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Airports modernization, employees oppose March 03, 2015 12:08

Civil aviation minister Mahesh Sharma told Parliament there was no proposal to privatise airports in the country. “However, based on the recommendations of Task Force on Financing Plan for Airports during 12th Five Year Plan period, set up by erstwhile Planning Commission, the government has initiated the process for undertaking operation, management and development of Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Jaipur airports through Public Private Partnership (PPP),” he told the Lok Sabha. AAEU’s general secretary Balraj Singh Ahlawat, refuted to this and said, “The fact that the ministry was giving 76% stake to the private companies for 60 years makes the whole exercise as good as privatisation. It gives the private entity majority stake, and therefore a bigger say in all matters relating to that airport.” R Santahnam, all-India president of the AAEU, said “A section of the (AAI) Act was amended to pave the way for leasing of the airports for development, operation and management. This made it easy for any private company to enter into a joint venture with the AAI through a subsidiary company created along with it. This was done for the purpose of privatization.” By Premji

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Jaishanker in Islamabad - Will talks resume? March 03, 2015 12:05

Indian foreign secretary S Jaishankar, who started his 'SAARC yatra' with Bhutan and visited Bangladesh, will be in Pakistan to hold talks with his counterpart Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhary and later call on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Pakistani officials said they hoped the talks would lead to a resumption of the Indo-Pak dialogue. "We have noted that the visit is in the context of SAARC. However, when the foreign secretaries meet, bilateral relations would be discussed. We expect this interaction would lead to resumption of the dialogue process," Pakistani officials said. Pakistan was expected to propose a series of new confidence-building measures, including the restoration of the 2003 ceasefire agreement to end hostilities along its border with India, but they said it was "just speculation." The SAARC is an economic and geopolitical grouping of eight countries located in South Asia which includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka as its members. Frankly, we do not have any idea what this Indian government wants. We will try to understand their policy," a senior diplomat said. Private media reported that Pakistan may offer some new CBMs including an offer to respect the 2003 ceasefire agreement on the Line of Control. Jaishankar is also expected to meet advisor on national security and foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz and special assistant to Prime Minister Tariq Fatemi. By Premji

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DRDO eyes self-reliance March 02, 2015 17:15

Dr Tessy Thomas, Director of DRDO’s Advanced Systems Laboratory, while speaking at the 23rd Yelavarthy Nayudamma Memorial Award presentation ceremony said that the organisation is eyeing self-reliance by 2020 by establishing several manufacturing hubs, all the while illustrating its leadership in the sector. She emphasised that to achieve the goal of ‘make in India’, self-reliance and indigenisation are vital. She added that DRDO has already chalked out various strategies for development of technology transfer to industry; technology licence production for upgradation and indigenization, concurrent production and procurement to meet the immediate needs and parallel development to achieve self-reliance and consortium of industry and academia. Another eminent scientist – Geeta Varadan, Director of the Advanced Data Processing Research Institute of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) who was present at the event and delivered a lecture on ‘Remote Sensing Technology for National Needs’ and stated that remote sensing technologies are becoming increasingly relevant to the society at large as they offer an “end to end” solution for a variety of national needs. Varadan said that remote sensing had also opened up avenues for servicing many time-critical applications like flood inundation estimation for relief operations, landslide hazard mapping and resulting damage assessment, early warning of cyclone in the onset to take precautionary measures to reduce life risks to human and livestock resources. By Premji

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Ola Cabs bought rival TaxiforSure for $200 mn March 02, 2015 17:10

Online cab aggregator Ola Cabs, that is backed by Japan's SoftBank, today announced that it has acquired its competitor TaxiForSure for $200 million (Rs 1238 crore) in a cash and equity deal. A press statement of Ola said the leadership and all of the 1,700 employees shall continue to work with TaxiForSure and Arvind Singhal (currently COO) being appointed the CEO. Aprameya Radhakrishna and Raghunandan G, the founders of TaxiForSure, will contribute in an advisory role for a certain period. TaxiForSure currently operates in 47 cities with over 15,000 vehicles registered on its platform. Ola which is already the market leader has over one lakh vehicles on its platform and is present in 67 cities. Bhavish Aggarwal, Co-founder and CEO, Ola, said, “Ola and TaxiForSure share the same vision of revolutionising urban mobility. TaxiForSure has a great team and they have built a very exciting business in a short time. There's a lot of complementary value in the strategy TaxiForSure has followed. I'm very excited to welcome the TaxiForSure team onboard and look forward to working with them towards realising our common vision.”  Raghunandan G, Co-founder and CEO, TaxiForSure, said, “TaxiForSure coming together with Ola will provide us with more opportunity than ever, to do what we do best. Post this acquisition; the combined entity will be strong enough and better capitalized to offer the best value to all our stakeholders, including our customers.” Ola has been funded by Tiger Global, Matrix Partners, Sequoia Capital, Steadview Capital and most recently, Softbank over its four rounds of fund-raising. Investors in TaxiForSure are Accel Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners and Helion Venture Partners. By Premji

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IT engineers should take innovations to next level - Modi March 02, 2015 15:29

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech at a Nasscom event in the capital urged young IT engineers to take innovation to the next level. Cyber security, mobile apps and cloud storage were buzz words in Prime Minister’s speech. "You are doing a great job and that is why I can expect things. The prime reason for the IT industry's success is that the government is not there anywhere," he said. He asked Nasscom, whether they could form a task force to check the feasibility of Indian IT professionals to solve the cyber-security puzzle for digital assets around the world, which he said could be a future market. "Can we do innovation in this field? There will be a huge market, I am sure." PM invited ideas from the public for developing a mobile app for his office to make it more mobile friendly. "The faster you all (industry) make mobile apps, the faster you will capture the market. We need a revolution in mobile governance," he said. n avid user of social media, Modi who was one of the first political leaders in India to successfully use social media for campaigning, emphasized the significance of mobile apps and the important role mobile apps can play in delivering citizen-centric services and mobile governance, he said while vouching for a revolution in e-governance. PM also explained how technology was helping to curb corruption. By Premji

