14 Dead As Cyclone Bulbul Smashes Into India, Bangladesh Coasts

 

Fourteen people died and more than two million others spent a night huddled in storm shelters as Cyclone Bulbul smashed into the coasts of India and Bangladesh with fierce gales and torrential rains, officials said Sunday.

The cyclone packed winds of up to 120 kilometres (75 miles) per hour when it hit late Saturday, closing ports and airports in both countries.

Seven people were killed in India’s West Bengal state, the Press Trust of India reported, including two after uprooted trees fell on their homes and another after being struck by falling branches in Kolkata.

An eighth person died under a collapsed wall in nearby Odisha state.

In Bangladesh, six people were killed — five by falling trees — and at least 20 people were injured.

Five others are missing after a fishing trawler sank in squally weather on Meghna river near the southern island of Bhola, district administrator Masud Alam Siddiqui told AFP.

The cyclone also damaged some 4,000 mostly mud and tin-built houses, disaster management secretary Shah Kamal told AFP.

In coastal Khulna, the worst-hit district in Bangladesh, trees swayed violently and were ripped from the ground in the fierce storm, blocking roads and hampering access to the area.

Some low-lying parts of the district were flooded, disaster management minister Enamur Rahman told AFP.

Authorities said the cyclone was weakening as it moved inland.

“It has turned into a deep depression, causing heavy rainfall,” Bangladesh weather bureau deputy chief Ayesha Khatun told AFP.

Bulbul hit the coast at the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest which straddles Bangladesh and India, and is home to endangered species including Bengal tigers and Irrawaddy dolphins.

The mangroves shielded the coast from the storm’s full impact, Khatun said.

‘Trail of destruction’

Some 2.1 million people across Bangladesh were relocated to cyclone shelters.

Troops were sent to coastal districts while tens of thousands of volunteers went door-to-door and used loudspeakers to urge people to evacuate their villages.

“We spent the night with another 400 people,” said Ambia Begum, who arrived at a shelter in the port town of Mongla late Saturday along with her family.

“I am worried about my cattle and the straw roof of my house. I could not bring them here. Allah knows what is happening there,” the 30-year-old mother of three told AFP.

Around 1,500 tourists were stranded on St. Martin’s island off southeastern Bangladesh after boat services were cancelled.

In India, nearly 120,000 people who were evacuated started to return home as the cyclone weakened, authorities said.

“The storm has left a trail of destruction as it’s crossed the coastline of West Bengal,” the state’s Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim said.

Bangladesh’s low-lying coast, home to 30 million people, and India’s east are regularly battered by cyclones.

Hundreds of thousands of people living around the Bay of Bengal have been killed in cyclones in recent decades.

While the frequency and intensity of the storms have increased, partly due to climate change, the death tolls have come down because of faster evacuations and the building of thousands of coastal shelters.

Cyclone Fani was the most powerful storm to hit the area in years when it struck in May, killing 12 people.

Eight Killed As Cyclone Bulbul Smashes Into India, Bangladesh Coasts

 

Eight people died and more than two million others spent a night huddled in storm shelters as Cyclone Bulbul smashed into the coasts of India and Bangladesh with fierce gales and torrential rains, officials said Sunday.

The cyclone packed winds of up to 120 kilometres (75 miles) per hour when it hit late Saturday, closing ports and airports in both countries.

Three people were killed in India’s West Bengal state, two after uprooted trees fell on their homes and another after being struck by the falling branches of a tree in Kolkata. A fourth person died in a wall collapse in nearby Odisha state.

In Bangladesh, four more were killed by falling trees and at least 20 people were injured. The cyclone also damaged some 4,000 mostly mud and tin-built houses, Bangladesh’s disaster management secretary Shah Kamal told AFP.

In coastal Khulna, the worst-hit district in Bangladesh, trees swayed violently and were ripped from the ground in the fierce storm, blocking roads and hampering access to the area.

Some low-lying parts of the district were flooded, disaster management minister Enamur Rahman told AFP.

Authorities said the cyclone was weakening as it moved inland.

“It has turned into a deep depression, causing heavy rainfall,” Bangladesh weather bureau deputy chief Ayesha Khatun told AFP.

Bulbul hit the coast at the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest which straddles Bangladesh and India, and is home to endangered species including the Bengal tigers and the Irrawaddy dolphins.

