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Modi-Government Promises Massive Investments In Kashmir Valley

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After Prime Minister Narendra Modi tried to allay fears of a demographic change in Jammu and Kashmir, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday reiterated the assurance to visiting political leaders of Apni Party, a new political outfit whose leaders have over the past mostly favoured New Delhi.

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Assurances of “restoration of statehood” at the early opportunity”, “no demographic change” and “release of all political prisoners” in due course were some of the key takeaways from Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s meeting with the J&K Apni Party members.

Expressing confidence that ‘visible changes will be seen on the ground in the next few months, the home minister also assured the delegation that the NDA government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take all steps for the overall development of Jammu and Kashmir’.

The nullification of the constitutional provisions in August to strip Jammu & Kashmir of its special status, which prevented non-residents from buying land and taking up jobs in the region, triggered concerns about demographic changes in the erstwhile state.

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Engaging with the delegation on about 42-odd issues raised by them, the home minister emphasised that there is no intention of the government for demographic change in the region and refuted all such talks as baseless.

The meeting between the leaders of Apni Party, led by its president Altaf Bukhari, and Home Minister Shah supposedly lasted for over two hours.  “He said he has noted the 42 points that we had raised.

Shah said among these points, he will respond to few points right now and the rest within the next 10 days,” a senior party leader said. “He said the first thing he wants to tell us to bury this issue of demographic change because no one has any such intention.

No one in the country can afford to engineer demographic change in Kashmir, nor is such a thing in the interest of the country. The Union Home Secretary, IB chief, Additional Secretary Home, Additional Director IB and Joint Secretary Home accompanied Shah.

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In a similar assurance as given by the PM to the delegation, Shah said the government will work with all sections of the society to realize the hopes of statehood for Jammu and Kashmir at an early opportunity.

“He said the statehood will be restored as soon as is possible. This too is because of our national interest. It is not in the interest of India to have a weak J&K. It’s a border state, it needs to be very strong and it needs to have a strong government,” said a member of the visiting group.

Shah referred to the PM’s address to the nation after the abrogation of Article 370 and said that and even he, himself in his speech in Lok Sabha on August 6, 2019, expressed the same.

The Centre has been working on a domicile policy to protect land rights in J&K and among the options under consideration is a mandatory requirement of 15-year residency in the region as the eligibility for government jobs and owning land there.

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Sale of agricultural land to outsiders is not allowed in some states and Union Territories under their domicile policies. Several states including Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim enjoy protection under Article 371 of the Constitution.

The domicile requirements are seen as a way to allay the fears of assuring the local populace that its rights will be protected.  Bukhari confirmed a domicile law to protect jobs and land rights was coming soon.

“There is no question of anyone snatching away our lands or jobs,” he said. “We are going back satisfied,” Bukhari added. He further said that they have assurances from both PM Narendra Modi, whom they met on Saturday, and Shah.

Shah also said that a reasonable economic development policy will be drafted soon after widespread consultation. He expressed hope that in the next four years, Jammu and Kashmir will have three times more investments than  ₹13,000 crore that it has received in the last 70 years. “There is a huge potential and investors are also willing to come forward. This will also solve the problem of unemployment in the region,” he added.

Shah said his government is open to suggestions and feedback from all political parties and individuals for overall development of Jammu and Kashmir. Allaying the apprehensions of the delegation on restrictions, Shah said all decisions on relaxations are based on ground realities and not due to any pressure.

He referred to steps like release of people from detention, restoration of internet, relaxation in curfew and said that even political prisoners will be freed in times to come as the main objective of the government is to prevent even a single person from dying, be it a common Kashmiri or security personnel.

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Many political leaders were detained after August 5 last year when the Centre revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and divided it into union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

Responding to the demand for releasing of political detainees, Shah told the leaders that they will try to shift the detainees from outside the state to Jammu and Kashmir and promised telephone facility to them so that they can talk to their families.

After the meeting, Bukhari told reporters in Delhi: “Yes, we did discuss the detention of remaining political leaders and others, and the Home Minister said it is a process and we will be releasing them very soon.”

He emphasised that there is no discrimination in the implementation of central laws in Jammu and Kashmir and interests of all sections will be taken care of. On the issues of reservation, the home minister said that a commission will be set up soon and reiterated that no injustice will be done to Gujjars, nomads and other communities. On the issues concerning JK Bank, he assured the delegation of personally looking into the issues.

