Millions of pounds and dollars have been raised and pledged to charities to help relieve the Covid epidemic cutting a swathe through India and it is good hearted and well-intentioned. Leaders throughout the world and royalty – including Prince Charles – have also appealed for funding.

But this is an international scandal and a political problem that kind hearts, coronets and charities can’t address because charities, in Britain at least, can’t campaign politically.

According to The New York Times and Devex, an international development site, much of the donated money is held up and it’s not clear where it goes.

Narendra Modi’s government passed an amendment to a foreign contributions act in September last year which effectively prevents local NGOs from redistributing donations to smaller groups.

So Oxfam, for instance, can’t pass on cash to local aid groups.

Instead, the Modi government has encouraged donors to send aid to official charities, including one controlled by him – the PM CARES fund – and other government leaders. It gets worse. Rather than allowing a diverse range of vaccines, India sanctions just two, both locally produced – Covishield and Covaxin. The first is the Indian-produced Oxford-AstraZeneca one, the second was developed jointly by India’s public sector and a private company called Bharat Biotech.

India could have used the Pfizer vaccine or the Russian Sputnik V. These were knocked back because, allegedly, the companies had not provided sufficient data, while the two local ones with scant data were ushered through.

Unlike other countries, the UK and US for instance, India didn’t pre-order foreign vaccines. As a result, vaccine centres are being shut down and people turned away – and the app for vaccination appointments isn’t allowing people to register.

Even in the unlikely event of getting an appointment the vaccine isn’t free. Indians have to pay. And last month, Modi’s government deregulated vaccine prices, allowing companies to set their own. No surprise that the price went up sixfold almost overnight.

The going rate for an injection in India is a few pence less than £10 for both shots. Someone on the poverty line earns around 50 rupees a day, or 49p. So it would take them most of a month just to afford their jag, never mind family shots, rent, utilities and food.

So contribute all you want but don’t think it will make much of a difference. And given all of this is it at all surprising that the Indian Covid variant is breaking out here?

Moral Guardians?

IT is become increasingly difficult to distinguish The Guardian newspaper from a downmarket tabloid – only the red top is missing. So it shouldn’t be a surprise to see this headline during the week which could have come straight from The Sun: “Is oral sex more Covid-safe than kissing? The expert guide to a horny, healthy summer.” They’ll be asking if masks should be worn during sex with a stranger next. Wait, they did.

Snow out in the cold

STUCK in a traffic jam in one of those new-fangled London cabs during the week in the Euston Road and looking back, I noticed a well-dressed cyclist weaving through the parked cars. As he came alongside I saw that it was Jon Snow of Channel 4 News. Alas, it was too late to get the window down and ask for a selfie.

I’ve bumped into Snow in various odd places over the years and he has always been warm and open. Channel 4 News is the best news programme on air and his avuncular presence helps make it so. It’s a real shame he is leaving. I hope it’s nothing to do with the looming privatisation of the channel and its certain independent demise, but if it is I hope he speaks out.

‘Mob’ justice?

DID a Home Office spokesperson really say this about the peaceful protest in Pollokshields which prevented the seizure of two asylum seekers? “It is completely unacceptable for a mob to stop the lawful removal of people living in our country illegally. We 100% back the frontline in removing those with no right to be here.”

They were the best-behaved mob I’ve ever seen. The majority wore masks and chatted amicably between themselves as they sat down blocking the street. The only thing missing was tea and biscuits. And a choir. Perhaps next time?

I don’t know whether the two men arrested by Border Force are genuine asylum seekers or not, although that really isn’t the point. A deportation order from Westminster was unimplementable because of the size of the protest and because the police, responsible to Holyrood, were not going to assist in enforcing it. Two administrations were at odds, not for the first time.

What happens now? Do Border Force turn up in plain clothes and unmarked vans in the middle of the night to swoop? If the protest becomes a little more boisterous than Thursday’s, what will be the police reaction in “keeping the peace”, given they had horses and riot gear in reserve at Pollokshields? And who pays for the dozens of officers who did, and will, turn up for these events?

This isn’t going to go well.

No small beer

APPARENTLY, every Brit needs to drink 124 pints or 122 glasses of wine to save their local pub, although I’m not sure if that’s before or after a meal. It’s a challenge, but we have our duty to do.

Biden his time?

ALMOST 50 years ago now I visited the rancid Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, Sabra and Shatila where, a few years later, Phalangist militias massacred more than 3,000 people, some of whom I knew and had talked to. The Israel Defense Forces, under Ariel Sharon, stood back and lit up the camps so that it could be better achieved.

I have been to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv many times and reported mainly from Israel during the Gulf War. I have also been to Gaza. This latest chapter in the bloody tragedy kicked off when Jewish settlers, many with New York accents, and backed by law, claimed houses or land in Jerusalem they said had been in their families prior to 1948, when Israel was created. There is no such right for Arabs or Palestinians.

Britain created this when we, as one people, gave a second people the land occupied by a third. But it is the United States which is paying for the F-16s, and the supposed targeted missiles and bombs blowing Gaza, and children, to bits.

Only they can insist on a just solution for both sides. The US president, Joe Biden, shows no interest in doing so. This will outlive him, and me, and probably you.

Questionable quality

WHAT has become of Question Time? It used to be a “must watch” with David Dimbleby, even if you didn’t agree with any of the panellists and the questioners from the audience. Since the pandemic, it has become utter dross and apparently an expensive recruitment audition for Gogglebox.

The show is produced by the production company Mentorn, notionally from Glasgow, and since Covid there has been a virtual audience of 50 people – QT50 in Beeb jargon – who applied for it and were allegedly interviewed about their political persuasions. Aye, right.

What on Earth is the point in having the same basic audience of 50 – other than it’s cheap and easy for Mentorn – when, like Andrea on Thursday, someone is on for half a dozen times spouting the same thing?