Google selects six Indian startups for accelerator program

May 24, 2017 0

New Delhi–Google on Wednesday announced that it has shortlisted six Indian startups for the fourth class of Google Accelerator Programme that will kick-off from July 17 at the Google Developers Launchpad Space in San Francisco.

With this batch, a total of 26 Indian startups have so far joined the launchpad accelerator programme from India.

“These startups were shortlisted from hundreds which applied this year, based on their unique value proposition and use of latest technologies like machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to build high-impact solutions,” Paul Ravindranath G., Programme Manager, Google India, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Paul Ravindranath

The programme will include two weeks of all-expense-paid mentorship bootcamp.

This batch of startups will gain from Google`s new curriculum that will help the startups to dig deeper into machine learning and AI and help them leverage Google’s latest technologies to scale their apps.

In the six-month programme, these startups will undergo intensive mentoring from 20-plus teams across Google and mentors from top technology companies in the Silicon Valley.

Additionally, they will receive equity-free support and credits for Google products. After returning from San Francisco, these startups will work closely with Google in India. (IANS)

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India to allocate more air routes by August

May 24, 2017 0

New Delhi–The central government on Wednesday said that it will allocate more air routes under its regional connectivity scheme — UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik) — through the second round of bidding by August.

According to Civil Aviation Minister P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju, the government will soon launch the second round of bidding under RCS-UDAN after reciving stakeholders’ views on some proposed changes to the scheme which are intended to make it simpler and attractive for participation.

P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju

The ministry will organise a stakeholder consultation meet on June 7 and will accept stakeholders’ comments on the proposed changes by June 9, 2017.

At the same event, Civil Aviation Secretary R.N. Choubey pointed out that the ministry is planning to host an “interactive meet” between state governments and airlines for the second round of bidding for Udan routes on July 7, 2017.

On April 27, 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had flagged off the first Rs 2,500-an-hour flight between Shimla and New Delhi.

The scheme is a key component of the National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP) which was released last year.

On March 30, 2017, the central government under the first round of bidding for the scheme awarded contracts to five companies to operate flight services on 128 routes that will connect 70 airports.

The airline companies chosen during the first round of bidding were Airline Allied Services (Alliance Air), SpiceJet, Turbo Megha Airways, Air Deccan and Air Odisha.

The objective of RCS, christened as UDAN is to enhance air passenger traffic in the country by stimulating demand on regional routes. (IANS)

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India’s macro-economic indicators improved in last three years: Modi

May 23, 2017 0

Gandhinagar–Fuelled by Aadhaar and Jan Dhan Yojana, India has improved upon all the macro-economic indicators over the last three years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday.

“The fiscal deficit, balance of payments deficit and inflation have all come down while the GDP growth rate, foreign exchange reserves and public capital investments have increased,” Modi said while inaugurating the 52nd annual meeting of the African Development Bank here.

The Prime Minister said India had taken huge strides in development and could share with Africa some of the strategies used by his government over the last three years.

He said two crucial factors behind India’s growth story were universal banking and universal biometric identification.

“The first set of changes we made was in the banking system. We launched Jan Dhan Yojana under which over 280 million bank accounts have been opened for the poor in rural and urban areas.

“Thanks to the initiative, virtually every Indian family has a bank account,” he said.

The second crucial element was the universal biometric identification system called Aadhar, Modi said.

“It prevents claiming of benefits by those who are not eligible. It enables us to ensure that those who deserve government aid receive it by easy while eliminating non-genuine claims,” he said.

Modi said by paying subsidies directly to the poor rather than indirectly through price concessions, India achieved large fiscal savings.

He said India and Africa had a long history of cooperation with strong ties lasting for centuries.

“India’s partnership with Africa is based on a model of cooperation which is responsive to the needs of African countries.”

“After assuming office in 2014, I have made Africa a top priority for India’s foreign and economic policy,” the Prime Minister said.

He said while he himself visited six African countries ever since becoming the Prime Minister, there was no country in Africa that has not been visited by an Indian minister in the last three years.

He said that Africa-India trade had multiplied in the last 15 years with it doubling in just the last five years to reach nearly 72 billion dollars in 2014-15.

“From 1996 to 2016, Africa accounted for nearly one-fifth of Indian overseas direct investments.”

The Prime Minister said most of the challenges facing both India and Africa were the same including uplifting farmers and poor, and empowering women.

“Our challenges also include ensuring our rural communities have access to finance and building infrastructure within financial constraints and maintaining macro-economic stability so that inflation is contained,” he said.

