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Major fire breaks out in seven-storey market complex in Surat; 60 fire engines rushed to spot

Surat: A major fire broke out in a seven-storey market in Gujarat's Surat city in the wee hours of Tuesday, engulfing several shops in the complex, a fire official said.

While there was no report of any casualty so far, the fire brigade declared a 'brigade call' and deployed over 60 fire tenders, water tankers and hydraulic ladders from across the city to douse the blaze, he said.


The fire brigade got a call around 4 am about the blaze in Raghuvir Celeum Center, a large textile market located in Saroli area, he said. Several shops were gutted in the blaze which spread rapidly because of the dress material and other cloth items stored there, the official said.

"It is a large textile market complex where traders had kept various dress material and apparel in their shops. The stock led the fire to spread quickly," Surat's deputy municipal commissioner N V Upadhyay said.

Hectic fire fighting efforts were on, but the blaze was yet to be contained, said Upadhyay, who is in-charge of fire services in the Surat Municipal Corporation.

During a 'brigade call', all the available fire fighting vehicles in the city are required to reach the spot.


Three rockets hit near US embassy in Baghdad, no casualties

Baghdad: Three rockets hit near the US embassy in the Iraqi capital's high-security Green Zone, security sources told AFP, with no immediate reports of casualties.

Sirens could be heard across the zone immediately after the rockets made impact. The US has blamed Iran-backed paramilitary groups for a spate of similar attacks in recent months on the Green Zone, but there has never been a claim of responsibility.


Green Zone is in Central Baghdad, where government buildings and diplomatic facilities are located. The development comes in the wake of escalated tensions in the region following the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Iraq earlier this month.

Soleimani, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards' elite Quds Force, was killed in a US drone strike ordered by US President Donald Trump at Baghdad International Airport on January 3. Days later, Tehran retaliated by firing a barrage of missiles at two US military bases in Iraq. Soleimani's death had marked a dramatic escalation in tension between the US and Iran.


'Here's to better food for more people': Zomato founder Deepinder Goyal after acquiring Uber Eats

On Tuesday, Uber announced that it will sale its food delivery business in India to Zomato in an all-stock deal.

According to Business Standard, Uber will get a 9.9 per cent stake in Zomato as part of the deal whose size has not been disclosed. The deal for Uber Eats, which operates in 41 cities, was signed at 3 am, and its customers will be shifted to the Zomato app from 7 am.

"Our Uber Eats team in India has achieved an incredible amount over the last two years, and I couldn’t be prouder of their ingenuity and dedication. India remains an exceptionally important market to Uber and we will continue to invest in growing our local Rides business, which is already the clear category leader. We have been very impressed by Zomato’s ability to grow rapidly in a capital-efficient manner and we wish them continued success,” Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber said in statement.

In a regulatory filing to BSE, Info Edge (India) - a shareholder in Zomato - said its shareholding in Zomato will stand reduced to about 22.71 per cent on fully converted and diluted basis upon closing of the transaction. The deal comes days after Zomato had raised USD 150 million in funding from existing investor Ant Financial, an Alibaba affiliate, at a USD 3 billion valuation.


“We are proud to have pioneered restaurant discovery and to have created a leading food delivery business across more than 500 cities in India. This acquisition significantly strengthens our position in the category,” Deepinder Goyal, CEO of Zomato said in a statement.

Uber Eats, which entered India in 2017, has about 26,000 restuarants listed on its platform from 41 cities. Zomato's restaurant discovery and food delivery platform has information for over 1.5 million restaurants across 24 countries and serves more than 70 million users every month.

Discussions between Zomato and Uber have been on for months. Facing stiff competition from Zomato and Swiggy, Uber Eats had been making losses. Uber had projected an operating loss of Rs 2,197 crore in its food delivery business for the five months through December 2019, according to a valuation report prepared by KPMG affiliate BSR and was part of regulatory filings.

"We have announced today that Zomato has acquired Uber Eats in India. As such, you will no longer be able to order from Uber Eats in India, but you will be able to enjoy your favourite meals with exciting offers tailored for you on Zomato. You can still get rides via the Uber app, which remains active and available. And you can still use Uber Eats if you're traveling outside India. Until then, we hope you will enjoy many more tasty moments and discover great restaurants around you on Zomato," Uber said in a statement.

