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.


Bulgaria seizes 288 kilos of heroin in truck from Iran

Updated 18 April 2019
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Bulgaria seizes 288 kilos of heroin in truck from Iran

  • Two men — the Iranian truck driver and a Turkish man, who was allegedly to receive the drugs in Bulgaria — were detained and indicted for drug trafficking

SOFIA: Bulgarian customs officials confiscated more than 288 kilo (635 pounds) of heroin hidden on a truck from Iran, prosecutors announced Thursday.

The haul is the biggest amount of heroin seized at Bulgaria’s borders this year, the customs agency said.

Two men — the Iranian truck driver and a Turkish man, who was allegedly to receive the drugs in Bulgaria — were detained and indicted for drug trafficking, the Haskovo regional prosecution said in a statement. They risk jail terms from 15 to 20 years, it added.

The drugs were placed in 144 packages hidden inside the floor and ceiling of a spray painting machine transported inside the truck.

It was found when the vehicle was X-rayed upon entering Bulgaria from Turkey at the southeastern Kapitan Andreevo border checkpoint on Sunday, but the seizure was only announced on Thursday.

Bulgaria, which lies on the so-called Balkan drugs route from the Middle East to Western Europe, has seen a several-fold increase in heroin seizures over the past three years.

In 2018, the customs agency confiscated a total of 994 kilos of heroin at the country’s borders, a rise of 13 percent from 2017.