Modi added while India cannot compete with Africa in long-distance running in sports arena, “but I can assure you that India will always stand with you shoulder to shoulder supporting you in the long and difficult race for a better future”. (IANS)

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Economic development linked with internal security: Amitabh Kant

May 23, 2017 0

New Delhi– NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant on Tuesday stressed the need to focus on economic development as well as internal security for the country’s growth, saying both are closely linked with each other.

“Economic development is closely linked with internal security. Actually they have a symbiotic relationship. You can’t have economic development without internal security and you can’t have internal security without economic development,” Kant said while inaugurating the first National Conference of Micro Missions of National Police Mission.

The two-day event was organised by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D).

Kant, a 1980 batch Indian Administrative Service officer of Kerala cadre, said if police does not act as major agent in social change, it will be very difficult for India to rapidly grow.

Niti Aayog Chief Executive Amitabh Kant

“We need to completely take a fresh look. My belief is that it will be very difficult for India to rapidly grow unless and until police does not act as a major agent of social change.”

“My belief is also that since police has very large presence on the ground, it can provide very valuable feedback to the states and the government in the functioning of many of the schemes in a very effective manner,” Kant said.

He said security scenario was rather tough once in India but among all those challenges he saw a great opportunity as well. “With every passing year, India has emerged stronger.”

Kant said that upgradation of internal security needs improvement in policing and it is not dependable on central money assistance. “Money is not the real limiting factor to delay improvement in policing, there are other issues.”

“There is need to strengthen police stations… The improvement of police stations in one hand will improve the prevention and detection of crime and other hand improve citizens’ interface with the police and it will improve internal security,” Kant said.

“The second is to improve citizen policing. People want quick resolution to their problem. From the other prospective the people are a great resource to police because of willingness of helping the police.”

“The third,” he said, “is an issue of court cases. Around three crore case are pending in various courts in India. According to one analysis, if the nation’s judges close 100 cases every hour without eating or sleeping, it will take 35 years to catch up. Therefore we need to improve the judicial system.”

The event covered sessions on the eight micro missions working under the BPR&D on issues including proactive policing and visualizing future challenges — extremism and Maoism, mob violence, cyber crime, money laundering, narco terrorism, human trafficking and others.

Special Secretary (IS) Home Ministry Rina Mitram, BPR&D Director Meeran C. Borwankar, Director General of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) R.R. Bhatnagar, and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) chief Krishna Chaudhary were present on the occasion.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi will be the chief guest during the valedictory session on May 24. (IANS)

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Jaitley files fresh defamation suit of Rs 10 crore against Kejriwal

May 22, 2017 0

New Delhi–Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday filed a second civil defamation suit of Rs 10 crore in the Delhi High Court against Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal over the word “crook” used by his lawyer.

Jaitley sought Rs 10 crore as damages after Ram Jethmalani used objectionable words against the Union Minister in an open court.

This is a separate case from the ongoing DDCA defamation suit against the Chief Minister and five other Aam Aadmi Party leaders that Jaitley filed in 2015.

On May 17, Jaitley and senior advocate Ram Jethmalani clashed in the court with the Minister taking strong objection to the word “crook” used during cross examination in the earlier defamation case.

Arun Jaitley

“I intend to show that this man (Jaitley) is a crook,” Jethmalani had said, prompting strong objection from the Minister.

Jaitley, who was being cross-examined, furiously asked Jethmalani whether the word “crook” used by him was in his personal capacity or as per the instruction of Kejriwal.

To which, Jethmalani had said that it was used by him on instructions from his client (Kejriwal).

Jaitley then threatened to seek higher damages.

“I will aggravate the charges against the defendants (Kejriwal)… There is a limit to personal malice,” he had said after Jethmalani said he wanted to prove his point that the Union Minister was a “crook”.

Jaitley’s counsel had objected to Jethmalani referring to the Minister as being “guilty of crime and crookery”.

Jaitley was being cross-examined by Jethmalani in connection with the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) defamation case filed by the Minister.

In December 2015, Jaitley filed a civil defamation suit against Kejriwal and AAP leaders Kumar Vishwas, Ashutosh, Sanjay Singh, Raghav Chadha and Deepak Bajpayee, claiming that they made “false and defamatory” statements in the case involving the DDCA, thereby harming his reputation.

Jaitley had sought Rs 10 crore in damages from Kejriwal and other AAP leaders in the DDCA case as well.

He had claimed that the AAP leaders attacked him over alleged irregularities and financial bungling in Delhi’s cricket association, of which he was the President for about 13 years. (IANS)

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India to have science infrastructure sharing policy soon

May 21, 2017 0

By Sahana Ghosh

Kolkata–India is formulating a policy on maintaining and sharing science infrastructure so that R&D facilities do not remain limited to academia but are also accessed by industry, according to a senior bureaucrat of the Union Ministry of Science and Technology.

