Jayalalithaa acquitted in corruption case, paving way for her return as TN CM

Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was on Monday acquitted by the Karnataka High Court in Bangalore in an 18-year-old corruption case, clearing the way for her return to the top job in her state.

File photo of J. Jayalalithaa.
File photo of J. Jayalalithaa.
Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was today acquitted by the Karnataka High Court here in an 18-year-old corruption case, clearing the way for her return to the top job in her state.
The High Court allowed Ms Jayalalithaa's appeal against the verdict of a special court in Bangalore which had, on September 23, 2014, sentenced her to four years in prison and asked her to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore.
Reading out the operative part of the judgement at 11 am in the court, Mr Justice C R Kumaraswamy said the appeals by Ms Jayalalithaa and the three co-accused had been allowed and that they were acquitted of all charges.
Ms Jayalalithaa, 67, had also been barred by the special court from contesting elections and that verdict had meant that she had been disqualified as a member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly and ceased to be the Chief Minister of the state.
Today's acquittal means that Ms Jayalithaa, supremo of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), can return as Chief Minister.
After she had stepped down, senior AIADMK leader O. Panneerselvam was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on September 29 last year.
Mr Panneerselvam, 63, had earlier served as Chief Minister for a brief period from September 21, 2001 to March 1, 2002 after the Supreme Court had declared null and void the action of then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing Ms Jayalalithaa to the position as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in another corruption case. She was later cleared of all charges in 2002 and had returned as Chief Minister.
Ms Jayalalithaa, a film star-turned-politician, and the three co-accused persons were accused by the prosecution of amassing assets valued at Rs 66.65 crore disproportionate to their known sources of income from 1991-96 during her first term in office.
The special court had sentenced the co-accused -- her close aide Sasikala Natarajan, Sasikala's nephew Sudharakan, who is Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son, and Sasikala's close relative Ilavarasi -- also to four years in prison and fined them Rs 10 crore each.
Jayalalithaa acquitted by Karnataka HC in corruption case
Celebrations broke out among Ms Jayalalithaa's supporters all across Tamil Nadu as well as outside the high court here, where they had gathered in large numbers.
Hundreds of people who had congregated outside her Poes Garden residence in Chennai since early morning burst firecrackers, danced and distributed sweets as soon as news of the verdict by Mr Justice C R Kumaraswamy ame in.
Mr Panneerselvam and many of his Cabinet colleagues also turned up to congratulate her.
On October 17 last year, Ms Jayalalithaa had been granted bail by the Supreme Court in the case after the Karnataka High Court had turned down her application.
Along with her, the apex court also granted bail to Ms Natarajan, Mr Sudhakaran and Mr Ilavarasi.
The case was filed in 1997 by the Tamil Nadu government's Department of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) during the tenure of Ms Jayalalithaa's rival and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader M Karunanidhi as Chief Minister.
The Supreme Court ordered the case to be transferred to a special court in Bangalore in 2003 on a petition filed by DMK leader K Anbazhagan, who had expressed doubts about a fair trial in Tamil Nadu after Jayalalithaa returned as Chief Minister.
The prosecution had alleged that Jayalalithaa had just Rs 3 crore when she took over as Chief Minister for the first time in 1991 and had taken a token salary of just Re 1, but her wealth and that of her three co-accused had grown to Rs 66.6 crore during her five years in office, vastly disproportionate to her known sources of income.
The alleged wealth included 2000 acres of land, 30 kg of gold and thousands of sarees. She was also accused of spending more than Rs 5 crore on her foster son's wedding in 1996, though she had claimed that the expenditure was borne by the bride's family.
Ms Jayalalithaa had all along maintained that the case was an act of political vendetta by the DMK. Among other things, she had agued that her previous assets were undervalued, her property was overvalued and her income from various sources were not taken into account.
In 2011, Jayalalithaa had appeared in the Bangalore court for four days to answer more than 1390 questions posed by the judge.
In the Lok Sabha elections last year, the AIADMK had made a near clean sweep in Tamil Nadu, winning 37 of the 39 seats from the state.

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Modi says defence public sector companies have to perform better

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday that it would no longer be enough for India to buy defence equipment from abroad and simply assemble them in the country and made it clear that the public sector needed to improve its performance in this sector.

Modi inaugurates Aero India-2015, says India reforming defence policies
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said it would no longer be enough for India to buy defence equipment from abroad and simply assemble them in the country and made it clear that the public sector needed to improve its performance in this sector.
"We have been doing this in the past, without absorbing any technology or developing our own capabilities. In some areas, we are where we were three decades ago," he said in his inaugural address at the 10th edition of Aero India, the international air show here.
"Frankly, our public sector needs to do much better than they are doing now. We have to exploit their huge assets and a vast potential. At the same time, we have to make them accountable," he said.
Mr Modi said his government was focusing on developing the defence industry with a sense of mission in view of the impact it could have on the creation of jobs directly and in the related sectors and of the possible spin-off benefits on other sectors in terms of advanced materials and technologies.
"This is why it is at the heart of our Make in India programme," he said.
"We are reforming our defence procurement policies and procedures. There would be a clear preference for equipment manufactured in India. Our procurement procedures will ensure simplicity, accountability and speedy decision making," he said.
Mr Modi said the government had raised the permitted level of foreign direct investment (FDI) to 49%. This could go higher, if the project brought state-of-the art technology, he said.
He also said the government had permitted investments upto 24% by foreign institutional investors (FIIs) and there was no longer a need to have a single Indian investor with at least a 51% stake. 
"Industrial licensing requirements have been eliminated for a number of items. Where it is needed, the process has been simplified. We are expanding the role of private sector, even for major platforms. Our goal is to provide a level playing field for all. We speak in terms of national capacity, not public sector or private sector," he said.
More than 250 Indian companies and more than 300 foreign firms are participating in Aero India. Defence ministers, senior officials and hundreds of business leaders from around the world are attending the event.
"This is the largest ever Aero India. This reflects a new level of confidence within our country and global interest in India. To many of you, India is a major business opportunity. 
"We have the reputation as the largest importer of defence equipment in the world. That may be music to the ears of some of you here. But, this is one area where we would not like to be Number One!" Mr Modi said.
"Our security challenges are well known. Our international responsibilities are evident. We do need to increase our defence preparedness. We do have to modernize our defence forces. 
"We have to equip ourselves for the needs of the future, where technology will play a major role. As a nation of one billion people, we also have huge requirements for managing internal security. We are increasingly integrating technology and systems into it.  These opportunities make Aero India an important international event," he said.
Mr Modi said Aero India was not just a trade fair for defence equipment but a mega meeting of one of the largest global supply chains, with the most advanced technology and complex equipment  
He said it was a platform to launch India's defence manufacturing sector, stressing that a nation with a strong defence industry would not only be more secure but also reap rich economic benefits. 
"It can boost investment, expand manufacturing, support enterprise, raise the technology level and increase economic growth in the country," he said.
He said that, in India, the defence industry in the government sector alone employed nearly 200,000 workers and thousands of engineers and scientists. They produce an output of nearly 7 billion dollars annually. It also supports a very large pool of small and medium enterprises. 
He said the country's defence industry in private sector wass still small but it already employs thousands of people.
"This is despite the fact that nearly 60% of our defence equipment continues to be imported. And, we are spending tens of billions of dollars on acquisitions from abroad. There are studies that show that even a 20 to 25% reduction in imports could directly create an additional 100,000 to 120,000 highly skilled jobs in India. 
"If we could raise the percentage of domestic procurement from 40% to 70% in the next five years, we would double the output in our defence industry. Imagine the impact in terms of jobs created directly and in the related manufacturing and services sector! Think of the spin off benefits on other sectors in terms of advanced materials and technologies!" he said.
Mr Modi said the offsets system was a crucial instrument to develop and upgrade our defence industry. 
"We have introduced significant reforms in our offsets policy. I am acutely aware that it still needs a lot of improvements. We will pursue them in consultation with domestic industry and our foreign partners. I want our offsets policy not as a means to export low-end products, but to acquire state-of-the art technology and skills in core areas of priority," he said.
He pointed out that government's support for research and development was essential for defence sector. And, it should also be accompanied by a degree of assurance on purchase. 
"We are introducing a scheme to provide up to 80% of funding from the government for development of a prototype in India. And, we are also launching a Technology Development Fund. 
"For too long, our research and development has been confined to government laboratories. We must involve our scientists, soldiers, academia, industry and independent experts more closely in research and development," he said.
Mr Modi said that, while it had made its export policies clearer, simpler and predictable, the government would also abide by the highest standards of export controls and international responsibility. 
"We will expand our exports, but we will ensure that our equipment and technology do not fall into the wrong hands. India's record in this area has been impeccable and it will remain so," he said.
The Prime Minister said he was pleased with the positive impact of the government's policies and noted that the Indian private corporations had responded with enthusiasm.
"There is new excitement in our small and medium scale sector. Many of the biggest global firms are forming strategic partnerships in India. Some of them have already begun using India as part of their global supply chains or engineering services." he said.
He also expressed happiness that the first set of parts from the joint venture set up in September last year by Dynamatic Technologies and its collaborator Boeing, to manufacture critical parts for a Boeing helicopter that is sold globally, was ready for shipment today.
"But, we still need to do more. We have to further reform our acquisition and approval processes. We must indicate a clear roadmap of our future needs. 
This must take into account not only new technology trends, but also the nature of future challenges," he said.
Mr Modi said there was need to pay attention to developing supply chains, with emphasis on innovation and bridge the gap between prototype development and quality of production. 
"We must develop a financing system suited to the special needs of this industry. It is a market where buyers are mainly governments, the capital investments are large and the risks are high. We must ensure that our tax system does not discriminate against domestic manufacture in comparison to imports," he said.
Mr Modi said that, more broadly, the defence industry would succeed more if the manufacturing sector were transformed in India.
"We need great infrastructure, sound business climate, clear investment policies, ease of doing business, stable and predictable tax regime, and easy access to inputs. We need a national industry that produces advanced materials, the most sophisticated electronics and the best engineering products. Over the last eight months, we have worked hard to create that environment for you. 
"Above all, we need a vast pool of highly skilled and qualified human resources for the defence industry. Our aerospace industry alone would need about 200,000 people in another ten years," he said.
He said the government would set up special universities and skill development centres to cater to the defence industry, just as it had done in atomic energy and space. "I have especially invited the State Governments to come here with package of facilities to attract investments in defence manufacturing," he said.
"We want to develop an industry is dynamic. It should constantly stay at the cutting edge of the global industry. I am confident that India will emerge as a major global centre for defence industry. We have the basic building blocks for it in India; and, a large nation requirement. We will build an industry that will have room for everyone – public sector, private sector and foreign firms. 
From sellers, foreign firms must turn into strategic partners," he said.
"We need their technology, skills, systems integration and manufacturing strength. The nature of industry is such that imports will always be there. In turn, they can use India as part of their global supply chain," he said.
He said defence budgets around the world were becoming tighter and India's frugal but sophisticated manufacturing and engineering services sectors could help reduce costs. 
"India can also be a base for export to third countries, especially because of India's growing defence partnerships in Asia and beyond. 
"A strong Indian defence industry will not only make India more secure. It will also make India more prosperous. 
"Aero India can be a catalyst in realizing our goals. That is why I am here today. So, as we look at these wonderful aircraft and enjoy the amazing fly pasts, I also hope we can get some business done. And, sow the seeds of successful new ventures and partnerships – to give our people new opportunities, to make our nations safer, and the world more stable and peaceful," he added.

