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Obama criticizes China’s new technology plans March 03, 2015 16:11

American President Barack Obama criticized China's plans for new rules on U.S technology companies, urging Beijing to change its policy if it wants any business to happen between the two countries. In an interview, Obama said he was concerned about Beijing’s counter terrorism law that would require technology firms to hand over encryption keys, the pass-codes that help to protect data, and install security  ‘’backdoors”  in their systems to give Chinese authorities to have surveillance access. "This is something that I have raised directly with President Xi," Obama said. "We have made it very clear to them that this is something they are going to have to change if they want to do business with the United States." The Chinese parliamentary body read a second draft of the country’s first anti-terrorism law last week and is expected to adopt legislation in the coming weeks or months. As to the draft companies need to keep the servers and user data within china, supply law enforcement authorities with communication records and censor terrorism related Internet content. This will allow Chinese government to force on foreign companies to turn to their mechanisms and allow snooping and tracking the data and services. Obama said, “As you might imagine tech companies are not going to be willing to do that.”  The rules will effect financial industry regulations by pushing Chinese banks to purchase from domestic vendors. The effects are felt on Silicon Valley companies and set the stage for clash over cyber security and technology policy. On the other side Beijing wants to quickly tighten measures for cyber security as a wakeup call from whistle blower Edward Snowden’s revelations of U.S spying.  By Premji

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RBI revises priority sector lending March 03, 2015 16:09

The Reserve Bank of India has rewritten the guidelines of lending to the priority sector, regarding loans to medium enterprises, sanitation and renewable energy sectors which come under one roof. “The target for lending to the redefined priority sector is retained uniformly at 40 percent of adjusted net bank credit or credit equivalent of off-balance sheet exposure, whichever is higher, for all scheduled commercial banks,” the RBI said in a notification. Foreign banks will however be given time to comply with the revised norms, the central bank added, without specifying time period.  The target for lending to the agriculture sector has been kept at usual 18 percent of ANBC, but the Reserve Bank has recommended a sub-target of 8 percent of ANBC for small and marginal farmers, to be achieved in a phased manner. The RBI’s decision came a day after the government proposed changes to the priority sector lending norms. Macquarie Research termed the priority sector recommendations as “very onerous especially for private banks” and added, although agriculture's contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) had decreased, the priority sector lending norms are not reflecting the changing requirements and suggested that the infrastructure sector has to be brought under the umbrella of priority sector lending. By Premji

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5 years jail for slaughter March 03, 2015 16:03

Slaughter of cows, bulls, bullocks and calves, is now completely banned in Maharashtra under the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (amendment) Act (MAPA), 1995, which received President Pranab Mukherjee’s nod. However, the slaughter of female buffaloes and buffalo calves can continue, with the permission of relevant authorities. Under the amended act, the crime of slaughtering the animals covered will be non-bailable and the punishment will be five years in prison, upped from the earlier six months. The fine has been hiked to Rs 10,000 from the current Rs 1,000. “The amendment will come into force once the notification is issued by the state government,” said Mahesh Pathak, secretary of the animal husbandry and dairy development department. “The agriculture ministry had passed negative remarks after the bill was sent to the Centre in November last year. The agriculture department had pointed at provisions of schedule 6 of the Act claiming that only aged animals were being sent for slaughter. It was only after we convinced the political leadership about the importance of the bill, that the remarks were changed and the bill was sent to the ministry of home affairs,” said a BJP leader on the condition of anonymity. By Premji

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Contest for PMO Mobile App March 03, 2015 12:13

Government's citizen-engagement platform MyGov has launched a nationwide contest to build a mobile app for the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). "This contest will be held across the country, at different institutions and colleges and will invite participation from people throughout India," the statement said. Internet giant Google is partnering with the MyGov to create the PMO Mobile App.  While speaking at NASSCOM event, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that they were planning to invite ideas from the public for developing a mobile app for his office. "Through the PMO app contest, we wish to use technology effectively to encourage innovation, aspiration and enhance connectivity. We want to provide every citizen access to the PMO through a mobile device," Gaurav Dwivedi, CEO, MyGov said.  "We announced about five months ago that we will contribute on the Digital India initiative and the app development contest is a step in that direction," Rajan Anandan, Vice President and Managing Director, Google India & South-East Asia said.  The contest will be divided into three phases, the first phase will seek ideas from the public on what they would like to see in the mobile app for the PMO, the second phase will involve building wireframes and the final phase will include short listing, judging and building the app. By Premji

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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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