The mangroves shielded the coast from the storm’s full impact, Khatun said.

‘Trail of destruction’

Some 2.1 million people across Bangladesh were relocated to cyclone shelters.

Troops were sent to coastal districts while tens of thousands of volunteers went door-to-door and used loudspeakers to urge people to evacuate their villages.

“We spent the night with another 400 people,” said Ambia Begum, who arrived at a shelter in the port town of Mongla late Saturday along with her family.

“I am worried about my cattle and the straw roof of my house. I could not bring them here. Allah knows what is happening there,” the 30-year-old mother of three told AFP.

Around 1,500 tourists were stranded on St. Martin’s island off southeastern Bangladesh after boat services were cancelled.

In India, nearly 120,000 people who were evacuated started to return home as the cyclone weakened, authorities said.

“The storm has left a trail of destruction as it’s crossed the coastline of West Bengal,” the state’s Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim said.

“Trees were uprooted, thatched and corrugated roofs of many houses were blown away.”

Bangladesh’s low-lying coast, home to 30 million people, and India’s east are regularly battered by cyclones.

Hundreds of thousands of people living around the Bay of Bengal have been killed in cyclones in recent decades.

While the frequency and intensity of the storms have increased, partly due to climate change, the death tolls have come down because of faster evacuations and the building of thousands of coastal shelters.

Cyclone Fani was the most powerful storm to hit the area in years when it struck in May, killing 12 people.

Indian Supreme Court Clears Way For Hindu Temple At Disputed Site

Supporters of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) organisation celebrate the Indian Supreme Court’s verdict on disputed religious site in Ayodhya awarded to Hindus, in Ahmedabad on November 9, 2019. India’s top court handed a huge victory to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party on November 9 by awarding Hindus control of a bitterly disputed holy site that has sparked deadly sectarian violence in the past.
SAM PANTHAKY / AFP

 

India’s top court cleared the way on Saturday for a Hindu temple to be constructed at a hotly disputed holy site, in a huge victory for Hindu nationalists under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Supreme Court ruled that the site in Ayodhya in northern India, where Hindu mobs destroyed a 460-year-old mosque in 1992, must be handed over to a trust to oversee the construction of a Hindu temple, subject to conditions.

A separate piece of land in Ayodhya would be given over to Muslim groups to build a new mosque, the court ruled in a historic judgement aimed at ending a bitter and decades-old legal and sectarian battle.

Hundreds Arrested Ahead Of Verdict On Indian Holy Site

Indian flag

 

Indian police have arrested more than 500 people ahead of a Supreme Court ruling on a hotly disputed religious site in the holy city of Ayodhya, media reports said, with authorities fearing the verdict could trigger unrest.

The decision on the future of the site claimed by both Hindus and Muslims is due by November 17 and thousands of paramilitaries have already been sent to the northern city.

Hindu hardliners want a temple built on the site, currently barricaded off decades after a 16th-century mosque there was demolished during 1992 riots that left 2,000 people dead.

Hindus believe the mosque was built over the site of the birthplace of their god Ram.

Security is being tightened across India in the run-up to the ruling and Uttar Pradesh state police chief O.P. Singh told the Economic Times that more than 500 arrests had been made.

“The main message to the police force is to maintain peace at any cost,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Most of the suspects were taken into custody while a further 70 people were detained over their social media posts, he said — warning the internet could be blocked in the region if required.

Singh added that police had also identified more than 10,000 people he described as “anti-social”.

A police spokesman declined to comment to AFP.

In recent years Ayodhya has become a rallying point for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Some senior BJP members are being tried separately over their role in the mosque’s 1992 destruction.

In 2010, a High Court divided the disputed land between Hindu and Muslim groups but both parties appealed to the Supreme Court which has since repeatedly put off a verdict.

Media reports say Modi has told ministers to refrain from making comments on the case that could fuel tensions.

For minority Muslims, the dispute and a recent clampdown in Muslim-majority Kashmir have become symbols of the hostility that they say they face from the government.

Hindus make up about 80 percent of India’s 1.3 billion population while there are about 200 million Muslims.