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10 dead, 50 hurt as Bangalore-Ernakulam Inter-City Express derails near Hosur

At least ten passengers died and about 50 others suffered injuries when the 12677 Bangalore-Ernakulam Inter-city Express derailed on Friday morning near Anekal Road, close to Hosur in Tamil Nadu, official sources said.

10 dead, 50 injured as Bangalore-Ernakulam Inter-City Express derails
At least ten passengers died and about 50 others suffered injuries when the 12677 Bangalore-Ernakulam Inter-city Express derailed this morning near Anekal Road, close to Hosur in Tamil Nadu, official sources said.
The mishap occurred at around 7.45 am between Anekal Road and Hosur stations on the Bangalore-Salem section of South-Western Railway, they said.
Prima facie, the derailment occurred after the train hit a boulder that had rolled down onto the tracks in the ghat section, the sources said.
The train had left Bangalore at 6.15 am for Ernakulam in Kerala. Nine coaches and the engine of the train went off the rails, and one coach in particular, D8, a second class chair car, was badly affected, they said.
The derailed coaches included two air-conditioned chair cars and six second class chair cars, but they did not suffer much damage.
A pantry car and four second class chair cars were not affected by the derailment, the sources said.
South-Western Railway spokesperson Chandrasekhar Gupta told NetIndian over the telephone that ten bodies had been extricated from the mangled coaches.
He said 18 of the injured passengers had suffered severe injuries and were undergoing treatment in the Narayan Hridalaya, Sparsh and Anekal General hospitals nearby.
Police and emergency personnel, including railway officials and staff, from nearby areas in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka rushed to the spot with ambulances and medical equipment. The Railways rushed medical vans and accident relief vans to the spot.
Efforts were being made to restore rail traffic on the section at the earliest, the sources said.
In Delhi, Minister for Railways Suresh Prabhu said he was rushing to the scene of the accident and that he had directed the Chairman of the Railway Board, the General Manager of South-Western Railway and other senior officials to reach the spot.
He said all possible help would be rendered to the affected passengers and families. He also announced an ex-gratia amount of Rs 200,000 for the next-of-kin of each of those killed in the accident, Rs 50,000 for the grievously injured passengers and Rs 20,000 for those with minor injuries.
Union Minister D V Sadananda Gowda, a former Minister for Railways and former Karnataka Chief Minister, was among those who reached the scene of the accident. 
"I am personally monitoring it and in touch with State and local administration. All Sr rail officials are directed by me to be on job," Mr Prabhu said.
"Condolences to all the  unfortunate members of the families who lost lives. Directed to provide best possible medical care to the injured," he said.
"Ordered enquiry to fix responsibility and for corrective action to prevent such unfortunate accidents. Monitoring action regularly," he added.
The Railways have set up the following helplines to provide information and assistance to victims and their relatives: 0948090599,  08022371166, 09731666751.
Besides, the Railways have set up the following helpline numbers in Kerala:
Trivandrum: 0471-2321205, 2321237, 09746769960
Ernakulam Jn.: 0484-2100317, 0813699773
Ernakulam Town: 0484-2398200
Trichur: 04877-2424148, 2430060
Aluva: 0484-2624143

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SC grants bail to former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa

The Supreme Court on Friday granted bail to former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who was convicted by a special court in Bangalore on September 27 in an 18-year-old corruption case and sentenced to four years in prison and asked to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore.

File photo of J. Jayalalithaa.
File photo of J. Jayalalithaa.
The Supreme Court today granted bail to former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who were convicted by a special court in Bangalore on September 27 in an 18-year-old corruption case and sentenced to four years in prison and asked to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore.
Along with Ms Jayalalithaa, 66, the apex court also granted bail to her close aide Sasikala Natarajan, Sasikala's nephew and Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son Sudhakaran and Sasikala's close relative Ilavarasi, who were also convicted in the case and sentenced to four years in prison and fined Rs 10 crore each.
The Karnataka High Court had, on October 7, rejected Ms Jayalalithaa's bail application. While doing so, Judge A V Chandrashekhara recalled that the Supreme Court had made it clear in the past that corruption cases should be put on the fast track. He pointed out that the apex court had taken a tough stand in such cases and had described corruption as a "violation of human rights".
Ms Jayalalithaa and the three co-accused persons were accused by the prosecution of amassing assets valued at Rs 66.65 crore disproportionate to their known sources of income from 1991-96 during her first term in office.
The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) supremo had moved the Supreme Court for bail on October 9.

