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Rahul Gandhi hails Centre’s financial assistance to poor

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Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi, March 26 : After the Centre announced a financial assistance package of Rs 1,70,000 crores, the Congress on Thursday hailed the decision with former party president Rahul Gandhi terming it as the first step in the right direction.

“The Govt announcement today of a financial assistance package, is the first step in the right direction. India owes a debt to its farmers, daily wage earners, labourers, women & the elderly who are bearing the brunt of the ongoing lockdown,” wrote Rahul Gandhi in his tweet.

The Congress has been demanding an economic package in view of the coronavirus spread and the subsequent lockdown. On Thursday, party interim president Sonia Gandhi wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding the implementation of its proposed Nyay scheme and aid for the health workers.

The Finance Minister announced an economic relief package of Rs 1.7 lakh crore for the poor and migrant workers under the Prime Minister Gareeb Kalyan Yojana.

The package focuses on providing food and money to the poor to help them overcome the problems in the wake of the COVID-19 spread and the lockdown.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday also announced that doctors, paramedics, nurses, ‘Asha’ workers, cleaning workers involved in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and treating affected patients would be extended a medical insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh each.

Addressing the media here, Sitharaman said that the scheme will help 20 lakh health professionals and workers across the country, in case they want to avail of it.

India

Akbaruddin isolated Pakistan at UN, engineered India’s ICJ win over UK

The Fund also distinguishes itself from China’s controversial aid programmes by providing assistance multilaterally through the UN.

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Syed Akbaruddin United Nations

United Nations, May 29 : Having deft diplomacy to successfully isolate Pakistan on the Kashmir issue at the UN and engineered India’s unprecedented victory for the judgeship of the World Court over a Security Council permanent member, Syed Akbaruddin has wound up his term as India’s Permanent Representative to the world body.

Akbaruddin, who retired after a 35-year career in the Indian Foreign Service this month, helped create history when the members of the UN overwhelmingly voted for the re-election of Dalveer Bhandari in 2017 rebelling against the hegemony of the permanent members and forced Britain to withdraw its candidate Christoper Greenwood, who had the majority support in the Security Council.

It marked a clear shift in the balance of power at the UN, from old colonial powers of the last century to the emerging nations of this.

“I was lucky to represent India when our global image was on the rise,” Akbaruddin told IANS, attributing the nation’s successes during his tenure to that and an appreciation of how New Delhi engaged with countries around the world.

Pakistan’s persistent, intensive diplomacy to internationalise the Kashmir issue was checkmated with 189 of the 193 members repudiating it.

Besides Pakistan, only Malaysia and Turkey have raised it in the General Assembly, and even that only once and giving up after being isolated.

China tried twice to bring it up in the Security Council but couldn’t even get a statement acknowledging that it had been discussed in closed-door consultations.

He helped rip China’s protective mantle over Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar and have him listed as a global terrorist by the UN Security Council.

Of his diplomacy, Akbaruddin said: “The only way to succeed here is through partnerships.”

And partnerships he had built aplenty winning the regard of fellow-diplomats and UN leaders.

General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande described him as a “great diplomat”.

He told IANS: “Syed Akbaruddin was one of the very best. I can tell you, I cannot imagine anyone of us who has worked with Syed who will say anything differently. He is a very wise man, very, very sincere, very knowledgeable.”

Muhammad-Bande added that he would congratulate India for producing diplomats like him.

Akbaruddin projected India’s soft-power at the UN, organising grand concerts by maestros A.R. Rahman and Amjad Ali Khan at the General Assembly chamber.

The UN issued a stamp honouring the classical Carnatic singer MS Subbulakshmi in 2016, commemorating her UN concert 50 years earlier that year in 1966.

And during the International Yoga Days he literally had ‘asanas’ projected on the UN headquarters building and for Diwali a greeting, the image of which became the backdrop for a Diwali stamp set issued by the UN postal system.

Quick to seize opportunities for India’s image-building, he promoted the construction of the 50-kilowatt Gandhi Solar Park on a UN building to provide clean electricity to the UN complex as Secretary-General Antonio Guterres prioritised a global move away from fossil fuel-generated power.

Akbaruddin’s tenure also saw the launch of the UN-India Partnership Fund that provides aid to small developing countries. Starting in 2017 with a project to provide a climate early warning system for seven island nations in the Pacific region, the programme has grown into a 10-year programme with a goal of $150 million.

Currently there are 40 projects covering 39 countries.

The Fund also distinguishes itself from China’s controversial aid programmes by providing assistance multilaterally through the UN.