Mothers-To-Be Fear For Their Unborn In Smog-Choked Delhi

In this photo taken on October 18, 2019, a premature newborn baby is pictured at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Sitaram Bhartia hospital in New Delhi. Not only is the toxic air of India’s towns and cities killing people prematurely, it’s also endangering pregnant women and their babies, according to scientists and doctors.
Prakash SINGH / AFP

 

Heavily pregnant Rachel Gokavi spends most days shut away in her New Delhi home, desperate to shield her unborn child from the toxic air blamed for soaring miscarriage rates and infant deaths.

At a recent pre-natal class in the Indian capital, Gokavi and other expectant mothers shared their feelings of helplessness and anger at having to breathe poisonous air day in and out.

“I always keep the balcony door closed and don’t go out as much. I fear there could be breathing issues when the baby is born,” Gokavi, 26, told AFP.

Like Gokavi, other anxious mothers-to-be listened to tips and tricks on coping with the smog that is so bad that Delhi’s chief minister recently likened the city to a “gas chamber”.

“Don’t go out for morning walks. Try and go in the afternoon when the sun is out,” was all the instructor could advise the women, who listened intently with furrowed brows.

With no respite from the pollution in sight, doctors too have little choice but just to recommend face masks and expensive air purifiers at home — if they can afford them, which many cannot.

India is home to 14 of the world’s 15 most polluted cities, according to the World Health Organization.

Every winter smoke from farmers’ fires combine with industrial and vehicle emissions to turn towns and cities across northern India into smog-blanketed hellholes.

This toxic cocktail cuts short the lives of one million people in India every year, according to government research published in June.

The same report blamed air pollution for killing more than 100,000 under-fives every year.

Doctors say kids breathe the noxious air twice as fast as adults because of their smaller lungs, causing respiratory problems and even impairing brain development.

There is evidence to suggest that adolescents exposed to higher levels of air pollution are more likely to experience mental health problems, UNICEF said this week.

As Bad As Smoking

But even before they are born, smog is as bad as smoking when it comes to miscarriages, another study released in the journal Nature Sustainability last month indicated.

The research done in Beijing — another capital that has for years battled filthy air — linked high levels of pollution and an increased risk of “silent miscarriage” in the first trimester.

This happens when a foetus hasn’t formed or has died but the placenta and embryonic tissue remain.

Another study, in 2017, suggested that tiny particles can enter the foetal side of the placenta and disrupt the development of the unborn baby.

– Miscarriages, premature babies –
At Delhi’s Sitaram Bhartia hospital, excruciatingly tiny babies weighing as little as a kilogramme (2.2 pounds) breathe oxygen through plastic tubes as machines monitor their vital signs.

Rinku Sengupta, an obstetrician at the busy neonatal unit, says that rates of such underweight babies as well as premature births are rising in cities with high levels of pollution.

“We are very worried because we know that the pollutants cannot only affect the lungs of mothers but these can even reach the placenta and affect the placental function,” she told AFP.

“It is difficult to prove a direct cause-effect relationship. But there is enough evidence now to say that there is a direct link and we need to sit up and think what we can do about it,” she said.

“It is an emergency situation.”

Arti Bhatia, 35, is now the proud mother of a lively six-month-old daughter, Ayesha.

But her journey to motherhood was filled with the pain of miscarriages, and she wonders whether pollution was to blame.

“I had my baby after three years of trying and in those three years I lost a few pregnancies,” Bhatia told AFP.

“The first time I lost (a pregnancy) I thought maybe it was bad luck, maybe it was not meant to be or something. But subsequently it was like ‘is it because of the air we breathe’?”

One Killed, 17 Others Injured As Grenade Hits Kashmir

Soldiers evacuate an injured comrade after a grenade blast at a market in Srinagar on November 4, 2019. . At least one person was killed and 17 injured on November 4 in a grenade blast at a crowded market in Indian-administered Kashmir's main city of Srinagar, police and doctors said. Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP
Soldiers evacuate an injured comrade after a grenade blast at a market in Srinagar on November 4, 2019. . At least one person was killed and 17 injured on November 4 in a grenade blast at a crowded market in Indian-administered Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar, police and doctors said. Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP

 

At least one person was killed and 17 wounded Monday in a grenade blast at a crowded market in Indian-administered Kashmir’s main city Srinagar, police and doctors said.

Kashmir has been on a knife-edge since August 5 when the Indian government moved to strip the region of its autonomy, imposed a lockdown, cut telecommunications and detained thousands.

No one claimed Monday’s blast but authorities have in the past accused militants backed by Pakistan of intimidating people into resisting Indian attempts to return life to normal.