(Inputs from Agencies)


Budget 2020: Collapse on many fronts, economy is but one indicator

Consider a road well paved, a vehicle driving down at a speed that is the slowest it has had in recent times. The occupants enter into a discussion on how they could drive faster to reach a town called “five trillion dollars” in a given time frame.

They push the driver, break a few signals and try to stay cheerful. But all around them, the road is now filled with protestors, angry and united in their view that the car is headed in the wrong direction, while some others try to push it forward. How fast can this car run?


In the current times, the biggest problem with unpacking the economic situation is that economic levers are seen in isolation, as if this is a game of smart moves, clever ideas or some otherworldly thinking. It is true that the economy is badly managed but the bigger truth is that it is the politics that determines the economics. As Joan Robinson (1903-1983), the “grand dame of economics” wrote in the Journal of Economic Literature way back in 1977:

“Politics involve ideology. There is no such thing as a purely economic problem that can be settled by purely economic logic; political interest and political prejudice are involved in every discussion of actual questions.”

In India, under the current regime, the actual questions are sometimes coloured as much by prejudice as they are by blind devotion to the idea that PR can solve real problems, or that events can give a push to a car that has now nearly stalled. The numbers on the dashboard are of course looking bad. Consider some of them:

GDP growth is down to 4.5 per cent year-on-year in the second quarter of 2019-20, extending a sequential deceleration to the sixth consecutive quarter.

This weak growth number itself is oiled by a rise in government expenditure, the so-called Government Final Consumption Expenditure (GFCE), which is (at constant prices)

estimated at Rs.16.65 lakh crore in 2019-20, as against Rs.15.06 lakh crore in 2018-19. Excluding GFCE, GDP growth would have been at 3.1 per cent, a number that is a reminder of the horrors of the Hindu rate of growth reminiscent of the pre-liberalisation days.

The quarter also saw a sharp slowdown in Gross Fixed Capital Formation (GFCF), showing that investments are shying away and that a revival may continue to depend on government spending.

For 2019-20, the GDP growth number has been scaled down by the RBI from its earlier projection of 6.1 per cent to 5 per cent in the December monetary policy statement.

Many believe it will be difficult to even reach 5 per cent. Consider the decline year after year: GDP for 2018-19 was 6.8 per cent, down from 7.2 per cent in 2017-18, 8.2 per cent in 2016-17, 8 per cent in 2015-16 and 7.4 per cent in 2014-15.

Now, inflation has spiked. The all-India CPI inflation rate (Rural & Urban, or “Combined”) came in at 7.35 per cent for December 2019, racing up from 5.54 in November 2019 and the year-ago number of 2.11 per cent, prompting some to argue that we may be heading for stagflation – the combined bad effects of low GDP growth, weak jobs growth and high inflation.

An analysis of the inflation numbers tells us that the spike comes from food inflation due to rising prices of vegetables and pulses. The CPI-Combined number is above the Monetary Policy Committee’s (MPC) mandated target of keeping inflation at an average of four per cent, with the upper tolerance limit of 6 per cent and the lower tolerance limit of 2 per cent.

Inflation is a tax on the weakest. Controlling this spike will limit the maneuverability of the RBI to boost consumption through interest rate instruments.

The numbers in their aggregate are only indicators of many smaller drivers going wrong. This gives the picture of a government that appears to have wasted its huge mandate. Instead of building a consensus on structural reforms, improving governance and boosting confidence so that the genuine “animal spirits” of businesses are unleashed in a thriving eco-system, this government has violated trust, used strong arm tactics and tried to scare the people into submission.

That two State Assemblies have passed resolutions against the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act is as much an indicator of the decline as is the GDP number.

Recently, senior business leader Rahul Bajaj spoke in the presence of Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal about an “air of intolerance”; that people were scared of speaking against the government. In his response, the Home Minister was defensive but also appeared to want to listen.

In Shah’s words, “If you say there is such an environment, we need to work to improve…” That looked like a reasonable remark from a government wanting to respond to the mood. But it was what happened after the speeches ended that told us a lot more about the complainant, his complaint and those it was directed against. According to one account, none of the dignitaries stayed back for dinner.

