX1V6aUFo&event=video_description)Google Podcasts: http://bit.ly/2ntMV7S (https://www.youtube.com/redirect?q=http%3A%2F%2Fbit.ly%2F2ntMV7S&redir_token=G9sQMbbppKv-LEFD29gDyTmPMzt8MTU3MTM4MDU5NkAxNTcxMjk0MTk2&v=xkpX1V6aUFo&event=video_description)Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2IyLAUQ (https://www.youtube.com/redirect?q=https%3A%2F%2Fspoti.fi%2F2IyLAUQ&redir_token=G9sQMbbppKv-LEFD29gDyTmPMzt8MTU3MTM4MDU5NkAxNTcxMjk0MTk2&v=xkpX1V6aUFo&event=video_description)Deezer: http://bit.ly/2Vrf5Ng (https://www.youtube.com/redirect?q=http%3A%2F%2Fbit.ly%2F2Vrf5Ng&redir_token=G9sQMbbppKv-LEFD29gDyTmPMzt8MTU3MTM4MDU5NkAxNTcxMjk0MTk2&v=xkpX1V6aUFo&event=video_description)

  • The new year has begun with a significant event in India's long fight against COVID-19. On 3 January, Covishield and Covaxin became the first Coronavirus vaccines in the country to get emergency approval by the DCGI.

    Covishield, as we know, is Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate being manufactured by the Serum Institute in India. But it is the conditional approval of Covaxin — India's swadeshi vaccine candidate that is raising some questions and controversies.

    Well firstly, Covaxin is still in its Phase III trials which triggered concerns of safety. And unlike the other vaccines that have received emergency authorisation worldwide, we don't exactly know its level of efficacy right now, which can only be determined after it has gone through large scale phase III trials.

    While experts are pointing out some of the gaps in this decision for emergency authorization, an infuriated Dr Krishna Ella, the MD of Bharat Biotech responded to the criticism saying that their method has been transparent and that this vaccine is in no way inferior to the international ones.

    So what is it that do we know about Covaxin so far? How does this vaccine work? What are the concerns being raised by experts? And how is the vaccination drive going to be implemented if it's yet to conclude its trials? Tune in to The Big Story!

    Producer and Host: Shorbori Purkayastha
    Guest:
    Dr Randeep Guleria, Director of AIIMS,

    Dr Anant Bhan, Adjunct Professor & Researcher in Bioethics at Mangaluru’s Yenepoya University
    Interviews: Vaishali Sood, Devina Buckshee

    Editor: Shelly Walia

    Music: Big Bang Fuzz

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  • The 2020 news cycle without any doubt will be an unforgettable year full of unexpected cataclysmic events.

    Started with the North East Delhi riots in February, plunged right into a pandemic in March, took a sharp turn into an appalling migrant exodus crisis seen in the highways around cities in April triggered by unemployment. As the infections rose across India once the lockdown got lifted, so did an acute shortage of hospital beds in most cities, along with fake news, misinformation, and a growing stigma around the virus.

    While super cyclone Amphan rocked Kolkata in May, the horrific custodial deaths of father-son duo Bennicks and Jeyaraj in Tuticorin in the month of June and the gangrape of a Dalit woman in Hathras that got reported in late September shook the very core of humanity.

    And as this long year finally ends with the ongoing farmers' protest against the Centre's agricultural legislations, one can safely say that nothing but this year itself could have prepared journalists on how to go about reporting in these challenging times.

    Pursuing facts and the truth becomes crucial in a crisis and The Quint's reporters dived right into the middle of all these incidents that summed up 2020 to bring you people's voices and the ground reality behind every story. In this episode of The Big Story meet the quint's reporters who brought you the stories that matter.

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  • Eminent lawyer Prashant Bhushan posted two tweets criticising the Supreme Court for which he was held guilty of contempt of court. One said that the court had failed to ensure access to justice during the time of the pandemic, the other said that the court had played a role in the destruction of democracy.

    While of course the case ended up being one of the top highlights from the Supreme Court this year – but do the questions at the heart of it truly represent the state of the Indian judiciary in 2020?

    Tune in to The Big Story where we bring you a legal roundup of 2020 and what essentially defined the judiciary this year.

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  • Although the parties are still in an alliance in the state, recent reports from the JDU's national executive committee are triggering speculations about a growing rift between the allies.

