Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Include module on firecrackers in eco studies: UGC to varsities

Include module on firecrackers in eco studies: UGC to varsities

Body issues circular asking universities to explain ill-effects as part of compulsory subject

MUMBAI: After the Climate Change Convention in Paris, the University Grants Commission (UGC), the body that regulates the working of universities, has asked universities across the country to include a module on the ill-effects of fireworks in the Environment Studies, which is a compulsory subject for all students.
A circular from the UGC said their decision was influenced by the discussions in Paris. “Environmentalists and scientists have affirmed in no uncertain terms that a host of factors have done tremendous damage to the ecology and environment…It is as part of this effort that world leaders came together at COP21 in Paris recently and underscored preservation of the environment as a collective responsibility,” said Jaspal Sandhu, secretary of UGC, via the circular. Dated December 11, the circular further states in this context the youth of the country be made aware of the ill-effects of bursting fire crackers.
“At a time when issues of climate change and global warming have captured international attention, we need to do all it takes to educate students about the severity of toxicity of fireworks so as to discourage their usage,” states the circular. It also mentions the toxic outcome of bursting firecrackers, including the toxic concoction of “carcinogenic and hormonedisrupting substances” that make their way into the environment as well as the effect the hazardous gases have on people suffering from asthma and other respiratory issues. “On festive occasions, the levels of particulate matter in the air increases beyond the permissible limits,” states the circular.
Apart from a module on the ill-effects of fireworks under Environment Studies, UGC has also requested colleges to organise forums, discussions and presentations related to the hazards of fireworks and ways of reducing them as well as depute student/ teacher groups to conduct similar workshops in schools and colleges around their own institute. Institutes as well as universities have also been requested to share with UGC the steps that they undertake on campus, so as to be able to share the same with other institutes across the country.
Following a petition against bursting firecrackers during Diwali, the SC earlier this year had expressed concerns over environmental health hazards and the toxic fallout that fireworks pose.

External examiners are back for SSC, HSC board practicals

External examiners are back for SSC, HSC board practicals

    Earlier, for practical examination, the students were monitored by an internal as well as external examiner. This rule was suddenly stopped and only internal examiners (from the same school/college) were given the responsibility to judge students' performance.
After being discontinued for the past few years, external examiners — who were part of Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education's (MSBSHSE) practical examination for Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) — will once again become part of the setup from the upcoming board exams in 2016.
The state board on Monday issued a circular informing all affiliated schools and colleges about this update. The decision was taken by education ministerVinod Tawde following demands and complaints from various organisations, including the Mumbai Junior College Teachers Organisation (MJCTO), stating the absence of external examiners is leading to malpractices.
Earlier, for practical examination, the students were monitored by an internal as well as external examiner. This rule was suddenly stopped and only internal examiners (from the same school/college) were given the responsibility to judge students' performance.
Anil Deshmukh, general secretary, MJCTO, said: "We were behind the education minister to bring back external examiners for practical board examination and thankfully, he has agreed. In September this year, he assured us that he would ask the state board to issue a circular regarding the same. We thank the education minister for this move. A lot of malpractices used to take place during the practical examinations as internal examiners favoured a few set of students."
Now, the institutions will have to pay the external examiners, who along with internal examiners, would conduct the board practical exams for the SSC and HSC.
Duttatray Jagtap, chairman of Mumbai divisional board, said: "We received several complaints from students and organizations that the absence of external examiners is leading to lot of malpractices. Hence, the board decided to take this step and issued a circular to bring back external examiners for the upcoming board examination."

