Business as usual between India, Pakistan on LoC: Officials

May 31, 2017 0

Jammu–Despite heightened tensions between India and Pakistan, it was business as usual on Wednesday between India and Pakistan through the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district.

Trade officials at Chakan Da Bagh facilitation centre said 25 trucks carrying goods crossed the LoC from the Indian side into the Pakistani side of Kashmir, while six trucks carrying goods came to this side on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Trade between the two parts of divided Kashmir takes place through the Poonch-Rawalakote route

“The weekly bus service between the two parts was also operated through Poonch-Rawalakote route,” officials said.

The Peace Bus service, known as “Karvan-e-Aman”, between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad that operates through the Aman Setu Bridge near Kaman Post on the LoC in Uri sector was cancelled on Monday because of tension between the armies of the two countries.

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Combination of factors can help India become electronics manufacturing global hub

May 31, 2017 0

New Delhi– A combination of push and pull factors like minimum professional charges, low manufacturing costs together with a huge population and vast geographical area can work in favour of India and help it become the global hub for the electrical and electronics manufacturing sector, P.P. Chaudhary, Minister of State for Electronics and IT, said here on Wednesday.

“Two push and pull factors are working in favour of India and the complete ecosystem has been generated, the pull factor is looking at the 1.25 billion population and the vast area, as such every company intends to invest in this country,” said Chaudhary while inaugurating an Assocham conference on Electricals & Electronics Manufacturing.

“The push factor is that all across the globe, while per hour professional and engineering charges come to more than $3.5 but in India it is less than even $1,” he said.

P.P. Chaudhary

“So this is a place where these two factors, pull and push can work in favour of India and above all, the overall cost for creating the manufacturing hub here is much less than in other parts of the world,” said Chaudhary.

He also stressed upon the need for India to promote research and development to stay ahead and keep abreast of technology in this digital age.

“There is a need for developing a commercially viable research ecosystem funded by the government, industry and academia to promote the next wave of electronic technology in the country and innovations in our journey to becoming a developed nation,” said Chaudhary.

He said considering that demand for electronic hardware in India is projected to increase from $45 billion in 2009 to $400 billion by 2020 it offers a huge opportunity for making investments and attaining huge growth in the electronics manufacturing sector. (IANS)

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Modi interacts with CEOs of Spain

May 31, 2017 0

Madrid– In a bid to boost India-Spain business and investment ties, Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacted with CEOs of leading Spanish companies here on Wednesday.

“PM @narendramodi interacts with CEOs of leading Spanish companies with global footprint,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay tweeted.

There are around 200 Spanish companies in India and they are keen to invest and expand their presence in India.

Earlier on Wednesday, addressing the media ahead of holding talks with his Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy, Modi said Spain has made rapid strides in its economy while his government’s top priority too was India’s economic growth and development.

India and Spain can cooperate in so many areas, including infrastructure. We must have even closer economic ties: PM @narendramodi

He said Spain can offer its expertise to India’s development priorities like railways, smart cities and infrastructure.

Economic partnership is an important pillar of India’s engagement with Spain and Spanish companies have a reputation in fields like renewable energy, high speed rail, infrastructure, tunnelling, technology solution including civil aviation, air space management and waste water management.

Their expertise and competencies fit in well with India’s flagship development programmes.

Modi arrived here from Germany on Tuesday on the second leg of his six-day, four-nation tour of Europe that will also take him to Russia and France.

This is the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Spain in nearly 30 years since Rajiv Gandhi paid a trip in 1988.

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No uptake for rooftop solar in Indian cities

May 30, 2017 0

By Juhi Chaudhary

India might be playing a leadership role in bringing the world together for the International Solar Alliance, but it is struggling with the adoption of solar rooftops in its metro cities, a recent study has shown.

Despite friendly policies and net metering guidelines in several states and a subsidy of 30 per cent offered by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), the installation of solar rooftop systems has been dismal in leading metros in the country, especially in Chennai and Mumbai, according to the study.

