Bawana fire: Man running firecracker plant arrested


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The Delhi Police has arrested a 49-year-old man who was running the firecracker plant in Bawana, where 17 people died in a massive blaze yesterday.

Manoj Jain, who ran the factory, was arrested. A probe revealed it was a factory of “cold firecrackers” used in stage shows and Holi celebrations, said Rajneesh Gupta, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Rohini).

Firecracker packages found at the site suggest the same, he said.

Jain had rented the factory from January 1, the DCP said.

Police said Jain was out of Delhi and was apprehended yesterday while returning from the airport.

During interrogation, he revealed that he was paying Rs 25,000 as rent for the premises.

Even though police suspect that Jain was running the factory in partnership with his friend Lalit Goel, he claimed that he was running it alone.

The case was today transferred to the Crime Branch that will look into the rent agreement.

Locals in Bawana alleged that the facility was flouting norms and crackers were being manufactured illegally. They claimed that workers came in two shifts and were made to work with the doors locked.

However, the claim was dismissed by Delhi Fire Services.

One of the injured labourers told police that the firecrackers used to be brought from outside and were only packed at the unit.

Of the 17 killed, 10 were women. Fourteen bodies have been identified so far.

Police said an FIR had been under IPC sections relating to culpable homicide not amounting to murder, and negligent conduct with respect to fire or combustible material. The maximum punishment under the sections is 10 years.

Trying to bring petrol, diesel under GST: Pradhan


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Ujjain/ Indore, Jan 21 (PTI) Union Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan today said his Ministry is trying to bring petrol and diesel under the purview of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

“We are trying that petrol, diesel and kerosene should also come under the ambit of GST. We are hopeful that the GST Council will agree to it shortly,” the Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister told reporters in Ujjain.

Responding to a query, the minister said the spike in petrol rates in the international market has impacted the cost of the fuel in India.

“Besides, the state governments too levy cess on petrol,” he said.

The Congress had demanded that petroleum projects be brought under the GST ambit.

In Indore, Pradhan rode a bicycle at “Saksham Cyclothon” to send the message of save fuel and environment.

The Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA) and the Indore Cycling Association (ICA) claimed that nearly 30,000 cyclists participated in the event.

On the occasion, Pradhan said cycling promotes healthy life and helps in conservation of energy.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appealed to the countrymen to save energy,” he said.

Pradhan said PCRA and ICA would shortly sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the promotion of cycling throughout the year in the city.

BJP general secretary and Cycling Federation of India (CFI) chairman Kailash Vijaywargiya and others also rode bicycles at the event.

Under the aegis of the Cyclothon, people from various walks of life took part in different distant categories–ranging from 13 kms to 94 kms.

Rahul Gandhi to lead from front in Karnataka polls: Rao


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Hyderabad, Jan 19 (PTI) Rahul Gandhi would lead from the front for the Congress in poll-bound Karnataka, launching the campaign with a three-day tour from February 10, a key state party leader said today.

Working President of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee, Dinesh Gundu Rao, also indicated that party MLAs facing anti-incumbency in their constituencies, may not get tickets in polls, due in May.

He added that joining hands with the JD(S) in case Congress fails to get majority is not being looked at as an option as his party is confident of coming to power on its own, and also that the H D Deve Gowda-led outfit is “not dependable”.

Speaking to PTI here, Gundu Rao said Gandhi is going to be a “very key” campaigner for the Congress in the state where, he noted, it also has “very powerful” state leaders like Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, M Mallikarjuna Kharge, G Parameshwara and D K Shivakumar.

“At the same time, I think Rahulji is getting resonance amongst people, and he is leading the campaign for us,” Gundu Rao, who was here to attend an event, said.

The Congress president is starting his campaign with a three-day tour of the state from February 10. He might visit again later next month and also in March.

“In the run-up to the elections, he will be spending lot more time, and he is definitely going to lead from the front for us”, he said.

“We have started our campaign from KPCC and the chief minister has also toured the state”, he said.

“Gandhi would be intensively campaigning and you can say more or less launch of the campaign for the Congress (with his February tour),” the Congress leader added.

