India launches world’s biggest health care scheme, dubbed as ‘Modicare’ 

India launches world’s biggest health care scheme, dubbed as ‘Modicare’ 
As envisioned, India's "Modicare" will cover some 500 million people who fall below the poverty line. (Shutterstock photo)
Updated 23 September 2018

India launches world’s biggest health care scheme, dubbed as ‘Modicare’ 

India launches world’s biggest health care scheme, dubbed as ‘Modicare’ 
  •  “Modicare” plans to provide around $7,000 of medical coverage to half a billion people
  • The program has been launched in 400 districts out of 640 in India

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a mega health care scheme, touted as the world’s biggest public health scheme, on Sunday in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand. 

The National Health Protection Scheme, popularly known as “Modicare,” plans to provide around $7,000 of medical coverage to 100 million families or 500 million people, accounting for around 41 percent of people who fall below the poverty line.

 “The aim is to provide medical care to the people standing at the very margin of society. It has been a dream to provide health care to the needy and that dream is coming true today,” Modi said in a speech after inaugurating the scheme.

 “This is the first time in the world that a health care program is being launched where an individual will have an insurance cover of 5 lakh rupees ($7,000).”

The program has been launched in 400 districts out of 640 in India.

The intervention is meant to take the burden off the government hospitals and bring the expensive private hospitals within the reach of poor people.

For Ganesh Yadav, a daily wage earner, the “Ayushman Bharat Yojna,” as the program is officially called, is “a good move by the government if it really works.

 “Last year I spent more than 50,000 rupees ($720) in getting a kidney stone removed in a private hospital and I am still struggling to pay back the debt that I incurred. If the Modicare really works then poor people like me will not have to worry about the expenses in health care,” said Yadav, who lives in Noida, a satellite town of Delhi.

But one doctor raises doubts about the success of the program.

“An earlier health scheme also had the provision for insurance cover but the out-of-cost expenses of the poor people could not come down. There is a lack of clarity on this issue in the new scheme as well,” says Dr. Shakil, a cardiologist based in Patna, the capital of the eastern Indian state of Bihar.
 
Talking to Arab News, he asks: “How will you identify the real beneficiaries? Besides, the scheme will not build public health infrastructure but give benefit to the private players, which I think is the real drawback of this policy.
 
“The government is in a hurry to launch the scheme and not many preparations have gone into it before inaugurating it.”

Economist Venkat Narayana questions the budgetary provisions for the scheme. “Under the scheme 60 percent of expenses would be borne by the central government and 40 percent by the state government. But the poorer states cannot afford the huge sums involved in the expenditure,” says Narayana, who also runs NGOs for poor people in Warangal district in the South Indian state of Telangana.

“My experience suggests that such a program does not address the real health care needs of the people living in villages and smaller cities. The money that the government plans to spend on insurance can be spent in expanding and enriching the medical infrastructure across the country.”

But Nirala, a political activist associated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, feels that “this is a visionary intervention in the health care system of the country.

“Modi has tried to address the gap that exists in medical system of the country by bringing private hospitals within the reach of the poor masses,” he told Arab News.

Political analyst Pawan Pratyay, however, feels that Prime Minister Modi "has played a big political gamble in the election year by launching this attractive looking and sounding health care policy.

“The government has been cutting the health budget year after year. By bringing this pro-poor scheme Modi wants to change the pro-rich image that he has acquired over the years and attract the voters from the economically marginalized demography.” 


German police suspected of supplying ammunition to anti-Muslim extremists

German police suspected of supplying ammunition to anti-Muslim extremists
German police found over 60,000 ammunition cartridges in raids against Nordkreuz members across the country. (File/Reuters)
Updated 12 April 2021

German police suspected of supplying ammunition to anti-Muslim extremists

German police suspected of supplying ammunition to anti-Muslim extremists
  • Extremist group Nordkreuz was stockpiling weapons to seize power during an expected armed Muslim uprising
  • Germany has struggled to contain rising violence from country’s far right

LONDON: At least 20 German police officers are suspected of stealing service-issue pistol, submachine gun and sniper rifle ammunition and giving it to a shooting range linked to a far-right extremist group.

Nordkreuz, the group at the center of the investigation, was stockpiling weaponry, ammunition and other supplies in the belief that Germany would collapse into civil war amid an armed Muslim uprising.

Its 50 or so members, thought to include army and police officers, had planned to exploit the chaos of civil war by seizing power through a military coup using weapons stashed in “safe houses” across the country, according to messages sent on an encrypted messaging app.

A police raid on one of the group’s founders, a police officer known as Marko G, 50, uncovered 55,000 cartridges for various weapons.

That stash included 90 sniper rifle bullets believed to have been stolen from a special forces armory in the south-eastern state of Bavaria.