Explained: What is Google’s Wi-Fi at 100 railway station project and how will it work

Explained: What is Google’s Wi-Fi at 100 railway station project and how will it work

Google will deploy WiFi at 100 railway stations in partnership with Railtel. Mumbai Central will be the first station to get free Wi-Fi by January 2016

Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced company’s push to bring internet access to more users. The company also announced that Mumbai Central will get free Wi-Fi by January 2016 (Source: Express Photo by Renuka Puri)
Google CEO Sundar Pichai had first announced about the the company’s free WiFi at railway stations in India when PM Modi had visited the company campus in Mountain View, California in September. Under the project, Google plans to provide free and high-speed Wi-Fi access to railway commuters at over 400 stations in India. Google has partnered with Railtel Corporation to make this project a reality.
How’s the project going to scale out? Which stations will get covered?
According to Google’s announcement today, the first station to get free Wi-Fi under this scheme will be Mumbai Central, where testing has already been carried out. Google’s free Wi-Fi at Mumbai Central goes live by January, 2016. Google plans to make free Wi-Fi live at over 100 stations in India by the end of 2016. The free Wi-Fi scheme will target stations across each railway zone in India.
At the end of 2016, Google will evaluate the project to see how it will expand the free Wi-Fi scheme further. Google says that preparations are already on in multiple stations to make the project a reality.
So how exactly will Google’s free Wi-Fi work? Why has it partnered with RailTel?
Railtel is the PSU which owns a Pan-India optic fiber network exclusively on railway track. It has laid out over 45,000 kms of optic fibre networks across the country, which Google will utilise for its Wi-Fi.
In this case, Railtel will be the ISP, while Google will provide the Wireless Area Networks (WAN) and will set-up the points of access at platforms. It should be noted that Google’s free WiFi will only work at the platforms and is not meant for the trains.
Will Google have some guidelines, standards for this free public WiFi?
Google says the idea with its free WiFi is to ensure wide coverage and high capacity. According to Google VP for Access and Emerging Markets Marian Croak, the company sees a potential of 10 million users accessing its WiFi each day by the end of 2016 from across these railway stations. And Google wants to make sure that these 10 million users get broadband quality experience when using its Wi-Fi.
For instance, Google will try and ensure that the WiFi railway users who watch videos on the network get at least HD standard streaming. Google will also aim to maintain speed, efficiency across a board of devices.
Will the service always be free? What’s the revenue model here for Google?
Google says that the service will be free to begin with, although it has not yet specified whether it will eventually charge for this WiFi. It should be noted that free WiFi in other public places like airports is free for a limited time period only. On the revenue model, Google hopes that this will be self-sustainable and it will start exploring with different revenue models later on. For now the focus will be on getting the project up and running.
Source: The Indian Express dated December 17, 2015(Online)

Google CEO Sundar Pichai in India: Free Wi-Fi at railway stations, new campus for Hyderabad announced

Google CEO Sundar Pichai in India: Free Wi-Fi at railway stations, new campus for Hyderabad announced

Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Wednesday underlined the search giant’s intention to push for more internet adoption in India

Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Wednesday underlined the search giant’s intention to push for more internet adoption in India, announcing free Wi-Fi in 100 railway stations as promised to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his visit to Silicon Valley earlier this year.
At a large-scale event of the company in New Delhi, Pichai, who was accompanied by other top executives of the company, announced plans to launch a “huge new” campus in Hyderabad and to recruit more Indians for business development too.
Pichai said Mumbai Central will the first of the 100 railway stations, getting Wi-Fi connectivity by December 2016.
The India-born CEO said the company wanted to connect Indians in their own languages and Android — the most popular mobile operating system in India — was already supporting up to 11 local languages. He said YouTube and Google Maps were already available offline in the country, while the “search team in India has made pages lighter and they now load faster”.
Google Search VP Tamara Yehoshua said 50 per cent of Indian internet users were on 2G networks, while those on 3G were complaining of 2G-like speeds. “Google plans to fix that with Google AMP pages,” she said, about the new product that is being rolled out in India. “We need to make sure our products work across Indian languages and that search works across 2G networks,” she said, reiterating how it was “inspiring” to give access to all those who have never experienced Internet before. She said Google will launch improved versions of live cricket scores and replays on search early next year.
Google will introduce a pause buffer feature allowing users to pause video, leave it to buffer, even leave the app or site and let it continue buffering, said Eyal Manor, Vice-President of Engineering for YouTube. He said content uploaded on YouTube from India has also doubled and time spent was growing at 150 per cent ahead of global figures.
Google Maps VP Jen Fitzpatrick said India ranks third in terms of local guides on Google Maps.
Rajan Anandan, Vice President of Google in India and Southeast Asia, said by 2018, more than 500 million users will be online in India from 29 states speaking over 23 languages. “But in 2020, over 30 per cent of mobile internet will still be from 2G connections. Google has been on a long journey in India to build products that connect more people, regardless of cost, connectivity, language, gender, or location,” Anandan said.
Google also confirmed that its Asus Chromebit will be available in India for Rs 7999. The Chromebit lets users upgrade their old PCs and desktops to get a faster, Chromebook like experience.