Jayalalithaa granted interim bail by SC in DA case
The apex court today suspended her sentence and granted her bail after imposing some conditions, including that she would have to submit her paprs for the appeal against her conviction within two months, that is by December 18, and that she would not seek any adjournment of the hearings. 
As soon as news of the court's decision to grant her bail came, hundreds of supporters of Ms Jayalalithaa in Chennai and elsewhere broke out into rapturous celebrations.
Ms Jayalalithaa, who has been held in prison in Bangalore since September 27, is expected to be released on bail later today or tomorrow. She will remain confined to home in Chennai while she is on bail.
The court fixed December 18 as the date to satisfy itself if she had complied with its order.
Her counsel Fali Nariman assured the court on her behalf that there would be no act of lawlessness by her party's workers in Tamil Nadu. She had sought bail on the grounds that she was suffering from various ailments and that she was a senior citizen and a woman.
Ms Jayalalithaa stood disqualified as a member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly after her conviction and sentence and had to resign as Chief Minister. She is also barred from contesting elections for six years after she completes her four-year sentence.
The case was filed in 1997 by the Tamil Nadu government's Department of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) during the tenure of Jayalalithaa's rival and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader M Karunanidhi as Chief Minister.
The Supreme Court ordered the case to be transferred to a special court in Bangalore in 2003 on a petition filed by DMK leader K Anbazhagan, who had expressed doubts about a fair trial in Tamil Nadu after Jayalalithaa returned as Chief Minister.
The prosecution had alleged that Ms Jayalalithaa had just Rs 3 crore when she took over as Chief Minister for the first time in 1991 and had taken a token salary of just Re 1, but her wealth and that of her three co-accused had grown to Rs 66.6 crore during her five years in office, vastly disproportionate to her known sources of income.
The alleged wealth included 2000 acres of land, 30 kg of gold and thousands of sarees. She was also accused of spending more than Rs 5 crore on her foster son's wedding in 1996, though she had claimed that the expenditure was borne by the bride's family.
The court held that the prosecution had been able to prove that she possessed disproportionate assets of about Rs 53 crore. 
Ms Jayalalithaa had all along maintained that the case was an act of political vendetta by the DMK. Among other things, she had agued that her previous assets were undervalued, her property was overvalued and her income from various sources were not taken into account.
In the Lok Sabha elections held earlier this year, the AIADMK had made a near clean sweep in Tamil Nadu, winning 37 of the 39 seats from the state and emerging as the third largest party in the House.
Elections to the Tamil Nadu Assembly are due in 2016 and unless her conviction is overturned by a higher court, Ms Jayalalithaa cannot contest them.
After Ms Jayalalithaa stepped down, senior AIADMK leader O. Panneerselvam was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on September 29.
Mr Panneerselvam, 63, had earlier served as Chief Minister for a brief period from September 21, 2001 to March 1, 2002 after the Supreme Court had declared null and void the action of then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing Ms Jayalalithaa to the position as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in another corruption case.
Ms Jayalalithaa was later cleared of all charges in 2002 and had returned as Chief Minister.

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1 dead, 14 hurt in twin blasts on Bangalore-Guwahati Express at Chennai station

A 24-year-old woman was killed and 14 others suffered injuries in twin blasts which occurred in two coaches of the 12509 Bangalore-Guwahati tri-weekly express train minutes after it pulled into the Chennai Central station on Thursday morning.

Chennai train blasts: 14 injured passengers stable
A 24-year-old woman was killed and 14 others suffered injuries in twin blasts which occurred in two coaches of the 12509 Bangalore-Guwahati tri-weekly express train minutes after it pulled into the Chennai Central station here this morning.
Southern Railway sources said two of the injured had suffered serious grievous injuries while the others had received minor injuries.
Southern Railway General Manager Rakesh Mishra told reporters at the scene that the "minor intensity" blasts occurred in sleeper coaches S4 and S5 at about 7.15 am, some ten minutes after the train arrived on platform number 9.
Three coaches of the train -- S3, S4 and S5 -- were affected by the two explosions, the sources said.
The deceased passenger was identified as Ms Swati who was travelling from Bangalore to Vijayawada on her way to her home town of Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, he said. Media reports said she was an employee of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).
Sources said the blasts appeared to have been caused by some devices placed under seat 70 of coach S4 and seat 30 of coach S5.
Mr Mishra said the train was running slightly late and had arrived at the station at 7.05 am instead of its scheduled time of 5.45 am.
The injured were rushed immediately to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital near the station.
Minister of Railways Mallikarjun Kharge has sanctioned an ex-gratia payment of Rs 1 lakh for the next-of-kin of the deceased passenger, Rs 25,000 for each of those with grievous injuries and Rs 5,000 for each of those with minor injuries.
Police officials, accompanied by dog squads and bomb disposal squads, rushed to the scene of the blasts immediately and platform number 9 was cordoned off.
The entire train was checked by the police and it later resumed its journey to Guwahati, Assam after the affected coaches were detached and replaced with new coaches.
Mr Mishra said the entire train was being checked and it would resume its journey to Guwahati, Assam an hour later after the two affected coaches are detached.
The Railways have set up a helpline at Chennai on telephone number 044-25357398 to provide information to relatives of the passengers of the affected train.
Operations on other platforms as well as on the nearby suburban section continued to remain normal, Mr Mishra added.
A team from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) from Hyderabad will reach Chennai later today to probe the incident.
Security was intensified at Chennai Central railway station after the incidents.
Among the seriously injured passengers, one was identified as Sumantho Devnath (37, Male), while the other was an unidentified male.
Those with minor injuries were identified as follows:
1. Shaiful Haque – 27 years Male
2. Anjanedu– 29 years Male
3. Vimal Kumar Das – 43 years Male
4. Shagun Kumar Rai– 23 years Male
5. Altaf Khan – 17 years Male
6. Uma – 35 years Female
7. Jitendra Mohanto Deka – 58 years Male
8. Sari – 21 years Male
9. Murali – 27 years Male
10. Bijoy Kumar – 14 years Male
11. Sudanchand Debnath – 64 years Male
12. Surendra Varma– 31 years Male

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GAIL's City Gas Distribution project in Bengaluru takes off

The City Gas Distribution (CGD) project in Bengaluru to supply eco-friendly natural gas to households, industries and transport sector was inaugurated by Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Chemicals & Fertilizers Ananth Kumar here today.
The project marks a new chapter in the development of Bengaluru, India's IT capital, a press release from GAIL (India) Limited, which is implementing the project, said.
Union Minister for Statistics & Programme Implementation D. V. Sadananda Gowda and Union Minister of State for Petroleum & Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan were also present on the occasion.
The Bengaluru CGD Project is being implemented by GAIL Gas Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of GAIL (India) Limited, at an investment of Rs, 6,283 crore. The project will cover 4,395 sq km in urban and rural Bengaluru, broadly covering eight sectors - Nelamangala, Dod Ballapur, Devanahalli, Hosakote, Bengaluru East, Bengaluru North, Bengaluru South and Anekal.
The project will provide economical, environment friendly, uninterrupted, safe and convenient energy to 106.12 lakh residents of Bengaluru by supplying piped natural gas (PNG) for households, industries and commercial units, the release said.
This will significantly add to people’s convenience as there will be no hassles of booking, advance payment, storage, handling of heavy weight cylinders and monitoring of cylinder delivery. Billing will be done once in two months based on consumption, it said.
Moreover, with the setting up of 60 compressed natural gas (CNG) stations, the project will provide cheaper fuel for the transport sector and also facilitate a healthy lifestyle by creating a pollution-free environment.
The inaugural ceremony was marked by a live streaming from a house where a PNG-powered burner was lit, followed by another live streaming from a CNG Station of GAIL Gas at Leggere, Prem Nagar, Bengaluru.
During the event, GAIL Gas Limited also launched a mobile app that will provide a one-stop solution and a user-friendly platform to customers to view and pay their PNG Bills, locate CNG stations, know about the benefits of CNG, PNG, and get emergency instructions.
According to the release, 66 kms of steel and 452 kms of MDPE pipeline have already been laid in Bengaluru. Infrastructure has been laid for PNG connections to 34,500 households, out of which 23,300 houses are ready for conversion and approximately 3,000 houses are already using PNG.
The CNG station in Laggare has been commissioned and three CNG stations at BMTC bus depots at Sumanahalli, Hennur and Peenya are ready for commissioning, it said.
As many as nine industries have been connected with PNG, including Intel, Bosch, BHEL and Apotex Pharmachemicals, Adcock Ingram Ltd., Garuda Polyflex GTR Aluminium, Exclusive Overseas and Toyota Industries Engine India Ltd.. Also, 22 commercial units have been connected with PNG.
GAIL Gas has been authorized by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) for implementing City Gas Distribution projects in Dewas (Madhya Pradesh), Kota (Rajasthan), Sonepat (Haryana), Meerut (Uttar Pradesh), Taj Trapezium Zone (Uttar Pradesh) and now Bengaluru.

