Friday, 19 January 2018

Industry & Academia should work towards making India leader in global Digital Space

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEIT) on yesterday organized a day long workshop on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its applications for good governance. Held under the chairmanship of Hon’ Minister for Electronics and Information Technology, Over 30 representatives from the industry and academia took part in the workshop. These include AI experts from the IITes at Kharagpur, Madras, Hyderabad and Patna. Industry representatives included Microsoft, Google, IBM, Accenture, NVIDIA. NASSCOM and IIIT Hyderabad also gave their views on the strategy to take advantage of Artificial Intelligence (AI) Technology.

Union Minister of Electronics & Information Technology and Law & Justice, SH. Ravi Shankar Prasad has called upon industry and academia engaged in the development and use of AI to join hands in developing AI model which is capable of addressing complex problems in the field of health, education, agriculture and governance. Speaking at the workshop held here to exchange ideas on the use of AI for good governance, he said the government was keen to support such initiative as its development model is based on inclusive growth. He went on to add that AI had the potential to leapfrog India to its true potential of being a world leader in the digital space.

Acknowledging, the work that has already been done in the field by the US and China, the Minister added that India’s model of uptake and scale-up of AI will be one that is indigenous to India and is built on the principle of augmenting intelligence and not the displacement of jobs. He underscored his government’s commitment to retraining and skilling people such that they are able to adapt, adopt and thrive in the dynamically changing society. The Minister also emphasized the need for taking a multi-stakeholder approach to developing the ecosystem for AI in India, committing that the government to its end would help facilitate interactions between the industry, government and academia and will come up with a robust legal framework for the same.

The industry and academia present in the workshop were unanimous in seeking support for getting clean data for evolving effective solutions through the application of AI. They also opined that the government should define policy priorities in the application of AI. This would facilitate them in pursuing a strategy that would benefit the country most. Data has to be available for innovation and India being a country with large number of languages and dialects need to translate data in a usable format. Country has all ingredients to be a hub center for data analysis.

During the discussions that followed the presentations made by various stakeholders, there was unanimous agreement amongst the participants that India should focus its AI initiative to solving complex development challenges. The participants suggested that AI applications had a potential to help improve food and water security for the country, help improve traffic management and also help expedite particular types of cases in the judiciary. Responding to a query raised by one of the participants, the Minister said that data privacy is an important tenet of an individual’s rights, but also stressed on the point that innovation cannot be curbed under the garb of privacy. The Minister also mentioned that the country is well set to bring out a comprehensive policy on Data Protection and a committee under Justice (retd.) Sri Krishna will shortly finalize its recommendations.


Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan (PMSMA) Crosses One Crore Mark

Safe pregnancy has become a social movement in our country: J P Nadda

Shri J P Nadda, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare expressed heartfelt gratitude to the Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi for his un-daunting support to the Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan (PMSMA), as the programme crossed one crore mark in antenatal check-ups. The Union Health Minister stated that Hon’ble Prime Minister of India had envisioned that 9th of every month, symbolizing the 9 months of pregnancy, should be dedicated to pregnant women. The PMSMA programme was launched in 2016 to fulfil his vision and ensure comprehensive and quality antenatal checkups to pregnant women across India. “More than one crore antenatal check-ups have been conducted under the ambitious Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan (PMSMA), which has provided quality antenatal checkups to pregnant women on the 9th of every month. Now safe pregnancy has become a social movement in our country,” Shri Nadda added.

Expressing satisfaction, Shri Nadda further stated that that the programme has been successful in reaching out to the difficult and remote areas of India, since out of the 1 crore checkups across the country, more than 25 lakh check-ups were conducted in high priority districts identified by the Health Ministry for focussed attention. “While all States/ UTs have made significant efforts to reach out to pregnant women, Maharashtra has reported the largest number of check-ups among the Non-Empowered Action Group (EAG) States and Rajasthan has reported the largest number of check-ups among the Empowered Action Group States. All pregnant women visiting the PMSMA sites are examined by an obstetrician/ physician and appropriately investigated,” Shri Nadda elaborated.

Shri J.P Nadda also expressed his heartfelt gratitude to all doctors from the public and private sectors, for responding to the call of Hon’ble Prime Minister and making this remarkable milestone possible. He also urged all the doctors to continue their commitment, ‘IPledgefor9’ and boost the chance of further reducing maternal and infant mortality in the country.

It may be noted, that in the 31st July 2016 episode of Mann Ki Baat, Hon’ble Prime Minister had urged private sector doctors to dedicate 12 days in a year to this programme and provide voluntary services under PMSMA on the 9th of every month. There are more than 12,800 government health facilities across States/ UTs where PMSMA sessions are conducted on the 9th of every month and pregnant women receive fixed-day assured, comprehensive and quality antenatal care in their second and third trimesters. More than 4,800 private sector doctors have pledged to provide voluntary service under PMSMA. More than 385 private sector volunteers have provided services in the high priority districts such as Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh. Several of these volunteers have provided free services at nearby government health facilities more than 10 times in the past months.

