Liability pact makes India-US N-deal a big deal

Feb 7, 2016 0

By Arun Kumar

WASHINGTON–India’s ratification of an international convention on nuclear energy accident liability has removed a major irritant in India-US relations and would help them unleash the full potential of the landmark India-US nuclear deal.

The US was quick to welcome the development removing the last hurdle in the way of US firms to build nuclear plants in India and generate an estimated $100 billion in business seven years after the deal was signed with much fanfare.

Indian Prime Minister Mody

Indian Prime Minister Mody

A deal between Toshiba Corp’s Westinghouse Electric to build six nuclear reactors in Gujarat may well be signed in time for a possible visit by Prime

Minister Narendra Modi to Washington to attend the March 31- April 1 nuclear security summit.

Westinghouse is reported to be negotiating with the state-run operator Nuclear Power Corp of India Ltd (NPCIL) with the hope of making a “commercially significant announcement” during Modi’s expected US visit and sign a final contract later in the year.

Another US company GE Hitachi is said to be in talks about the techno-commercial viability of its reactors at sites in Andhra Pradesh.

American firms had been allocated sites in the two states under the nuclear deal signed in October 2008 after the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh staked his government over it.

However, the two US companies were reluctant to go ahead in the face of India’s tough 2010 nuclear liability law that made the suppliers of nuclear plants liable for damage in the event of an accident.

Though the deal otherwise transformed India-US relations, Washington was sore that while it had done the heavy lifting to get India a waiver from the

48-nation Nuclear Supplier Group to do nuclear business with other countries, it had been left high and dry.

Finally, it was during President Barack Obama’s historic visit to New Delhi last year as chief guest at India’s Republic Day that he and Modi reached what was described as a “breakthrough understanding” to allay US concerns about industry liability.

The understanding sought to resolve India’s concerns about inspections and US concerns about liability for a nuclear accident with Washington saying India’s laws and regulations do not meet international standards.

On the first, with India agreeing on ‘administrative arrangements’ providing

for tighter checks by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Washington dropped its insistence on ‘flagging’, or tracking, fuel consignments.

On the issue of liability, the understanding endorsed the principle of strict liability, which ‘channels’ costs arising from a nuclear accident to the plant operator and requires it to pay no-fault compensation.

To address another issue posed by India’s 2010 nuclear liability law that allows a plant operator to seek secondary recourse against a supplier, an India Nuclear Insurance Pool (INIP) with a liability cap of 15 billion rupees ($222 million) was launched in June 2015.

Now with India agreeing to ratify the IAEA Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC), it would also gain access to international funds with risk shared according to how many nuclear plants a country has.

The Feb 4 submission of the instrument of ratification to IAEA in Vienna, according to Indian officials “is the conclusive step in the addressing of issues related to civil nuclear liability in India.”

State Department spokesman John Kirby Friday acknowledged that Indian membership in the CSC will “facilitate participation by companies from the United States in the construction of nuclear reactors in India.”

And as he noted it will also reduce “India’s reliance on carbon-intensive sources, that will benefit the environment, and will offer India greater energy security for its large and growing economy.” And that makes it a big deal.

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US Places Food Products Made by India’s Laljee Godhoo & Co. on Import Alert List

Feb 6, 2016 0

BOSTON—U.S. Food and Drug Administration has banned food products made by Mumbai-based Laljee Godhoo & Co. On Feb. 1, FDA added food products from Laljee on the FDA website’s import alert list.

FDA logoImport alert means detention without physical examination of food products due to the presence of Salmonella, according to the agency’s website. This alert provides for manufacturers and shippers, from multiple countries, to be placed on detention without physical examination for food products found to contain Salmonella. Food products from other countries are also put on import alert.

FDA said that its Northeast Regional Laboratory found a sample of dried fruit, namely dried lychee from the Peoples Republic of China, to contain Salmonella. In the past, other imported food such as spices, chocolate candy, sesame products, including halawa and tahini, and food products containing dried egg or nonfat dry milk, such as pasta and egg noodles, have also been found to be contaminated with Salmonella.

The food products on the import alert list from Laljee Godhoo & Co. include LG Hing powder spice, and its use in other bakery products, macaroni/noodle, dried milk products, cheese prooducts, ice cream, egg products, meat and poultry, coffee, tea and dressing condiment, among others. For more information and complete listing, please visit FDA website.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

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IT Minister Prasad: Take advantage of Digital India initiative

Feb 6, 2016 0

By Wire Services

CAMBRIDGE, MA– India’s future as a technology powerhouse and its plans to connect India’s 600,000 villages to the Internet through the Digital India programme were the focus of a roundtable of top American and Indian companies.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Startup India initiative also came up at the roundtable with Indian Minister for Communications & IT Ravi Shankar Prasad hosted by the US-India Business Council (USIBC) at Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Friday.