Source: The Indian Express dated December 17, 2015 (Online)

Google just got more serious about India

Google just got more serious about India

Pichai is in India along with eight Google vice-presidents, including those for Search, YouTube, Maps, and Android among others. (Sanjeev Verma/ HT Photo)

After days of anticipation, the real reason of Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s visit to India has come to the fore. Fortunately, it was not about one single thing, but about many small initiatives that go to show that, Google just became more serious about India.
Sundar Pichai took the stage to explain in detail, and piece together, the announcements made in the course of last few months and their relevance to India. Real time cricket scores and videos by early next year, an expansive new campus in Hyderabad and an aggressive ramping up of recruitment in India were among a host of initiatives.
The tech giant also unveiled two new projects to boost its penetration into India’s vast rural and semi-urban hinterland.
The first is Project Loon -- a network of high-altitude, internet-beaming balloons that will help connect towns and villages with no access to cables or an optic fibre grid – which has already ruffled regulatory feathers in India. Although Loon ran into regulatory issues, Google’s spirit seems indomitable in connecting rural India to the Internet.
“We run two separate initiatives in India to get more people online. We have a programme named ‘Internet Sathi’ where we partner with Intel and Tata Trust to help women with bicycles who in turn go and educate other women in many villages. This project is running as a pilot in 1,000 villages in three states,” Pichai said.
The Mountain View-based company runs also runs another initiative which helps more women get online -- Helping Women Get Online. “The pilot project is now going national where we are aiming to get women online in 300,000 villages in three years which is half of Indian villages,” added Pichai.
The second is an upgraded translation service called Tap to Translate, which provides real-time translation into almost a dozen Indian languages as you type, and works across all applications on Android devices.
The tech giant is also working to make search easier by incorporating multiple Indian languages in its voice recognition software, making it work for slower networks typically found in India and tailoring search for local interests like cricket and Bollywood.
“When I joined google in 2004, we had only 2 offices in India. Today, we have 4 offices and 1500 people. We are hiring both in Bangalore and Hyderabad,” said the company’s Chennai-born CEO Sundar Pichai, delivering the keynote address at the Google for India event.
“What inspired me to join Google was the fact that Google search worked the same whether you were a Stanford professor or a poor kid in a small Indian city. This country has given me and Google so much that I hope we can give back much more to India in the months and years ahead.”
Pichai -- who became Google’s top boss in August after the company became part of a larger firm known as Alphabet Inc -- also pointed out that the company was focusing on the next billion people to come online, enumerating the company’s drive in including Indic languages in its software and enabling 400 railway stations with WiFi.
After decades of lagging behind the Digital revolution, India has now emerged as a hot destination for global software majors due to its lucrative market of middle-class professionals and a billion people still off the web, many of whom have logged online in recent years due to a mobile phone boom.
“In October, searches from mobile overtook desktop for the first time globally. But in India, they crossed the desktop in May 2013 because you guys are way ahead on mobile,” said Tamar Yehoshua, vice-president of Search.
The company also focused heavily on increasing its web footprint in India and across the world, over half of whose population is still off the internet grid.
“We are working to hopefully bring Project Loon to India in rural communities where there are very few people connected to the internet. We want people who come on to this network to not just take small leaps but soar,” said Marion Croak, vice-president of Access.
“The solutions that are born in India are going to revolutionise the way we solve problems around the world, because it’s such a challenging country to work in.”
The 43-year-old alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, is the latest tech leader to visit India over the last 12 months after Alibaba’s chairperson Jack Ma, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
Pichai is in India along with eight Google vice-presidents, including those for Search, YouTube, Maps, and Android among others. He is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, finance minister Arun Jaitley and telecommunications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday and will interact with students at the Sri Ram College of Commerce on Thursday.
Last year, Pichai visited India to launch Android One, a program in which the world’s largest search engine partnered with Indian handset makers Spice, Micromax and Karbonn (and later Lava) to sell low-cost $100 devices that ran the latest version of Android.
The Android One phones supported seven Indian languages out of the box, including for dictation and voice commands. They also feature local news publications and magazines in the Google Play Newsstand.
Android One eventually rolled out in 11 countries, but it never really took off. Google sold about three million Android One phones in all but negligible compared to the growth of Android around the world. Google, however, is tight-lipped about plans to reboot Android One.
The Mountain View-based company has also been silent on net neutrality, a polarising issue that has been the subject of fierce debate in India this year. Google supports net neutrality in the United States but it has not said that publicly in India.
A report in the Economic Times said that the company was planning to roll out its own Free Basics-like zero-rated service in India but put on the back-burner after seeing the backlash against Facebook’s