There are several instances where private sector doctors have gone beyond the expectations to serve in remote areas. For example, Dr Pooja Upadhyay, a well-known gynecologist of Raipur turned down the travel support offered by the government and, instead, travelled all the way to Narayanpur, a remote left-wing affected district at her own expense to provide services under PMSMA.

Comprehensive and quality ANC, and identification and follow-up of high risk pregnancies are critical components of the Abhiyan. In order to enable early detection of high risk pregnancies, 84 lakh haemoglobin tests, 55 lakh HIV tests, 41 lakh tests for gestational diabetes, 33 lakh tests for syphilis and more than 15 lakh ultrasounds have been conducted under the programme based on the individual requirements of pregnant women. Based on the clinical conditions and investigations, over 5.50 lakh pregnant women were identified as high risk pregnancies and referred to a specialist or a higher health facility for appropriate care. Identifying high risk pregnancies is the first step towards saving mothers and infants from preventable deaths.

“India is committed to reducing preventable maternal deaths through concerted efforts and public –private partnership. The PMSMA has reached one crore mark with the commitment from doctors in the government sector across States/ UTs and with the help of the large number of private sector doctors who have voluntarily pledged for this initiative,” Shri Nadda stated.



100 accessible websites of various state governments/uts under accessible india campaign launched

Shri Thaawarchand Gehlot inaugurates ‘national conference on improving accessibility’

In a path breaking initiative to empower Persons with Disabilities, 100 Accessible websites of various State Governments/UTs under Accessible India Campaign were launched by the Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Shri Thaawarchand Gehlot on the occasion of ‘National Conference on Improving Accessibility’ here today. Ministers of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Shri Vijay Sampla and Shri Krishna Pal Gurjar were present. Secretary, DEPwD Shri Shakuntala D. Gamlin and the officials from Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development participated in the conference and submitted their valuable inputs on implementation of accessibility in various walks of life.

Accessible Websites are those websites into which Persons with Disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute to the Web. The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) initiated a “Website Accessibility Project” for State Government/Union Territories under Accessible India Campaign through ERNET India, an autonomous scientific society under the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY), to make total 917 websites accessible and providing funds for the same. Now 100 accessible websites are made accessible under the project.

The aim of the conference was to sensitize and bring awareness among different stakeholders including the officials of state government on accessibility in the context of recently enacted Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2016. The Accessible India Campaign has three important components viz Built Environment; Transport and Information and Communication Eco-system accessibility.

In his address, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment said that the Divyangjans are an integral part of our society and we have to play an active role for their welfare. He said that Accessible India Campaign is a nationwide flagship campaign of Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. The aim of the campaign is to make a barrier free environment for persons with disabilities all over the country for safe, dignified life of Persons with Disabilities. He said that around 5800 ADIP camps had been organised nationwide by his ministry for distribution of assistive device to Divyangjans. He opined that such Accessible websites will play an important role in proper dissemination of Governments policies and schemes for the welfare of Divyangjans.

Shri Vijay Sampla in his address said that today we have moved ahead are more step towards Accessible India campaign by launching 100 Accessible websites of various State Governments/UTs under Accessible India Campaign. He said that DEPwD is doing a commendable job in this regard.

In his address Shri Krishan Pal Gurjar said that during past three and a half years many revolutionary steps have been taken by DEPwD, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment for the welfare of Divyangjans. He said that we need to empower the Divyangjans so that they can lead a normal life.

Addressing the gathering, Mrs. Shakuntala D Gamlin urged the Central and State Government Departments to adopt accessibility standards while providing any service be it physical, infrastructural and IT etc.

Mrs. Dolly Chakrabarty Joint Secretary, DEPwD emphasised on ensuring rural access as there is substantial difference in planning accessibility in rural areas and it is a less talked about topic in the growing era of urbanisation.

ERNET India (MEITY) is executing the project which is funded by DEPwD under Accessibility India Campaign so far 917 websites across 27 States & UT have been chosen from the list of websites which have been provided by the State Social Welfare Departments through DEPwD.

Accessible Website Design Principles: - Provide appropriate alternative text, Caption video; Provide transcripts for audio; All documents (e.g., PDFs) to be accessible; Do not rely on color alone to convey meaning; and Make sure content is structured, clearly written and easy to read.

Current Status of Accessible Websites: -Total no. of websites: 917; Under Development: 244; Developed and Internally Audited: 208; and Live: 100

Web content accessibility guidelines –WCAG 2.0 :- Websites are made accessible by complying it as per Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the main international standard organisation for the World Wide Web.

