Modi urges India to reject violence in name of religion

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi salutes a guard of honour during the country's 71st Independence Day celebrations, which marks the 70th anniversary of the end of British colonial rule, at the historic Red Fort in New Delhi on August 15, 2017. India can defend itself from anyone who seeks "to act against our country", Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in an Independence Day speech August 15 amid a tense standoff with Beijing over a Himalayan plateau. / AFP / PRAKASH SINGH
Updated 15 August 2017
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Modi urges India to reject violence in name of religion

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged India on Tuesday to reject religious violence, after a series of attacks against minorities sparked debate about whether a surge of Hindu nationalism is undermining the country’s secular ideals.
In a speech from the ramparts of Delhi’s Red Fort marking the 70th anniversary of India’s independence, Modi also listed his government’s achievements, including a fight against corruption.
The speech was light on foreign policy, making no mention of arch-rival Pakistan or of China. India has for nearly two months stationed hundreds of troops along its northern border with China because of a territorial dispute.
Modi has spoken out against attacks by right-wing Hindus, many of whom back his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), against minority Muslims and lower-caste Hindus accused of killing cows, considered holy by the majority Hindus.
But the setting of his denunciation of violence on Tuesday was significant.
“We will not tolerate violence in the name of faith,” Modi said before a teeming crowd at the fort and a huge television audience.
Modi made much of the progress India has made since independence from British rule in 1947.
But he also expressed pain over the death of at least 60 children in a state-run hospital last week amid shortages of supplies — a reminder much remains to be done on India’s journey to development.
’AURA OF PROGRESS’
Since coming to power in 2014, Modi has found it difficult to balance the competing demands of groups from his nationalist Hindu power base and those Indians striving to build a modern, secular country befitting its growing economic influence.
Manoj Joshi, a fellow at the Observer Research Foundation think-tank said Modi was playing “good cop, bad cop” by condemning communal violence but doing little to rein in elements of his ruling party.
“There is an obvious gap between slogan and implementation. It’s a deliberate gap and it’s just for the record,” he said.
Modi also spoke at length about delivering a “new India” by 2022, underlining his confidence of winning the next general election, due by 2019.
Strong growth and economic reforms have bolstered Modi’s popularity and helped his party sweep state elections in recent years, leaving the opposition severely weakened.
Still, to keep up with the demands of India’s 1.3 billion people, the government needs to create millions more jobs a year, which it is struggling to do.
“A certain level of triumphalism ... brought Modi to power,” analyst Ajai Shukla told NDTV. “Now he realizes people are expecting answers. He felt the need to convey an aura of progress.”
Modi was conciliatory toward the Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir, where violent protests against Indian rule have erupted over the past year, saying neither “name-calling nor bullets” would be enough to pacify the region.
What was needed, he said, were “hugs” for Kashmiris.
Kashmir has been divided between Pakistan and India, and a source of conflict between them, since their creation upon the partition of British-ruled India in 1947.


Cuba ends medical exchange program with Brazil

In this Aug. 30, 2013 file photo, Cuban doctors observe a dental procedure during a a training session at a health clinic in Brasilia, Brazil. (AP)
Updated 48 min 52 sec ago
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Cuba ends medical exchange program with Brazil

  • The Brazilian Ministry of Health said there were 8,332 Cuban doctors in Brazil, each costing the country roughly $3,100 a month, plus room and board
  • Bolsonaro said Brazil would offer asylum to Cuban doctors who wished to stay in Brazil

HAVANA: Cuba said Wednesday that it is ending a program that sent thousands of government doctors to underserved regions of Brazil in exchange for hundreds of millions in badly needed hard currency.
The end of the “Mas Medicos,” or “More Doctors,” program signals a sharp deterioration in relations between communist Cuba and Brazil, which just elected far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro. He takes office Jan. 1.
Cuba made the announcement after Bolsonaro said the program overseen by the World Health Organization could only continue if doctors directly received their salaries from Brazil, and were able to bring their families with them during their assignments, among other conditions.
The Cuban government generally keeps most of the salaries of state employees working abroad as part of the socialist state’s “international missions.” Participants also are generally barred from bringing family members in a measure that critics say is designed to prevent doctors from emigrating.
“Mas Medicos” started five years ago under leftist President Dilma Rousseff. Cuba said roughly 20,000 doctors saw millions of patients in areas such as the Amazon rainforest and slums of major cities.
Cuba maintains similar missions in 67 other countries but “Mas Medicos” was one of the largest and most important, serving as a link between the cash-strapped island and South America’s largest economy.
“Cubans have provided a valuable service to the Brazilian people with dignity, deep sensitivity, professionality, dedication and altruism,” Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel wrote on Twitter. “Such humane acts should be respected and defended.”
All Cuban doctors work for the state and virtually all receive salaries that are well below $100 a month. Doctors are not permitted to leave Cuba without government permission, a control that was lifted for virtually all other Cubans five years ago.
Thousands of Cuban doctors work in the island’s public health-care system, which suffers from crumbling infrastructure but still provides free and universal health care to all citizens. Thousands of other Cuban doctors go abroad each year and generate billions of dollars for the state, one of Cuba’s most important sources of foreign exchange.
The doctors generally receive a fraction of the salary paid to the Cuban government. But even that fraction far exceeds the salaries of doctors working in Cuba. That drives many doctors to complete foreign missions in order to earn cash for important expenses like home repairs, appliances or a motor vehicle.
The Brazilian Ministry of Health said there were 8,332 Cuban doctors in Brazil, each costing the country roughly $3,100 a month, plus room and board.
Bolsonaro said Brazil would offer asylum to Cuban doctors who wished to stay in Brazil.
“This is slave labor,” he said. “We couldn’t be accomplices.”
Neither side said exactly when the Cuban doctors would be leaving but their departure comes at a bad time for Cuba, which is facing its third year of slow growth, expected to be around 1 percent this year. Productivity is low in virtually every state-run industry, tourism has slowed under the Trump administration and Venezuela, a key ally, has cut back on subsidized oil and other aid.
Nonetheless, Bolsonaro’s conditions were out of the question for Cuba.
“It’s not acceptable to question the dignity, professionalism and altruism of Cubans who, with the support of their families, provide services in 67 countries,” the Cuban health ministry said in a statement. “The Brazilian people will understand who bears the responsibility for the fact that our doctors can’t keep providing their support and solidarity in that nation.”