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PM Modi embraces Maldives as new leader Solih takes office, China out of favour

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Male/New Delhi: Maldives’ President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih takes office , seeking help from India and the United States to climb out from under a mountain of Chinese debt that his predecessor racked up in a breakneck development of the coral islands.

The surprise defeat of pro-China strongman Abdulla Yameen has opened a window for India, the strategic outpost’s traditional political partner, to regain ground lost to Beijing in their tussle for regional dominance.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the highest ranking visitor at the inauguration at the national soccer stadium in the capital Male. By contrast, China’s highest-ranking attendee will be Culture and Tourism Minister Luo Shugang.

 

“I will convey to the new Maldivian government … the desire of my government to work closely for realisation of their developmental priorities, especially in areas of infrastructure, health care, connectivity and human resource development,” the Prime Minister said in a post on Facebook.

PM Modi’s presence signals the end of years of frosty relations because of Yameen’s embrace of China, a relationship that had deepened India’s anxieties about being encircled by countries leaning towards Beijing.

In Sri Lanka, an island nation to the southeast of India, the rivalry between New Delhi and Beijing has been one of the triggers for a political crisis in recent weeks.

The low-key Solih, a veteran lawmaker, has promised an “India first” policy in the Maldives, saying the small nation of a little over 400,000 people needs solid ties with its immediate neighbour.

His team is also reviewing millions of dollars of investments from China, as well as the related debt that the country has run up from Chinese lenders and how to restructure it.

Solih has said investigations will be launched to find out what happened and fix accountability, Adam Azim, a member of his transition committee, told reporters.

“We were led to believe it’s about USD 1.5 billion, the Chinese debt, but it could be worse,” said another member of Solih’s top economic team, which has been holding discussions with finance ministry officials during the transition following the election in September.

He said the team had already reached out to India, the United States and Saudi Arabia for financial assistance so it could tackle the debt.

“We straightaway need 200-300 million dollars to kick start the budgetary support,” the adviser said.

Debt of USD 1.5 billion would be more than a quarter of the country’s annual gross domestic product. Another member of the incoming president’s economic team said firm proposals for assistance had been discussed with Indian and US officials.


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Assam hooch tragedy toll goes up to 68, investigation on

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Assam:The death toll in the Assam hooch tragedy has gone up to 68 with 34 deaths being reported from the Jorhat Medical College and an equal number of deaths being reported from the Golaghat Medical College.

The incident took place at the Halmira Tea Estate in Assam’s Golaghat district after the tea estate workers people consumed a locally brewed liquor called ‘sulai’, which is made of jaggery and ethyl alcohol. The Halmira Tea Estate is about 300 km from Guwahati.

The deaths come less than a fortnight after nearly 100 people died of alcohol poisoning from country-made liquor in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

 

A one-person inquiry commission has been set up by Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal to investigate the incident.

The first of the deaths took place around 7pm on Thursday evening, said Ratul Bordoloi, joint director (health) Golaghat. Bordoloi has been monitoring the situation and said that the preliminary cause of the deaths seems to have been alcohol poisoning.

Among the dead were 65-year-old Dhrupadi Oran from whose house the illicit alcohol was bought by the workers at the Halmira Tea Estate. Dhrupadi’s son Sanju Oran, 30, was also among the deceased.

Also among the dead were some people from the neighbouring Jorhat district. The police are trying to find out how and from where they had obtained the liquor.

Initial investigations indicate that Sanju had brought the liquor from outside the tea estate. Deputy superintendent of police, Partha Protim Saikia, said that the liquor seems to have been brewed outside the tea estate and was brought in by Sanju in a jerrycan.

It is suspected that instead of using ethyl alcohol, the brewers used methyl alcohol, which is poisonous to humans. Methyl alcohol is added to the brews to increase its potency, albeit in very small doses.

Sanju’s partner Pompi Oran said that he would often get liquor from the neighbouring village and would sell it. “Some days he would get 5 litres or 10 litres or 15 litres and would sell it,” she said.

Sanju was a temporary worker at the tea estate and was to marry Pompi Oran next month. Sanju and Pompi have two children. Saikia said that Sanju’s death has come as a setback in the investigation, but also said that the police has a lead as to where the alcohol came from and are looking into it.

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Over 100 vehicles gutted in fire during Aero India show

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BENGALURU: A massive fire broke out in the parking area of Yelahanka Air Base during the ongoing Aero India show in Bengaluru on Saturday. Over 100 vehicles were gutted in the blaze, said Air Force Police and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) present at the spot.

Six Air Force fire brigade rushed to the site to douse the blaze and aid rescue efforts. There were no casualties or injuries in the incident.

The fire has been brought under control now.

 

The blaze broke out at Gate 5 of Aero India at around 1 pm. It quickly spread due to dry grass on the ground and set parked vehicles in the adjoining parking lot ablaze. A fuel tank also exploded during the fire.

Immediately after the fire broke out, the ongoing air show was stopped. After some time, authorities asked the general public to move back towards the show area.
The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained.

Billows of thick black smoke were seen engulfing the parking lot during the incident.

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Mob descends on Karachi Bakery in Bengaluru, wants name changed

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Bengaluru: A group of unidentified people held a mob protest outside an outlet of the Hyderabad-based Karachi Bakery in Bengaluru where the staff was forced to cover half of its signboard and also demanded to change its name.

According to reports, this incident took place around 8-8.30 pm at Indiranagar. A group of 20 to 25 men gathered in front of the bakery and started chanting slogans and insisted its name be changed. They also forced the staff to cover the word ‘Karachi’ on the name board.

The staff covered the word ‘Karachi’ and displayed the Indian flag at the cafe. However, no violence was reported.

 

The manager of the Karachi Bakery told The News Minute, “The mob stayed for about half an hour. They demanded us to change the name. The men claimed to know people in the Army. They thought we were from Pakistan. But we have been using this name for the last 53 years. The owners are Hindus; only the name is Karachi Bakery. To satisfy them, we put up the Indian flag.”

This comes in the aftermath of the February 14 Pulwama terror attack, where over 40 CRPF soldiers were martyred in a suicide bomb blast in Jammu and Kashmir. Ever since then, India has worked diplomatic channels to isolate Pakistan. For the first time, the United Nations Security Council has termed a bomb blast in Jammu and Kashmir as an act of terror. China also came on board in the UNSC resolution condemning the attack. Under pressure, Pakistan mildly cracked down on the Jaish-e-Mohammed on Friday.

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