The roundtable was attended by USIBC President Mukesh Aghi and senior executives of American and Indian companies that included Google, AT&T, MasterCard, Facebook, American Tower Corporation, UST Global and iTech.

USIBC comprises 350 top-tier US and Indian companies advancing US-India commercial ties.

“Digital India provides an enormous investment opportunity for both global technology companies and startups from tech hubs like Boston and Silicon Valley,” Prasad said.

“India is sitting on the cusp of a digital revolution,” he said. “Whether it is big metropolitan cities or small towns, a well-connected India has the potential to not only usher in economic and welfare opportunities for its citizens, but also the global economic order.”

The Indian “government is taking every policy decision in a transparent, predictable and reasonable manner,” Prasad said encouraging “American businesses to take advantage of the Digital India programme, and the growth opportunities in India.”

Prasad also outlined the progress that has already been made to implement Digital India programme and his priorities for the future.

Aghi said, “Prime Minister Modi’s directive to connect Indians across the country is a tremendous opportunity for both Indian and US companies alike.”

Noting that 85 percent of Indians still do not have access to the Internet, he said “the government could make it easier to obtain clearances to install cell phone towers.”

“IT infrastructure can be further expanded by lifting the ban on foreign satellite operators so they can provide spectrum in hard-to-reach areas.”

Dan Gupta of UST Global commented on the economic growth that can be spurred by the Digital India initiative and adoption of key technologies across sectors.

“By some estimations, the Digital India initiative could help boost India’s gross domestic product (GDP) by around $550 billion – upping its GDP by $1 trillion by 2025,” he said.

Sonny Khurana, CEO of iTech, praised the rapid strides in connectivity and the startup ecosystem under the current government.

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Indian Railway Minister in US to address World Bank conference on transport

Jan 15, 2016 0

NEW DELHI– Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu is currently on a three-day tour of the US capital on the request of the World Bank, the railways ministry said in a statement here on Friday.

He is to deliver an address at the plenary session on the World Bank Conference on “Transport and Cities – Key Drivers for Meeting Climate Goals”, the statement said.

Suresh Prabhu

Suresh Prabhu

Apart from this, his tour involves a number of seminars, conference, meetings and events, it added.

At an event on Thursday evening at Washington’s Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Prabhu said the Indian government wants to make infrastructure growth a priority, where transportation would be the key element of development and growth of the country.

“A proper sustainable transportation sector has potential to play a key role in India’s economic growth including removal of social disparity, help reduce global greenhouse gas emission,” he said.

“I do not think India can achieve higher economic growth unless we put in place a strong transportation sector,” he added.

Prabhu, who is scheduled to meet US Deputy Transportation Secretary Victor Mendez, during his current visit, said India wants to involve the US in its modernisation of the railways.

Noting that globally railways derive more than 30 percent of its income from non-railway operations, he said the modernisation of India’s railway stations and railway real estate is a step in that direction.

“As of now Indian Railways earns less than one percent of its income from non-railway operations,” he said.

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India tops in sending scientists and engineers to the US

Jan 14, 2016 0

WASHINGTON– Among Asian countries, India continues its trend of being the top country of birth for immigrant scientists and engineers to the US, says a latest report, adding that with 950,000 out of Asia’s total 2.96 million, India’s 2013 figure represented an 85 percent increase from 2003.

Overall, the number of immigrant scientists and engineers in the US has risen to 18 percent from an earlier 16 percent and 57 percent of those were born in Asia.

National_Science_Foundation_logo_From 2003 to 2013, the number of scientists and engineers residing in the US rose from 21.6 million to 29 million.

This 10-year increase included significant growth in the number of immigrant scientists and engineers, from 3.4 million to 5.2 million, said the report from the National Science Foundation’s National Centre for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES).

In 2013, 63 percent of US immigrant scientists and engineers were naturalised citizens, while 22 percent were permanent residents and 15 percent were temporary visa holders.

“Also since 2003, the number of scientists and engineers from the Philippines increased 53 percent and the number from China, including Hong Kong and Macau, increased 34 percent,” the report added.

The NCSES report found that immigrant scientists and engineers were more likely to have earned post-baccalaureate degrees than their US-born counterparts.