Worse, most of the business icons left, too, and just about one or two of the known names, including a woman business leader, stayed back, and in that sense stood by Rahul Bajaj. In the way the evening unfolded, Rahul Bajaj probably proved the point he was making: “If we criticise, we are not sure you’ll appreciate it.”

This is so of not just business leaders but also of a wide range of professionals, including economists, institutional leaders, educators, regulators and all manner of bureaucrats through which the government functions. The result is, inevitably, a collapse on many fronts, of which the economy is but one indicator.

Sanjay Raut's brother may become MHADA chairman

Mumbai: To pacify Sanjay Raut, leader of Shiv Sena who has daily been embarrassing the Maharashtra Vikas Aaghadi (MVA) government, the party is mulling to appoint his brother, Sunil Raut, as the Maharashtra Housing Area Development Authority (MHADA) chairman.

Raut was upset after his brother was dropped from the cabinet's expansion. He even skipped the cabinet expansion programme on December 30. Since then, he has regularly been making statements, putting a question mark on the continuance of the MVA government.


Raut has been a trusted lieutenant of Sena's founder Balasaheb Thackeray and played a major role in creating MVA. Therefore, he cannot be side-lined or dumped by the party's high-command.

Sena legislator Uday Samant was appointed MHADA chairman during the Fadnavis government. Now, Samant has been promoted to cabinet minister.

Sunil Raut, younger brother of Sanjay Raut, is a legislator from Vikhroli. If appointed MHADA chairman, he will get a chance to show his administrative and development skills.

As MHADA is the main agency of the government for creating new housing stock and redeveloping old buildings, he will get a chance to ensure housing for all.

The residents of MHADA flats play a key role in election, especially in the BMC election. The next BMC election is scheduled to be held in 2022, and Thackeray has some concrete plans to strengthen the party with the speedy implementation of development and redevelopment projects.


Delhi Transport Dept fire: Blaze doused; all documents have been gutted say officials

A fire broke out early on Monday morning at an office of Delhi Transport Department at Civil Lines in Delhi.

At least 26 fire tenders were rushed to the spot, and around 10.45 AM, the Delhi Fire Services (DFS) reported that the fire had been doused.

"The fire was reported in the server room at the office of Delhi Transport Department, near Civil Lines Metro Station,"DFS Cheif Atul Garg said.

No casualties have been reported as of now.

However, Sunil Chaudhary, the Deputy Chief Fire Officer told ANI that "all the documents related to Delhi Transport Department have been gutted in the fire".


Sunil Chaudhary, Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Delhi: All the documents related to Delhi Transport Department have been gutted in the fire that broke today. Investigation has been initiated. …


Replying to @ANI
#UPDATE Fire doused, cooling process underway at Delhi Transport Department office at Civil Lines. #Delhi

10:15 PM - Jan 19, 2020
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An investigation has been initiated, he said.

From factories going up in flames to a minor blaze in the Prime Minister's residence, the city has seen a slew of fires in recent times.

On December 30, 2019, a minor fire broke out at 9, Lok Kalyan Marg inside the residential complex of the prime minister. His residence and office however were not affected by it, the Prime Minister's Office said.

Prior to that, there was the Anaj Mandi fire that left around 43 labourers dead. A total of 59 people were inside the factory operating from a residential area when the blaze broke out, police had said. The Delhi Police later registered a case against the factory owner.

In another incident in mid-December 2019, a fire broke out in West Delhi's Mundka area. In the same time period, a fire had broken out in a cloth godown in Kirari, killing at least nine people.

Earlier in February 2019, a massive fire had swept through a four-floor hotel in central Delhi's Karol Bagh, killing at least 17 guests, including a child and two people who jumped off the building in a desperate bid to save themselves. The blaze,in which 35 people were injured, started in the second floor of the Arpit Palace Hotel in the heart of the national capital around 3.30 am, trapping many guests who were deep in sleep.

(With inputs from agencies)

'Will inform Census Commissioner that we will not implement the NPR': AC Moideen in Kerala cabinet meeting

Thiruvananthapuram: Keeping its date with taking a strong position against the Citizenship Amendment Act, the Kerala cabinet which had a special meeting on Monday, decided to inform the Census Commissioner that the state will not implement the National Population Register (NPR) when census operations get rolling.