According to the study, titled Indian Cities Slacking on Rooftop Solar, Delhi, which offers metered connections and a generation-based subsidy in its solar policy, has also failed to shine.

The study, by Greenpeace India, says that while the country has made good progress in reaching its 60 GW utility scale solar electricity targets, deployment is particularly slow in the residential rooftops sector. The government has earmarked 40 GW as the rooftop solar target by 2022, but as of December 2016, only over 1 GW worth of installations have taken place.

Delhi, which has a current estimated solar potential of 1.25 GW in buildings and has an official target of installing 1 GW by 2020 and 2 GW by 2025, has installed only 35.9 MW of solar rooftop capacity. Out of this, only 3 MW is from residential installations.

Mumbai has also been slow in installing solar rooftops in residential buildings. Out of 1.72 GW estimated solar potential, as calculated by the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, the city has installed only 5 MW of residential solar.

Tamil Nadu, which offers Rs 20,000 subsidy for domestic consumers under the Chief Minister’s Solar Rooftop Capital Incentive Scheme, has also not been able to make significant progress. The state has a rooftop solar target of 350 MW but not even 2 MW have been installed.

“Despite the national incentive in the form of a 30 per cent capital subsidy, and a range of state incentives and schemes, rooftop solar is yet to take off in the same manner as large-scale solar. However, this does not mean India should lower its ambitious targets, as some have suggested. Rather, the government must step up and play a more proactive role in encouraging rooftop installations,” said Pujarini Sen, Climate and Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace India.

“As the convenor and a founding member of the International Solar Alliance, and a country with abundant solar potential, India’s commitment to clean energy must continue to be robust.”

A Greenpeace poll showed significant public interest in adopting solar power. Close to 55 per cent of the 812 participants expressed willingness to invest and install solar. Despite this interest, awareness and various incentive schemes, the thrust on solar rooftops has largely been in the government, institutional and commercial buildings as opposed to homes.

The report cites lack of familiarity with the process and fear of bureaucratic red tape as the main reasons for the slow uptake of solar rooftops in the residential sector. Other reasons are insufficient knowledge among citizens about the financial incentives and attractive return-on-investment, perception that large upfront capital investment is required, and ineffective implementation of net metering in various states.

“If central and state governments are serious about boosting solar, they must do a better job of reaching out to resident welfare associations and community groups to encourage people to shed their inhibitions and embrace rooftop solar,” said Sen.

However, the challenges on the ground are more complex. Developers stress that there is a problem of lack of uniform roofs in the country and the fact that roofs are often used for various purposes that doesn’t leave enough space to install big panels. A 10 KW solar plant that can power three air-conditioners and is sufficient for a three-bedroom apartment needs around 1,000 sq. ft. of terrace area.

Ved Prakash Goyal, an advisor to Applied Solar Power Management, part of the ENGIE group, the largest utility company in the world, said: “In India, everyone puts the water tank on the south side of the roof and it is the direction where you get maximum solar energy. Plus, you have various things on roofs which reduces the available area needed for solar.”

The government has also announced putting 18 per cent tax on solar panels under the new Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime, though this number may be revised. While industry feels the currently proposed tax rate will increase cost of solar projects by 12 per cent, Goyal says that this will not be an impediment as far as solar rooftops are concerned.

“The prices of solar modules are going down and it is expected that they might further decrease by roughly five per cent in the next six months, so may be the net effect of GST would be one per cent. In any case solar energy is becoming cheaper to install and the time is ripe for the government to do the needful to boost it further. With the right steps, I can foresee a boom in residential solar rooftops in the next two years.”

India, where there is an issue of both land availability and air pollution, is also a country with over 300 million buildings and as many rooftops.

(In arrangement with indiaclimatedialogue.net, with whom Juhi Chaudhary is Special Correspondent. Views expressed are those of indiaclimatedialogue.net.)

