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Delhi elections 2020: Returning Officer issues notice to BJP’s Tajinder Bagga over his campaign song video

New Delhi: Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga, BJP's candidate from the Hari Nagar seat, has been issued a notice by the Returning Officer over his campaign song video.

He has been directed to state within 48 hours why the expenditure for the song shouldn't be computed and added to his election expenses. The notice also states that the decision of Media Certification and Monitoring Committee (MCMC) will be final on the subject if Bagga fails to reply within the prescribed time.

Bagga is in the fray against Aam Aadmi Party's Princess Dhillon and Congress' Surender Sethi. Voting for the 70-member Delhi Assembly will be held on February 8 and the counting of votes will take place on February 11. The BJP faces a tough battle in Delhi where it has been out of power for over two decades. The party could win only three seats in the last Assembly polls with the ruling AAP scoring a landslide victory with 67 seats.


Mumbai: Specially-abled boy sexually assaulted in civic school

Mumbai: In a shocking incident, an 11-year-old specially-abled boy studying at a civic-run school in Andheri (West) was sexually assaulted by four other students, all aged between 11-13 years, in the school’s bathroom on January 11.

A case has been registered against the four minors, of whom three were taken into custody by the DN Nagar Police, while one is believed to have gone to his native place to evade arrest.

All the juvenile accused have been booked under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.


The 11-year-old boy, a resident of Andheri, was a student of a municipal school in the neighbourhood.

“Other students would often pass jibes at the victim, denting his confidence and morale. On January 11, four of his schoolmates – one of whom studies in the same class, took him to the school’s bathroom at 10.30 am during the break and sexually assaulted him, taking turns at sodomising him,” said an officer with the DN Nagar police, on condition of anonymity.

The boy, who was mentally disturbed by the assault, shared his ordeal with his mother, complaining about discomfort in his rectum.

The mother then contacted an NGO, The Aarambh India Initiative, who guided the family through the process of ascertaining the child’s mental and physical condition after the incident, and in conducting the medical tests.

“When we met the boy, he said that this was not the first time such an incident had occurred. A few days before the Diwali vacation began, the same boys had sexually assaulted him.

However, this time, due to the severity of pain, he told his mother that a few boys were doing ‘ganda kaam’ with him, which the mother could not interpret correctly at the time,” said Arjun Malge and Shefali Shirsekar, social workers from the Aarambh Initiative.

“The boy’s mother told us that when she approached the school authorities to complain about the crime, her complaint was not heeded and she was turned away,” said Malge.

After preliminary medical tests, the victim’s family approached the DN Nagar police, who registered a First Information Report (FIR) against the four minors on January 14.

“The four boys have been booked under relevant sections of the IPC for unnatural sex (section 377), criminal intimidation (section 506) and common intention (section 34) along with sections of the POCSO Act,” said an officer from DN Nagar police.

Over the course of the next three days, the police took the three boys into custody and produced them before the Juvenile Justice Board, following which they were sent to the Dongri correctional home. The search for the fourth boy is on, the police said.


‘Will certainly help if we can’: Donald Trump again offers to mediate on Kashmir after meeting Imran Khan

New York: US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he is talking with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan about Kashmir and he would help if he could.

According to a transcript of the remarks made by him and Khan before their meeting in Davos, Trump said, "We're talking about Kashmir and the relation to what's going on with Pakistan and India. And if we can help, we certainly will be helping." He added, "And we've been watching that and following it very, very closely." Trump was careful in his wording about possible involvement in the Kashmir issue compared to the past when he had made claims like Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked for his help.

He qualified his statement by prefacing it with "if we can help". India is opposed to any third party involvement in the Kashmir or other disputes between the two countries because of the 1972 Simla Agreement in which the two countries agreed to deal with their disputes bilaterally. Trump said that relations between Pakistan and the US have been the closest they have ever been.


According to the transcript released by the White House, Khan suggested that Washington play a role in resolving the issues with India. He said, "For us, in Pakistan, it's a big issue. And, of course, we always hope that the US will play its part in resolving it because no other country can." Asked by a reporter if he would be visiting Pakistan during his forthcoming visit to India, Trump said he will not as he was meeting Khan in Davos.

"Well, we're visiting right now (with Khan), so we won't really have to. But we -- I wanted to say hello for both a relationship standpoint -- we've had a great relationship -- and from the standpoint of our two countries," Trump said. He added, "We're getting along very well. I would say we've never been closer with Pakistan than we are right now. And that's a big statement, although I wouldn't say at all times we were close, as a country. But we are very close right now because of the relationship that we have. So it's very important."

Trump said that "trade is going to be of very, very paramount importance" in their talks. He said, "And we're doing more trade as it turns." For both, the focus was on Afghanistan. While Trump referred to it obliquely as "we're working together on some borders," Khan was more specific. Khan said, "The main issue, of course, is Afghanistan because it concerns the US and Pakistan. And, fortunately, we are on the same page. Both of us are interested in peace there and an orderly transition in Afghanistan with talks with Taliban and the government."

Khan's leverage with Trump comes from his role in facilitating a possible peace agreement between the US and the Taliban. Trump would like to reach a deal with the Taliban, which is backed by Pakistan, before the November elections so he can pull back US troops from Afghanistan and claim he kept his 2016 poll promise.


