Rich can’t get priority for vaccine, poor need help, Pope says

Pope Francis speaks during his weekly address from the window at St. Peter’s Square, Vatican August 16, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 19 August 2020

Rich can’t get priority for vaccine, poor need help, Pope says

  • After the COVID-19 pandemic, the pope said, the world can’t return to normality if normal means social injustice and environmental degradation
  • Francis has dedicated much of his papacy to highlighting the plight of those living on life’s margins

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Wednesday warned against any prospect that rich people would get priority for a coronavirus vaccine.
“The pandemic is a crisis. You don’t come out of it the same — either better or worse,” Francis said, adding improvised remarks to his planned speech for his weekly public audience.
“We must come out better” from the COVID-19 pandemic, the pope said.
After the COVID-19 pandemic, the pope said, the world can’t return to normality if normal means social injustice and environmental degradation.
Francis said: “How sad it would be if for the COVID-19 vaccine priority is given to the richest.”
He also said it would be scandalous if all the economic assistance in the works, most of it using public funds, ends up reviving industries that don’t help the poor or the environment.
“The pandemic has laid bare the difficult situation of the poor and the great inequality that reigns in the world,” the pope said in his speech. ”And the virus, while it doesn’t make exceptions among persons, has found in its path, devastating, great inequalities and discrimination,” Francis said, adding “and it has increased them.
Throughout the pandemic, many poor, who often have jobs that don’t allow them to work from home, have found themselves less able to shelter from possible contagion during stay-at-home strategies enacted by many nations to reduce the contagion rate. Access to the best health care for the poor is often impossible in many parts of the world.
Francis said response to the pandemic must be twofold. On one hand, “it’s indispensable to find the cure for such a small but tremendous virus, that brings the entire world to its knees.”
On the other hand, “we must treat a great virus, that of social injustice, of inequality of opportunity, of being marginalized and of lack of protection of the weakest,” Francis said.
Francis has dedicated much of his papacy to highlighting the plight of those living on life’s margins, saying societies must put them at the center of their attention.
Noting how many are eager to return to normality and resume economic activity, Francis voiced caution: “Sure, but this ‘normality’ must not include social injustices and degradation of the environment.”
“Today we have an occasion to build something different. For example, we can grow an economy of integral development of the poor and not of welfare,” the pope said.


Indian government invites protesting farmers for talks

Updated 28 November 2020

Indian government invites protesting farmers for talks

  • Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar invited the farmers for talks

NEW DELHI: India’s government invited leaders of farmers for talks as thousands of them pressed on with a protest in and around the capital on Saturday against agricultural legislation they said could be exploited by the private sector to buy their crops at cheap prices.
After a day of clashes with police who used tear gas, water cannons and baton charges to push them back, the farmers were allowed to enter New Delhi late Friday.
Television images showed some of them moving to the capital while thousands still remained at the outskirts of the city.
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar invited them for talks.
“We have called all the farmers’ organizations on December 3 and we have talked before and are still ready for talks,” Tomar said.
There was no immediate response from the farmers’ leaders. The protesters said they would not return to their homes until their demands were met.
For the last two months, farmer unions have rejected the laws, which were passed in September, and have camped out on highways in Punjab and Haryana states. They say the measure could cause the government to stop buying grain at guaranteed prices and result in their exploitation by corporations that would buy their crops cheaply.
The government says the laws are needed to reform agriculture by giving farmers the freedom to market their produce and boosting production through private investment.
“We are fighting for our rights. We won’t rest until we reach the capital and force the government to abolish these black laws,” said Majhinder Singh Dhaliwal, a farmer leader.
Opposition parties and some Modi allies have called the laws anti-farmer and pro-corporation.
Farmers have long been seen as the heart and soul of India, where agriculture supports more than half of the country’s 1.3 billion people. But farmers have also seen their economic clout diminish over the last three decades. Once accounting for a third of India’s gross domestic product, they now produce only 15% of the country’s $2.9 trillion economy.
Farmers often complain of being ignored and hold frequent protests to demand better crop prices, more loan waivers and irrigation systems to guarantee water during dry spells.