He claimed there is no anti-incumbency on the government because out of 165 promises made in the election manifesto, it has implemented 155-156. In fact, Gundu Rao said the Congress is seeing pro-incumbency wave creeping in, adding, it would win more number of seats than the last time.

Gundu Rao, however, said that some Congress MLAs might have “built-up” anti-incumbency in their constituencies.

“That’s what we need to look out for. If they have not done well, we have to change then, that’s going to be the key thing,” he said.

Congress MLAs facing anti-incumbency will be “definitely changed”, as the party’s aim is to field “best available candidates”, he said.

Nifty ends above 10,800 for the first time; up 28 pts


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Mumbai, Jan 18 (PTI) NSE benchmark Nifty registered modest gains despite late volatility and advanced by 28.45 points to 10,817 — a fresh record closing high on sustained buying mainly in FMCG, bank Nifty and finance service sectors.

Gains were triggered by reports indicating that the government is mulling a proposal to hike foreign direct investment (FDI) limit in the banking sector on the back of positive global cues amid sustained FII inflows, taking the key indices intra-day record highs, underpinned sentiment.

However, heavy selling pressure during fag-end trade mainly in metal, realty, PSU bank, infra, pharma and energy stocks capped the gains.

Overseas, Asian and European stocks nudged higher amid optimism over global growth prospects. US stocks rose to fresh highs yesterday, as companies continued to indicate the tax overhaul will boost earnings this year.

The Nifty advanced 28.45 points, or 0.26 per cent, to end at 10,817, a new fresh record closing high. The index gained 98.95 points or 0.92 per cent at the day’s new high 10,887.50.

The index fell 6.15 points, or 0.06 per cent at the day’s low of 10,782.40. It saw an intra-day movement of about 105.10 points.

On the sectoral front, realty dropped by 3.92 per cent, metal 2.89 per cent, PSU bank 1.61 per cent, media 1.34 per cent, infra 1.52 per cent, pharma 1.21 per cent, energy 1.04 per cent, and auto 0.26 per cent.

On the other hand, FMCG climbed 1.12 per cent, finance service 1.05 per cent, private bank 1.08 per cent, bank 0.94 per cent and IT 0.31 per cent.

Major Index gainers were ITC, Indiabulls Housing Finance, HDFC Bank, UPL, HDFC, Kotak Bank, M&M, IndusIndBank and TCS.

Losers included InfraTel, Hindalco, Adaniports, Tata Steel, Ultratech Cement, Bajaj Finance and Hindustan Petroleum.

Kamal Haasan to announce political party’s name on February 21


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Chennai, Jan 17 (PTI) Kamal Haasan will announce his political party’s name on February 21 at Tamil Nadu’s Ramanathapuram and begin a state-wide tour the same day.

The tour will be held in phases. He will begin the journey from Ramanathapuram — his hometown — and later visit people from the districts of Madurai, Dindigul and Sivagangai.

It will mark Haasan’s official entry into politics about which he has been making overtures since last year.

“At the commencement of the journey, I intend to announce the name of my political party along with the guiding principles we intend to live by,” Haasan said in a statement on Tuesday.

The veteran actor said he intends to challenge the status quo “that has been plaguing the politics of Tamil Nadu for some time now”.

“However, for this to happen, my thoughts and actions need to collectively resonate with the people,” he said, adding that through the state-wide tour he wants to familiarise himself with the people’s concerns.

“…to truly understand as to what the needs of my people are?, what is afflicting them?, what their aspirations are?,” he said.

Haasan said the tour was “neither an act of rebellion nor a gathering for glamour”.

“This is a journey of discovery and learning and an opportunity for me to truly understand my people,” said Haasan.

He exhorted the people of Tamil Nadu to “question mediocrity” and “raise the bar” of governance and welfare in the state.

“This journey is intended towards that goal. I begin this journey with your support. Join hands with me to empower our country and state,” said Haasan.

“I will see you soon,” he said.