Admission to IITs, NITs: HRD Ministry gets positive feedback for JEE makeover

Admission to IITs, NITs: HRD Ministry gets positive feedback for JEE makeover

The ministry had made the report of the Ashok Mishra Committee public last month for further consultation with stakeholders. The deadline for sending feedback was November 30.

In what could lead to major changes in the admission process for IITs and NITs, the HRD Ministry has received positive public feedback on recommendations of a government-appointed panel, including introduction of a compulsory SAT-like aptitude test for aspirants, no weightage to school board marks and a single entrance exam.
The ministry had made the report of the Ashok Mishra Committee public last month for further consultation with stakeholders. The deadline for sending feedback was November 30.
According to sources, of the 100-odd responses received by the government, 67 have supported the removal of weightage given to Class XII marks at the time of admissions and nine have opposed the suggestion. Similarly, 23 are for introduction of a national-level aptitude test for engineering aspirants and two against it. Twenty-six respondents have favoured a single entrance examination — instead of the current two-tier test — for admissions to IITs, NITs and other centrally funded institutes.
Although the ministry has not taken a final decision, the feedback could push the government to announce another makeover for the admission process at the top engineering schools. However, no changes will be introduced for 2016-17.
The Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) underwent a series of changes in 2013 after the then HRD Minister Kapil Sibal convinced engineering schools to give weightage to a candidate’s school performance. This was done to help students focus on their school education and wean them away from coaching classes. But a review by the institutions three years later showed the decision had made little difference to the coaching industry, in fact it increased its influence.
Both IITs and NITs are now in favour of scrapping the weightage to Class XII marks. The Ashok Mishra committee was set up to study this proposal and also the feasibility of conducting a single entrance test.
The panel also suggested that the candidates should take an aptitude test to prove their inclination for science and innovative thinking. Passing this test will be a prerequisite for appearing for JEE. The test, designed to reduce the coaching culture, could be offered two or more times in a year.

Jalandhar girl wins prestigious Dr APJ Abdul Kalam IGNITE award

Jalandhar girl wins prestigious Dr APJ Abdul Kalam IGNITE award

Jaspreet Kaur with the Dr APJ Abdul Kalam IGNITE Award in Jalandhar on Friday. (HT Photo)

