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Sensex crashes 530 points amid US-Iran tensions

Mumbai: Indian markets felt the jitters of the escalating tensions between the two biggest oil producing countries Iran and the US.

The benchmark Sensex fell over 530 points during the early trade on Monday as the Brent climbed over 2 per cent to $70 a barrel. Meanwhile, prices of safe haven assets also skyrocketed over fears of further military escalation.

Gold prices hit Rs 41,330 per 10 gram on Friday, hitting its highest level. Observers expressed concern over Iran's announcement that it will no longer abide by any of the limits imposed by 2015 nuclear deal.


Besides, Iraq's parliament urged its leaders to expel troops from the US-led coalition after the US killed the high profile Iranian general Qassem Suleimani.

At 10 a.m., the Sensex was trading at 41,022.30 lower by 442.31 points or 1.07 per cent. It opened lower at 41,378.34 from its previous close of 41,464.61.

The Nifty also fell over 1 per cent to trade at 12,082.95 lower by 143.70 points or 1.18 per cent.

In a series of aggressive tweets, US President Donald Trump said: "They (Iran) attacked us, & we hit back. If they attack again, which I would strongly advise them not to do, we will hit them harder than they have ever been hit before!

".. If Iran attacks an American Base, or any American, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way...and without hesitation," Trump said.


Sharad Pawar's name should be considered for President's post: Sanjay Raut

Mumbai: Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Monday said NCP chief Sharad Pawar's name should be considered by all political parties for the 2022 presidential election.

Raut also claimed that by 2022, there will be enough numbers "on our side" to decide the presidential candidate. Pawar recently played a key role in bringing together the Congress and the Shiv Sena to form government in alliance with his party in Maharashtra.


Talking to PTI, Raut said, "Sharad Pawar is a senior leader of the country. I think his name should be considered by all political parties for the post of President, the election for which will be held in 2022."

Asked about the opinion of other political parties on fielding the former Union minister and four-time state chief minister, Raut said he has "merely proposed" Pawar's name.

"I think other political parties can also propose other senior candidates for the post of President. By 2022, there will be enough numbers on our side to decide the presidential candidate," said the Rajya Sabha member.

Pawar's party has got most of the 'plum' ministries, including Home and Finance, in the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government.


Donald Trump threatens 'major retaliation' if Iran launches attacks

Washington: US President Donald Trump on Sunday vowed "major retaliation" if Iran tries to avenge the killing of its key military commander Qasem Soleimani and doubled down on a threat to bomb Iranian cultural sites.

"If they do anything there will be major retaliation," Trump told reporters. Trump, speaking on Air Force One on his way back to Washington from a vacation in Florida, also said he would impose "very big sanctions" on Iraq if it follows through on a parliament vote calling for the expulsion of US troops based in the country. The president's rhetoric added to already spiraling tensions in the Middle East following the killing by the United States of Soleimani -- one of the most important figures in the Iranian government -- in a drone strike near Baghdad's international airport.


Trump had already threatened widespread bombing of Iran if Tehran carries out its own threats to attack US troops and interests in the region. In his latest comments, he dismissed strong criticism of his earlier warnings that targets could include unspecified cultural sites in Iran -- a country with an ancient heritage. "They're allowed to kill our people. They're allowed to torture and maim our people. They're allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we're not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn't work that way," he said.

Trump's reaction to the Iraqi parliament vote urging the departure of US troops also illustrated the widening fallout from the decision to kill Soleimani last week. He said that Iraq, a US ally, would be treated like foe Iran, whose economy has been devastated by US-led sanctions, if the troops were made to exit on unfavorable terms.

"If they do ask us to leave -- if we don't do it in a very friendly basis -- we will charge them sanctions like they've never seen before," Trump said. "It'll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame." Trump said the US base in Iraq was "very extraordinarily expensive." "We're not leaving unless they pay us back for it," he said.


Soleimani Killing: Trump remembers when Iran carried out a 2012 attack on Israeli diplomat in Delhi


'Govt's will deport Rohingyas from the country next, CAA doesn't include them', says MoS Jitendra Singh

Jammu: Amid ongoing nationwide protests over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), Union Minister of State (MoS) Jitendra Singh said that the Central government's next step would be the deportation of Rohingyas from the country.