Benchmark Sensex up 126 points in late morning deals


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Mumbai, Jan 17 (PTI) The benchmark Sensex recovered from its early volatility to trade 126.76 points higher in late morning deals on easing fiscal deficit concerns despite lower Asian cues.

Frontline stocks of IT, Teck, bank, healthcare, financials and capital goods advanced while selling was seen in realty, telecom, auto and consumer durables segments.

Selective buying lifted the key indices supported by sharp recovery in rupee late morning, along with sustained FII buying lifted the investors sentiment.

The finance ministry lowering the additional borrowings to Rs 20,000 crore from Rs 50,000 crore earlier this fiscal eased concerns over fiscal deficit amid a ballooning trade deficit.

The benchmark BSE Sensex gained 126.76 points or 0.36 per cent to trade at 34,897.81 at 1100 hrs. The broader Nifty was also trading up by 28.95 points or 0.27 per cent at 10,729.40.

Major gainers were Infy 2.66 per cent, Axis Bank 2.06 per cent, AdaniPorts 1.94 per cent, TCS 1.86 per cent and ICICI Bank 1.62 per cent.

Losers include Heromotoco 1.78 per cent, Tata Motors 1.59 per cent, Wipro 1.49 per cent, Tatamtrdvr 0.94 per cent and HUL 0.89 per cent.

Foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) bought shares worth Rs 693.17 crore on net basis while domestic institutional investors (DIIs) sold equities to the tune of Rs 246.38 crore yesterday, provisional data showed.

Asian markets were trading weak as traders took a breather after a record rally in new year.

Mamata remembers former CM Jyoti Basu on his death anniversary


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Kolkata, Jan 17 (PTI) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today remembered former Chief Minister Jyoti Basu on his seventh death anniversary.

Basu, the longest serving chief minister of West Bengal, had passed away on January 17, 2010. The communist leader had served as the chief minister from 1997 to 2000.

“Solemnly remembering former Chief Minister Jyoti Basu on his death anniversary,” Banerjee wrote on her Twitter handle this morning.

Basu, who was born on July 8, 1914, had led the Marxists to power for five consecutive times in West Bengal.

North India reels under intense cold, Kargil records -20 deg C


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20:6 HRS IST
New Delhi, Jan 15 (PTI) Intense cold conditions prevailed in northern parts of the country with Jammu and Kashmir’s Kargil recording minus 20 degrees Celsius and temperatures remaining below the freezing point in high-altitude areas of Himachal Pradesh.

The mercury dipped across the Kashmir and Ladakh divisions due to dry weather and is likely to remain so till Saturday.

Last night, Kargil recorded minus 20 degrees Celsius and neighbouring Leh a low of minus 10.9 degrees Celsius, the Meteorological (MeT) office in Srinagar said.

Jammu and Kashmir capital Srinagar recorded a low of minus 3.3 degrees Celsius while it was minus 4.2 degrees Celsius at Qazigund in south Kashmir and minus 4.8 degrees Celsius in Kupwara in the north.

Gulmarg – the famous ski-resort- recorded a minimum of minus 6.4 degrees Celsius.

Kashmir is under the grip of ‘Chillai-Kalan’, the 40-day period of harshest winter when the chances of snowfall are maximum. It ends on January 31, the MeT said..

Cold wave continued unabated in Himachal Pradesh and Keylong in tribal Lahaul and Spiti district recorded a low of minus 7 degrees Celsius.

Minimum temperatures stayed below the normal at most places and hovered around the freezing point with Kalpa, Manali, Bhuntar and Sundernagar recording minus 1.2 degrees Celsius, minus 0.4 degrees Celsius, 0.2 degrees Celsius and 0.7 degrees Celsius, respectively, the MeT office in Shimla said.

There was no respite from cold wave in Punjab and Haryana as minimum temperatures hovered between 1 to 5 degrees Celsius at most places in the states

The holy city of Amritsar was the coldest place in the two states at 1.2 degrees Celsius. Chandigarh experienced a cold night at 5.1 degrees Celsius, the MeT said.

There was no let up in chilly conditions in Adampur, Halwara, Bathinda, Pathankot in Punjab and Narnaul, Hisar and Karnal in Haryana.