The guideline establish three levels of accessibility on basis of which websites are designed, namely:-
Level A: This Indicates the basic level of accessibility that any web page must have
Level AA: This indicates an intermediate level of accessibility that any web page should have
Level AAA: This indicates the highest level of accessibility that any web page can achieve

The founding principles of the guidelines state information and user interface components must be presentable to user in ways they can perceive, user interface components and navigation must be operable and information and the operation of user interface must be understandable. Moreover, content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.


President, Shri Ram Nath Kovind to felicitate exceptional women achievers at Rashtrapati Bhawan tomorrow

The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind will felicitate tomorrow exceptional women who are the first to set a milestone in their respective fields. As many as 112 women have been selected after an extensive research process by the Ministry of Women & Child Development, will be honoured by the President at Rashtrapati Bhawan tomorrow evening. The women being felicitated tomorrow are those who have been the first in any field like the first woman judge, first woman porter, first woman to head a missile project, first para-trooper, first Olympian among others.

The Minister for Women and Child Development, Smt. Maneka Sanjay Gandhi said, “Keeping up with the solemn spirit of Empowered Nari, the Ministry conceptualised 'First Ladies'. These First Ladies rose through barriers, standards and oppressive notions to become the first women to excel in the fields which were thought to be beyond them".

A list of 227 women was compiled through various sources, including Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Sports, Limca Book of Records, press clippings, internet etc. Smt. Maneka Sanjay Gandhi, along with an esteemed panel of judges, finalised the names of 112 extraordinary women who busted stereotypes and broke the glass ceiling to become the Number One.

On March 8th, the WCD Ministry honours with Nari Shakti Puruskars, those women who have contributed to society but have remained unsung. The Nari Shakti Puraskars are conferred by the Hon'ble President of India at Rashtrapati Bhawan. Along with these Puruskars, the Ministry has started a new system of recognising in different ways those women who have broken the glass ceiling and ventured into unusual fields. The Ministry had collaborated with Facebook in 2015 to recognise '100 Women Achievers' who have excelled in diverse sectors of public work. These women were hosted by His Excellency, the President of India. 'First Ladies' is the second leg of the ‘100 Women Achievers’ campaign of the Ministry.

Click here for profiles of 112 Women Achievers to be honoured tomorrow.



Thursday, 18 January 2018

Union Finance Minister, Shri Arun Jailey holds Pre-Budget consultations with the Finance Ministers of States/ Union Territories(with Legislature).

The Union Finance Minister ,Shri Arun Jaitley held the Pre-Budget consultations with the Finance Ministers of all the States and UTs (with Legislature) at Vigyan Bhawan in the national capital today.Both the Ministers of State for Finance were also present. The Meeting was attended among others by the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh and Puducherry, the Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Manipur and Tamil Nadu,14 Finance Ministers / Ministers representing their States and Senior Officers from States.

Representatives from the State Governments presented their views and offered number of suggestions on various fiscal policy and budgetary measures that the Union Government may consider.

The Union Finance Minister Shri Jaitley stated that the suggestions made by the States / UTs in the meeting and the memorandam submitted by them would be duly examined and suitably considered while formulating the Budget proposals of 2018-19, keeping in consideration with the spirit of cooperative federalism.


Ministry of Tourism Streamlines Hotel Classification Guidelines to Make Them Simple, Transparent and Time Bound

Ministry of Tourism has streamlined the Hotel classification guidelines to make them simple, transparent and time bound. The application for classification and payments of fees have been made through digital platform only and the prevalent options of application by post and payment of fees by Demand Draft has been done away with. This has ensured the eradication of possibility of delay/manipulation caused by human interference.

Similarly, the time limit for ensuring compliances on deficiencies of a hotel, the prevalent system had an open ended scope without any prescribed time limit. The recent amendments have included a time limit of three months, thus removing any discretion in the matter. This will ensure a time bound compliance and speedy disposal of cases.

The amendments have made it clear that liquor shops/liquor stores in the premises of the hotel other than bars will not be considered for classification under star hotels "with alcohol" category, to remove any ambiguity.

It has been made mandatory for all the hotels classified under all categories to display their classification status prominently at the reception and on their websites under a separate icon on the opening page, which will display the order of classification issued by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India.

The amendments have included a detailed timeline within which the classification has to be completed. In every case where the required documents and procedures are fulfilled, the classification will be completed within 90 days. Event wise time limits (like inspection, uploading inspection report, submission of compliance in case of deficiencies, approval of Competent Authority and uploading of classification letter etc.) have been fixed to ensure that all the cases with no deficiency /compliance issues can be classified within 90 days of the date of application.