Doctors at the main hospital told AFP that the deceased was a resident of northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

“Two people are critical,” a doctor said on condition of anonymity.

Srinagar police chief Haseeb Mughal told AFP that 18 people were injured out of whom one died at the hospital.

Kashmir is divided between India and its arch-foe Pakistan, and both claim it in full.

Militants seeking independence or a merger with Pakistan have waged an armed rebellion against New Delhi since 1989.

Around half of mobile phones remain cut off, as does the internet, while hundreds of local political leaders are still in detention, mostly without charge.

Markets, schools and public areas remain closed with government forces still patrolling the streets, with periodic security lockdowns imposed on many parts of the region.

A dozen non-locals have been killed by suspected militants, including six migrant workers last week, that police said were aimed at driving them away and create fear.

Millions Of People In Indian Capital Endure ‘Eye-Burning’ Smog

People make their way on a street in smoggy conditions in New Delhi on November 4, 2019. Millions of people in India’s capital started the week on November 4 choking through “eye-burning” smog, with schools closed, cars taken off the road and construction halted. Prakash SINGH / AFP

 

Millions of people in India’s capital started the week on Monday choking through “eye-burning” smog, with schools closed, cars taken off the road and construction halted.

A poisonous haze envelops New Delhi every winter, caused by vehicle fumes, industrial emissions and smoke from agricultural burning in neighbouring states.

But the current crisis has turned into the worst in three years, and New Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called for a range of measures to fight what he described as “unbearable pollution”.

“There is smoke everywhere and people, including youngsters, kids, elderly are finding it difficult to breathe,” Kejriwal said in a Twitter video on Sunday.

“Eyes are burning. Pollution is that bad.”

Kejriwal’s government has ordered half the city’s private cars to be taken off the road, based on an odd-even registration plate system.

Schools, which were closed on Friday last week, remained shut on Monday, and city-wide construction was halted until Tuesday in Delhi and surrounding areas.

Kejriwal said authorities were also distributing face masks to schoolchildren.

Other parts of the country have also been choked by smog, the government’s Central Pollution Control Board said Sunday.

Authorities brought a van with an air purifier to the Taj Mahal, the country’s top tourist site 250 kilometres (150 miles) south of Delhi, with fears the pollution was damaging the 17th-century marble mausoleum, the Press Trust of India reported.

With a state election due in Delhi in early 2020, the pollution crisis has also become a casualty of political bickering, with each side blaming the other for the severe conditions.

Kejriwal, who likened Delhi to a “gas chamber” on Friday, said his city had done its part to curb pollution and that the burning of wheat stubble residue on farms outside the capital was responsible for the smog.

But national environment minister Prakash Javadekar accused Kejriwal of politicising the issue, while an MP from the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) dismissed the odd-even car rule as a “stunt” and said he planned to ignore it.

A group of environmentalists wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday urging him to “take leadership” on the issue.

The environmentalists said political parties were “intent on fixing the blame while Indians continue to die”, PTI reported.

Mounting crisis

India has faced a mounting pollution crisis over the past decade.

Fourteen Indian cities including the capital are among the world’s top 15 most polluted cities, according to the World Health Organization.

Experts warn that both state and national governments needed to go beyond short-term remedies and tackle major pollution causes if air quality is to improve in the long-term.

Stop-gap solutions “can’t be a substitute for addressing the major long-term chronic sources of air pollution,” Daniel Cass, senior vice president for environmental health of global non-profit Vital Strategies, told AFP.

He said emissions restrictions should be imposed on motorbikes and scooters, which are heavily used in Delhi but exempted from the odd-even scheme, and called for more public transport investment.

Changing agricultural practices, switching electricity generation sources and accelerating the conversion of home-heating from charcoal to natural gas were also key measures in the pollution fight, Cass said.

AFP

Police Rescue Baby From Being Buried Alive

BREAKING: 'Multiple Casualties' As Gunman Opens Fire At US Synagogue

 

 

Police rescued a baby as its family was about to bury the infant alive, officials said Friday.

Officers confronted the infant’s grandfather as he held the child in a blanket, while another man dug a hole with his hands on wasteland in a suburb of the southern city of Hyderabad, India.

The case was made public two weeks after a newborn girl was found in a clay pot at a northern Indian crematorium — later making headlines for her “miracle” survival.