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100 percent foreign investment in domestic food products yields positive results

May 30, 2017 0

New Delhi–The government’s allowing 100 per cent FDI in domestic trading of food products has yielded results, Food Processing Industries Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal has said, while hinting the central government is looking at permitting FDI in non-food items, along with food products, under the multi-brand retail policy.

“Figures prove that ever since this reform last year, that can transform lives of both consumers and farmers…from June onwards there has been a 40 per cent increase in FDI (foreign direct investment) over last year,” Badal told BTVi channel.

“One can judge about the response that retail e-commerce majors like Amazon are committing Rs 3,500 crore over the next few years. They are also talking of diverting to the brick-and-mortar part of the retail segment,” she added.

Harsimrat Kaur Badal

The government last year permitted 100 per cent FDI in domestic trading of food products.

The minister indicated the government’s thinking about allowing FDI in non-food items, along with food products, under the multi-brand retail policy.

“There is also no doubt that when I went abroad, a lot of the big retail chains there said they already have an existing model that is replicated everywhere,” she said.

“Under this models, these chains retail both food and HPC (home and personal care), that is non-food items, as well,” Badal added. (IANS)

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Indian online education industry to hit $1.96 billion by 2021

May 30, 2017 0

New Delhi–With increased internet penetration amid a surge in smartphone ownership, the online education industry in India is poised to hit $1.96 billion by 2021, a joint report by Google and KPMG said on Tuesday.

According to the report, titled ‘Online Education in India: 2021’, there has been a two-fold increase in online searches for education and a three-fold growth in searches from a mobile device over the last two years.

“It is also interesting to note that high growth in education search queries is now coming in from tier 2 and tier 3 cities such as Patna, Guwahati, Aligarh and Kota, which points to the opportunities that growing penetration of smartphones and improving quality of Internet have opened up,” said Nitin Bawankule, Industry Director, Google India, in a statement.

Sreedhar Prasad

There has been a four-fold growth in education content consumption on YouTube in the last one year.

The primary and secondary education category has the largest addressable audience with a student base of around 260 million when compared to the other categories.

Owing to this, the primary and secondary supplementary education segment was the second largest category in 2016, and will grow at a CAGR of 60 per cent to reach $773 million, making it the largest category in 2021, the findings showed.

“There are several evolving trends in the Indian online education segment. These include emergence of hybrid learning channels, continuous need for working professionals to learn new skills as well as emergence of technologies such as big data and artificial intelligence that is enabling online education vendors to design customised content,” noted Sreedhar Prasad, Partner, KPMG India. (IANS)

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Will cooperate with CBI on Air India probe: Minister

May 30, 2017 0

New Delhi–Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju on Tuesday said his ministry will fully cooperate with a CBI probe into alleged corruption and mismanagement that led to the financial crisis in the national carrier Air India.

“We will fully cooperate with the CBI on this,” Raju said replying to a question during a press interaction here.

The Minister’s response came a day after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered three cases against unnamed officials of the Ministry and Air India.

P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju

The case involves the purchase of 111 Boeing aircraft worth Rs 70,000 crore and alleged corruption in handing over international airline routes to private airlines during the UPA regime.

Apart from the Civil Aviation Ministry and Air India officials, the CBI has also booked some unnamed private companies in its FIRs lodged under sections of criminal conspiracy and cheating of the Indian Penal Code and relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The FIRs do not mention any public official by name but are based on a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) submitted to Parliament in 2011 and a subsequent report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament.

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US-based Cloud-driven Citrix set to hire, invest more in India

May 25, 2017 0

By Nishant Arora

Orlando, Florida–As desktop virtualisation leader Citrix moves aggressively into the domain of enterprise mobility, Cloud and data analytics, the company is set to hire and invest more in India at a time when the country aims to digitally transform workplaces in a secure way.

With a 5,000-strong customer base in the country, Citrix has been in India for the past 15-20 years, but the real journey for the company started five-seven years ago when enterprises started adopting Cloud and real-time data analytics.