International Solar Alliance Forum at World Future Energy Summit, Abu Dhabi

Shri R.K. Singh announces $ 350 million Solar Development Fund by the Government of India for Solar Projects Financing

India has one of the fastest growing Renewable Energy programmes in the World and would achieve 175 GW target of installed Renewable Energy capacity well before 2020: Shri R.K. Singh

On receipt of 15 ratifications, the International Solar Alliance (ISA) Framework Agreement entered into force on the 6th December, 2017 thereby making ISA a de jure treaty based international intergovernmental organisation. So far 19 countries have ratified and 48 countries have signed the ISA Framework Agreement.

In one of its first outreach programmes post-ratification, the ISA hosted a two Day Event ‘International Solar Alliance Forum’ during 17-18th January, 2018 at the Future World Energy Summit (WFES) 2018. WFES is a signature event of a global initiative, Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, hosted by Masdar scheduled during 15-18th January, 2018 at Abu Dhabi (UAE). During the ISA event an ISA Pavilion was also set up for dissemination of information about ISA and its activities and programmes.

On the first day of the ISA Forum, 17th January, 2018 the Ministerial Plenary of ISA Energy Ministers was held. The ISA Ministerial was attended by seven Energy Ministers of ISA Member countries. They presented their views on benefits of collaboration, synergies, and knowledge sharing at the international level to scale up solar energy for universal energy access and investing in Innovations, Technology and R&D for solar projects followed by breakout sessions.

Delivering the keynote address on the occasion, Shri Raj Kumar Singh, Minister of State (IC) for Power and New & Renewable Energy, Government of India congratulated ISA for organising the ISA Forum as its first overseas outreach activity. He stated that over the years the Renewable Energy has become cheaper and is set to replace conventional energy, which is a healthy development, and added that India has one of the fastest growing Renewable Energy programmes in the World and the country would achieve its target of 175 GW of installed Renewable Energy capacity well before 2020. The Minister said that that ISA shall help mobilize sufficient funds for solar energy projects. During his address, Shri Singh announced setting up of a $ 350 million solar development fund by the Government of India for solar projects financing.

While formally opening the Ministerial session and welcoming the participants, Shri Upendra Tripathy, Interim Director General of ISA informed about exchange of LoIs / MoUs of nine solar related projects which various company and bankers signed early in the day. He further stated that ISA shall stand for translating ‘Action into Transaction’. He also informed that over 100 projects shall be signed by April 2018 under ISA umbrella. He also thanked member countries and various stakeholders making ISA a reality in a short time. He further informed about and extended invitation for the 2nd RE-INVEST meet to be held in partnership with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Government of India during 19-21th April, 2018.

The Ministerial Plenary was followed by three technical panel discussions: ISA a Trillion Dollar Opportunity; Networking of R&D Institutions in ISA Countries for Solar Innovation, Incubation & Start-Ups; and Best Practices for Solar Capacity Building in ISA Countries. These sessions were attended by Energy Ministers, policymakers, Multilateral Banks & Finance Institutions, R&D Institutions & Innovators, solar project developers and manufacturers, investors and other stakeholders.

At the end of the ISA Ministerial session, the YES Bank committed financing solar projects of over $5 Billion. M/s CLP and M/s NTPC Limited announced forging partnership deal with ISA and committed to make voluntary contribution of $1 million each to ISA fund corpus. IEA and GCF also announced entering into partnership with ISA.

Being an action-oriented organisation, ISA promotes actual on ground rolling out of solar projects. Therefore, during first half of the day nine companies exchanged LoIs/MoUs for solar related projects in the ISA Pavilion. The companies are: Vyonarc Development Ltd., Greenko Solar, Gensol Group and SOLARIG from Spain, Shakti Pump, Refex Energy, Amplus Solar, TATA Power, Jackson Solar and Zodiac Energy.

About ISA

The Paris Declaration establishes ISA as an alliance dedicated to the promotion of solar energy among its member countries. The ISA’s major objectives include global deployment of over 1,000GW of solar generation capacity and mobilisation of investment of over US$ 1000 billion into solar energy by 2030. As an action-oriented organisation, the ISA brings together countries with rich solar potential to aggregate global demand, thereby reducing prices through bulk purchase, facilitating the deployment of existing solar technologies at scale, and promoting collaborative solar R&D and capacity building.

When the ISA Framework Agreement entered into force on December 6th, 2017, ISA formally became a de-jure treaty based International Intergovernmental Organization, headquartered at Gurugram, India. As of now the ISA Framework Agreement has been signed by 48 countries, with 19 of them also depositing the instruments of ratification with the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. For further details please visit ISA website



Industry & Academia should work towards making India leader in global Digital Space

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEIT) on yesterday organized a day long workshop on Artificial Intelligence (AI) an...