In 2013, 32 percent of immigrant scientists reported their highest degree was a master’s (compared to 29 percent of US-born counterparts) and 9 percent reported it was a doctorate (compared to 4 percent of US-born counterparts).

“The most common fields of study for immigrant scientist and engineers in 2013 were engineering, computer and mathematical sciences and social and related sciences,” the findings showed.

Over 80 percent of immigrant scientists and engineers were employed in 2013, the same percentage as their US-born counterparts.

Among the immigrants in the science and engineering workforce, the largest share (18 percent) worked in computer and mathematical sciences, while the second-largest share (eight percent) worked in engineering.

Three occupations — life scientist, computer and mathematics scientist and social and related scientist — saw substantial immigrant employment growth from 2003 to 2013, the report said.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering.

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Vyome Biosciences Announces FDA Acceptance of Investigational New Drug Application in the US

Jan 6, 2016 0

NEW DELHI–Vyome Biosciences, a dermatology focused innovative bio-pharmaceutical company, announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) has accepted its Investigational New Drug (IND) Application for the initiation of clinical studies for its lead program VB 1953, a topical therapeutic candidate for the treatment of moderate-to-severe acne. Vyome plans to start the Phase I clinical trials very soon.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne represents the most common skin disease, affecting 85% of teenagers and affects 40-50 million people in the US. Approximately 40% of acne patients are suffering from antibiotic resistance. Physicians around the world have cited a large unmet need for new, improved topical therapy options, vis-à-vis the current available topical products. Vyome’s program VB 1953 targets this large unmet need of an effective topical treatment option.

“Today marks an important milestone for Vyome Biosciences. With the US FDA accepting our first IND application for the lead program VB 1953, we have become a clinical stage company in the USA, which is an important value inflection milestone for us. This should pave the way for further filings with the US FDA in the future. VB 1953 is a first-in-class new product in acne therapy for addressing one of the very important and large unmet needs,” remarked N. Venkat, Co-Founder & CEO at Vyome.

“Successful IND acceptance of VB 1953 by the US FDA, is a culmination of tremendous efforts by Vyome’s product discovery & development team. I am extremely delighted at Vyome’s significant achievement and look forward to more of them in the future,” said Dr. Raghunath Mashelkar, Chairman of Vyome’s Board of Directors.

Apart from the lead program VB 1953, Vyome has a deep R&D pipeline of Dual Action Rational Therapeutics (DARTs) antibiotics that are very less prone to resistance development. Vyome also has a portfolio of clinically tested and commercialized products with superior efficacy for various fungal indications, developed using its breakthrough technology platform Molecular Replacement Therapy (MRTTM).

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Wipro buys US-based Viteos Group for $130 Million

Dec 23, 2015 0

BENGALURU–Global software major Wipro Ltd. on Wednesday announced the acquisition of US-based back-office firm Viteos Group for alternative investment management industry for $130 million (Rs.861 crore).

Shaji Farooq

Shaji Farooq

“Our strategy is to invest in industry vertical platforms which will provide platform-based services to our clients in transaction or outcome-based pricing models. Viteos will further our strategy in the capital markets domain,” Wipro chief executive for finance solutions Shaji Farooq said in a statement here.

Headquartered at Somerset in New Jersey, Viteos provides customised straight-through-processing and integrates post-trade operations across asset class, currency, border or structure for the alternative investment management sector in the US, Europe and Asia.

As a leader in shadow-accounting services, Viteos offers a range of middle and back-office outsourcing through its 400 employees.

“We will expand our capital markets portfolio in fund accounting services and enhance our business process service (BPS) capabilities with Viteos, which brings leadership, domain expertise and business process as a service (BPaaS) capability, Wipro BPS head Nagendra Bandaru said.

Viteos licenses its proprietary platform to offer transformation and integration of post-trade operations.

The platform can be leveraged to provide solutions across other segments of capital markets. The solutions will bring in non-linear and higher revenue realisation.

As a leading BPS provider to some global investment banks, Wipro specialises in platform-led transformation and utility-based offerings in reconciliation, KYC (know-your-customer) settlements, middle office, asset servicing and syndicated loans.

“Viteos will retain its identity to leverage its brand in the buy-side and expand its offerings into the larger asset management industry with the backing of Wipro’s size and presence,” the statement added.

Viteos’ founder chief executive Shankar Iyer said its search for a global partner to expand market presence had culminated in acquisition by Wipro.

The deal is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of this fiscal (2015-16), ending March 31, next year.

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Chicago University gets $1 mn to collaborate with Lucknow NGOs

Dec 23, 2015 0

LUCKNOW–The Center for Inter-disciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health (Ci3) at the University of Chicago will get a $1 million grant for the next two years from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, an official said on Wednesday.