“We are bullish on India and looking forward to cement our position in an ever-growing market. The country is fast embracing technology. At the same time, the speed at which our Indian customers are implementing Citrix solutions is growing exponentially,” Stanimira Koleva, Vice President, Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ), Citrix, told IANS.

Stanimira Koleva (Photo: Linkedin)

“I am surprised the way the country is transforming digitally — slowly but steadily at both the government and enterprise levels. Our discussions are now revolved around India in an entirely different way,” added Koleva, who has 25 years of industry experience across the globe and within the APJ region.

Citrix has built teams tasked to deal with the governments across the APJ region.

“We are looking at building strong partnerships with top system integrators in India who are already serving large government enterprises. For me, it is important to ensure that my service partners have latest, secure Cloud-enabled technology in place to serve the government sector,” Koleva emphasised.

For her, adoption of latest technology is on an upward trajectory in India. “We have leapfrogged into a new business model and are now pursuing partnerships with local vendors to deliver secure products to our customers in the country,” Koleva told IANS on the sidelines of ‘Citrix Synergy 2017’ event being held at the Orange County Convention Center here.

The company has a full-fledged research and development centre in Bengaluru.

“We are set to hire more people along with more investments in India at a time when a lot of global patents are originating from the R&D centre there,” Parag Arora, Citrix’s Area Vice President and Country Head, India Subcontinent, told IANS.

Arora sees four key trends that India is fast embracing — Cloud, mobility, Internet of Thing (IoT) and data analytics.

The public Cloud services market in India is projected to grow 38 percent in 2017 to $1.81 billion, according to the market research firm Gartner.

The highest growth will continue to be driven by Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) which is projected to grow at 49.2 percent in 2017, followed by 33 percent in Software as a Service (SaaS) and 32.1 percent in Platform as a Service (PaaS).

According to a recent Nasscom and Deloitte research report, the cloud market in India could be worth as much as $16 billion by 2020.

Sensing the opportunity, Citrix has accelerated innovation in Cloud with the introduction of new services like XenApp Essentials and XenDesktop Essentials that are native to Microsoft Azure but managed from Citrix Cloud.

In addition, Citrix Cloud now offers integration with Azure Active Directory for administrators, IoT capabilities and other new services in the labs area.

The company offers XenDesktop, XenMobile, XenApps, NetScaler and now SD-WAN — a new cost-effective solution that allows aggregation of different bandwidth, applications and networks.

“The industries we are chasing are banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI), and telecom. IT services is another big area for us. We are already working with CIOs and employees at large software firms like Infosys and Wipro to help build secure platforms for their customers,” Arora informed.

Citrix is Secure by Design (SbD) so when banks deploy its solutions, security comes inbuilt.

“The whole IT landscape is changing. There has been a new level of awareness among the customers that security is by design and not something that comes into force after they face malware issues,” Arora said.

Aiming to make governments and enterprises more secure in the wake of the recent global ‘WannaCrypt” ransomware attack, Citrix this week announced a new secure digital workspace product, new-age Cloud services and Citrix Analytics.

Another key area for Citrix in India is health care. The company is working with some of the top hospitals to help patients’ data move seamlessly and in a secure way.

“Data is critical for the health care sector and Citrix, with its diverse product portfolio, can become a trusted ally,” Arora said.

According to Koleva, Countries in the APJ region have their own ways to deal with data privacy, protection and loss. “This is where Citrix fits in. We can not only prepare a strong base but also upgrade it to a level where governments will have more control over their data,” she noted. (IANS)

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Los Angeles judge issues arrest warrant for yoga guru Bikram Choudhury for failing to pay $7 million

May 25, 2017 0

Washington– A Los Angeles judge has issued an arrest warrant for Bikram Choudhury, the Indian American “hot” yoga guru, after he failed to pay more than $7 million in 2016 to his former lawyer who was the victim in a sexual harassment case against him.