Speaking to the media here, State Local Administration Minister A.C. Moideen said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has already made this clear.


"This has been decided and it will inform to the Census Directorate that certain questions which will go for the preparations of the NPR will not be done here," said Moideen to the media, soon after the cabinet meeting.

After Punjab, Kerala became the second state in the country not to go forward with any action on the preparations for the NPR and with that, the National Register of Citizens (NRC), will also not happen.

The Vijayan cabinet decided to go with the decision of the Central Committee meeting of the CPI-M, which concluded on Sunday here. The meeting, while making it clear that the census operations can go ahead in the state, called upon people not to answer questions related to the NPR.

The state assembly last month passed a resolution against the CAA and on January 13, Kerala became the first state in the country to file a suit in the Supreme Court requesting it to declare the CAA as unconstitutional.


'Pariksha Pe Charcha 2020': PM Modi to interact with students, teachers and parents today

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Monday interact with students, teachers, and parents during his 'Pariksha Pe Charcha 2020' programme.

The third edition of Prime Minister's interaction programme with school students 'Pariksha Pe Charcha 2020' will be held at Talkatora Stadium in New Delhi at 11 am.

During the programme, Prime Minister Modi will answer the questions and interact with selected students about how they can beat examination stress.


Around 2,000 students are participating from all over India in the programme."The HRD Ministry in partnership with MyGov launched a 'short essay' competition on five different themes for students of classes 9 to 12 for the programme, a government press release said.

Among all the students attending the event, 1,050 students have been selected through an essay competition."To make this programme more student-centric, first-time students will moderate the one-hour long program of Prime Minister.

This year, four Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) schools students will conduct the programme," it read. (ANI) "A lot of excitement and enthusiasm is being seen among the students, teachers and parents to not only participate in the unique event but also to receive valuable tips from the Prime Minister who is keen to ensure that the students take exams in a relaxed atmosphere and do not come under stress, to ensure better results in the long run," it added.

The first edition of Prime Minister's Interaction Programme with school and college students 'Pariksha Pe Charcha 1.0' was held at Talkatora Stadium on February 16, 2018.


Rajasthan govt calls special Assembly session to oppose CAA

After Punjab and Kerala, Rajasthan is all set to be the third state to oppose the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). A special session of Rajasthan Assembly has been called on January 24 and it is believed that a resolution to oppose CAA would be brought in.

The move comes after senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel said that after Punjab the party is considering to bring a proposal to oppose CAA in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

Parliamentary affairs minister Shanti Dhariwal informed, “The session is beginning on 24 January because a resolution to extend reservation to SC/ST in Lok Sabha and assemblies has to be ratified before January 25.”

He, however, added, “The government is likely to bring a resolution against the CAA in the session, especially as the Congress is against it.”

This would be the first session of the Assembly in the year 2020 and is expected to extend into Budget session and thus it would begin with the Governor’s address. Notification for the said session has been issued.


A difference of opinion is visible within the Congress on the issue of CAA. While Ahmed Patel has said that the party is deliberating on bringing a proposal to oppose CAA in Congress-ruled states, senior Congress leaders Kapil Sibbal and Salman Khurshid have gone on to say that states cannot refuse to implement CAA.

The BJP is all set to oppose the move in the house. BJP state president Satish Poonia who is also an MLA from Amer seat in Jaipur said, “We will oppose the move in the house. ”

In the 200 member Rajasthan Assembly, Congress has 107 (after 6 BSP MLAs joining Congress) while BJP has 72. There are 13 independents and three from Rashtriya Loktantrik Party while two each from Bhartiya Tribal party and CPIM and one from Rashtriya Lok Dal (that has an alliance with Congress).


Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala's father Shamsher Singh Surjewala passes away at 87

New Delhi: Shamsher Singh Surjewala, the former Haryana Congress chief, passed away on Monday following a brief illness, party leaders said.

Surjewala had served as a Minister in the Haryana government for four times and was also elected to the Rajya Sabha once. He is the father of Congress national media in-charge and national spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.


Shamsher Singh won the from Narwana Assembly constituency in 1967, 1977, 1982 and 1991. He was also elected as an MLA from Kaithal assembly constituency in 2001.

He had also served as Opposition party leader in the Haryana Assembly. His funeral will take place on Monday afternoon in Narwana.