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Black money law puts India in the top March 02, 2015 15:27

India will join the league of countries like Singapore, UK and US with its proposed law to check black money, under which, those hiding income and evading tax in relation to foreign assets can be slapped with a prison term of up to ten years. The proposed imprisonment penalty and the monetary penalty could be higher than many other countries. The new law asks for a penalty for such concealment of income and assets at the rate of 300 per cent of tax, while offenders will not be permitted to approach the Settlement Commission. Non-filing of returns or filing with inadequate disclosure of foreign assets will itself become liable for prosecution with punishment of rigorous imprisonment up to seven years. The proposed law in India has been largely welcomed, industry body Assocham on Sunday said the government should avoid "over-kill and rush job" in its efforts to check foreign assets' concealment. ITC's Chairman YC Deveshwar said that the "strong measures to eliminate black money and to impose exemplary punishment is a bold step to curb the parallel economy and mainstream resources for productive growth." By Premji

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Prince William in China March 02, 2015 15:24

Prince William presented China's president with an invitation from the queen to visit Britain this year, as he began the first official visit to mainland China ever by a senior British royal in a generation. President Xi Jinping told the prince that he thanked Queen Elizabeth II for the invitation. “I look forward to meeting her majesty and other British leaders during the visit and to jointly plan out the future of Sino-British relations,” Xi said during the meeting in the Great Hall of the People. “The British royal family has great influence, not just in Britain but across the world.” William told Xi and the rest of the Chinese delegation, including Yang Jiechi, the government’s senior foreign policy adviser and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, that he is looking forward to strengthening relations between the countries. “I’m particularly interested in the young people and seeing how the next generation develops and is aware of the world as it is,” he added.  Zhao Chen, 14, who is visually impaired and undergone six operations to his eyes, and wants to be a tenor, told the prince: “My dream is to go to your palace to sing opera.” The prince replied: “Well, you have met the right man. We might be able to arrange something.” By Premji

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'Fireball in the sky', probably a meteor March 02, 2015 12:22

Preliminary examination by scientists have come to a conclusion that the 'fireball', which streaked across the Kerala sky triggering panic in several districts a day ago, could be a meteor. Officials of the State Disaster Management Authority, which collected the samples from a plot in Karimalloor village in Ernakulam district where the object was believed to have fallen, said preliminary assessment pointed to the possibility of it being a meteor. There are also speculations that the 'fireball' could be celestial debris or a rocket or satellite debris. "Our primary assessments point to the possibility of a meteor. The objects we collected from the spot have high specific gravity. Though they are small in size, it has more than normal weight," Sekhar Kuriakose, a scientist said. "It is just a primary assessment and we cannot arrive at a concrete conclusion with this. We will hand over the collected samples to Geological Survey of India for further examination. We can arrive at a conclusion only after detailed examination," he added. He said the objects which had 'brilliant streaks' are due to iron-nickle presence, which is the peculiarity of a meteor. By Premji

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Tigers, Lions as pets March 02, 2015 12:18

Animal Husbandry, Horticulture and Food Processing Minister Kusum Mehdele, has sought a law that allows people to domesticate or keep as pets big cats like lions and tigers for their conservation. In a proposal sent to the state’s forest department, the minister has cited legal provisions in some African and South-East Asian countries like Thailand which have helped bring about an increase in the population of the big cats.  The minister said that there are various projects in the country for conservation of tigers, although crores of rupees have been spent on these projects, there has been no surprising increase in tiger numbers. In Thailand and some other nations, there is a legal recognition for people to keep tigers and lions as pets, she added that the number of such animals is increasing in a surprising way in these countries. Following suggestions from the minister, MP Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Narendra Kumar has written to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and Wildlife Institute of India (WII) seeking their comments on the proposal.  “It is surprising that such a bizarre suggestion could be made by senior minister Mehdele. She hails from the Panna region of the state, which is known for its tiger population. I denounce such a proposal and request the central government not to give its permission for domesticating the tiger,” Bhopal-based wildlife activist Ajay Dubey said. By Premji

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Mufti credits Pakistan for peaceful election March 02, 2015 12:08

The newly sworn-in Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, credited “separatists” and “outsiders” for peaceful elections in the State, but almost all the political parties lashed out saying the statement was “most unfortunate” and “mocks the overwhelming public mandate.” The BJP, however, said that the peaceful conduct of elections in the State was due to the efforts of the Election Commission, the Army and those who believed in the Indian Constitution.  Congress leader and spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP must answer whether they stand by “such unflinching support for Pakistan, the Hurriyat and militants.” “With one stroke, the BJP-PDP alliance has taken away the credit from people of Jammu and Kashmir for participating in the historic poll and from the Election Commission and security agencies for conducting them,” he said. Refuting Mufti’s statement, BJP said, the focus of the government would be on peace, rehabilitation of flood-affected people and full development of all the three regions of Jammu and Kashmir.  Taking the opportunity to discredit BJP and PDP, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said “This is totally untrue. How can the new government forget the killing of sarpanchs and suicide attack at an Army camp in Uri in which many Army officers lost their lives?” “In fact, Pakistan and militant groups tried their best to destabilise the democratic process in the State. It is the people of the State who strengthened the roots of democracy and the newly cobbled together alliance should refrain from extending credit in the wrong direction,” he told. By Premji

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