Mukherjee dedicates Metro Phase-I Project to people of Karnataka, Bengaluru

President Pranab Mukherjee dedicated the Metro Phase-I project in Bengaluru to the people of the city and the entire state of Karnataka at a function here today.
Speaking on the occasion, the President said that, originally known as the Garden City, Bengaluru had slowly transformed itself into the Silicon Valley of India. As per global rankings, it has been rated as the most dynamic city of the world ahead even of the Silicon Valley. 
Mr. Mukherjee said that, in warming up to and finally adopting Metro as a viable mode of public transport, people in India were late by several decades. 
The first metropolitan railway started in London in the year 1863. By early 20th century, almost entire Europe, North America and countries in South America had metro rail networks in all their large cities. 
"We started with the first metro network in Kolkata in 1984 and then, once we started in Delhi in the year 2000, there was no looking back for Metro in India," he said.
The President said that the first phase of ‘Namma Metro’, totaling 42.3 km in length, started in the year 2008 and 31 km have been opened in different phases in the past. Today, the last section, measuring 11.3 km is being opened. The project has been built with major contributions coming from Government of Karnataka, Government of India, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Agence Francaise De Development (AfD)- France, he said.
He said credit should go to the people of Bengaluru, who have cooperated to the fullest extent and endured discomfort during the construction of the world class infrastructure facility. He said that he was happy to note that Phase-2 of the Namma Metro Project is already under implementation and this would add another 72 km to the existing 42 km of Phase-1.
He said that he had been informed that there is further plan to expand the Namma Metro network by proposing connectivity to the Bengaluru International Airport and a metro corridor along the Outer Ring Road. 
Mr. Mukherjee said that the construction of the mega project must have posed various challenges, and he was happy that because of the sincere work and dedication of engineers and workers, this project is being dedicated to the nation today. 
"Construction of a metro system in a living city has many challenges. Working in thickly populated areas, making tunnels through the hard rock of the Deccan Plateau, proximity to water table, handling modern technologies, are some of the areas, which our engineers must have dealt with, and overcome. As we complete the first phase of the project, one can be satisfied that as in other places the Metro in Bengaluru has proved to be a long term and viable solution to urban public transport," he said.
The President complimented the team of the Bengaluru Metro Rail Project for their excellent work. He also congratulated the Ministry of Urban Development, the people of Karnataka and the State Government for their efforts and thanked the Government of Japan and the Government of France for their financial assistance for this project. 

Mukherjee to visit Maharashtra, Karnataka on June 17-18

President Pranab Mukherjee will pay a two-day visit to Maharashtra and Karnataka from June 17 to 18, an official press release said here today.
Tomorrow, Mr. Mukherjee will address the convocation ceremony of the passing out Engineering Graduate Courses of College of Military Engineering, Pune. 
On the same day, he will attend a function for dedication of the Metro Phase-I Project to the citizens of Bengaluru at Bengaluru, Karnataka.
On June 18, the President will lay the foundation stone of the Super Speciality Hospital of BRS Health & Research Institute at Udupi, Karnataka.

A responsible press needed to hold power to account, says Ansari

Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari today said that, in an open society like in India, a responsible press was needed to hold power to account.
Addressing an event to launch the commemorative edition of the National Herald here, Mr Ansari said the history of journalism in India is closely linked to the history of the freedom struggle. The press played an important role in educating, convincing and mobilizing the people, he said.
Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala, Chief Minister K Siddaramaiah and Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi were among those present on the occasion.
“Conceived by Jawaharlal Nehru, the National Herald began its publication from Lucknow in 1938 and soon became the voice of our independence movement. Its banner of ‘freedom in peril’ has an abiding relevance.
“This is the 70th year of our independence and the National Herald’s return to active media space with a commemorative edition is worthy of being celebrated,” Mr Ansari said.
The Vice-President began his speech by saying, “Today is a memorable occasion, the resurrection of a happening in our freedom struggle, a reminder to a younger generation of the role that media in the hands of people committed to a cause could do to motivate the public.”
He said Nehru had envisioned a free, unfettered and honest press and he watched over the interests of mediapersons in independent India. The Working Journalists Act, which tried to give a degree of protection to journalists, to ensure freedom of press, was largely his doing.
“In this age of ‘post-truths’, and ‘alternative facts’, where ‘advertorials’ and ‘response features’ edge out editorials, we would do well to recall Nehru’s vision of the press playing its role of a watchdog in democracy and look at the ethos and principles that powered his journalism,” Mr Ansari said.
“Our Constitutional framework provides for required intervention by the State to ensure smooth working of the press and the society. The laws provide that such intervention should only be in the interest of the public at large,” he added.
“In an open society like ours, we need a responsible press to hold power to account. This is why freedom of press under Article 19 (1)(A) of the Constitution, is subject only to reasonable restrictions in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, public order, decency, contempt of court, defamation and incitement to an offence,” he pointed out.
“The Supreme Court has held that ‘freedom of speech and of the press is the Ark of the Covenant of Democracy’ because public criticism is essential to the working of its institutions,” he added.
“A free media is not only beneficial but necessary in a free society. If press freedom is attacked, it will result in the jeopardising of citizen’s rights. When faced with unjust restrictions and the threat of attack, self-censorship in the media can have the opposite effect, aiding the covering up of abuses and fostering frustration in marginalized communities.
“Our Constitutional framework provides for required intervention by the State to ensure smooth working of the press and the society. The laws provide that such intervention should only be in the interest of the public at large. By the same token, the State shall not impede the free flow of information that will go a long way in protecting and promoting citizen’s rights,” the Vice-President added.

Jaitley dedicates Aeronautical Test Range to nation

Defence Minister Arun Jaitley inaugurated the newly built Aeronautical Test Range (ATR) of the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) at Chitradurga in Karnataka today.
Addressing a gathering of eminent scientists and other defence personnel on the occasion, the Defence Minister said facilities such as the ATR would help in creating conditions for research which will, in turn, develop the type of human resource in the country required in the field of aeronautical testing. 
Complimenting the vital role of the DRDO towards self-reliance and promoting ‘Make in India’ efforts, Mr. Jaitley said the development of the test range would cater to the needs of DRDO for testing of indigenously developed aeronautical systems. He said the facility would also contribute to the development of the region in which Chitradurga is located. 
The ATR is the first of its kind in the country, exclusively meant to conduct flight-tests of indigenous unmanned and manned aircrafts developed by the DRDO, including the naval and trainer versions of the Light Combat Aircraft, the unmanned air vehicles- Rustom-I and Rustom-II (Tapas); the Airborne Early Warning & Control Systems (AEW&C), Air-to-Ground weapons, parachutes and aerostats, and so on. 
This outdoor testing and evaluating facility has been set up by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), one of the premier laboratories of the DRDO. 
Spread across 4,029 acres, the 28 kilometre perimeter strategic test range envisages a two-kilometre runway besides other tracking and control equipment. A rail link to the facility has also been planned. 
The state-of-the-art Range Control Centre (RCC) houses the Air Traffic Display System with remote control of radar operations, ATC RF Voice communication system, Ground Telemetry system, Mission Video Distribution and Display System and Range Operational Communication System. The radar centre houses Primary Radar and Secondary Surveillance Radar (MSSR). About 200 acres of land outside the technical area is earmarked for a township with a shopping complex, school, hospital and transit facility. 
The event was attended by Mr. S. Thippeswamy, MLA, Molakalmuru and Mr.  Janardhana Swamy, former MP, Chitradurga , Dr S. Christopher, Chairman DRDO, along with a large number of officers of the DRDO and the Armed Forces, civil administration and other invitees. 

IndiGo introduces daily non-stop flight between Singapore, Bengaluru

Low-cost carrier IndiGo has announced its first non-stop flight and fifth overall flight between Singapore and Bengaluru with effect from June 10 as part of its efforts to strengthen its network in the Asia-Pacific region.
"With the launch of the daily direct flight, IndiGo offers an affordable and a convenient option on two of the busiest business sectors," a press release from the airline said.
Mr. Sanjay Kumar, Chief Commercial Officer, IndiGo said, “Both Singapore and Bengaluru are strong business and tourism hubs and attract significant passenger traffic.  It gives us pleasure to introduce a direct flight on Singapore-Bengaluru route which will save flyers upto three hours of travel each way. We have been witnessing an encouraging traffic to Singapore from the cities in the south of India. There is a large Indian diaspora that resides in Singapore and regularly travels to their home to connect with their heritage and loved ones. Increased to and fro flights will not only boost tourism but also provide an affordable fare and a superior travel experience to flyers.”

