Thursday, March 26, 2020

Covid-19 loss of the day

Chef Floyd Cardoz, the co-owner of two of Mumbai's favourite restaurants—the Bombay Canteen and O Pedro—passed away in a New Jersey hospital yesterday. A quirky fact about Cardoz’s illustrious career: In 2011, he won the Top Chef Masters Season 3 reality show challenge, creating a variation of upma. Read this lovely profile of him in the New York Times.


Note: Yes, we ran very late today. But things have been a little chaotic on our end thanks to the curfew. We thank you for your patience and support at this difficult time!

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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A Note from the Editor

Breaking from the not-so-royal we, I am writing this today as Lakshmi, the editor and founder of Broadsheet. And the reason isn’t a happy one.


What's happening? Broadsheet will cease publication at the end of the week. Shuba resigned a while ago, and I've done my best to keep Broadsheet going over the past couple of months. Unfortunately, it has not worked out. Tuesday, March 31 will mark our final edition.


Wait, what? Why? As you all know, this is now an incredibly hard climate for all startups. Due to the events of the past couple of months—and some exacerbating circumstances—Broadsheet as a company has become increasingly unviable. And it's in the best interests of all involved to close operations.


So this is it? Not at all! When one chapter ends, it always kicks off a new one. I plan to get cracking soon on my next project. As a writer and editor, I know how important it is to do the work in these difficult times. If you'd like to stay in the loop, be sure to follow me on Twitter @elchaudhry.

The bottomline: It’s been a brilliant journey together and—irrespective of what the future brings—I am truly grateful for your affection and support! Please stay connected, safe and well 🙏❤️ And remember, we’re still around until the 31st. So please keep reading us:)

The rush to save online shopping

As we noted yesterday, an overzealous police force is endangering the supply of essential goods across the country. The government has finally intervened—but will it work?


The ecommerce debacle: Yesterday, a number of companies simply shut shop:

  • Flipkart suspended operations. Its internal memo to employees said: “We are prioritising the safety of our delivery executives and seeking the support of the local governments and police authorities to meet the needs of our customers as they stay home during this lockdown.”
  • BigBasket stopped deliveries in a number of cities including Chandigarh, Chennai, Delhi, Gurugram, Pune, and Hyderabad. The company’s statement declared: “The key challenge in the field is that sometimes our delivery partners are getting stopped by the police, and some of them have even got beaten up by the police for no fault of theirs.”
  • As Grofers struggled to meet a backlog of 400,000 orders, its CEO tweeted that the police had shut down its warehouses—and was blocking and harassing its delivery partners and supply trucks.
  • Amazon India’s Pantry service was not available in several cities—and orders for most other food or household items showed delivery dates stretching well beyond the first week of April.
  • MedLife—which delivers critical medicines—was not spared, and its delivery workers were assaulted or blocked. CEO Ananth Narayanan pointed out: “When somebody gets beaten up it’s very difficult to get other people to come to work.”
  • Milkbasket’s staff, vendors and vehicles were pushed off roads by police—forcing it to dump 15,000 litres of milk and 10,000 kgs of vegetables.
  • Licious, the meat and seafood company, simply gave up, saying that the “latest on-ground situation is non-conducive for home delivery.”
  • An angry FreshToHome CEO said: “Modiji had called delivery people rajya rakshak, but unfortunately the information has not gone down to the police level. Our delivery people are getting harassed and beaten up… We have taken all the necessary approvals, but it is a massive failure at the implementation level.”


The supply shock: As we explained yesterday, the movement of essential goods across the country has ground to near standstill—thanks to the police which are blocking everything from trucks to goods trains. 

  • As a result, 500,000 drivers and their helpers are stranded midway—stopped by police who have been ordered to seal state borders. 
  • Worse, they have no food or water as all the highway dhabas have been closed. 
  • And news of their plight has had a ripple effect: “There is a large exodus of drivers from the loading points. They are rushing home. Some 250,000 to 300,000 drivers have already left for their native places after handing over the keys to their owners.”