"The Citizenship (Amendment) Act is applicable across the country including in Jammu and Kashmir. By implication, what will happen here is that the next move will be in relation to the Rohingyas," Singh said while speaking at a function here on Friday.

"Jammu had a sizeable population of Rohingyas and a list would be prepared and their biometrics would also be collected. They'll have to leave India and details being worked out. CAA doesn't give them leverage. The government is considering ways to deport them," he added.

The Union Minister further said that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 had become applicable in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir the day it was passed by the Parliament.

"They (Rohingyas) are not part of the six religious minorities in three neighbouring states. They are from Myanmar. So, they have to go back as they are not eligible for Indian citizenship under this act," Singh said.

The law grants citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Parsi, Buddhist, and Christian refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh who came to India on or before December 31, 2014.


Indian Sikhs protest in front of Pak High Commissioner in Delhi against attack on Nankana Sahib

New Delhi: The attack on the Nankana Sahib Gurdwara, the birthplace of Guru Nanak, in Pakistan has triggered protests among Sikhs in India.

While several Sikh groups were to protest outside Pakistan High Commissioner in New Delhi on Saturday to condemn the attack, Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Singh Badal has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to raise the issue with his counterpart in Islamabad Imran Khan since Sikh minorities in the country were feeling extremely unsafe and insecure.

On Friday, the Gurdwara was attacked by a huge Muslim mob while Sikh devotees were stuck inside the shrine.

The mob that had gathered outside raised communal and hateful slogans against the minority community and pelted stones on the shrine, videos circulated on social media showed.

Pakistani sources said the mob was led by the family of Mohammed Hassan, the man who had abducted and converted a sick girl Jagjit Kaur, to protest police action against him.

The Nankana Saheb attack is violative of the 1955 Pant-Mirza Agreement under which India and Pakistan are obliged "to make every effort to ensure that the places of worship" visited by members of their countries "are properly maintained and their sanctity preserved."

In a late night media briefing, Pakistan's Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee President Satpal Singh on behalf of the Sikh community asked the government to act against the hooligans to restore peace.

In an official statement, India strongly condemned the destruction and desecration of the holy shrine.

India has called upon Pakistan to take immediate steps to ensure safety security and welfare of the Sikh community.


‘Old habits die hard’: Imran Khan with egg on face as Indian diplomats troll him for sharing fake news

On Friday, Imran Khan was caught red-handed on Twitter after sharing fake news. It was perhaps the first time the head of a state was caught behaving like a rabid trolls as he shared a fake news of an attack in UP. Ironically, the video was from Bangladesh in 2013 and Imran Khan – who’s bestowed the moniker Im the Dim by his critics – was roundly castigated on Twitter.

The Ministry of External Affairs tweeted: “Tweet Fake News. Get Caught. Delete Tweet. Repeat #Oldhabitsdiehard.”

Raveesh Kumar

Tweet Fake News.Get Caught. 
Delete Tweet. Repeat#Oldhabitsdiehard

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8:26 AM - Jan 3, 2020
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India's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Syed Akbaruddin on Friday slammed Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan for peddling a seven-year-old violence video from Bangladesh as a case of what he claimed to be "Indian police's pogrom against Muslims in UP".

"Repeat offenders. Old habits die hard," wrote Syed on Twitter while taking a jibe at the Pakistan PM who was on the earlier occasion was seen spreading disinformation maligning India.

Syed Akbaruddin

Repeat Offenders...#Oldhabitsdiehard

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9:06 AM - Jan 3, 2020
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A now-deleted video shared by Khan was soon fact-checked and found to be of 2013 and showed police action against a group of people in Bangladesh. The Pakistan Prime Minister had tried to pass off the clip as a case of police brutality "against Muslims" in Uttar Pradesh.


At one point in the now-deleted video, a policeman is seen holding a shield of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), proving that it was an incident in Bangladesh. The RAB is an elite anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police.

Khan faced a strong backlash on social media for tweeting the face video with users saying that he does not even do basic fact-checking.