IIM Bangalore’s CCGC, Academy for Innovation & Management to hold digital governance summit on May 15

The Centre for Corporate Governance and Citizenship (CCGC) at Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIMB) has collaborated with the Academy for Innovation and Management (AIM) here to present a C-level summit on how to design and implement digital governance in a company. 
The summit, aimed at senior business executives, will be held on May 15 at the Management Development Centre (MDC) of IIMb, a press release from IIMB said. 
The release said that one of the challenges faced by CEOs and other C-level executives is how to accelerate digital transformation at senior levels of a company. To undertake digital business transformation, C-level executives need to drive change top-down and have a clear understanding of the role that the Board of Directors can play, the new roles (such as that of Chief Digital Officer) that need to be created, the coordination and control mechanisms to be implemented, and how to fund and monitor digital initiatives in the company. The summit aims to address some of these important governance issues.
The summit will include a senior-level CEO panel, comprising some of India’s top business leaders, who are also prime catalysts for such a transformation.
They include Anand Kripalu, CEO & Managing Director, United Spirits Limited; Shiv Shivakumar, Chairman & CEO, PepsiCo India, and Bhaskar Bhat, Managing Director, Titan Company Limited. 
Dr. Ajay Kumar, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Electronics & IT and Head of the Digital India Initiative of the Government of India, will also be a speaker at the summit.
Prof. Anil B Suraj from the Centre for Public Policy (CPP) at IIM Bangalore will set the context of the discussions and Prof. Ram Nidumolu, founder and MD of AIM, will be the moderator for the CEO panel. The discussion will focus on the ‘how’ of corporate digital governance, the release added.

Infosys to hire 10,000 American workers, set up technology, innovation hubs in US

IT services major Infosys today said that it planned to hire 10,000 American workers over the next two years. 
As part of this initiative, Infosys will open four new Technology and Innovation Hubs across the country focusing on cutting-edge technology areas, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, user experience, emerging digital technologies, cloud, and big data, a press release from the company said.
The four hubs will not only have technology and innovation focus areas, but will closely serve clients in key industries such as financial services, manufacturing, healthcare, retail, energy and more, it said.
The first hub, which will open in Indiana in August 2017, is expected to create 2,000 jobs by 2021 for American workers and will help boost Indiana’s economy, it said.
“Infosys is committed to hiring 10,000 American technology workers over the next two years to help invent and deliver the digital futures for our clients in the United States,” said Dr. Vishal Sikka, Chief Executive Officer, Infosys. 
“Learning and education, along with cultivating top local and global talent, have always been the core of what Infosys brings to clients; it is what makes us a leader in times of great change. In helping our clients improve their businesses and pursue new kinds of opportunities, we are really excited to bring innovation and education in a fundamental and massive way to American workers. New advances in technology – artificial intelligence, in particular – are radically transforming our world, and it is within our reach to learn these new technologies and to be the innovators and entrepreneurs who bring solutions based on these technologies to our clients in all industries," he said.
“It's so good to welcome Infosys to Indiana, and to expand our growing tech ecosystem with the addition of their estimated 2,000 Hoosier jobs,” said Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb.  “Indiana continues to put the tools in place, such as the Next Level Trust Fund and incentivizing direct flights, that allows us to attract and retain great companies like Infosys. In addition, our higher education institutions are producing a world class workforce, establishing Indiana as the innovation hub of the Midwest. I look forward to working with Infosys to elevate Indiana to the next level.”
The release said that, in filling these jobs, Infosys will hire experienced technology professionals and recent graduates from major universities, and local and community colleges, to create the talent pools for the future. To ensure that American workers are fully equipped to innovate and support clients in the rapid digitization of all industries and consistent with Infosys’ over 35 year-long commitment to the U.S., the company will institute training programs in key competencies such as user experience, cloud, artificial intelligence, big data and digital offerings, as well as core technology and computer science skills.
The release said the move is part of Infosys’ continued legacy of a three-decade long investment across the U.S. In just the last three years, Infosys has renewed this focus by setting up an innovation hub in Silicon Valley, which is a unique, open environment that encourages new ways of working, collaborating, thinking and delivering breakthrough next generation project to clients. 
Infosys pursues its mission of inspiring children, young adults and educators to become creators of technology through its charitable foundation, Infosys Foundation USA. Since 2015, more than 134,000 students, over 2,500 teachers and almost 2,500 schools across America have benefited from high quality computer science training and classroom equipment funded by Infosys Foundation USA. The Foundation also partners with organizations such as, CSTA and others to advance the skills development of millions of students.
“Since joining Infosys nearly three years ago, it has been my personal endeavor to help us get much closer to our clients, to co-innovate with them, on their most important business problems,” added Dr. Sikka. 
“Having lived in the U.S. for nearly 30 years, and being a part of the incredible innovation here, I truly believe Infosys can help clients bring innovation more directly into their businesses, as they create and drive their digital transformations. We can achieve this by enhancing our ability to attract and recruit local top talent across the United States, by harnessing the global scale of Infosys, through software and platforms, and by educating and training people in the necessary skills," he added.

Minor earthquake shakes Ramanagara region of Karnataka

An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 3.4 on the Richter scale, shook the Ramanagara region, about 50 km south west of Bengaluru, in Karnataka this morning.
A bulletin from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 12.6 N and longitude 77.4 E, occurred at 0736 hours at a focal depth of 33 km.
Media reports said tremors were felt in Bengaluru and areas such as Mandya, Tumakuru and Kollegal.

Cabinet approves transfer of land of HMT Watches Limited

The Union Cabinet yesterday gave its approval to a proposal by the Department of Heavy Industry to transfer land belonging to the public sector HMT Watches Ltd at Bangalore and Tumkur, measuring 208.35 acres, to Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on payment of Rs.  1194.21 crore and applicable taxes and duties.
The Cabinet also approved transfer of Bangalore (Global Warehouse) land of HMT Ltd. measuring one acre to Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) on payment of Rs. 34.30 crore and applicable taxes and duties.
An official press release said the proceeds from sale of land will be deposited by the company in Government Accounts against loans and advances, after meeting the immediate liabilities and accounting for tax liabilities arising out of the transaction.
HMT Watches Ltd., which was a pioneer in manufacturing watches in India, had to close its operations due to mounting losses with no scope for revival in the current competitive economic scenario.  The government decided to close down the company in January, 2016 with offer of attractive VRS/VSS to all employees.
The sale / transfer of land of HMT Watches Ltd at Bangalore and Tumkur to other Central government entities, ISRO and GAIL, will free the productive resources and ensure better utilisation of the scarce land resources in larger public interest, the release added.

GVK divests 33% of its stake in Bangalore airport to Fairfax for Rs. 2,202 crore

GVK Power & Infrastructure Limited today said it had divested 33% of its stake in Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) from its wholly owned subsidiary, Bangalore Airport & Infrastructure Developers Private Limited (BAIDPL) to Fairfax India Holdings Corporation, through its wholly-owned subsidiary in Mauritius, for an aggregate investment of Rs. 2202 crore (approximately $ 336.18 million).
Dr. G V K Reddy will continue to be the Co-Chairman, BIAL and Mr. G V Sanjay Reddy will lead the management team as the Managing Director of BIAL, a press release from the company said.
Dr. Reddy, founder Chairman and Managing Director, GVK, said,  “We reiterate that our primary focus is on deleveraging our balance sheet, and all proceeds from this stake sale shall be used to bring down our debt obligations to our lenders. We look forward to partnering with Fairfax and working with all the stakeholders in developing the Kempegowda International Airport through its next stage of expansion."
“GVK continues to remain bullish as a pioneer and long term investor in airport assets in India. Having qualified as the highest bidder for the Navi Mumbai airport recently, we shall continue to build iconic assets for the country," he added.