In the latest incident, the two men said the infant had died in hospital. But police tipped off by a taxi driver made suspicious by the events, said they saw the baby move under the blanket.

Both men were detained and later released, with the infant undergoing treatment in the hospital while an investigation is carried out.

“They thought the baby had died and were told by other family members not to bring the body home,” police officer A. Srinivasulu told AFP.

“We are just happy that the baby was rescued,” the officer said.

In the other case of the newborn found in a clay pot, the baby was believed to have been left for more than two days before she was found by a man digging a grave for his own newborn daughter.

India is notorious for the gender killing of baby girls, seen as a financial burden because of the dowry to be paid when they are married.

Such discrimination is blamed for India’s skewed sex ratio that stood at 940 females for every 1,000 males, according to a 2011 census.

AFP

Gunmen Kill Five Migrant Workers In Kashmir As EU Lawmakers Visit

Indian flag

 

Unidentified gunmen shot dead five migrant labourers in Indian-administered Kashmir on Tuesday, police said, in the bloodiest incident since New Delhi moved to strip the region of its autonomy.

The killings in southern Kulgam district, some 70 kilometres (43 miles) south of the main city Srinagar, came as India allowed a group of mostly far-right European Union parliamentarians to visit the region where tensions have soared since New Delhi began a clampdown on August 5.

A police official told AFP an unknown number of gunmen, believed to be rebels, barged into an accommodation rented by the six labourers late Tuesday and shot one of them dead on the spot.

They later took five others out of the residence and shot them with automatic rifles some distance from the building, killing four and wounding one.

“He is critical and undergoing treatment at a hospital,” a local police official said of the wounded labourer, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Another top police official said the victims were from the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, and that additional government forces were rushed to the area to track the attackers.

No group has taken responsibility for the attack, but police in the past have accused militants of targeting non-locals in a campaign allegedly aimed at driving them from the region.

A non-local truck driver was shot dead on Monday by gunmen while he was ferrying apples in the Himalayan valley’s southern region.

Five truck drivers and businessmen from other Indian states, who were associated with valley’s vital apple trade, have been killed in recent weeks.

New Delhi in August controversially stripped the disputed region of its decades-old semi-autonomous status, which barred non-residents from buying land and taking government jobs.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, with most residents demanding either independence or a merger with Pakistan.

The region has been in armed rebellion for the past 30 years, with New Delhi accusing Pakistan of training and arming scores of militant groups active in the area.

Before stripping its autonomy, India sent tens of thousands of additional troops to join a 500,000-strong force in the region and imposed a weeks-long security and communication lockdown.

Authorities also ordered thousands of tourists and Hindu pilgrims to leave and arranged flights to take them elsewhere.

But tens of thousands of labourers who migrate to Kashmir every summer were left on their own.

Many departed due to the curfew, but others stayed, planning to leave as usual at the start of winter.

In the weeks since, landline telephone service and half of the region’s eight million cellphone lines have been restored, but internet remains cut off.

New Delhi, which has barred opposition politicians and a United States senator from visiting the valley since the clampdown, agreed to let nearly 30 EU lawmakers visit Kashmir.

Authorities have claimed that things have gradually returned to normal, but many residents, supported by militants, refuse to go to work, crippling the region that’s home to more than seven million people.

AFP

Rescuers Struggle To Save Toddler Stuck In 26-Metre Well

Rescue workers gather with heavy digging equipment during an operation to rescue a toddler stuck in a deep well near Manapparai town in Tiruchirappalli district, in India’s southern Tamil Nadu state, on October 28, 2019.  STR / AFP

 

Scores of workers were racing against time Monday to try to rescue a two-year-old boy trapped for more than 72 hours down a 26-metre (85-feet) well in south India, officials said.

The boy fell into the 30-centimetre (one-foot) diameter pipe on Friday afternoon while playing near his home in Tiruchirappalli district of Tamil Nadu state.

A thermal camera was briefly used to monitor the child’s body temperature while oxygen was supplied through a pipe.

The toddler, Sujith Wilson, was unconscious but breathing until Sunday morning, but rescuers have been unable to check his condition since then.

Authorities said the child was initially wedged at around nine metres (30 feet) before slipping to the bottom in an upright standing position.

“It’s a race against time,” said Jawaharlal Nehru, a senior district officer at the site.