Jalandhar girl Jaspreet Kaur has won the prestigious Dr APJ Abdul Kalam IGNITE award for her idea on “Colour Coded Thermometer”. She was one of the 31 students who bagged the award out of the 28,000 entries received by National Innovation of India (NIF), an autonomous body of the department of science and technology, which gives the award every year to students with innovative and original ideas.
Dr APJ Abdul Kalam IGNITE Award is a national competition of original technological ideas and innovations by children up to class 12 or those out of school up to the age of 17 years. The competition is organised by NIF in association with Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), Honey Bee Network, other state educational boards and other partners every year to promote creativity and originality among children.
Jaspreet, a class 10 student of Police DAV Public School, while explaining the idea said, “In my idea, one can find temperature using colours in thermometer. If a person has low body temperature then it shows blue light; if it is on the higher side then it shows red light and if the body temperature is normal then it shows green light. This thermometer will be helpful for those people who do not know how to check temperature on a thermometer.”
Jaspreet was awarded by President of India Pranab Mukherjee on November 30 at a function organised at IIM, Ahmadabad. When asked about the experience of meeting the President, an elated Jaspreet said, “I was on cloud nine after receiving the award from him.”
Planning to opt for non-medical stream in class 11, Jaspreet added that adopting scientific and rational approach towards life was need of the hour and people must adopt science in their lives.
It must be mentioned that the students of the school have been getting this award for the last seven years. The school has made a “Honeybee Club”, taking inspiration from honeybee philosophy of National Innovation of India. It collects innovative ideas and sends it to NIF for the IGNITE competition every year. The awards of IGNITE competition are announced every year on October 15, which Dr APJ Abdul Kalama’s birthday, which is celebrated as the Children’s Creativity and Innovation Day by NIF.
Dr Rashmi Vij, principal, Police DAV Public School, said the school always inspired the students to think differently and to bring innovation in their ideas. “The participation of students from Punjab schools in such prestigious competitions is very thin and it must be increased. I will write a letter to the chief minister to encourage everyone to take part in such competitions,” she added.

US university launches APJ Abdul Kalam grant

US university launches APJ Abdul Kalam grant

    The University of South Florida (USF) in the US has launched the President APJ Abdul Kalam Postgraduate Fellowship “to honour him and his vision” for Indian graduate students seeking to pursue a PhD degree in at least 14 subjects and disciplines.
    Aanchal Bedi from HT Education spoke to Ralph C Wilcox, USF’s provost and executive vice-president.
    Here’s an excerpt:
    What is the purpose of your visit to India?
    Our engagement with India has seen an upward swing in the past few years. The number of applications and enrolments from India have multiplied — from about 200 to 800 this year. During my visit, I met our Indian partners to take the relationship to the next level, interact with Indian students planning to study at USF and catch up with some of our alumni. There is one more purpose also, which is perhaps closest to my heart, ie to launch the President APJ Abdul Kalam Postgraduate Fellowship. We instituted this fellowship to honour him and his vision.
    Tell us more about the fellowship.
    The student award will be offered to an Indian graduate student seeking to pursue a PhD degree in the following subject and discipline at the university: applied anthropology, applied physics, business PhD programmes, cell biology, microbiology and molecular biology, chemistry, computer science and engineering, engineering, criminology, integrative biology, marine science and psychology.
    The fellowship provides a tution fee waiver for up to four years, a stipend of $18,000 over the nine months of the fall and spring semesters ($2,000 per month) for up to four years. The provost’s office will pay a nine-month stipend for the first year with the department/college contributing a teaching/research assistantship for an additional three years. The total stipend amount will be payable by USF once the scholar is enrolled at the university for his/her first term. All other costs such as airfare, housing at USF, etc will be met by the awardee.
    What are the new developments at USF that are specific to India?
    The most recent ones would be our College of Engineering’s development of the “NEWgenerator” for India, which converts waste into nutrient fertilizers, renewable energy and clean water, providing a modular and self-sustaining machine that operates completely off-grid, requiring no water, power or sewer system.
    Please tell us about significant recent/upcoming partnerships with Indian institutes as well as industry partnerships for research etc.
    The collaborations already in place are in the areas of public health, management and engineering. Our partners include Delhi Technological University, Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Manipal University, Government Medical College in Surat and several others.
    Similarly, on one hand we have Indian students coming to study at USF each summer for the past six years, and on the other we have been sending American students to the Infosys campus in Mysore to learn from their faculty.
    Last year, 15 USF students visited Arunachal Pradesh to engage with projects of the Research Institute of World’s Ancient Traditions, Cultures and Heritage (RIWATCH), which has been recognised by the United Nations as a Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development. We are planning a similar trip in 2016 as well.
    Click here for details and online application forms. The deadline to apply is March 1, 2016.


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