Morphed ‘Tanhaji’ clip recoils on BJP

Mumbai: The BJP never seems to tire of its brazen attempts to appropriate the Shivaji icon. In a desperate gambit in poll-bound Delhi, the party is believed to have circulated a morphed video clip depicting PM Modi as Chhatrapati Shivaji and Union Home Minister Amit Shah as his trusted military commander Tanhaji Malusare, causing much commotion.

In its purportedly home-spun script, the party has predictably cast Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal as the villain, portrayed by Saif Ali in Ajay Devgn's film.


After eliciting much criticism, the Modi government was forced to direct You Tube to remove the video from its website. Notably, the video clip came into circulation days after a book likening PM Modi to Chhatrapati Shivaji caused a furore in Maharashtra.

The book was written by a Delhi BJP leader. The morphed video, first posted on Twitter handle 'Political Kida', depicts Kejriwal as the villainous Udaybhan

Singh Rathod -- a Mughal fort keeper in the film 'Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior'. It shows a sequence from the film with faces of PM Modi, Shah and Kejriwal superimposed on those of

Chhatrapati Shivaji, Tanhaji and Rathod, respectively. As the controversy raged, the BJP has distanced itself from the clip, saying it was not connected to the party and that it will never liken anyone with Shivaji -- the 17th century founder of the Maratha Empire.

Condemning the video, NCP leader and Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said the state government will raise the issue with YouTube, while Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut said such an "insult" will not be tolerated.

In the film, released on January 10, actors Sharad Kelkar, Ajay Devgn and Saif Ali Khan have essayed the roles of Chhatrapati Shivaji, Tanhaji Malusare (a lieutenant of the Maratha warrior king) and Rathod, respectively.

"I condemn the BJP for stooping so low to seek political mileage. It is wrong to use the venerable Shivaji Maharaj and Tanhaji (for political gains)," Deshmukh said.

Raut also questioned the "silence" of his detractors who had protested against his remarks asking BJP leader Udayanraje Bhosale to "prove" that he is a descendant of the warrior king.

Without naming Hindutva leader Sambhaji Bhide and former Satara MP Udayanraje Bhosale's supporters who called for Sangli and Satara shutdown over his remark last week, Raut said he has sent the clip to "all these people" and is awaiting their reaction.

Maharashtra BJP president Chandrakant Patil said his party was not related to the clip and is not using it in the Delhi poll campaign.

"It is wrong to question the BJP over the clip. It is the BJP's stand that nobody can be likened to Shivaji Maharaj," Patil said in a statement.

He also launched a veiled attack on Raut, saying those who seek proof from the descendants of Shivaji have no right to talk about the Maratha warrior king.

Congress leader Amit Deshmukh said the Election Commission should take cognisance of the video.


Marathi to be must in all schools in Maharashtra; says Subhash Desai

Mumbai: The state government has decided in principle to make teaching of Marathi language compulsory in schools of all boards and mediums – from Standard one till Class 10.

It will soon bring a legislation to give effect to its decision. The State Minister for Marathi language Subhash Desai announced the decision at an interface organised by the Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh.

"There are more than 25,000 English medium schools where either Marathi is not being taught or has been retained as an optional subject. The teaching of Marathi will be made compulsory in all these schools. The legislation for this is being drafted," Desai said.

Earlier, he had announced that government files not having noting in Marathi will be sent back.

"The use of Marathi in Mantralaya has already been made compulsory. But English is still being used in other government offices. We have decided to put a stop to this and sought a report on the matter," he added.

Speaking on the pending issue of granting classical status to Marathi language, for which action has to be initiated by the Centre, he said the state government will follow up the matter.


Delhi Elections 2020: Social media star and candidate Tajinder Bagga predicts 50-plus seats for BJP

The Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday released the second list of 10 candidates for the upcoming Delhi assembly elections in which the BJP has fielded Tajinder Pal Bagga to contest from Hari Nagar constituency. After the list was released, Bagga said that his party will win 50 seats in the upcoming Assembly elections.

"BJP will win more than 50 seats in the upcoming Assembly elections, Kejriwal Ji is afraid of this. That is why documents were burnt at Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) office, 15 days before the polls," Bagga told news agency ANI. BJP has fielded Bagga against Aam Aadmi Party's Princess Dhillon from Hari Nagar.


Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga, BJP candidate from Hari Nagar: BJP will win more than 50 seats in the upcoming Assembly elections, Kejriwal ji is afraid of this. That is why documents were burnt at Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) office, 15 days before the polls. #DelhiElections

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In its first list released on January 17, BJP gave the ticket to 20 new faces in Delhi assembly polls with the list of 57 candidates declared on Friday also having sitting and several former MLAs. Of the 57 candidates declared, four are women and 11 belong to the Dalit community.

The voting for the 70-member Delhi assembly will be held on February 8. The counting of votes will take place on February 11. The BJP faces a tough battle in Delhi where it has been out of power for over two decades. The party could win only three seats in the last assembly polls with the ruling AAP scoring a landslide victory with 67 seats.

(Inputs from Agencies)

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.