Take a haircut on farm loans, CM Uddhav Thackeray tells banks

Mumbai: Amidst criticism by BJP and farmers' organisations on the crop loan waiver up to Rs 2 lakh, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Friday asked the district central cooperative banks and commercial banks to prepare a time-bound plan for its effective implementation and maintain proper cooperation with the departments of Revenue and Cooperation.

Thackeray, who was accompanied by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Finance Minister Jayant Patil, asked the commercial banks to take a haircut in the principal amount and waive the interest to provide further relief to the farmers who are in financial distress.

Thackeray asked banks to complete the process with regard to loan waiver up to Rs 2 lakh so that the farmers will be entitled to a fresh loan for the Kharif season beginning June 2020.

The loan waiver scheme named after a social reformer Mahatma Jyotirao Phule will cover 30.57 lakh farmers with an outgo of Rs 21, 216 crore.

Thackeray on Friday held marathon meetings with the representatives of the district central cooperative banks and the members of the state-level bankers committee to streamline the implementation.

Thackeray has asked banks to appoint district-wise nodal officers and send mobile or telephonic messages to farmers whose accounts are not yet linked to Aadhar card.

The government has clarified that farmers who have taken up to Rs 2 lakh crop loan up till September 30, 2019 will be covered but their accounts should be linked to Aadhar.

The government has extended up to January 7 the date for farmers to get their accounts linked to Aadhar card to avail the waiver.

The CM further asked banks not to charge interest on short-term loan of Rs 2 lakh after September 30, 2019 till the farmers benefit from the crop loan waiver.

Mumbai: Platform screen doors for Metro III

Mumbai: On the lines of Chennai and Delhi metros, Mumbai's only underground Metro-III corridor (Colaba--Bandra--SEEPZ) will have platform screen doors at all its 26 metro stations, while there will be a half-screen door at its one grade station.

These doors will function as safety nets to thwart suicide attempts and also help avert mishaps like fall-offs from the platform onto the tracks. Metro-III will be the only metro corridor in the city to have such a feature.

Besides acting as a barrier, the platform screen doors will also help in improving ventilation in the station, especially when it is located at a distance from the tunnel, according to the Metro-III authority.

As the Metro Line-III will have eight-coach rakes, for every coach, four platform screen doors will be installed.

These doors will also improve the sound quality of platform announcements as the background noise from the tunnels and trains that are entering or exiting will be reduced. The doors will also prevent littering on the tracks. Litter can prove a fire hazard in some cases.

The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL), which is the nodal agency for the Metro-III project, said these doors align with the train doors and open when the train is fully stopped at the station.

Interestingly, platform screen doors are one of the most advanced technologies currently being used in metro systems worldwide.


Iran's top Army official Gen Soleimani killed in Baghdad's airport strike

Baghdad: Gen Qassim Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds Force, was killed in an air strike at Baghdad's international airport Friday, Iraqi television and three Iraqi officials said.

The strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF, the officials said.

Their deaths are a potential turning point in the Middle East and are expected to draw severe retaliation from Iran and the forces it backs in the Middle East against Israel and American interests.

The PMF blamed the United States for an attack at Baghdad International Airport Friday. There was no immediate comment from the US or Iran.

A senior Iraqi politician and a high-level security official confirmed to the Associated Press that Soleimani and al-Muhandis were among those killed in the attack.

Two militia leaders loyal to Iran also confirmed the deaths, including an official with the Kataeb Hezbollah, which was involved in the attack on the US Embassy this week.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said al-Muhandis had arrived to the airport in a convoy to receive Soleimani whose plane had arrived from either Lebanon or Syria. The airstrike occurred as soon as he descended from the plane to be greeted by al-Muhandis and his companions, killing them all.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject and because they were not authorized to give official statements.

The senior politician said Soleimani's body was identified by the ring he wore.

Soleimani had been rumoured dead several times, including in a 2006 airplane crash that killed other military officials in northwestern Iran and following a 2012 bombing in Damascus that killed top aides of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad.

More recently, rumours circulated in November 2015 that Soleimani was killed or seriously wounded leading forces loyal to Assad as they fought around Syria's Aleppo.

Earlier, Iraq's Security Media Cell, which releases information regarding Iraqi security, said Katyusha rockets landed near the airport's cargo hall, killing several people and setting two cars on fire.