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7 cops suspended after Dalit children burnt alive in Haryana

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Faridabad/Chandigarh: A day after two Dalit children were burnt alive while their parents were reported to be critical when the house of a family in a village in Haryana’s Faridabad district was set on fire on Tuesday allegedly by members of an upper caste community, seven policemen who were deployed for the security of Dalits have been suspended.

According to reports, the suspended policemen were part of a team deployed for the security of Dalits after a similar attack took place in Sun Perh village near Ballabgarh about a year ago.

Meanwhile, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, apart from Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and CPI-M leaders, on Wednesday paid a visit to the Dalit family in the hamlet amidst protests by the villagers against the killing of the children.

Three of the 11 accused in the case have been arrested.

The house of Jitender in Sun Perh village near Ballabgarh was set on fire by unidentified people after dousing it with petrol.

Villagers Dushyant and Vipin said that Jitender, his wife Rekha, four-year-old son Vaibhav and eight-month-old daughter Divya were rushed to Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital.

Police said that Vaibhav and Divya succumbed to burn injuries, while giving their age as two years and nine months respectively.

“Some criminals burnt a Jatav family of village Sun Perh, police station Sadar Ballabhgarh of Faridabad district, when they were sleeping inside their house. Four members including Jitender, his wife Rekha and two small children namely Vaibhav (son) aged 2 years and Divya (daughter) aged 9 months were inside the room. Subsequently, the fire spread inside the room and both the children expired. Jitender and his wife Rekha also sustained burn injuries,” said a police spokesman in Chandigarh.

The injured were admitted in General Hospital, Ballabgarh, and then were referred to Safdarjung Hospital, he said.

Police have booked 11 people for murder, attempt to murder and other sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and SC/ST Act.

Police said that an incident that took place on October 5, 2014, when three people were killed in clashes between two groups of the village, may have led to Tuesday’s arson.

As many as 19 people were booked for triple murder including three members of Jitender’s family after the 2014 violence.

The accused persons were arrested, the charge sheet submitted in the court on January 3 and the case is under trial, the police spokesman said.

Following tension in the village, all shops were closed and heavy police force was deployed in the area.

Deputy Commissioner of Police, Ballabgarh, Bhupinder Singh said that the situation in the area was tense but under control.

In Chandigarh, a state government spokesman said that three accused – Balwant, Dharam Singh and Kartar of Ballabgarh – have been arrested.

He said that four policemen, who were among the seven police personnel deployed with the victim family for security, have been suspended.

“Constables Bali Mohammed, Vikas and Sandeep have been placed under suspension for dereliction of duties because they failed to protect the victims as they were deployed for the security of victim’s family.

“Inspector Anil Kumar, officer-in-charge of police station Sadar Ballagbarh, has been placed under suspension for dereliction of duties. The situation is at present under control,” the spokesman said.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh expressed concern over the killing of the two children and asked Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar to prevent recurrence of such incidents.

“In a telephonic conversation with the chief minister, the home minister expressed concern over the killing and asked the Haryana chief minister to ensure security to everyone and prevent any recurrence of such incident. The home minister also sought a report from the state administration,” an official said.

Khattar expressed shock over the incident and announced financial assistance of Rs.10 lakh to the family.

(With inputs from IANS)

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Number Of Uninsured Children In The U.S. Rises to 3.9 Mn: Report

The report also expressed concern that strict immigration policies and enforcement were making many immigrant families leery of enrolling.

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Abigail Gabriel, 8, hugs her mother, Erin, as a Pennsylvania Department of Human Services official talks about the Children's Health Insurance Program, CHIP, during a news conference, Dec. 7, 2017, in Pittsburgh. Abigail had health care under Medicaid. VOA

The number of uninsured children in the United States has increased for the first time in nearly a decade, placing it at 3.9 million in 2017, according to a report Thursday from Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families.

Nationally, the number of uninsured children increased by an estimated 276,000 in 2017, from a historic low of 4.7 percent in 2016 to 5 percent last year. Experts say about 75 percent of the newly uninsured children are clustered in states that did not expand Medicaid such as Florida, Texas and Georgia.

Under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, Florida and other states could take federal funding to help pay for health coverage for nearly 900,000 people, but the Republican-led Legislature in Florida voted against it. The vast majority of states have already expanded Medicaid and increased the number of residents eligible for its coverage.

Joan Alker, executive director for Georgetown’s Center for Children and Families, has written the report for the last eight years and said she’s never seen the rates of uninsured children go up in all 50 states, which happened last year.

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Florida has one of the highest rates of uninsured residents in the country.

Better economy, low unemployment

She said that what is perhaps most concerning is that the uninsured rate among children increased despite an improving economy and low unemployment rate that allowed more children to get private coverage through their parents.

The study blamed the increases on the Trump administration’s repeated attempts to prompt an overhaul of publicly funded health care. There were major efforts to repeal Obama’s Affordable Care Act and cut Medicaid, and the children’s CHIP insurance funding also ran out and hung in the balance for months before Congress extended it.

“There was a lot of confusion among families as to whether these public coverage sources were available,” Alker said.

At the same time, the Trump administration slashed funding for advertising and enrollment counselors to help sign people up for these health insurance programs. The country’s enrollment decline was not just in Medicaid and CHIP, but also in Obamacare, or the federal marketplace where parents can purchase private health insurance and often receive a subsidy to help pay for it.

The report noted that many of the children who do not have health insurance are eligible for coverage but just aren’t enrolled.

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‘More of a fluctuation’

Ed Haislmaier, a senior research fellow with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, said the figures were statistically insignificant.

He did agree that there were dips in Medicaid enrollment and through the Obamacare marketplace, but noted there’s no enrollment cutoff for Medicaid, meaning families can sign up their children year-round.

“It’s really more of a fluctuation. There’s no policy driver there,” he said, saying he didn’t think marketing cuts had any impact.

In Florida, the uninsured rate went from 288,000 in 2016 to 325,000 in 2017.

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Honduran migrant Genesis Belen Mejia Flores, 7, waves an American flag at U.S. border control helicopters flying overhead near the Benito Juarez Sports Center serving as a temporary shelter for Central American migrants, in Tijuana, Mexico. VOA

Florida has one of the highest rates of uninsured residents in the country, and also has had the highest number of enrollees purchasing insurance through the Obamacare federal marketplace. However, Medicaid expansion in Florida is likely off the table for this upcoming legislative session. Incoming Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis, a Republican, is against it. His opponent, Democrat Andrew Gillum, campaigned heavily on his support to expand Medicaid coverage for more residents.

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The report also expressed concern that strict immigration policies and enforcement were making many immigrant families leery of enrolling, even if their children were eligible for health coverage. “We think it’s really this national unwelcome mat regarding public coverage,” Alker said. (VOA)