IIMB Healthcare Summit discusses ways of reaching the unreached

Challenges faced by the primary health care sector in terms of pricing and opportunities were discussed at Ayusmat, a summit organised by the first batch of General Management for Healthcare Executives (GMHE) of the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB) here today.
The GMHE, a certificate programme offered by IIMB’s Executive Education Programmes, is aimed at high performing individuals in the healthcare domain who are looking to transition from a functional role to a management role. This sectoral program has been designed and developed by IIMB in partnership with Apollo MedSkills, the skills arm of Apollo Hospitals.
A press release from IIMB said there was currently great diversity among healthcare institutions and modes of healthcare delivery. There is an increasing penetration of technology in direct service delivery as well as back-end operations. IT-enabled devices are beginning to form the backbone of contemporary healthcare. This transformation has created a need for a new breed of leaders and managers in the healthcare sector.
Emphasizing the role of business schools in healthcare in this context, Prof. Shankar Venkatagiri, Programme Director, GMHE and faculty at IIMB, said that there is a strong need for managerial excellence in helping extend the goodness of healthcare from urban to rural settings.
Inviting the speakers to address the ground realities of healthcare in India, Prof. Venkatagiri encouraged them to enlighten the audience on how technology can make healthcare affordable for India’s rural population.
The keynote address was delivered by Dr. H Sudarshan, founder, Karuna Trust, who spoke about inclusive growth and emphasized the need for building partnerships between the public and private (profit and not-for-profit) institutions to address secondary and tertiary healthcare needs. 
“The core concept of this partnership is the constitutional guarantee of both parties which should address various issues such as cost of healthcare, provide healthcare choices and incentivize healthcare quality management,” he explained. 
Listing ways to reach the unreached, Dr. Sudarshan shed light on how the sector could ensure establishment of sub-healthcare centres and added that he was counting on the younger generation to help achieve an inclusive growth in the country’s healthcare scenario.
Dr. Sudarshan’s keynote address was followed by a panel discussion on Primary Healthcare:Financing and Pricing in India - Affordability and Accessibility. The panel comprised Dr. Nandakumar Jairam, Chairman, Columbia Asia; Dr. Mudit Saxena, CEO, Care Hospitals; Dr. B S Ajai Kumar, Chairman, HCG; Vishal Bali, Chairman, Medwell Ventures and Asia Head - TPG Growth; and Shashank ND, CEO, Practo. This discussion was moderated by Dr. Pulijala Srinivasa Rao, CEO, ApolloMedskills.
Dr. Ajai Kumar pointed out that India has now become the global destination for medical treatment. “India is the cheapest healthcare provider in the world. So now the next step is how to improve on the existing facilities. Government has to bridge the gap between those who are well-to-do and those who are not, and also boost the country’s GDP. The profits of government regulations and government insurance schemes should reach the right people. We have to pay for quality healthcare, hence private enterprises need to be encouraged. Corrective measures are needed so that the real needy people are the beneficiaries of government policies in the healthcare sector.”
Dr. Saxena highlighted that the number of doctors, nurses, beds and investment too, are inversely proportional to the vast needs of a country as populous as India. Moreover, registered practitioners are mostly in urban India. The emerging innovative models such as homecare, cloud-based services, and so on, along with price control and R&D, can address many challenges faced by healthcare providers and boost the profitability and sustainability of the players in the healthcare segment in India, he said.
Dr. Jairam said that lack of political will has been a hindrance in the sector. Government needs to make greater investments in healthcare. However, it is not just about pumping money, but the manner in which funding happens which is important. Government funding needs to be insurance driven. With a larger volume, private insurance will be sustainable.
“Low quality care is no care at all. Appropriate care is invaluable. Social part of health insurance is not sustainable. By increasing spends on insurance, government can increase occupational productivity too," he said.
He touched the audience deeply when he admitted that trust in the sector has to be restored for healthcare services to improve. “Healthcare services need to become transparent and accountable. An appropriate model of governing healthcare, with a high level of ethics, is a must. Ethics is important, but do not compare ethics with cost of care," he said.
Mr. Bali pointed out that the healthcare market is underpenetrated, considering the high investments in the sector and the evolving market. Higher affordability needs to be built, along with widening the number of people who are covered. “We need to use the capital to create more viable investment and healthcare opportunities. Investors will shy away from the sector if there is no profitability. This is the time for innovation - the market is huge, hence use capital productively and effectively, ensure profitability, keep raising the bar and build your enterprise,” he suggested.
Mr. Shashank shed light on his learnings about technology in healthcare. “According to Practo’s finding, healthcare is largely sustainable only in India’s top 10 cities. The urban-rural divide with respect to healthcare is vast and we aim to bridge this gap by using technology to reach the remote areas of the country, and by making doctors accessible to the rural population,” he said.
The afternoon session had a panel discussion on Predictive: Impact of Big Data and AI towards Patient Care. The panelists were Rama Chandra Dash, Head, Watson Health at IBM; Dr. Satish Rath, Healthcare Research Head, Conduent Labs; Rama Nadimpalli, GM, Cerner India; Kumar KV, IT Head, Narayana Health, and Dr. Ruchi Dass, MD, Healthcursor Consulting. This discussion was moderated by Dr. Ananth N Rao, GM - Operations, Apollo Hospitals. Rama Nadimpalli, GM, Cerner India, started the discussion by emphasizing how having a robust data platform is inevitable for med-tech. 
Mr. Kumar spoke about how health IT is a sector that was not much invested in, and how it is slowly beginning to pick up now. He also spoke about how the Government must raise awareness and encourage healthcare institutions to adopt Electronic Medical Records. He went on to talk about protecting healthcare big data and the role of privacy from infrastructural and application standpoints.
Mr. Dash spoke about how IT infrastructure used to be a constraint in India before, not anymore. “The quality and quantity of data is going to determine the cost of treatment.  The focus for start-ups should be to provide solutions. In order to be able to offer solutions, start-ups need a robust platform,” he said, advising healthcare entrepreneurs to adopt API based platforms with access to cloud.
Dr. Rath focused on the nature of data and shared some insights on how analytics helped to boost administration and clinician efficiencies. He also took the conversation to an interesting turn when he spoke about Aadhar. He said that the use of Aadhaar (Unique Identification Numbers) in the Indian healthcare system would revolutionize the way healthcare is rendered to citizens. “Data input as well has become considerably easy due to smartphone penetration,” he said.
Dr. Dass spoke about the digital trail that consumers leave behind. She spoke about how whatever transaction people carry out on the web, they leave behind some data. “There are a lot of new concepts coming up in the healthcare space every day. Despite this, Indian healthcare is suffering from ‘no data’ and ‘bad data’,” she added.
The third panel comprised Gautam Khanna, CEO, Hinduja Hospitals; Dr. K S Gopinath, Surgical Oncologist, HCG; Dr. Jagdish Chaturvedi, Director, Innaccel Acceleration Services; Prakash Iyer, VP, Healthcare Solutions, TATA Communications; Guruprasad S, Head, Healthcare, Bosch India and Dr. Sandhya Mandlekar, Head, PCO, Biocon, Bristol-Myers Squibb Research Center. The discussion was themed on Progressive: Untapped Potential of Prescriptive & Preventive Care.