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Shah said that he will also ask the Lieutenant Governor to appoint a senior nodal officer to meet the people twice in a week to address their grievances. He also asked the delegation to provide feedback to the nodal officers in the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The JK Apni Party chief also raised several various other issues, including relaxation of age limit for youths from union territory appearing in Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exams, relief in horticulture and agriculture as well as the tourism sector.

Shah, however, asked the J&K leaders to forget Article 370. “(Article) 370 is gone, that’s now an old story. There is a discussion going on outside and the issue is also in the Supreme Court, let’s move ahead of it,” a leader quoted Shah as saying.

“I promise you from here that anything that has been given to other states, more will be given to J&K. How will it be done is being looked into. Whatever we have given to other states, you will get more. This is my commitment to you.”

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Hagia Sophia: Turkey turns iconic Istanbul museum of Hagia Sophia into mosque

The court ruled that Hagia Sophia was owned by a foundation established by Sultan Mehmet II, also known as Mehmet the Conqueror, and was presented to the community as a mosque. According to the ruling, Hagia Sophia was defined as a “mosque,” a status that cannot be legally changed.

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The iconic Istanbul museum of Hagia Sophia will be turned into a mosque. Hours after a landmark court ruling Friday (July 10), the Turkish government confirmed that Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia will be reopened for worship after an 85-year hiatus.

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The nearly 1,500-year-old architectural gem will be transferred to the state Religious Affairs Directorate under a presidential decree, according to a Friday announcement in the Official Gazette.

Earlier Friday, ruling on a petition filed by an Istanbul NGO, Turkey’s Council of State overturned a 1934 Cabinet decree that had turned Hagia Sophia into a museum.

The court ruled that Hagia Sophia was owned by a foundation established by Sultan Mehmet II, also known as Mehmet the Conqueror, and was presented to the community as a mosque. According to the ruling, Hagia Sophia was defined as a “mosque,” a status that cannot be legally changed.

After centuries of use as a church under the Byzantine Empire, in 1453 Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque by Mehmet II following his conquest of Istanbul. In 1935, Hagia Sophia was turned into a museum. Posting his decree on social media today, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed best wishes for the change, which he has long advocated.

While details of the change are not yet known, Turkish officials have pointed out that many famed houses of worship, such as Paris’ Notre Dame and Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, are also open to visitors.

“Opening up Hagia Sophia to worship won’t keep local or foreign tourists from visiting the site,” Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan’s spokesman, told Anadolu Agency in an interview this week. Turkey is home to people of many faiths who can freely exercise their religions, he added.

World Reacts To Decision On Hagia Sophia

The Russian Orthodox Church expressed shock at Turkey’s decision to withdraw the museum status of Hagia Sophia, blaming it of disregarding voices of millions of Christians. “The concern of millions of Christians has not been heard,” Russian Orthodox Church spokesman Vladimir Legoida stated.

“Today’s court ruling shows that all calls for the need for extreme delicacy in this matter were ignored,” Legoida said.

UNESCO said its World Heritage Committee would review Hagia Sophia’s status, saying it was “regrettable that the Turkish decision was not the subject of dialogue nor notification beforehand”.

“UNESCO calls on the Turkish authorities to open a dialogue without delay in order to avoid a step back from the universal value of this exceptional heritage whose preservation will be reviewed by the World Heritage Committee in its next session,” the UN’ cultural body said in a statement.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides tweeted –  Cyprus “strongly condemns Turkey’s actions on Hagia Sophia in its effort to distract domestic opinion and calls on Turkey to respect its international obligations”.

Christodoulides said Turkey’s “escalating, flagrant violation of its international obligations is manifested in its decision to alter the designation of Hagia Sophia, a World Heritage Site that is a universal symbol of the Orthodox faith”.

Later, Greece called Turkey’s move an “open provocation to the civilised world”. “The nationalism displayed by Erdogan … takes his country back six centuries,” Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said in a statement.

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Indian Air Force Receives Complete Delivery Apache, Chinook Helicopters

Boeing India also tweeted: Thank you, @IAF_MCC, for your partnership. We’re happy to have completed the deliveries of the 22 #AH64-E Apache and 15 #Chinook helicopters to India.

