Indian police file case against 3 over coaching center fire, death toll rises to 20

At least 15 students died on May 24 in a fire in a building in India housing a college, officials said. (AFP)
Updated 25 May 2019
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Indian police file case against 3 over coaching center fire, death toll rises to 20

  • Commissioner of Police in the city of Surat said one of the three men named in the police report ran the classes and has been arrested
  • The Gujarat government has ordered an inquiry into the incident, as well as a fire safety audit of schools, colleges, coaching centers and commercial buildings in Surat

NEW DELHI: Indian police said on Saturday they had filed a culpable homicide case against three people as the death toll from a building fire in India’s Gujarat state rose to 20, with students attending coaching classes accounting for all those killed.
Satish Sharma, Commissioner of Police in the city of Surat, told reporters that one of the three men named in the police report ran the classes and has been arrested, though no charges have been brought yet.
The Gujarat government has ordered an inquiry into the incident, as well as a fire safety audit of schools, colleges, coaching centers and commercial buildings in Surat, where the fire occurred.
Some eyewitnesses and families of the victims have alleged fire officials were slow to arrive, according to Reuters partner ANI. Paresh Patel, whose daughter was inside the commercial complex when the fire broke out, said the fire brigade took 45 minutes to arrive. “Even though my daughter got saved, she is still in trauma,” he told ANI.
Initial investigations showed the fire, which broke out in the stairway of the multi-story Takshashila Arcade building, was caused by a short circuit, according to local media reports. Police were not immediately available to comment on Saturday.
A government official said at least 50 students were in the complex when the fire broke out. Injured victims were rushed to hospitals and the toll could rise further.
Television footage showed students desperately trying to escape by jumping off the building as smoke billowed from the top floor.
“To avoid such tragic incidents, I have asked officials to conduct fire safety audit of all buildings,” Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said on Friday.
There was no safety equipment installed in the building and no escape routes for the students, a fire official separately said.
Police said the building owner was among the three people named in the report but did not provide further details on their identities.


No quick breakthrough in Taliban talks, warns Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. (REUTERS)
Updated 50 min 2 sec ago
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No quick breakthrough in Taliban talks, warns Ghani

  • The Taliban do not trust Ghani ... and there is no possibility of any compromise between Ghani and the Taliban
  • Afghan president says deal not possible without a ‘regional consensus’

KABUL: President Ashraf Ghani said late on Friday that a breakthrough in Afghanistan’s peace process will require more time.
“We consider the US commitment to a political solution to be credible and are coordinating to build the necessary international consensus on peace. But without a regional consensus on peace and addressing Taliban’s interdependencies with their supporters, breakthroughs will take time,” Ghani said.
Ghani made the comments on Friday at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. His remarks are his first in public since a series of talks between US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Taliban emissaries held in recent months in Qatar.
Afghan government delegates were excluded from the discussions because the Taliban consider Ghani’s administration a puppet of the West.
Khalilzad is in Afghanistan hoping to revive talks between the Taliban and other Afghans, including government delegates, after Ghani called off such a gathering in April in Qatar. Ghani summoned a grand traditional assembly, or Loya Jirga, afterwards in Kabul to set a mechanism for talks with the Taliban.
In Bishkek, Ghani said his government’s mandate for seeking peace with the Taliban comes from the 23-point resolution of the Jirga.
He said that “although the Afghan war is multi-dimensional, reaching a peace agreement with the Taliban is a key component for the reduction of violence.”
Ghani put forward four proposals for an Afghan peace deal. It includes the formation of a regional and international coalition for peace and the creation of a regional task force to develop bankable programs and projects for regional connectivity and poverty reduction.
He said dealing with drugs as a driver of conflict and criminality should be comprehensively addressed within the peace-making and peace-building framework. Agreeing to a regional framework for fighting terrorism was also essential.
Ghani said his government will hold the presidential elections on Sept. 28, which have been delayed twice so far. Some of Ghani’s rivals accuse him of using government resources in his favor for the poll, while other politicians, including Khalilzad, favor postponing the poll until the talks with Taliban have finished so that the latter can also take part in the elections.
Jamaludin Badar, a former governor who is a member of the government-appointed High Peace Council, said that, given the regional and international involvement in Afghanistan’s long war and the complication of the conflict, headway cannot been expected soon in the talks.
“There are countries in the region and beyond who want their interest to be protected in Afghanistan post the peace deal,” he told Arab News. “So it is natural for the peace process to drag on and on. These countries have a consensus on ending the war, but not on their interests and future involvement here.”
Nazar Mohammad Mutmaeen, an analyst, said: “Ghani wants to remain in power for another five years and makes different comments at different juncture of time. The Taliban do not trust Ghani ... and there is no possibility of any compromise between Ghani and the Taliban.”