Goldman Sachs-sponsored IIMB “Women Startup Programme” selects 15 ideas to incubate

The NS Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (NSRCEL) at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB) and Goldman Sachs, a leading global investment bank, have selected 15 women entrepreneurs-in-the- making and their ideas for incubation over the next year as the final phase of its Women Startup Programme.
The Women Startup Programme is India's first customized online and classroom training programme designed to grow the next generation of female entrepreneurs, a press release from IIMB said here today.
The 15 women selected to incubate at IIMB will receive a fellowship of Rs. 40,000 per month, while they further develop their business idea with the goal of starting a successful venture.
Launched in November 2016, the Women Startup Programme drew more than 1,700 aspiring female entrepreneurs from across the country for a five-week online course focused on encouraging women to systematically identify and test their business ideas.
Afterwards, 50 women entrepreneurs were selected to attend a three-week boot camp at IIMB to enable each participant to develop a robust "problem-solution" methodology for comprehending the success and sustainability of their ventures.
The final round culminated in a one-on-one demo day on February 25 where participants presented to a panel of entrepreneurs, Goldman Sachs professionals, and business leaders, including PC Mustafa, founder & CEO of ID Fresh Food; Manish Singhal, founding partner of Pi Ventures; and Abhay Hanjura, founder & CEO of Licious.
"Since 2008, through our 10,000 Women initiative, Goldman Sachs has been investing globally and in India in the economic empowerment of women through education and access to capital," said Sonjoy Chatterjee, chairman and co-CEO of Goldman Sachs (India). "The innovative business ideas developed through this mass outreach online and classroom programme reflect the entrepreneurial talent in India and the tremendous potential of women entrepreneurs," he added.
Prof. Suresh Bhagavatula, Program Director at IIMB and Chairperson, Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Development, NSRCEL at IIMB, said, “Technology, either as the core business idea or using technology to scale, was a key theme in the programme. Many ideas also focused on community. Through the boot camp, our women entrepreneurs-in-the-making were able to learn and apply business acumen and technology expertise to help their ideas continue to grow into a viable business.”
The 15 selected ideas from the women entrepreneurs-in-the-making ranged across a variety of topics, including matching volunteers to social causes, specialized healthcare systems, and customized social networks.
The three-week boot camp, which was offered at no cost, provided 50 participants with an opportunity to network with successful women entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, MBA students from IIMB, and Goldman Sachs professionals. Participants also received classroom instruction on developing a business plan, understanding costing and pricing, sales and marketing, and negotiation skills. The average age of the class was 34 with youngest women being 22 years old and the oldest being 53.
Shreya, a homemaker for over 10 years, who previously had a boutique selling designer wear for women, participated in the programme and said, “I have benefited immensely from this IIMB boot camp. After taking the time to focus on my family for the past decade, this residential boot camp format with like-minded women has exposed me to the tools, processes and mentorship necessary to translate my concept into a working idea. Most importantly it has instilled in me the ambition, energy and confidence needed to launch my own business. My life has transformed in the last two months.”

DG, Army Aviation flies light combat helicopter at Aero India

Lt. Gen. Kanwal Kumar, the Director General of Army Aviation Corps, flew the indigenously developed light combat helicopter (LCH) at the Aero India 2017 here yesterday.
The LCH, developed by public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), will soon be inducted into the Indian Army.
An official press release said the LCH is light, manoeuvrable and armed with devastating fire power.  It has the capability to manoeuvre through narrow valleys, mountains and high altitude areas, providing effective support to ground operations.
"The LCH, armed with its turret mounted gun, rockets, air to air missiles and air to ground missiles is a potent force multiplier and shall greatly enhance the Indian Army's military capability," the release added.

11th biennial edition of Aero India 2017 takes off at Bengaluru

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar inaugurated the 11th biennial edition of International Aerospace and Defence Exhibition and declared the Aero India 2017 open at Air Force Station, Yelahanka here today.
This year's edition of Aero India, for the first time, combines the defence and civil aviation segments into a holistic event with the involvement of the Ministries of Defence and Civil Aviation.
Mr. Parrikar said this edition of Aero India would witness the emerging dynamism of defence manufacturing in India, especially the rising role of Indian defence industry. He further stated that the government is committed to creating an enabling environment for a domestic ecosystem of defence manufacturing, the results of which were already visible. 
“The defence public sector undertakings are being revitalized and encouraged. Government has also taken several initiatives for ease of doing business for private firms and additional initiatives are underway to support the role of private sector in defence manufacturing," he said.
Minister for Civil Aviation P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju speaking at the occasion highlighted that India was the fastest growing aviation sector in passenger terms in the world and held tremendous potential to graduate from the present position of being ninth in the world to being the third largest by 2022. 
The inaugural address was followed by three Mi-17 helicopters flying past the dais in formation carrying the Indian, the Air Force and the Aero India flags. 
The air show will see the first ever public display of Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) and the handing over by DRDO of the first indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&CS) aircraft, the Embraer ERJ-145, in the Initial Operational Clearance configuration to the Indian Air Force. 
The air show witnessed a flypast by the Make in India formation consisting of HTT-40, Hawk-i, Dornier-228, Su-30MKI and the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft. This was followed by the fighters tearing through the skies displaying a host of aerobatic manoeuvres – the Su 30 MKI followed by Sweden’s SAAB Gripen, Tejas LCA, the American F-16 Falcon and the French Rafale. 
The Yakovlev aerobatic team, the Skycats, the Surya Kiran Aerobatics Team and the Sarang helicopter display team enthralled the spectators with their performance. 
Another unique feature of this air show was the 20-minute sortie by the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, who flew in the Tejas LCA Trainer during the day. 
Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha, the three service chiefs, Karnataka Industry Minister R. V. Deshpande, Secretary, Defence Production,  and delegates from several foreign countries were present during the inaugural function.
As many as 549 companies are participating in the event and 53 aircraft will be on display.

ASCI, Hyderabad & Central University, Jammu sign MoU

The Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI), Hyderabad and the Central University of Jammu have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to promote collaborative academic, research and capacity-building initiatives for a period of three years.
The MoU was signed by yesterday by Mr Kalyan K. Roy, Registrar on behalf of ASCI and Mr. Mohammad Iqbal, Registrar, Central University, Jammu in the presence of Union Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions Jitendra Singh.
Also present on the occasion were ASCI Director General R.H. Khwaja  and Prof. Ashok Aima, Vice-Chancellor, Central University of Jammu.
Secretary, Department of Personnel & Training B.P. Sharma, Mr C. Viswanath, Secretary, Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances and Secretary, Department of Pensions & Pensioners’ Welfare also present.
An official press release said the MoU would facilitate joint activities and synergy in areas such as capacity building, evaluation studies, executive education and related areas. These include activities such as design, development and delivery of teaching and training programmes; reciprocal recognition of each other’s degrees, diplomas and certificates.
It also envisages exchange of teaching staff and students/participants for knowledge and experience-sharing and new learning; policy advocacy and research studies; sharing of academic materials, literature, publications etc; and knowledge events such as conferences, seminars, workshops etc.

Inequality is the number one risk: Vice-President Ansari

Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari has  termed inequality as the number one risk because it is associated with a rise in populism and threatens the cohesiveness of countries.
Delivering the inaugural address at the first edition of the Huddle, a three-day conclave organised by The Hindu newspaper here yesterday, Mr Ansari said that to enjoy the ‘freedom of,’ there is a requirement first for certain ‘freedom from’.
To survive with dignity, humans require both ‘freedom from want’ and ‘freedom from fear’, he added.
In advance of the world’s financial and economic elite going to Davos for their annual meeting, the World Economic Forum publishes its Global Risks Report, Mr Ansari said.
“The 2017 edition highlights some risks facing the global system and places the issue of income inequality as the number one risk because it is associated with a rise in populism and threatens the cohesiveness of countries. It describes the present as ‘a febrile time for the world.’
“Four earlier annual editions of the Report had similarly identified rising inequality among the top four global risks. It is therefore not surprising that reducing inequality is one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” he added.
The Vice-President said that the improving living standards, in segments, have perhaps masked a dramatic concentration of income and wealth over the last 30 years.
The richest 1% in India owned nearly 60% of the country’s total wealth, with the top 20% commanding 80%. The bottom half of Indians by contrast, collectively own only 2% of the national wealth, he added.
The Vice-President said that rising inequality can lead to conflict, both at social and at national level and the growing threat of left extremism, which has been repeatedly acknowledged as the gravest security threat to the Indian state, has its roots in economic deprivation and inequality in access to resources.
The time has come to move the development discourse of inequality beyond the current discussion of outcomes and opportunities. The concepts of justice and fairness are tied to the idea of equity in development, he added.
Mr Ansari said that to view rising inequity as merely an inconvenient truth in the saga of India’s shining future would therefore be a folly.  Without equality, there is unlikely to be much of a future, let alone a shining one.
In conclusion, the Vice President raised some uncomfortable questions about inequity, failure of trickle-down growth, environmental damage, conflicts, intolerance and improving investments in public goods.