In a separate raid on other Nordkreuz members, authorities found 7,000 more cartridges for various weapons stolen from a Saxony armory.

Prosecutors say the ammunition was handed to the Baltic Shooters range in the town of Gustrow, in the northeast of the country, in exchange for unauthorized firearms lessons.

Seventeen officers from the police special forces unit in Saxony, and at least three from its Bavarian counterpart, are under investigation.

Petric Kleine, president of Saxony’s state police force, said: “These allegations feel like a slap in the face for my agency. I’m furious and disappointed that a whole special operations unit not only deliberately ignored their orders, but that some of them abused our trust for their criminal activities.”

The Gustrow shooting range is said to have been used as a hub for Nordkreuz. Marko G periodically worked there as a firearms instructor, and was given a 21-month suspended sentence for violating weapon laws.

The investigation into Nordkreuz has also drawn in one of Germany’s top competitive shooters.

Frank Thiel, a 42-time national shooting champion across various events, ran classes at Baltic Shooters and has provided officially sanctioned training to elite police and army special operations units from Germany and across the world. One shooting magazine described him as a mentor to the “crème de la crème of elite units.”

Thiel was briefly a member of Nordkreuz but denied any extremist leanings. He was added to a Nordkreuz chat group in 2015, but left after a month after realizing that “the group is moving in a direction that isn’t mine.” Thiel is currently being treated as a witness, not a suspect, in the Nordkreuz investigation.

Germany has worked to counter the growing influence of the country’s far and extreme right. A 2019 report by the Interior Ministry warned of an estimated 24,000 far-right extremists in the country, nearly 13,000 of them inclined toward violence.

In October 2019, a right-wing terrorist shot dead two people near a synagogue in the city of Halle, and in February 2020, a neo-Nazi committed two mass shootings at shisha bars in the town of Hanau, killing nine people, all of whom had an immigrant background.


Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi hit with new criminal charge

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi hit with new criminal charge
Updated 12 April 2021

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi hit with new criminal charge

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi hit with new criminal charge

YANGON: Myanmar’s ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was hit with a fresh criminal charge on Monday, her lawyer said.
“She has been charged in six cases altogether — five charges in Naypyidaw and one in Yangon,” Min Min Soe told AFP, saying the latest charge was under the country’s natural disaster management law.


US cop accused of force against Black Army officer fired

US cop accused of force against Black Army officer fired
Updated 12 April 2021

US cop accused of force against Black Army officer fired

US cop accused of force against Black Army officer fired
  • Police officer caught on camera pepper-spraying army officer
  • Caron Nazario says he was also threatened with execution

RICHMOND, Virginia: One of two police officers accused of pepper-spraying and pointing their guns at a Black Army officer during a traffic stop has since been fired, a Virginia town announced late Sunday, hours after the governor called for an independent investigation into the case.
The town of Windsor said in a statement that it joined calls from election officials, including Gov. Ralph Northam, in requesting an investigation by Virginia State Police into the December 2020 encounter in which two Windsor officers were accused of drawing their guns, pointing them at US Army second lieutenant Caron Nazario and using a slang term to suggest he was facing execution.
Nazario, who is Black and Latino, was also pepper-sprayed and knocked to the ground by the officers, Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker, according to the lawsuit he filed earlier this month against them.
The two sides in the case dispute what happened, but Crocker wrote in a report that he believed Nazario was “eluding police” and he considered it a “high-risk traffic stop.” Attorney Jonathan Arthur told The Associated Press that Nazario wasn’t trying to elude the officer, but was trying to stop in a well-lit area.
In the statement Sunday, Windsor officials said an internal investigation opened at the time into the use of force determined that department policy wasn’t followed. Officials said disciplinary action was taken and Gutierrez has since been fired.
Officials added that departmentwide requirements for additional training were also implemented beginning in January.
“The Town of Windsor prides itself in its small-town charm and the community-wide respect of its Police Department,” the statement said. “Due to this, we are saddened for events like this to cast our community in a negative light. Rather than deflect criticism, we have addressed these matters with our personnel administratively, we are reaching out to community stakeholders to engage in dialogue, and commit ourselves to additional discussions in the future.”
Northam called the December 2020 encounter “disturbing” in a tweet Sunday, adding that he directed State Police to review what happened.
“Our Commonwealth has done important work on police reform, but we must keep working to ensure Virginians are safe during interactions with police, the enforcement of laws is fair and equitable, and people are held accountable,” Northam said in his statement calling for a review of the actions.
The Windsor police chief didn’t respond to messages sent through the police department’s Facebook page over the weekend.
Windsor is about 70 miles (112 kilometers) southeast of Richmond.