“The idea is to create infrastructure which becomes shareable, which becomes sustainable and is also accessible to our industry. A whole lot of scientific infrastructure is not available to our industry. We are going to come up with a policy this year, about maintaining, sustaining and effectively using scientific infrastructure in a shared way,” Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology, told IANS in an interview on the sidelines of a DST Conclave here.

Ashutosh Sharma

A web portal is being envisaged to implement the policy, Sharma said.

“Indian institutes have R&D labs. We will tell people about the models by which they can share the infrastructure in a transparent way. So in a website, anybody can book a slot and put in a request to access instruments in different labs,” he explained.

Talking about broad contours of the policy, he said it would also aim to reduce redundancy and duplication of scientific equipment in institutions.

“Since it’s a policy, not a law, the challenge lies in implementation. We have to make people aware of the idea contained in the policy, let them see the value for themselves. That’s the only way,” he said.

One example of such infrastructure sharing is the EU-funded PAERIP project to share resources between Europe and Africa. PAERIP created the first-ever inventory of research infrastructure in the two continents.

At the DST Conclave, where the ministry took stock of the R&D situation across institutes, Sharma also flagged a key issue: The lack of coordination among institutions.

“One issue is coordination among institutions where they are doing similar things. So it makes sense for them to do it together. The new policy on sharing infrastructure will also help in that direction,” he said.

In addition to the science infrastructure policy, a major thrust this year would be on the Interdisciplinary Cyber Physical System (CPS) programme.

CPS is a mechanism controlled or monitored by computer-based algorithms, tightly integrated with internet and its users.

Computing and communication system bridges with the physical world are referred to as Cyber Physical Systems. CPS are physical and engineered systems whose operations are monitored, coordinated, controlled and integrated by a computing and communication core.

“This year we will start a new programme in cyber physical systems which includes deep learning, smart machines, machine intelligence, IoT (Internet of Things), etc. We have to start making preparations for it now in terms of generating capacity, human resources and infrastructure,” he said.

In addition, Sharma said, India has initiated collaboration on cyberspace with Israel, IoT & BigData with Japan, robotics and advanced materials with South Korea.

“Much more is in the pipeline in emerging areas of research,” he said.

To shore up the number of women in IITs, Sharma said 50,000 girls in high schools will be prepared for admission in technical training institutes.

“We are targeting 50,000 girls in high schools, a certain percentile from the top, to prepare them for leadership positions in IITs, especially in those institutes where representation is low. It’s not only technical training but also looking at the cultural aspect.

“Often, women are thinking maths is not really for them while their parents don’t want to send them away from home and there are the expenses involved. So we have to look into all these aspects,” he added. (IANS)

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Kailash Satyarthi rescues nine bonded children

May 19, 2017 0

New Delhi–Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi on Thursday rescued nine children from an illegal factory here where they were slaving away after being trafficked from Bihar.

Satyarthi and his NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) raided the premises in Old Delhi’s Daryaganj area and rescued the children aged between seven and 15 years, the activist told IANS.

All the children were from Katihar in Bihar, were confined in two rooms and forced to produce Christmas gifts for the Western market.

Kailash Satyarthi

“These children were working in a manufacturing unit producing shining Christmas decoration items,” Satyarthi said.

It was the second raid in which he personally took part since getting the Nobel prize in 2014.

He said the workshop was located in a narrow lane.

Satyarthi said he went there himself because the activist who had detected the bonded children had been identified by some locals.

“I did not want to give him this responsibility to rescue the children as he could have been attacked,” he said. “I was once attacked in this area seven or eight years ago.”

But as Satyarthi landed there with his team, he himself got recognized as a Nobel prize winner.

“In no time a large number of people gathered and began shaking hands with me. Everyone welcomed me. And we easily rescued the children as our women activists entered the workshop and spotted the kids.”

The rescued children will be taken to a centre run by Satyarthi’s NGO for rehabilitation, he said. The workshop has been sealed and a police case has been filed against the absconding owner.(IANS)

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Reports of mass layoffs by Indian IT companies incorrect: Nasscom

May 18, 2017 0

New Delhi–Software industry body National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) on Thursday dismissed as incorrect reports of mass layoffs by IT companies in India.

The industry body said the numbers being reported with regard to layoffs across different sources are not in line with the actual employment progression.

“In fact, the industry continues to be a net hirer with talent acquisition continuing across sectors. In 2016-17, the industry added 170,000 new jobs (600,000 in last three years) and today boasts of a total employee base of 3.9 million (95,000-100,000 in start-ups and 50,000-60,000 in e-commerce),” it said in a statement.