    As Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar picked Ramachandra Prasad Singh to lead the party in the meeting , he reportedly made a pretty strong statement and said that he had no desire to become the CM but had to continue with the responsibilities due to pressures.

    What is interesting to point out, is that this statement comes barely a week after six JDU MLAs defected to the BJP where the party is in opposition, leaving the JDU with all but one remaining MLA in the state.

    Even as Renu Devi, one of the Deputy CMs from BJP in Bihar asserted that her party had not poached the JDU MLAs, after the JDU meet party spokesperson KC Tyagi said that such activities are not good signs in any alliance.

    What is the JDU hinting at? Tune in!

    Producer and Host: Shorbori Purkayastha
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    Amitabh Tiwari, Political Commentator

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  • 2020 has been anything but a usual year with an unforeseen pandemic throwing the whole world into uncertain and challenging circumstances. But Indian politics has been adapting and improvising to work its way through the this 'new normal'.

    Even as more than a few dozen countries like France, South Korea, Australia, Botswana and others postponed elections that were scheduled this year, Bihar pulled off one of the biggest state elections replete with full-fledged campaigns and rallies (more often than not flouting social distancing norms as well).

    While the BJP made a successful foray in Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav's territory, the party is slowly inching into a new territory in Southern India as well. After a high-octane campaign in Hyderabad, the party managed 48 seats, up from the 4 seats it had in the city's previous civic polls.

    But BJP is not the only one on an expansionist mission, a smaller party like Aam Aadmi Party, after its huge success against the BJP in Delhi, is eyeing to contest in Uttar Pradesh next. Although its previous attempts in Haryana, Goa or Rajasthan was anything but a success, the AAP is hoping to pitch the Delhi model against UP's “corruption and underdevelopment”.

    The Congress on the other hand, is looking at some serious introspection and reforms, to be able to address its leadership crisis. After below par performances in elections, this year saw several meetings between the G23 and the party's post holders to smoothen the widening schism within the party.

    While there's surely a vaccine to look forward to in 2021, in this episode let's take a look at the major political developments that is anticipated in the coming year. Tune in!

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  • The Farooq Abdullah-led Gupkar Alliance has swept the most number of seats, while the BJP has emerged out to be the single largest majority, in the first major local elections to be held in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, since the abrogation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of the erstwhile state in 2019.

    This was the first time that District Development Council elections for 280 seats were held across 20 districts in Jammu and Kashmir. Most importantly, this is the first exercise of democratic rights for the people of Kashmir, after more than a year of a serious clampdown in the valley.

    Out of 278 seats where results have been declared, the 7-party Gupkar Alliance secured 110 seats, interestingly as many 49 seats were bagged by Independent candidates, the Congress party won 26 seats, and as expected, the BJP won most of the Jammu province with 74 seats.

    While NC leader and former CM of the erstwhile state Omar Abdullah said the results indicate how the people rejected the centre's decision to revoke Kashmir's special status, the BJP which bagged 3 seats in Kashmir for the first is seeing it as a sign of the lotus blooming in the valley.

    But what does this result mean for the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration and the BJP? Does this open up new political avenues in Kashmir? Tune in!

    Producer and Host: Shorbori Purkayastha
    Guests: Aditya Menon, Political Editor, The Quint

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  • Almost a year after the incident of police violence over anti-CAA protests that left at least 60 students in AMU injured, Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered a speech on 22nd December, on the event of Aligarh Muslim University's centenary celebrations.

    Apart from India's first and second Prime Ministers – Jawaharlal Nehru and Lal Bahadur Shastri – Modi is only the third PM to deliver a speech here since 1964.

    But contrary to the anti-Muslim rhetoric pitched by the BJP which is indicative in some of the laws passed by the BJP government since 2019 such as NRC-CAA or the Love Jihad legislation, PM Modi interestingly stressed on unity in diversity.

    While he steered clear of making any reference to the AMU attack, he showered praises on the university and its history of education.

    He also highlighted the rich heritage and legacy of the university, calling AMU a "mini India" that has allowed a diversity of languages and cultures to thrive together in its small cosmos.

    But at a time when there’s a general sense of insecurity among Muslim students and the Muslim population at large, what do we make of this symbolic gesture from the prime minister? Is he trying to reach out to the Muslim population? Do his words indicative of a shift in the political tone in BJP? Tune in to The Big Story!