Afghan models highlight war stories on Kabul runway in fashion show first

Afghan models highlight war stories on Kabul runway in fashion show first
A group of Afghan models participated in Afghanistan's first fashion show in Kabul to depict the plight of war victims in the country. (Photo by Haqiqi Fashion)
Updated 12 April 2021

Afghan models highlight war stories on Kabul runway in fashion show first

Afghan models highlight war stories on Kabul runway in fashion show first
  • Organizers wanted to show ‘bitter and harsh reality’ of conflict

KABUL: After nearly a week of planning, 12 Afghan models walked the runway on Saturday as part of the country’s first fashion show to highlight the impact of the decades-long conflict.

Dressed in blood-stained shrouds to resemble war victims, two women and 10 men took part in the first round of “The Shroud Fashion Show.”

Event organizer Ajmal Haqiqi said there were plans to host similar events in the future.

“Through this event, we wanted to show the bitter and harsh reality of the ongoing situation in our country, to show the impact of suicide bombers, blasts and attacks,” Haqiqi told Arab News on Sunday. “We will hold more of such programs among the public, on the streets, and in this way draw the attention of our leaders and the world that Afghans more than any other nation badly need and deserve peace.”

Haqiqi Fashion, which he set up 13 years ago, is the country’s first modelling agency.

He said the main idea behind the event was to draw attention to the “war’s calamities.”

“People want and need peace. It was a campaign to emphasise peace, not on modelling or peace for modelling,” Haqiqi added.

Some Afghans went on social media to show their support for the event.

“Afghans are tired of the war and use any medium to show that,” school student Sayed Sameer posted on Facebook. “The fashion show was one way.”

A group of Afghan models participated in Afghanistan's first fashion show in Kabul to depict the plight of war victims in the country. (Photo by Haqiqi Fashion)

There have been more than 40 years of fighting in Afghanistan, claiming the lives of an unknown number of people.

More than 100 civilians and members of the security forces died last week, according to estimates released by Tolo News on Saturday, and the US said in a February report that civilian casualties had seen a sharp uptick since peace negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan government representatives began in Doha last September.

According to a UN report, 3,035 Afghan civilians lost their lives last year. It blamed the Taliban for most of the deaths, but did not say how many insurgents and government forces had been killed during the same period.

The US, which has led a coalition of foreign troops since the Taliban’s ousting in 2001, has been trying for months to persuade the militants and the government to agree on a future political roadmap that would pave the way for the group to participate in an interim administration.

Later this week Turkey, at the request of the US, will host a major conference between the two sides to accelerate the peace process.

While Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government has shown a willingness to attend the conference, the Taliban have yet to confirm their participation at the meeting, which is tentatively scheduled for April 16.

Ghani, whose second term will end in 2024, has vehemently rejected Washington D.C.’s proposal to form an interim government but, in recent months, it has offered to organize a snap election.

“One of our key goals was to draw the attention of participants in Turkey’s meeting that our only demand is peace,” Haqiqi added. “We want peace for everyone, not for our models alone.”

 


France says Turkey ‘deliberately’ snubbed EU Commission chief

France says Turkey ‘deliberately’ snubbed EU Commission chief
Updated 11 April 2021

France says Turkey ‘deliberately’ snubbed EU Commission chief

France says Turkey ‘deliberately’ snubbed EU Commission chief
  • Europe Minister Clement Beaune says Turkey set 'trap' for Ursula von der Leyen
  • Erdogan's snub dubbed 'sofagate' has sparked a diplomatic storm between Turkey and Europe

PARIS: France’s Europe Minister Clement Beaune said Sunday that Turkey had set a “trap” for European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen by forcing her to sit off to the side on a visit to Ankara, in a photo-op faux pas quickly dubbed ‘sofagate’.
The Turkish presidency’s failure to place a chair for von der Leyen alongside President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and EU Council chief Charles Michel was “an insult from Turkey,” Beaune said on RTL television.

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“Turkey behaved badly,” he added, calling it “a Turkish problem done deliberately toward us... we shouldn’t be stirring up guilt among Europeans.”
Von der Leyen’s being shunted aside prompted recriminations from European capitals to Turkey, but also within Brussels.
For its part, Ankara insists the incident was down to tangled wires between the Council and Commission, separate EU institutions.
Michel’s staff claimed they had no access to the meeting room before the Tuesday event, but also highlighted that the Council chief comes before the Commission president under strict international protocol.
“It was a kind of trap... between the one who laid it and the one who walked into it, I’d rather place the blame on the one who laid it,” France’s Beaune said.
Echoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who called Erdogan a “dictator” in response to the sofa incident, Beaune charged that there was “a real problem with lack of respect for democracy and an autocratic drift in Turkey” that should prompt Europeans to be “very firm with the Turks.”
Nevertheless, “in future, it would be good if there was one single presidency of the European executive,” Beaune acknowledged.
“We need stronger European institutions.”