Also grinding to halt: Wholesale vegetable mandis, supplies of fish and meat—especially chicken and mutton. Economic Times has more on that story.


Also shutting down: On-the-ground stores, both large and small. The staff are being manhandled by the police, and forced to shut down. One Big Bazaar executive said: “Our store employees across the country are facing difficulty reaching the stores, they have been beaten by police, their bikes or keys confiscated, despite them showing their identity cards and letters being issued by us that they are needed for essential services.” See this clip of a policeman harassing a meat vendor in Delhi. And this roadside vegetable vendor being extorted by the cops.


The result: is painfully obvious. Between March 20-22, 35% of customers were unable to buy essential goods online. That number shot up to 79% between March 23-24. And there’s a similar surge with on-the-ground stores—rising from 17%  to 32%.


The response: The good news is that most online delivery companies have resumed services after assurances from state governments. The Home Ministry has also issued fresh protocols. India Today has all the details on who’s back in business.


In related good news for the hungry: The government plans to give wheat (Rs 2/kg) and rice (Rs 3/kg) at highly subsidised prices to people under the poverty level. Delhi government is feeding the homeless at food shelters, and offering free ration to over 72 lakh residents. UP, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Bengal are offering one time cash payments of Rs 1000-1500. 

The biggest news: Rumours of Rs 1.5 trillion ($19.6 billion) bailout package designed to save the economy. According to Reuters: “The package, which could be announced by the end of the week, will be used to put money directly into the accounts of more than 100 million poor and to support businesses hit the hardest by the lockdown.”

The bottomline: 🤞🏽🤞🏽🤞🏽

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saying a little prayer every time you head to the store

Your global pandemic update is here: and it includes the following:


  • The UK may roll out an at-home 15-minute test that will be available on Amazon. The finger-prick blood test detects antibodies that show up if you’ve had the virus and are now immune. The government has bought 3.5 million such tests, but will only make them available after close evaluation. Quartz has more on these ‘serologic tests’ that look for immunity rather than infection.
  • The other good news: The virus is mutating very slowly, making it easier to develop a long-lasting vaccine.
  • Prince Charles has tested positive for the virus, but is only showing mild symptoms. Now everyone is wondering just who he infected in the royal family—including the Queen who he last met on March 12. Daily Mail has a ghoulish timeline if you’re interested. Person most worried: Boris Johnson who will now be blamed for nearly killing the royal family.
  • In an Instagram post, Greta Thunberg announced that it is extremely likely that she has been infected: “Around ten days ago I started feeling some symptoms... I was feeling tired, had shivers, a sore throat and coughed.” She and her father are now in self-isolation.
  • Singapore has been praised for beating back the virus thanks to its contact tracing app—which uses Bluetooth to identify people who have been within 2 metres of coronavirus patients for at least 30 minutes. Now the nation is offering the tech to developers around the world for free. But many are worried about government surveillance and privacy issues.
  • A 2007 study warned that China was “time bomb” for a dangerous virus outbreak due to the cultural practice of eating wild animals—that’s 12 years before the prediction came true.
  • Trump’s unscientific advocacy of chloroquine as a Covid-19 cure has already resulted in tragedy. One person has died and his wife is in critical condition after following his advice. 
  • Last but not least, these stunning photos of ‘the Great Empty’ that capture the eerily deserted world we now live in. 

Other virus-related news in India: includes the following:


  • Airtel, Jio and other telecommunications companies have asked for more spectrum—i.e. bands of airwaves needed to transmit—to help cope with the giant surge in streaming and working from home. Meanwhile, Amazon, Netflix et al have decided to dramatically reduce the quality of video content on mobile phones until April 14.
  • Embassies are scrambling to evacuate their nationals stranded in the country—at a time when all flights are canceled, and many face harassment. A number of hotels are refusing to give them rooms.
  • NDTV reports on migrant factory workers who are walking home—a 36-hour journey to the their village which is 80 km away.
  • The pandemic has created a massive surge in the demand for… condoms! Sales have increased by as much as 50%, and folks want their packages supersized: ‘People usually prefer buying a pack of three, but in the last week most of them have purchased packs of 10 and 20.'
  • Ola is looking for a government bailout for its drivers: loan waivers for its drivers and a delay in tax payments.
  • Veterinary services are classified as essential by the government, but most animal clinics have shut down due to police harassment. And pet shelters and their staff are suffering.
  • Here’s what social distancing at a cabinet meeting with the PM looks like.
  • Republic TV hit a whole new low by ganging up with the police to block a doctor trying to get to his hospital in Noida. Watch the clip.
  • The Bastion has put together a wonderful photo gallery that reminds you of all the Indians who do not have the luxury of working from home.


Doing our bit: Until we close shop on March 31, we will be featuring different ways we can give to those who need it most. These suggestions are courtesy Geetanjalee Agrawal, Sneha Philip, Ambika Tandon, Insiyah Rangwala, Shweta Anand Arora, Juhi Gupta, Geetika Varshney, Mithil Oswal.

  • Give India is running a Mission Covid Support campaign to support daily workers. They’ve hit 85% of their Rs 1 crore target, and you can be the one to take them over the line.
  • You can gift an N95 mask to our brave medical staff and keep them safe thanks to this PharmEasy campaign.
  • Ketto has aggregated all the Covid-19 related fundraising campaigns on its platform. Or you can check out a similar list over at Milaap.


The Pandemic Effect:


  • Social distancing has killed the singular USP of glossy fashion magazines: the photo shoot. The Cut looks at whether they will survive the pandemic.
  • Harvard Business Review names what you are feeling right now—i.e. grief—and talks to a leading expert in sadness to find out how we can all cope.
  • New York Times reports on all the fake coronavirus products that are popping up overnight. Examples: an “oxygen concentration” machine for $3,080, “Corona Necklace Air Purifier,” for $59, a $299 pill that offers “Anti-Viral Protection” for 30 days.
  • Fashionista looks at how the pandemic has become a unique challenge for Insta influencers who make money selling a happy, perfectly airbrushed life.
  • The Lede interviews leading Indian artists hit hard by rules of social distancing.
  • Our ambassador Shadab Arab passed on this excellent read in The Atlantic that explains why the virus has been a disaster for feminism.
  • Stylist looks at the psychology of singing—and why so many have turned to bursting into song in the face of disaster.


Cool stuff we learned: includes the following:


  • Dazed Digital has a must read on the rise of fake user reviews of beauty products—and how you can spot one. 
  • Fast Company profiles the N95 mask, which is now precious commodity as the only one that can actually keep the virus at bay. 
  • Virus gyaan: Times Top Ten explains why experts insist on a six-foot (2 metre) separation as part of social distancing. The Hindu explains why you’re stuck at home for precisely 21 days.
  • Atlas Obscura has an awesome story on ‘Vodkow’—vodka made from cow’s milk! 
  • ZDNet explains how Intel is teaching a computer chip to smell.


The Stay-At-Home Sanity Pack: includes the following:


  • If your broadband hasn’t slowed to a crawl, NDTV has a handy list of best movies on Amazon India. 
  • If your local store hasn’t been cleaned out, Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi offers a guide to stocking an Indian pantry.
  • Agence France Presse via NDTV offers isolation coping tips from astronauts and submariners.
  • Every parent’s nightmare: being stuck at home with a sick kid—even if it ain’t Covid-19. National Geographic has a valuable guide on how to keep your cooped up kids healthy. 
  • One overlooked effect of the stay-at-home order: lots and lots of garbage. StoneSoup offers an excellent guide to mindful waste management.
  • Our ambassador Akanksha Gupta points to this updating list of theater performances you can watch online.
  • Need a laugh? Prachi Joshi sent us The New Yorker’s hilarious take on a daily coronavirus quarantine schedule. 


Your daily quota of sunshine items: includes the following:


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