Nasscom President R. Chandrashekhar

“The sector remains one of the largest employers of the nation. While there is a gentle deceleration in the net hiring growth rate due to shifting focuses towards innovation, lower attrition and enhanced efficiencies, the sector continues to hire fresh as-well-as lateral employees in equal proportion thus indicating the opportunities for employment at the entry as well as the mid-management level.”

The statement said workforce realignment is common to any industry and is a part of the regular exercise of yearly performance appraisal processes, which only impacts 0.5-3 per cent of the overall IT talent pool.

“Both skilling and talent re-deployment are part of a regular yearly cycle, as this enables companies to remain competitive,” Nasscom Chairman Raman Roy said at a conference here.

“Companies evaluate their priorities based on the business needs and work towards making the necessary changes in their workforce planning. And, therefore, it is important to look at the larger picture and the long-term roadmap to completely understand and appreciate the situation,” he added.

According to Nasscom, many firms have already established dedicated programmes to re-skill their existing employees and India today boasts of over 300,000 such experts, with the top companies already re-skilling an average 50 per cent of their employee base.

“The need for re-skilling talent is a reality that we have to address. To keep up in a fast-evolving technology environment, the IT industry must reinvent itself by re-skilling its employees in new and upcoming technologies,” said Nasscom President R. Chandrashekhar. (IANS)

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Indian Environment Minister Anil Dave is dead

May 18, 2017 0

New Delhi–Union Environment Minister Anil Dave, a committed environmentalist who had worked on green projects including conservation of the Narmada river, died here on Thursday morning following cardiac arrest.

He was 61 and was a bachelor.

Meena Agarwal, the wife of Dave’s family physician Bharat Agarwal, told IANS that his family tried to wake him up in the morning but he appeared unconscious.

Anil Dave

He was rushed to the AIIMS at 9 a.m. “in a stage of cardiac arrest”, a hospital statement said.

“All possible measures were taken immediately at AIIMS, but he could not survive and (was) declared dead around 9.45 a.m.,” the AIIMS statement said.

Dave hailed from Madhya Pradesh where he had done a stint as Minister of Environment. He was inducted into the Union Council of Ministers on July 6, 2016 as Minister of State for Environment with independent charge.

He had worked on conservation projects including of the Narmada river and founded “Narmada Samagra” for the purpose.

President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the nation in mourning the loss of Dave whom he had met only on Wednesday evening. They expressed shock over the sudden death.

“Absolutely shocked by the sudden demise of my friend and a very respected colleague, Daveji. My condolences,” Modi said in a condolence message.

The Prime Minister said Dave would be remembered as a “devoted public servant who “was tremendously passionate towards conserving the environment”.

“I was with Daveji till late last evening, discussing key policy issues. This demise is a personal loss,” Modi said.

One of those who attended that meeting recalled that Dave was looking “pale and weak but sat through the long meeting with the Prime Minister”.

Mukherjee said Dave’s tenure as the minister was “distinguished by extensive efforts to conserve nature and protect environment”.

BJP President Amit Shah, senior leader L. K. Advani, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and a host of ministers, including Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu, condoled Dave’s death. They hailed him as a committed environmentalist.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi said Dave would be remembered for his humble personality.

Dave had not been well since January when he was diagnosed with pneumonia and had been feeling “badly weak” in the past few days, family sources said.

Dave, who began his political career during his college days in his home state of Madhya Pradesh, was a Rajya Sabha member since 2009.

He joined the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh after completing his post-graduation in commerce from Gujarati College in Indore. His father Dadasaheb Dave had been a long time RSS activist.

The government announced national mourning and “as a mark of respect” in his memory the National Flag will fly at half-mast across the country.

His portfolio has been given to Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan as additional charge.

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MIT’s World Real Estate Forum Attracts Several Key Indian Players on Friday

May 17, 2017 0

CAMBRIDGE, MA—MIT Center for Real Estate is hosting its annual World Real Estate Forum this Friday, May 19, and has attracted several key Indian players, including Anita Arjundas, Managing Director & CEO, Mahindra Lifespace Developers Ltd and Rajeev Piramal, Executive Vice-Chairman & Managing Director, Peninsula Land.

Anita Arjundas

Other speakers include include Ajay Prasad, Managing Director – India, Taurus Investment Holdings; Shashi Tharoor, Lok Sabha Member of Parliament, and Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs; and Raja Seetharaman, Director, Propstack.

“India is expected to have the world’s fastest growing economy in 2017,” say organizers of the conference. “Find out what this means for the future of Indian real estate, and hear from leading developers, investors and influencers about their strategy for the future.”

The two-day conference (May 18-19) is being held at MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 75 Amherst St., Cambridge, MA 02139.

Here is the schedule of panels:

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