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The Indian Air Force (IAF) has received the delivery of all AH-64E Apache and CH-47F(I) Chinook helicopters today. The final five of the 22 Apache attack helicopters were handed over to the IAF at Air Force Station, Hindon.

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Earlier, Boeing had handed over the last five of 15 CH-47F (I) Chinook heavy-lift helicopters to the Indian Air Force, read a statement. India is one of 17 nations to select the Apache and has opted for the most advanced version of the attack helicopter.

“Customer centricity, commitment to the modernization and mission-readiness of India’s defence forces are key values to our partnership with India,” said Surendra Ahuja, Managing Director, Boeing Defence India.

“With this delivery of military helicopters, we continue to nurture this partnership and are fully committed to working closely with India’s defence forces to deliver the right value and capabilities to meet their operational needs,” Ahuja added.

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COVID-19 Exposes India, Philippines To Higher Risk Of Cancer; Australia, Malaysia Safest – Index

According to an index prepared by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Australia, Malaysia and South Korea are most prepared to meet the burden of more cancer cases. Meanwhile, India, the Philippines and Vietnam are ill-prepared to face such a challenge. 

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As people living in Asian countries get richer and lead to sedimentary and unhealthy lifestyles, cancer is predicted to increases. However, countries such as Australia, Malaysia and South-Korea are well prepared to battle cancer while countries such as India and the Philippines are ill-prepared.

According to an index prepared by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Australia, Malaysia and South Korea are most prepared to meet the burden of more cancer cases. Meanwhile, India, the Philippines and Vietnam are ill-prepared to face such a challenge.

The EIU has warned of a mini-tsunami of cancer cases as the coronavirus subsides and patients feel safe to visit hospitals. Out of fear of catching the coronavirus, cancer patients have avoided getting treatments done at hospitals.

Even hospitals put cancer treatment on the back burner as a top priority was given to curing COVID-19 cases. In the Philippines, for instance, cancer patients who were no longer able to attend advanced medical facilities were simply discharged into the wider community without any continuity of care.

The index measured the preparedness of 10 Asia-Pacific countries using 45 indicators and created a scorecard for each country, with 100 being most prepared.

Australia led the ranking with a score of 92.4, followed by South Korea with 83.4, and Malaysia with 80.3. All three have rigorous vaccination programs, including for hepatitis B which is linked to liver cancer, and HPV which can cause cervical cancer.

These countries tend to be aggressive in gathering information about individual cases at a national level so policymakers can understand the scale of the problem and design effective responses.

The rankings indicate that the three countries mentioned above have managed to keep the mortality rate down. This indicates that they are either detecting cancers at an early stage and/or are able to treat their patients effectively. Cancers that are more advanced are difficult to cure.

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Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia, are all rapidly growing economies whose populations have developed bad habits such as smoking. For example, nearly 40% of Indonesians aged 15 and older smoke.

Similarly, obesity amongst children in Thailand and Indonesia, countries where medical services are harder to access, could become a problem in the near future.

The EIU suggests that governments could support low-income groups by subsidizing health care costs and that patients should not have to pay more than 20% of their medical bills. 62.4% of medical expenses are still paid by patients in India, 53% in the Philippines, 45.3% in Vietnam and 36.1% in China.

Presently, governments Government health care expenditure is also low in these countries, at just 3.4% of total expenditure in New Delhi, 7.1% in the Manila, 9.1% in Beijing and 9.5% in Hanoi.

In terms of service affordability, accessibility to cancer treatments such as radiotherapy and cancer research, Japan tops the list. Tokyo has prioritized tackling the disease ever since it became the leading cause of deaths from 1981.

However, Japan has a poor track record for data collection, an issue that also became clear during the coronavirus crisis and is slow in introducing vaccination programs. The EIU also noted “a concerning prevalence of modifiable risk factors such as smoking and alcohol consumption in Japan,” and urged the government to promote healthier lifestyles.

Despite having advance medical facilities and superior services, cancer patients in Japan have a higher mortality rate than patients in Australia and South Korea.

Cancers are caused by damage to genes and such genetic errors tend to increase with age, obesity and bad habits, such as smoking, alcohol consumption and a lack of exercise. Half of the cancer patients in the world currently live in Asia. By 2030, cancer cases are expected to rise by 35% in the region, even as its population is expected to grow just 9%.

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