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India reaffirms commitment to humanitarian assistance




India on Wednesday reaffirmed its commitment to extend its assistance in humanitarian crises in different parts of the world.

“India has been generally supportive of the principles of burden sharing and solidarity in respect of refugees,” Sujata Mehta, Secretary (West) in the external affairs ministry, said at a symposium here ahead of the World Humanitarian Summit conevened by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on May 23-24 in Istanbul.

“However, we have reservations in case there is an attempt to call for a so-called ‘equitable or shared responsibility’ to address refugee crises,” she said.

“…Let me reaffirm India’s commitment to providing humanitarian assistance as per our ability and national circumstances, to neighbouring and other friendly countries, based on their request and conscious of the gravity of the problem.”

Mehta said that India amply demonstrated such commitment to support neighbouring countries during the Nepal earthquake in 2015.

She said that the World Humanitarian Summit, convened by the UN secretary general and organised by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), was significant and was also generating high expectations in terms of what it could achieve.

“The UNSG’s Report estimates the annual deficit in humanitarian relief at $15 billion,” the secretary said.

“The UNSG advocates a new humanitarian aid architecture and seeks new financial arrangements to address consequences of dangerous policies, but does not refer to measures to prevent their emergence in the first place.”

Mehta said that India welcomed the UNSG’s observation that additional humanitarian financing cannot come at the expense of development funding and that developed countries should fulfill their commitments to provide 0.7 pecent of their gross domestic product (GDP) as overseas development assistance (ODA).

“We believe that responsibility sharing should be based on agreed principles of CBDR (common but differentiated responsibilities) and not on nebulous so-called equitable responsibility sharing,” she stated.

“Turning to the immediate – the root causes for the ongoing humanitarian emergencies – the largest movement of people since the Second World War, are deeply embedded in the recent conflicts in countries such as Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria.”

According to the secretary, it is clear that there are fundamental issues surrounding the failure of UN Security Council in preventing the emergence of grave conflict situations in these countries leading to a humanitarian crisis.

“This also points starkly to the need for urgent reform of the UN Security Council,” she said.

She warned that in the absence of strong political leadership to find sustainable solutions, there was a real danger of the humanitarian situation worsening further.

Mehta said that the UN should focus on playing a central role in providing leadership and coordination to the efforts of the international community to support strengthening its response capacity in a cost effective and timely manner.

“This support can include capacity building at local, national and regional levels through training, development of local leadership, thrust towards innovation and resilience building, strengthening of national actors, and so forth,” she said.


Russian doctor who met Putin last week diagnosed with coronavirus

The Kremlin said that Putin was being regularly tested for coronavirus and that “everything is okay,” the RIA news agency reported.



Russian Doctor with Putin

MOSCOW : A doctor who gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a tour of Moscow’s main coronavirus hospital last week said on Tuesday he had himself been diagnosed with the virus.

Putin visited the Kommunarka hospital last Tuesday where he chatted to the doctor, Denis Protsenko. Neither man was wearing protective equipment during their conversation, TV footage from the visit showed.

Protsenko, writing on Facebook said: “Yes, I have tested positive for coronavirus, but I feel pretty good. I’ve isolated myself in my office. I think the immunity I’ve developed this month is doing its job.”

The Kremlin said that Putin was being regularly tested for coronavirus and that “everything is okay,” the RIA news agency reported.

It has previously said that Putin is being protected from viruses and other illnesses “around the clock”.

Putin donned a hazmat suit and a respirator during his visit to the hospital last week when dropping in on patients. But he did not have his protective gear on during a meeting with Protsenko, with whom he was photographed shaking hands.

The Kremlin reported a coronavirus case in Putin’s administration on Friday, but said the person in question had not come into contact with the president and that all measures were being taken to prevent the virus from spreading further.

Russian lawmakers on Tuesday granted the government powers to declare a national emergency over the coronavirus, and approved penalties for violations of lockdown rules including, in extreme cases, jail terms of up to seven years.

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Singapore court upholds gay sex ban




Judiciary Court

Singapore, March 31 (IANS) A Singapore court has dismissed a bid to overturn a law that criminalises gay sex, dealing a blow to the city-states LGBT movement, a media report said.

The high court on Monday rejected appeals by three gay men who had argued the colonial-era law was unconstitutional, the BBC said in the report. The presiding judge said the law was “important in reflecting public sentiment and beliefs” in Singapore.

Under Section 377A, men found guilty of homosexual acts in public or private can be jailed for up to two years.

Speaking outside court, a lawyer for one of the complainants, M Ravi, said he was “very disappointed” by the ruling.

“It’s shocking to the conscience and it is so arbitrary,” the BBC quoted the lawyer as saying. The legal challenges were the latest attempts to repeal Section 377A, after an effort by a gay couple in 2014 was rejected by the Court of Appeal.

Singapore’s authorities rarely enforce Section 377A, first introduced in 1938 by British colonial rulers. But the city-state’s leaders have refused to remove it, saying it reflects the conservative mores of the city state’s society, the BBC reported.

In Monday’s judgement, the court echoed that sentiment, saying non-enforcement of the law against consensual gay sex in private did not render it redundant.

The court concluded the law was constitutional because it did not violate articles regarding equality and freedom of speech.
Currently 70 countries criminalise same-sex relations.

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Bangladesh might extend shutdown of office




Sheikh Hasina
File Photo

New Delhi : Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday signalled that the shutdown of offices and workplaces due to the coronavirus pandemic may be extended to April 9.

Hasina made the remark while handing out instructions on the prevention of the novel coronavirus outbreak to field-level officers across Bangladesh via video-conference from her official residence here, reports bdnews24.

“We had declared a 10-day holiday. But it might be extended by a few more days,” Hasina said. Bangladesh announced the closure of all government and private offices and courts from March 26 to April 4 amid mounting fears.
However, the government said the shutdown would not affect emergency services such as hospitals and the fire service.

Public transport would also operate on a limited scale during the holidays, it added. On Monday, the government’s disease control agency has confirmed one more case of the coronavirus infection, taking the total number of infections to 49, bdnews24 reported. The overall death toll stood at five, the agency added.

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