Choudhury has not paid the lawyer and authorities believe that he has hidden his assets and left the country, ABC News reported on Wednesday.

The 69-year-old yoga guru had claimed last year that he was nearly bankrupt as his business was no longer thriving.

According to the report, the warrant, issued on Wednesday, allows authorities to arrest Choudhury if he returns to the US or, possibly, in Mexico.

Bikram Choudhury (Photo courtesy: Vikram Yoga Green Valley)

In January 2016, a jury determined that Choudhury had sexually harassed and then unfairly fired Minakshi “Miki” Jafa-Bodden, his onetime lawyer.

He was ordered to pay nearly $6.5 million in punitive damages in addition to $924,000 in compensatory damages.

Jafa-Bodden was general counsel to Bikram’s Yoga College of India but was fired after refusing to cover up allegations that Bikram had raped and sexually assaulted a yoga student.

“I feel vindicated,” she told ABC News in 2016. “I’m elated.”

She convinced the jury that Choudhury had repeatedly sexually harassed her and subjected her to obscene comments about women.

Jafa-Bodden also claimed she was fired after she tried to investigate another woman’s sexual harassment and rape allegations against the yoga guru.

During the trial over Jafa-Bodden’s allegations, Bikram strongly denied sexually assaulting any women. He also denied having any sexual contact with his students or followers. His bail was set at $8 million.

Choudhury was one of the pioneers of yoga in the US, setting up shop in Beverly Hills in the 1970s. His client list included top celebrities like Madonna, Andy Murray, Gwyneth Paltrow and Goldie Hawn.

His yoga studios are franchised worldwide.

Outside of court on Wednesday, Jafa-Bodden celebrated her latest legal victory, saying: “It’s a win for women everywhere who’ve endured sexual harassment.”

“To have that bench warrant issued for Bikram… It sends a message to a debtor like Bikram that he will be held accountable and that the wheels of justice, although they don’t turn as fast as we would want them to, they do turn,” she said. (IANS)

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Boston Judge Mulling Over Raman Handa’s Fate

May 25, 2017 0

BOSTON—A Boston federal judge is mulling over the fate Raman Handa, the former owner of well-known Boston jewelry chain Alpha Omega Jewelers who has been charged with defrauding the company with $7 million dollars in missing or unaccounted for inventory.

“On May 4th, Handa was arraigned in federal court and pleaded not guilty,” Liz McCarthy, public affairs specialist at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, told INDIA New England News. “On May 17th there was a hearing in which the defense argued to dismiss the indictment for violation of the defendant’s six amendment right to a speedy trial.”

Raman Handa (Photo courtesy: Mass Live)

McCarthy said Handa remains free on a $1.2 million bond and with GPS location monitoring, and travel restricted to Massachusetts.

“The judge took the mater under advisement and has not yet issued a ruling,” said McCarthy.

Handa, 67, was arrested on Feb 21, at Los Angeles International Airport as he returned to the United States from India, where he had been living for almost 10 years, following a scheme to defraud the company’s former lenders.

According to the indictment, Handa was the owner of Alpha Omega Jewelers, a luxury watch and fine jewelry retailer in the Boston area. From May 2007 to December 2007, Alpha Omega experienced severe financial troubles, and had difficulty keeping current with loans it had with several banks. As part of the scheme to defraud Alpha Omega’s lenders and to obtain additional loans, Handa allegedly fabricated inventory on reports that were submitted to the banks. These reports were used by the banks to calculate the credit limit for Alpha Omega, and included inventory such as luxury watches and high-end items from Indian jewelry vendors, that Alpha Omega never in fact possessed.

On Dec. 15, 2007, Handa and his family abruptly left the United States. After discovering Handa’s departure, Alpha Omega’s lender took control of the company and conducted a detailed review of Alpha Omega’s inventory. According to the indictment, the review revealed over $7 million dollars in missing or unaccounted for inventory.

The charge of wire fraud provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years supervised release and a fine of $250,000 on each count. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

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