India’s Congress party vows basic income for millions of India’s poorest

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Indian Congress party president Rahul Gandhi addresses the 48th Congress plenary session in New Delhi, India, Saturday, March 17, 2018. (AP)
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India's main opposition Congress party President Rahul Gandhi, left, speaks with his sister and party General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra during a public meeting at Adalaj in Gandhinagar, India, Tuesday, March 12, 2019. (AP)
Updated 26 March 2019
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India’s Congress party vows basic income for millions of India’s poorest

  • Gandhi, whose father, grandmother and great-grandfather were all prime ministers, has attacked Modi’s economic record, accusing him of failing to create jobs for the nation’s youth

NEW DELHI: Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday vowed a “final assault on poverty” in India if elected prime minister in May, promising a minimum income for tens of millions of the country’s poorest.
The Congress Party leader, broadly seen as trailing the incumbent Narendra Modi in the race for top office, described the scheme to pay a guaranteed basic income of $1,000 a year to 50 million poor families as the largest of its kind on Earth.
The sop to voters comes less than three weeks before Indians start casting their ballots in mammoth elections that stretch nearly six weeks until May 19.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party routed Congress at the last general election in 2014 and his supporters hope the Hindu nationalist leader can deliver another crushing victory.
But Gandhi is trying to close the gap, promising among other things a safety net for Indians living beneath the poverty line in the world’s second-most populous nation.
“People have suffered in the last five years. We will give justice to them,” the scion of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty told reporters in Delhi.
“It is on this day that the Congress Party launched its final assault on poverty. It will be the world’s largest minimum income scheme.”
Gandhi, whose father, grandmother and great-grandfather were all prime ministers, has attacked Modi’s economic record, accusing him of failing to create jobs for the nation’s youth or aid desperate farmers.
His proposed cash handouts for the poor are seen as modelled loosely on universal basic income, a concept attracting growing interest around the world.
UBI — supported by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg among others as a way to reduce inequality — involves people being given a flat lump sum by the state instead of subsidies and social security payments.
It has been tried out in several countries including Finland and Kenya, and has been promised by the ruling party of the small northern Indian state of Sikkim as well as Italy’s new populist government.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that Gandhi was using the poor for political gains with his new scheme.
“The announcement is a bluff. Congress has a history of doing politics over removing poverty and swindling people in name of poverty alleviation,” he told reporters.
Modi has already unveiled a raft of sweeteners for farmers and the middle class in Asia’s third-largest economy, hoping to deflect opposition salvos over his 2014 campaign promise to create “good days” for all.


UN: Pro-government forces kill more Afghans than insurgents

Updated 10 min 4 sec ago
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UN: Pro-government forces kill more Afghans than insurgents

  • The report says 1,773 civilians were hurt or died in the first three months
  • This is a significant drop from the same period last year when 2,305 civilians were killed or wounded

KABUL, Afghanistan: Afghan and international forces had killed more civilians than insurgents in the first three months of the year, the UN announced Wednesday, the first time the deaths caused by the government and its allies exceeded their enemies.
Still it was insurgents who were responsible for the majority of dead and wounded civilians combined, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan’s report, which was released in Kabul.
The report said 1,773 civilians were hurt or died in the first three months, which is a significant drop from the same period last year when 2,305 civilians were killed or wounded. Last year, many brutal suicide bombings were blamed for the high casualties.
Between Jan. 1 and March 31, the report said 581 civilians were killed and 1,192 were hurt. While insurgents caused a significant majority of the injuries, it was pro-government forces, including NATO, whch killed the majority of civilians. They were responsible for 305 civilian deaths, nearly half of them in airstrikes. The other heavy death toll took place during searches, according to the report.
At the same time, the government and international forces injured 303 civilians, compared to insurgent attacks that injured 736, the report said.
It’s the first time since 2009, when the UN began compiling statistics on civilian casualties, that the deaths as a result of actions by the government and its allies exceeded their enemies.
Most of the deaths were the result of aerial attacks, which were most often carried out by international forces. While the report does not identify the United States, it is the US that carries out airstrikes when called in to assist Afghan forces. It also follows a trend reported in last year’s UN annual report on civilian casualties, which showed a dramatic hike in civilian deaths by pro-government forces including more than 1,000 civilian casualties from airstrikes, the highest since the UN began keeping track 10 years ago.
In September last year, Masih Rahman’s entire family of 11 __ his wife, four daughters, three sons and four nephews __ were killed when a bomb flattened their home in Mullah Hafiz village in the Jaghatu district of Afghanistan’s central Maidan Wardak province.
“It’s not just my family, there are dozens of families just like mine who have been lost in bombings,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.
Rahman was working in Iran when he was told his entire family had been killed in an airstrike on his village, which is controlled by the Taliban. Rahman has sought redress from the United Nations. He has taken his case to Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission, which put out its own report on civilian casualties on Tuesday.
In that report, the commission said 11,212 civilians were hurt or wounded between March 31, 2018, and March 31 this year. In just the last 10 years of Afghanistan’s 17-year war, the commission said 75,316 Afghan civilians had died.
“A shocking number of civilians continue to be killed and maimed each day,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan.
He said that anti-government elements need to stop deliberately targeting civilians and using improvised bombs, which cause indiscriminate harm, while pro-government forces are called upon “to take immediate measures to mitigate the rising death toll and suffering caused by airstrikes and search operations.”