Insights Daily Current Events, 12 August 2015
Sundar Pichai to spearhead Google
Google has formed a new parent company dubbed Alphabet that will include the Internet search unit as one of several entities. Alphabet will be run by Google chief Larry Page. And Indian born Sundar Pichai will be the new CEO, Google.
- Alphabet is mostly a collection of companies, the largest of which is Google.
- Alphabet will include units focusing on life sciences such as a glucose-sensing contact lens and the health research firm Calico.
- Alphabet Inc. will replace Google Inc. as the publicly traded entity, and all shares of Google will automatically convert to shares of Alphabet, with all of the same rights.
- Google will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alphabet. The Google unit will include search and search ads, maps, apps, YouTube, Android and related technical infrastructure, according to a regulatory filing.
About Sundar Pichai:
- In his current role, Pichai oversees product management, engineering and research for Google’s products and platforms, according to Google’s filing at the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
- He has been SVP of Google Android, Chrome and Apps, working on consumer products used by millions of people.
- Pichai was part of the team that launched the Chrome browser in 2008 and, prior to that, worked on various search products, including Google Toolbar, Desktop Search, Gadgets, and Google Gears and Gadgets, according to Business Insider magazine.
- Originally from Tamil Nadu, Pichai received a Bachelor of Technology from the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur.
Other Indian born CEOs:
- Satya Nadella – Microsoft
- Ajay Banga – Mastercard
- Indira Nooyi – PepsiCo
- Ivan Menezes – Diageo
- Shantanu Narayen – Adobe Systems
Sources: The Hindu, wallstreet.
Aadhaar not mandatory
The Supreme Court recently said that the Aadhaar unique identity system will not be compulsory for Indian citizens to benefit from government services.
- This was stated by a constitution bench of the Supreme Court based on petitions challenging the Adhaar as a compulsory system to receive government subsidies and services.
- The government had contended that the biometric-based system of unique identification was an essential tool to ensure transparency in its services.
- But, rejecting the government’s plea, the Supreme Court has said that it will now have to publicise widely that the Aadhaar card was not mandatory.
- It has also ruled that no authority shall seek Aadhaar cards from citizens to accord any services. However, on the discretion of the card-owner, it can be used for availing the subsidies in the public distribution system, gas cylinders and purchasing kerosene.
- The court also said that the biometric data collected by the Unique Identification Authority of India cannot be used for any other purpose except in criminal investigations with the permission of the court.
- The court has also said that the data will have to be safely retained only by the government.
However, the court has partially allowed the government to use Aadhaar cards to weed out the undeserving and plug leakages in PDS subsidy schemes, rolling back a 2013 order that completely banned use of Aadhaar in dispensing social security benefits of any kind.
Sources: The Hindu, NDTV.
China devalues yuan
China’s central bank has devalued the yuan to its lowest rate against the US dollar in almost three years.
- The bank said that this move to make the exchange rate more market-oriented.
- The move, which makes exports cheaper, comes after weak economic data from the world’s second largest economy.
- With this China has indicated that the changes announced are another step in its move to a more market-determined exchange rate.
- This move comes amid speculation that China is preparing to widen the trading band for the currency from the current two percent ranges.
China has long kept tight control of the yuan value on concerns over financial volatility and losing its policy control. Yet it is also under pressure to reform its currency policy as it pushes to become one of the International Monetary Fund’s “special drawing rights” (SDR) reserve currencies. These are currencies which IMF members can use to make payments between themselves or to the Fund.
- The decision of the People’s Bank of China to devalue the yuan by 1.9% will have global ramifications, in the short, medium and long term.
- Immediately it will increase the competitiveness of China’s exports at a time when the country’s economy is growing at its slowest rate for six years – and when many economists fear that the slowdown will become much more painful and acute.
- And for all the spur to growth it may give, the devaluation will reawaken concerns that Beijing is still a million miles from having re-engineered the Chinese economy to deliver more balanced growth based on stronger domestic consumer demand.