11th edition of Aero India to be held in Bengaluru from February 14-18

A total of 549 companies -- 270 of them from India and 279 from abroad -- are participating in the 11th biennial edition of the International Aerospace and Defence Exhibition – Aero India 2017 -- that will be held at the Air Force Station at Yelahanka here from February 14-18.
The air show, which began in 1996, has carved a niche for itself as a premium aerospace and aviation exhibition in the international arena and has become one of the most sought after exhibitions in the Asian region in terms of participation from across the globe. 
The event is being organized and conducted by the Defence Exhibition Organisation (DEO).
According to an official press release, the total area of the show has grown from 24,403 sqm to 27,678 sqm this year. The gross area has also increased from 2,50,000 sqm to 2,60,000 sqm.
As many as 72 aircraft will participate in the show this year. Besides, there will be aerobatic teams, including the Indian Air Force Sarang Team, the Indian Air Force Surya Kiran Team, the Scandinavian Air Show Team from Sweden and the Evolvkos Aerobatic Team from the United Kingdom.
The release said that about two lakh business visitors are expected to attend the show.
Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati will chair a CEOs' Conclave organized by the Andhra Pradesh government on Aerospace and Defence Manufacturing Opportunities in the state on February 14. 
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Union Ministers Y.S. Chowdary and Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal B. S. Dhanoa, Defence Secretary G. Mohan Kumar, Defence Production Secretary A K Gupta and Andhra Pradesh Finance Minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu are also expected to attend the event.
Industry bodies such as CII, FICCI and PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry have also organised various events on the Make in India theme on February 15.
A business-to-business meeting area has been created and is being offered to Indian business and industry free of cost. Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Kerala are setting up exclusive SEZ pavilions for attracting investment.
Ministers of Defence, service chiefs and heads of department from various countries have confirmed their participation, it said.

Health Ministry launches single vaccine for measles, rubella

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched the Measles Rubella (MR) vaccination campaign in the country at a function here today as part of which a single vaccine will be introduced for dual protection against the two diseas under the Universal Immunisation Programme.
An official press release said the campaign against the two diseases would start form five States and Union Territories -- Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Goa and Lakshadweep -- covering nearly 3.6 crore target children. 
Following the campaign, Measles-Rubella vaccine will be introduced in routine immunization, replacing the currently given two doses of measles vaccine, at 9-12 months and 16-24 months of age, it said.
The initiative was launched in the presence Union Minister for Statistics and Programme Implementation Sadananda Gowda, Union Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Chemicals & Fertilizers Ananth Kumar and Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Faggan Singh Kulaste.
Dr Sharanaprakash Rudrappa Patil, Minister of Medical Education, Karnataka, Mr. K.R. Ramesh Kumar, State Health Minister, Karnataka and well-known Kannada actor Ramesh Arvind were also present on the occasion.
The dignitaries also launched the communication material on the campaign to help raise awareness about the initiative. 
Mr. Kulaste stated the Government was committed to eradicating measles and rubella from the country. “We have taken this as an achievable target. This shall be taken up in a mission mode and rolled out in partnership with States , NGOs and development partners such as WHO, UNICEF, Gates Foundation, Lions Club, IPA, IMA, etc. In the nationwide campaign, the Ministry will reach out to and cover 41 crore children in the age group of 9 months – 15 years,” he said.
He urged parents, caregivers, community leaders, teachers, anganwaadi workers and other frontline health workers to become an active part of the campaign. 
The release said the MR campaign would target around 41 crore children across the country, the largest ever in any campaign. All children aged between 9 months and less than 15 years will be given a single shot of MR vaccination irrespective of their previous measles/rubella vaccination status or measles/rubella disease status. 
The vaccine will be provided free-of-cost across the states from session sites at schools as well as health facilities and outreach session sites. Measles vaccine is currently provided under Universal Immunization Programme (UIP). However, rubella vaccine will be a new addition. After the completion of the campaign, MR vaccine will be introduced in routine immunization and will replace measles vaccine, given at 9-12 months and 16-24 months of age of child. 
Measles is a deadly disease and one of the important causes of death in children. It is highly contagious and spreads through coughing and sneezing of an infected person. Measles can make a child vulnerable to life threatening complications such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and brain infection. Globally, in 2015, measles killed an estimated 1, 34,200 children—mostly under-5 years. In India, it killed an estimated 49,200 children, the release said.
Rubella is generally a mild infection, but has serious consequences if infection occurs in pregnant women, causing congenital rubella syndrome (CRS), which is a cause of public health concern. CRS is characterized by congenital anomalies in the foetus and newborns affecting the eyes (glaucoma, cataract), ears (hearing loss), brain (microcephaly, mental retardation) and heart defects, causing a huge socio-economic burden on the families in particular and society in general. 
In 2010, an estimated 1,03,000 children were born with CRS (congenital rubella syndrome) globally, of which around 47,000 children, i.e. 46% were in South-East Asia Region. Through implementation of rubella vaccination strategies the incidence of rubella has been substantially reduced in many countries. Although coverage for measles (MCV-1) vaccination is high, the country population immunity is insufficient to stop ongoing MR transmission as evident form surveillance data. Through this campaign, it is aimed to rapidly build up immunity in the susceptible cohort, thereby decreasing the disease burden in the country. 
The measles disease burden was brought down by introduction of second dose of measles vaccine in 2010. For this introduction, supplementary immunization Activity (SIA) was conducted in 14 states (2010-13) with less than equal to 80% measles coverage. The remaining states introduced measles second dose directly in routine immunization.
"However, those gain need to be supplemented, and in order to further reduce the burden, country is going to carry out the Measles-Rubella campaign," the release said.
"Measles immunization directly contributes to the reduction of under-five child mortality, and with combination of rubella vaccine, will control rubella and prevent CRS in country population. Given the wide target group of the vaccination campaign, schools and educational institutions will play a critical role, and will require partnership from multiple stakeholders at all levels," it added.

BCIC says Union Budget is "growth-focused" with emphasis on core sectors

The Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce (BCIC) today said  the Union Budget for 2017-18, presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in Parliament earlier in the day, was "growth-focused".
In a statement, the industry body said the Budget would boost macroeconomics of the country despite serious crises in the global economy and political uncertainties, with specific emphasis on the development of core sectors especially infrastructure, agriculture and rural sectors for the next two years.
The hallmark of the Finance Minister’s presentation was a promise of containing the fiscal deficit for FY17-18 to 3.2 percent of the GDP and targeting to further prune it to 3 percent in the next two years without compromising on the spending on development schemes, it said.
Mr. Thyagu Valliappa, President, BCIC said: “The Budget has a slew of policy-oriented announcements and targets set for infrastructure, manufacturing, digital India, public sector, social sector, finance and corporate and income tax reforms, agriculture sector and investment on education, skill development which we believe will spur overall economic growth as it clearly sets the right tone for the next the two years”. 
He said that the Budget is focused on “efficiency and transparency in the long term ultimately aiming at improving and spurring the economy under the prevalent difficult challenging financial space due to demonetisation and de-globalisation effect.”
Mr. Valliappa said: “The huge capex push to inter-city, metro railway, road connectivity and development of Tier-II airports will radically improve the mobility of masses.” He also said: “Labour reforms are yet another important announcement in this budget. We need to see how the implementation is effected to bring in reforms in this critical sector. The focus on skill development and emphasis on college education is also a welcome measure.”
Welcoming the Budget, Mr. K R Sekar, Chairman, State Taxes Committee, BCIC and Partner, Global Business Tax, Deloitte said: “We expected corporate tax cut for the big companies, but that has not come through despite the Government promising to reduce it to 25 percent in the next two years. However, reduction in the rate of tax for SMEs from existing 30 to 25 percent is the most welcome measure. This significant change is made to provide the necessary boost to the MSME sector. If MSMEs are able to source lower credit it will provide the necessary impetus to job creation which is very crucial at this point of time.”
Mr. Sekar further added: “The abolition of FIPB is a step in the right direction and given the current state of Indian economy it sends all the right signals to overseas investors.”
Further he added: “The Finance Minister's announcement to confiscate assets of loan evaders is a very encouraging feature as this will radically reduce NPAs which is eating into government exchequer. Similar is the announcement of cleaning up of political funding. Both these are path-breaking and will radically enhance brand equity of India not only with the domestic but also overseas investors.”
In conclusion, BCIC feels that the Budget tries to provide a stable, predictable and consistent policy framework to facilitate long-term investment decisions. The Finance Minister has done a balancing act by focusing his attention on all sectors without overtly hurting or appeasing any individual section of the Society and all the policy initiatives seamlessly integrate with the proposed GST rollout post June 2017.
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