The national capital recorded a high of 23.6 degrees Celsius owing to a sun-washed afternoon while the minimum in the city was 6.4 degrees Celsius, a notch below the season’s average.

The Northern Railway here said that as many as 13 north- bound trains were cancelled, 5 rescheduled and 39 delayed as of 5 pm due to fog and other reasons.

The weather in Uttar Pradesh remained dry with dense fog occurring at a few places in the eastern parts of the state.

Muzaffarnagar was the coldest place at 2.9 degrees Celsius.

Modi-Netanyahu bonhomie: Israeli PM ready to do yoga with ‘friend Narendra’


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New Delhi, Jan 15 (PTI) The bonhomie between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his “good friend” Benjamin Netanyahu was on full display today when the leaders hugged and shook hands a number of times during their joint press event.

While the visiting Israeli prime minister called Modi a “revolutionary leader” and used an endearment like “my friend Narendra”, Modi responded with great warmth, welcoming the guest in Hebrew.

Netanyahu said he was willing to participate in a “yoga class” with his “friend Narendra”.

“My friend Narendra…any time you want to do yoga a class with me…it is a big stretch but I will be there. Trust me,” Netanyahu remarked, reflecting the deep camaraderie the two leaders share.

The chemistry between the two leaders is well known.

Last year when Modi visited Israel, the first Indian prime minister to do so, he was received by Netanyahu at the airport, a gesture normally reserved for guests such as US presidents.

The overwhelming warmth was also seen when the two leaders took a walk along the Mediterranean Sea during Modi’s visit.

The warmth has continued with Modi setting aside protocol to receive Netanyahu at the airport yesterday.

At the joint press statement, Netanyahu showered praise on Modi.

“You are a revolutionary leader and you are revolutionising India. You are catapulting this magnificent state into to the future. And you have revolutionised the relations between Israel and India,” Netanyahu, popularly known as ‘Bibi’, said.

Modi also responded warmly dubbing Netanyahu’s visit as a “long-anticipated moment in the journey of friendship” between India and Israel.

He further said that the visit was also a fitting climax to the commemoration of 25 years of bilateral diplomatic relations and marked a “special beginning” to the new year calendar, with Indians rejoicing the arrival of spring, hope and harvest.

Modi will also accompany Netanyahu to his home state, Gujarat, on January 17.

UIDAI permits face recognition for Aadhaar authentication


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New Delhi, Jan 15 (PTI) Aadhaar will include face recognition alongside iris or fingerprint scan as a means of verifying users, helping those who face issues in biometric authentication or have worn-out fingerprints, the authority in charge of the national identity card system said today.

The face authentication will be enabled by July to help people facing difficulty in biometric authentication due to old age, hardwork or worn-out fingerprints, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) said in a statement.

The UIDAI said that face authentication would be allowed “only in fusion mode” meaning along with either fingerprint or iris or OTP to verify the details of Aadhaar holder.

Aadhaar, the 12 digit identifier, is being used for identity authentication across banks, telecom companies, public distribution system, income tax amongst others.

The extent of Aadhaar usage can well be gauged from the fact that an average of 4 crore authentications are being done on a daily basis.

Today’s move to allow face authentication came within a week of UIDAI allowing residents to use a virtual ID to avoid sharing their unique identity numbers when accessing government and other services in a bid to protect privacy.

Face authentication would not require any new reference data as photos of citizens are already on the Aadhaar database.

“This facility is going to help in inclusive authentication of those who are not able to biometrically authenticate due to their worn out fingerprints, old age or hard work conditions,” a UIDAI statement said.

Citing the difficulties faced by some residents in using the existing biometric verification mode, UIDAI said that face authentication offers an additional option for all residents to have “inclusive authentication”.

But it emphasised that the same will be allowed “only in fusion mode” along with one more authentication factor either fingerprint, iris or OTP for successful authentication of an Aadhaar holder.

The new method will also be allowed “on need basis”.

To facilitate the new authentication service, the Aadhaar issuing body will work with biometric device providers to integrate face modality into the registered devices.