University of Chcago

University of Chcago

Ci3’s newly launched Transmedia Story Lab (TSL) will collaborate with leading non-governmental organisations in Lucknow to train them in novel, youth-friendly data collection techniques.

Together with their community partners, Ci3 will conduct workshops with Lucknow youth aged 15-24 using games, storytelling and art to learn more about the daily lives of young people to better understand the social determinants of adolescent reproductive health and well being.

Digital storytelling will anchor the project.

Digital stories are short, first person documentaries produced with music, images and narratives of young people communicating their daily lives, hopes and dreams.

The storytelling methodology helps to paint a rich portrait of the lives of young people living in urban slums, enhance the field’s understanding of gender and social norms and create new insights for improving adolescent sexual and reproductive health and reducing the unmet need for family planning.

Workshops will be accompanied by interviews with policy makers, non-governmental organisations, parents and healthcare providers.

In the second year, Ci3 will create a small grants programme to invest in young people’s ideas on how best to advance the lives of girls in India.

This project also reflects Ci3’s commitment to developing novel partnerships. Ci3 will work with the University of Chicago alumnus Sandeep Ahuja MPP ’06, director of Operation ASHA, an international leader in tuberculosis (TB) eradication.

Operation ASHA is known for its innovative approaches and outcome-oriented research.

Ci3 recently launched Transmedia Story Lab which builds upon South Side Stories, a two-year project funded by the Ford Foundation.

Culminating in the summer of 2014, South Side Stories chronicled and digitally archived stories that countered dominant narratives about African- American adolescent’s sexuality.

Founded in 2012, Ci3 is a University-wide centre established to empower young people and remove policy and systemic barriers to sexual and reproductive health and well being.

Ci3 develops novel interventions using technology, games and narrative in collaboration with youth, partner organisations and University faculty.

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Hefty $4,000 US visa fee hike discriminatory for Indian IT firms

Dec 22, 2015 0

NEW DELHI– The steep hike in H-1B and L-1 visa fee by the US government on the software engineers Indian IT firms fly out for onshore projects was discriminatory and would hamper US economic growth, a leading Indian industry trade body said on Tuesday.

US President Barack Obama on Dec 19 signed into law a $1.8-trillion spending package, which includes a hefty $4,000 fee for certain categories of H-1B visa and $4,500 for L-1 visa.

US President Barack Obama on Dec 19 signed into law a $1.8-trillion spending package, which includes a hefty $4,000 fee for certain categories of H-1B visa and $4,500 for L-1 visa.

“Such legislation, amending the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010, will hamper growth of the US economy and will be discriminatory to Indian IT firms,” the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) said in a statement here.

US President Barack Obama on Dec 19 signed into law a $1.8-trillion spending package, which includes a hefty $4,000 fee for certain categories of H-1B visa and $4,500 for L-1 visa.

Companies having over 50 employees and more than 50 per cent of their US employees on H-1B and L1 visas will have to pay the new fee when the next visa application session kicks off on April 1, 2016.

“Indian IT industry is of the view that the additional fee is unjustified, similar to the earlier border security and the Health and Compensation Act, which have nothing to do with the technology industry,” the statement asserted.

Noting that such protectionist laws not only impacted the business of the Indian IT sector but also limited access to skilled IT personnel for US firms, Ficci said adding that the increasing costs of hiring skilled personnel and services would influence US technology firms to consider moving IT operations overseas, thereby reducing US jobs and tax revenues.

This year’s Congressional approved quota of 65,000 H-1B visas was filled up in the first few days of the start of the application process on April 1.

“In our view, linking unemployment and H1-B visa issue with 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is unfair and should be dealt independently with a broader outlook considering the overall impact on both economies,” the statement reiterated.

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US visa fee hike not to have adverse impact: Narayana Murthy

Dec 18, 2015 0

NEW DELHI– The recent hike in US visa fees will not have an adverse impact on the Indian IT industry growth, Infosys founder N.R.Narayana Murthy said here on Friday.

Narayan Murthy

Narayan Murthy

“I don’t think it is an issue at all… $2,000 or $4,000 that doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you have to provide excellent value to customers,” he told reporters after holding a meeting with the Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

The US Congress has slapped a special fee of up to $4,500 on the H-1B and L-1 visas, used mostly by Indian tech employees going to the US for work.

Narayana Murthy said the value of Indian IT services industry is so high to the US corporations that these issues will not come in the way of the Indian It industry growth.

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