Workers used an oil drill to dig a hole parallel to the well on Sunday, but the rig broke down at around ten metres (33 feet) because of the rocky ground.

Attempts to use robotic devices to lower ropes to latch onto the boy’s wrist failed on Saturday.

The incident is the latest in series of mishaps that have seen children accidentally fall into disused and uncovered wells in rural India.

In 2006 the rescue of a six-year-old child made headlines when he was recovered safely in Haryana state after being stuck in an 18-metre (60-foot) well for 48 hours.

AFP

Nigeria, China, India Among 10 Most Improved Economies – World Bank

A stage director looks on at the IMF/World Bank Annual Fall Meetings Plenary Session in Washington, DC, on October 18, 2019. PHOTO: Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP

 

Nigeria, China, and India made the top 10 list of governments that have done the most in the past year to improve the ease of doing business in their countries, the World Bank said on Wednesday.

Despite the bitter trade war, in which the United States is demanding reforms from Beijing to protect intellectual property and open its economy further to American businesses, China made the top 10 list for the second year in a row.

With those improvements, China leapfrogged France to take the 31st spot in the “ease of doing business” ranking, moving up 15 places,  according to the World Bank report.

And despite US complaints, the report credited China with improving protections for minority investors, strengthening procedures for enforcing contracts and making trade easier with changes to customs administration and port infrastructure.

“Removing barriers facing entrepreneurs generates better jobs, more tax revenues and higher incomes, all of which are necessary to reduce poverty and raise living standards,” World Bank Group President David Malpass said in a statement.

Nigeria is also ranked 131 on the list after moving up by 15 places from its 2019 spot.

“Nigeria conducted reforms impacting six indicators, including making the enforcement of contracts easier, which placed the 200-million-person economy among the world’s top improvers.

“Only two Sub-Saharan African economies rank in the top 50 on the ease of doing business rankings while most of the bottom 20 economies in the global rankings are from the region,” WorldBank said in a statement.

India landed on the most-improved list for the third year in a row, making it easier to start a business by abolishing filing fees, lowering the time and cost of seeking construction permits and making trade easier with port improvements and an improved electronic platform for submitting documents.

The country jumped 14 places to number 63 in the global rankings.

The other eight economies where business climates improved the most were Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Togo, Bahrain, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Kuwait, China, India, and Nigeria, the study found.

New Zealand continues to top the global rankings, with Singapore, Hong Kong right behind, with Korea in fifth place, and the United States sixth.

The World Bank studies reforms in 10 areas of business activity in 190 economies, including issues like construction permits, getting electricity and paying taxes.

AFP

Uber Turns To India, Africa And Middle East As Losses Mount

Angelo Merendino / AFP

 

The head of Uber said Tuesday that the global ride services firm was counting on India, Africa and the Middle East for future growth amid investor fears about mounting losses and a slump in its share price.

Uber has exited several markets — including China and Southeast Asia — to pare back losses, and is in fierce competition with rival Ola in India, a market estimated to be worth $7 billion a year.

Since its public offering in May, Uber’s share price has tumbled some 30 percent, while the company lost $5.2 billion in the second quarter.

“India is a fundamental part of Uber’s growth going forward… it’s a top 10 market for us,” chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi told reporters in New Delhi.

“The profitability characteristics of our business here are improving. If I look at Uber’s growth over the next 10 years, it’s… going to be defined by India, Africa and the Middle East, more so than the developed markets.”

Khosrowshahi brushed aside fears the stock price could fall further after the expiration of a lock-up period in November, after which company employees and early investors can sell their shares.

The chief executive, who was in Delhi to unveil an updated version of Uber’s app linking the Delhi Metro public transport system with its services, said he was focused on long-term prospects.

The revamped app is part of a global campaign to attract more users.

While India is one of Uber’s biggest markets — with 12 percent of its global rides — the firm still lags behind Ola in the nation of over 1.3 billion people.

It has also struggled to keep up with the two largest online food-delivery players Zomato and Swiggy.

The company laid off some staff in India as part of global job cuts as it tries to map a route to profitability.

But chief product officer Manik Gupta told AFP that Uber would double its technology team to 1,000 as proof of its commitment to Asia’s third-largest economy.

“We definitely want to show our commitment to India,” Gupta said.

Uber’s third-quarter results will be released in two weeks.