An avid user of social media, who pushed its multimedia use by the mission, Akbaruddin was ranked the diplomat at the UN with the second-highest number of Twitter followers after then-US Permanent Representative Nikki Haley.

A second generation diplomat – his father Syed Bashiruddin was India’s Ambassador to Qatar – Akbaruddin joined the foreign service in 1985. Among his many diplomatic assignments was that of the spokesperson of the External Affairs Ministry and acting as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s spokesperson on his travels abroad.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)

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Disaster

India records highest single-day spike, surpasses China toll

India is currently in the fourth phase of lockdown which is till May 31. Cases spiked at record rate during the lockdown 4.0 that allowed much relaxation.

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Keralites Middle East Corona

New Delhi, May 29 : India on Friday not only recorded its largest jump in new cases as it added 7,466 new Covid patients in 24 hours, emerging as the ninth worst-hit country in the world by pandemic, but it also surpassed China’s toll of 4,638 so far as it recorded 4,706 deaths.

While China was the first country to report disease last December and recorded over 84,000 total cases so far, India that reported its first case in January end, now has 1,65,799 cases that is more than Turkey’s (1,60,979).

The only good news for India is that it has shown a 42.88 per cent recovery with 71,105 of the patients who contacted the disease being cured and sent back home. In the past one day, 175 deaths were also reported.

Delhi and Tamil Nadu showed jump of around 1,000 cases as Maharashtra continued to contribute a lion’s share, it was still the worst hit state that reported 59,546 cases so far. Tamil Nadu now has 19,372 and Delhi 16,281 cases.

Gujarat reported 15,562 cases, Rajasthan 8,067, Madhya Pradesh 7,453 and Uttar Pradesh 7,170.

Kerala which had almost flatten the curve, is witnessing a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, there are now 1,088.

Number of cases have spiked in the North East, with Assam having 856 cases.

Other States and UTs have also reported steady increase and West Bengal now has 4,536 cases, Telangana (2,256), Punjab (2,158), Jammu and Kashmir (2,036), Bihar (3,296) and Andhra Pradesh(3,251).

India is currently in the fourth phase of lockdown which is till May 31. Cases spiked at record rate during the lockdown 4.0 that allowed much relaxation.

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Disaster

Harsh Vardhan snubs AIIMS director Guleria’s prediction on Covid peak

Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) Director Dr Guleria on May 7 had said, “National and international both experts are analysing the data. Most of them have guessed that India will most likely see the peak in June or July.”

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Harsh Vardhan and Dr Randeep Guleria

New Delhi, May 28 : In what appears to be a snub to the prediction made by AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria regarding COVID pandemic peak in the country, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Thursday said its “difficult” to make an assumption about “future scenarios of the disease”.

The Health Minister, in an exclusive interview with IANS, said that given the heterogeneous mathematical modeling based on varied assumptions and less information available about the virus, it was extremely difficult to make accurate predictions about future scenarios of the disease.

To a query by the IANS on when to expect the curve to flatten since AIIMS Director Guleria has said that the situation may worsen in the next two months, Harsh Vardhan clarified, “Right now, we have a steady curve. It has never shown any exponential rise.”

This seemingly public disagreement with Guleria is manifestation of the government’s apparent unhappiness with the AIIMS chief’s comment that sparked off fear psychosis amid the COVID-19 outbreak, in India.

The Minister added, “We are now trying to bend the curve downwards. The trajectory of the outbreak is decided by a number of factors such as pathogenicity and transmissibility of virus; availability of specific treatment or vaccine; as well as collective performance of all public health interventions undertaken to contain the outbreak such as testing and early case detection, isolation, quarantine, contact-tracing, optimum care of cases and surveillance.”

The Minister also said that COVID-19 is a new disease and the behaviour of this virus in the evolving outbreak is “unknown”. “We have isolated the virus and our scientists and epidemiologists are studying it with the help of gene sequencing. Not much data about the virus and the disease is available at the moment,” he said.

“Further as far as the issue of predictions of the further spread of the disease is concerned, let me tell you that I keep on hearing about one mathematical prediction model or the other. There are so many such models giving so many predictions round-the-clock that it is difficult to track them or justify them. But just like any mathematical model, these models are based on a number of assumptions and presumptions which may or may not match with real ground data because the data is still being generated each day and the disease has not matured across the world. Therefore, it beats me as to with so much uncertainties, whether it is possible to make accurate predictions about future scenarios of the disease,” said the minister.

Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) Director Dr Guleria on May 7 had said, “National and international both experts are analysing the data. Most of them have guessed that India will most likely see the peak in June or July.”

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