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Postmaster: Send address change to News India Times, 35 Journal Square, Suite 204, Jersey City, NJ 07306 Annual Subscription: United States: $28 Disclaimer: Parikh Worldwide Media assumes no liability for claims/ assumptions made in advertisements and advertorials. – that’s all you need to know Opinion News India Times January 15, 2021 3 - Continued On Page 4 Private Sector Should Be An Ally In India’s Big Vaccine Push T he Indian state faces one of the world’s most formidable challeng- es: rolling out a covid-19 vaccina- tion program for 1.3 billion people. To succeed, many things have to go right in a country that usually gets a lot wrong. The government would be wise to enlist the country’s private sector in this gargantuan effort - and soon. The vaccine rollout is already off to a shaky start. The government last week announced emergency approval for two vaccines. The first, a joint effort from AstraZeneca PLC and Oxford University, is being produced by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manu- facturer. The other has been developed by the Indian company Bharat Biotech International Ltd. The media and opposition figures have justifiably asked why Bharat Biotech’s candidate was approved at the same time as AstraZeneca’s, when it hasn’t even finished or published results from Stage III trials. There’s no evidence that Indian drug regulators allowed political consid- erations to affect their decision. Still, the timing is suspect, given that the approval comes after right-wing legislators began to attack regulators for preferring “foreign” vaccines, and the government itself has begun to show a distinct protectionist tilt. If the approvals appear rushed, unfor- tunately the rollout seems anything but. India’s health administrators just com- pleted a massive practice exercise in four states - something that surely should have been wrapped up weeks ago. Worse, even though the Serum Institute has already produced 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, CEO Adar Poon- awalla admitted in an interview published on Monday that he hasn’t yet been given a purchase order from the government or even a “letter that says, ‘We want the vaccine.’” He needs to get those 50 million doses on trucks and out of his factory fast, so he can start producing and storing more. Nor has the government allowed the Serum Institute to export any of its exist- ing doses to other poor countries, even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself promised at the United Nations that India’s manufacturing would be the solution to the pandemic in the develop- ing world. Of the billion doses that the Serum Institute intends to produce, half are ultimately expected to go to other developing countries. This has the whiff of typical Indian bu- reaucratic delays and lack of accountabil- ity. The ugly truth about India is that its problems rarely revolve around produc- tion; too often they center on distribution. We produce more than enough food but can’t distribute it to our population, so we have a third of the world’s malnourished children. While we generate more than enough electricity, our distribution system is inefficient and unprofitable - and so businesses and homes are plagued by constant power cuts. The government can’t afford to let something similar happen with covid-19, which has already killed 150,000 Indians. Having a massive domestic research and manufacturing base will mean little if bureaucratic delays and state inefficiency impede vaccination programs. As the U.K. - facing pressure to inoculate its popula- tion before a more infectious strain of the virus spreads further - can attest, such delays will cost lives. What does work in India is the private sector. The Serum Institute intends to sell the vaccine on the open market as well as to the government - and at the very reasonable price of $14 a shot. (The government will be charged $2.70.) Private sales of the vaccine would address several problems. Allowing private health-care providers to give out shots would ease the burden on the creaking state health- care system. Even for regular health care, Indians tend to turn to the private sector because it has a better track record of delivery. Without a private component to vaccine delivery, scaling up quickly will be impossible. Furthermore, the easy availability of the vaccine at a reasonable price should re- duce the chance that rampant black mar- kets emerge and disrupt the government’s own program, which will be targeted at high-risk and high-exposure groups. Finally, parallel private delivery keeps the Indian state accountable. Voters will be right to ask questions if the govern- ment doesn’t get the vaccines it requisi- tions delivered with an efficiency that is at least in the same ballpark as private actors. The fact is that Indians are accustomed to our private sector stepping in to fill the gaps left by a very imperfect state. But companies can’t set up their own vaccine distribution networks until the govern- ment allows them to do so. In facing its greatest challenge in decades, the Indian state had better start looking at the private sector as not just a partner, but an essen- tial one. Sharma is a Bloomberg Opinion colum- nist. He was a columnist for the Indian Express and the Business Standard, and he is the author of “Restart: The Last Chance for the Indian Economy.” -Bloomberg By Mihir Sharma By Dipayan Ghosh A s the world watchedWednes- day, hordes of President Donald Trump’s followers stormed the U.S. Capitol, setting a fire at the feet of American democracy as we know it. In response on Thursday, Facebook an- nounced that it was banning Trump from the platform, at least through Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. Like the more temporary suspension Twitter imposed on the president the day before, it was a tacit admission of the tremendous power that internet platforms exert over our lives today: They define and direct our thinking more than anyone or anything else - and, as such, they are just as at fault as anyone for the hateful, violent events instigated by the president. But Facebook hasn’t always been so willing to acknowledge its power. The era-defining moment came in October 2019 when, at Georgetown University, Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, explained that his company would favor a free-speech oriented policy that carried with it the stipulation that politicians like Trump largely would not be censored on the company’s platforms in any way - even if they were to intention- ally spread harmful political lies. It was a position Zuckerberg took against tremen- dous pressure to the contrary. The world was watching him, expecting and perhaps hoping that he would commit to aggres- sively combating the problems of coordi- nated disinformation and the spread of online hate. And yet this posture was only one example of many in the industry that favor the free-speech approach. In particular, Twitter’s historical stance on this issue, which many agree facilitated the Arab Spring and Green Revolution early in the company’s history, set the tone for the in- dustry in the years to come. But this same firmly-held position led directly to the incitement of violence on the steps of the Capitol. It did not have to be this way. Zuckerberg’s speech was presented as a principled corporate stand for the most American of individual civil liberties - the freedom of expression. Ultimately, however, the real rationale surely had more to do with corporate concerns than deeply held principles. Indeed, Facebook’s commitment to free speech would have resonated for Twitter and YouTube, too: All three platforms have a commercial imper- ative to host as much original content as possible to drive engagement. The stance taken by Zuckerberg serves that impera- tive, branding his company’s own profit motive as a progressive commitment. The social media industry’s argument for absolute free speech contributes to the profit motive for companies like Facebook in four specific ways at once. First, it allows contentious but highly engaging borderline content - including the president’s misinforming posts - to remain online, thus inviting the positive- feedback loop of ever-higher engagement among the company’s users, both through the content in question itself as well as related posts building from the original material. This, in turn, generates more digital ad space and data-rich activity that further enables the powerful ad-targeting regimes operated by Facebook, Google Photo:Twitter Blame Facebook, Twitter And Youtube For TheMob At The Capitol