What is devaluation?
Devaluation refers to a reduction in the value of a currency with respect to those goods, services or other monetary units with which that currency can be exchanged. It is official lowering of the value of a country’s currency within a fixed exchange rate system, by which the monetary authority formally sets a new fixed rate with respect to a foreign reference currency.
Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.
After a decade, Athirapilly project gets green light
The 163-MW Athirappilly hydroelectric project, proposed across the Chalakudy river in Kerala, has received the go-ahead from the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for River Valley and Hydroelectric Projects.
What has EAC said?
- The EAC, which focused on 15 concerns raised against the project, including the loss of forestland and displacement of tribes, felt that there were no tribal families in the submergence area of the Athirappilly reservoir.
- The panel observed that there was no endemic species specifically of project area. There were no species for which mitigation methods were not available. The damage due to submergence of flora and fauna of the area was mitigable.
- The EAC also concluded that the forest clearance issued by Ministry of Environment and Forest is subject to the obtaining requisite environmental clearance and hence valid from the date of issuance of the same.
There are 22 tribal families living in the upstream of the submergence area. The Ministry has already stipulated that no tribespeople are to be displaced while implementing the project.
- The project was proposed by the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) a decade ago.
- The dam is proposed on the Chalakudy River which is 5th largest river in Kerala with 144 kms length.
- The Chalakudy River is a tributary of the Periyar River and originates in the Anamalai region of Tamil Nadu.
- The famous Athirapally and Vazhachal waterfalls are situated on this river. Athirapally waterfall is situated at 1000ft MSL and falling from a height of 80 fts. It is largest waterfall in the state.
- The proposed dam will be about 5 kilometers upstream of Athirapally Falls and 400 metres upstream of Vazhachal Falls.
- The project stirred political controversies and agitations with various environmental groups opposing it.
- Though the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel rejected it, the High-Level Working Group suggested that the project must be revaluated in terms of the generation of energy and whether the plant load factor expected in the project makes it viable against the loss of local populations of some species.
- The proposal had also run into a series of litigations, thus delaying its implementation.
Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.
Soon, space programmes will use indigenously made titanium sponge
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) recently said that the indigenous Titanium Sponge Plant at Chavara in Kerala has been fully commissioned and has started commercial production required for space applications.
- ISRO took the initiative to set up a Titanium Sponge Plant (TSP) in the country to meet the requirements in strategic areas.
- The plant is set up to enhance the production capacity to 1,000 tonnes per annum in future, it said, adding that this is the only integrated plant in the world that undertakes all activities right from mining of Ti minerals to manufacturing of aerospace grade Ti sponge under one roof.
- With this, India has become the seventh country in the world producing Titanium sponge commercially.
- This will also mean a big saving on foreign exchange considering that the Indian Space Research Organisation alone has been importing a significant 200-300 tonnes of titanium sponge each year from Russia, Japan or China.
- The annual requirement of titanium sponge for space programme is approximately 200-300 metric tonnes.
- Titanium (Ti) alloy products find extensive applications in aerospace and defence areas.
- Properties like high strength to weight ratio and excellent corrosion resistance make Titanium alloys useful for liquid propellant tanks for launch vehicles and satellites, gas bottle/liners, inter tank structures and interface rings for satellites.
- Nationally important sectors of aerospace and Defence extensively use alloys of titanium, (scientifically shortened to Ti) because of the high strength and non-corrosive quality of these materials.
Currently, the raw material for aerospace grade Titanium alloys with high purity Titanium sponge is being imported from countries like Russia, Japan and China despite the fact that India is endowed with the third largest reserve of Titanium bearing minerals.
Sources: The Hindu, ET.
Travel & Tourism Competitive Index 2015
As per the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) 2015, of the World Economic Forum, India’s rank has improved significantly to 52nd this year from 65th in 2013.
- Improving the ranking had been set as a target in the Result Framework Document (RFD) of the Ministry of Tourism for the year 2014-15.
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