    Producer and Host: Shorbori Purkayastha
    Guests:
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    Sudheendra Kulkarni, Columnist and BJP politician
    Dr. Hilal Ahmed, Author and Associate professor of CSDS

    Editor: Shelly Walia

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  • Just as vaccines are being rolled out for emergency use, the news of a new and more contagious strain of coronavirus is spreading in the UK, raising alarms across the world.

    While India and several other countries have imposed a travel ban to and from UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson reversed his decision to ease rules for the festive season and imposed an even harsher lockdown on London and most of southeast England, banning large Christmas gatherings starting 20 December.

    With Christmas festivities dampened, people are now concerned about what this new and doubly infectious strain means for the COVID-19 pandemic. Are these kind of mutations normal? What does it mean for the ongoing vaccine drives? Tune in to The Big Story!

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  • While vaccine companies rush to seek authorisation for emergency use in India, there are quite a few people who are skeptical about taking a vaccine against COVID-19.

    ‘Vaccine hesitancy’ is the buzz word and this hesitancy is different from anti vaccine sentiments. People genuinely have questions about safety, efficacy, adverse events, and the speed with which developments have taken place.

    So far, three vaccine groups — Serum Institute's Covishield which is the Indian name of the vaccine being developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca, Covaxin — India's swadeshi vaccine being developed by Bharat Biotech, and the vaccine candidate developed by Pfizer and BioNTech have sought emergency approval in India.

    Russia which is also readying to seek the DCGI's approval, has tied up with Dr Reddy's Lab to conduct trials in India.

    But before some of these vaccines hit the market, we take all the questions around ‘vaccine hesitancy’ to virologist Dr Shahid Jameel. Tune in!

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    Interview: Devina Bakshee, Quint Fit

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  • Cracks within the Trinamool Congress Party is getting wider and visible ahead of the 2021 Bengal Legislative Assembly elections.

    On 17 December, former Minister of Transport in the state — Suvendu Adhikari who's been the face of Nandigram protests which practically catapulted the TMC into power for the first time in West Bengal in 2011, resigned from the party amid speculations of him switching over to the BJP.

    A day later, five other district-level TMC leaders also handed over their resignations. And the list of disgruntled TMC MLAs and senior leaders who are speaking out against the party is only growing longer.

    What is triggering the in-party turmoil? What does the loss of TMC heavyweight Suvendu Adhikari mean for the party and what does the BJP have to gain from it all ahead of the upcoming elections? Tune in to The Big Story!

    Producer and Host: Shorbori Purkayastha
    Guests: Aditya Memon, Political Editor, The Quint

    Editor: Shelly Walia

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  • Virat Kohli called it a bigger achievement than winning the World Cup!

    Yes, the 2018-19 Border Gavaskar test series win over Australia ranks that high for the Indian cricket captain and now he and his team are in Australia, having shared the spoils in the T20 and ODI series, and it’s the the eve of the start of the four-match border Gavaskar series.

    Steve Smith is back this time. David Warner will return later. Tim Paine is still Australian captain and after starting his team India career as an opener on the last trip Down Under, Mayank Agarwal was the only shoe-in for the opening spot come 17 December.

    So, now that you know just how important this series really is, tune in to The Big Story where we’ll take you through everything else you may want to watch out for on before you tune in on 9am Thursday morning for that big toss.

    Producer and Host: Mendra Dorjey
    Guests: Ayaz Memon, Sports writer and Journalist

    Editor: Shelly Walia

    Music: Big Bang Fuzz

    Listen to The Big Story podcast on:

    Apple: https://apple.co/2AYdLIl (https://www.youtube.com/redirect?q=https%3A%2F%2Fapple.co%2F2AYdLIl&redir_token=G9sQMbbppKv-LEFD29gDyTmPMzt8MTU3MTM4MDU5NkAxNTcxMjk0MTk2&v=xkpX1V6aUFo&event=video_description)

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    Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2IyLAUQ (https://www.youtube.com/redirect?q=https%3A%2F%2Fspoti.fi%2F2IyLAUQ&redir_token=G9sQMbbppKv-LEFD29gDyTmPMzt8MTU3MTM4MDU5NkAxNTcxMjk0MTk2&v=xkpX1V6aUFo&event=video_description)

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