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India’s ‘BharatNet’ Phase 2 Begins for 100% Connectivity by 2020

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The second phase of BharatNet project with an outlay of Rs 31,000 crore and a mandate to provide high-speed broadband to all panchayats by March 2019 got off the block.

Additionally, the Department of Telecom requested all states to provide a list of unconnected villages so that all of them can be connected with telecom services by 2020.

Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha, along with Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar and Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi were present at the launch of the second phase of the project. “Under the project, we will provide 1 Gbps (gigabit per second) bandwidth capacity at the panchayat level. The Cabinet in July 2017 approved a modified implementation strategy for BharatNet which include…project completion for all 2.5 lakh panchayats by March 2019,” Sinha said at the launch.

The telecom ministry expects to complete the first phase of the project covering over 1 lakh panchayats by the end of December.

As per official data, broadband services have already been started in more than 48,000 panchayats and over 75,000 panchayats are ready for the services. “The progress of service readiness has picked up to such an extent that in October 2017 around 25,000-gram panchayats have already been made service ready. All 1 lakh panchayats under the first phase will be ready for broadband by the end of December,” Sinha said.

Javadekar said that broadband connectivity in all panchayats will be key growth enabler especially in the field of education. “We want to bring revolution in schools like there was operation blackboard in the 1970s. We are now dreaming of a digital board and the connectivity (through BharatNet) will transform the entire nation,” he said. Prasad suggested that all government offices should be connected with BharatNet.

The total project cost is around Rs 42,000 crore of which around Rs 11,000 crores have been invested in the first phase. Under the phase 2, the government aims to connect 1.5 lakh panchayats through 10 lakh kilometres of additional optical fibre and give bandwidth to telecom players at nearly 75 percent cheaper price for broadband and wifi services in rural areas.

The government signed an agreement with seven states — Maharashtra, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand — which will roll out the project on their own with partial funding from the central government. The Centre will provide total fund support of around Rs 10,000 crore to the state governments. Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan further asked state government to send the list of unconnected villages in their jurisdiction so that all of them can be connected by 2020.

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SCIENCE-TECHNOLOGY

India to host World Environment Day 2018

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India will host the global World Environment Day celebrations on 5 June 2018, the government and the UN jointly announced today.

“India will be a great global host of 2018’s World Environment Day celebrations,” said Erik Solheim, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Head, UN Environment at the announcement on Monday.

The government has also committed to organizing and promoting the World Environment Day celebrations through a series of engaging activities and events generating strong public interest and participation.

From pan India plastic clean-up drives in public areas, national reserves and forests to simultaneous beach clean-up activities – India will lead the initiative by setting an example.

“India is excited to host the World Environment Day this year on June 5. Indian philosophy and lifestyle have long been rooted in the concept of co-existence with nature. We are committed towards making Planet Earth a cleaner and greener place”, said Dr Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.

“Beat Plastic Pollution”, the theme for World Environment 2018, urges governments, industry, communities and individuals to come together and explore sustainable alternatives and urgently reduce the production and excessive use of single-use plastic that is polluting our oceans, damaging marine life and threatening human health.

India is emerging as a leader given it has one of the highest recycling rates in the world. It can be instrumental in combating plastic pollution. By hosting World Environment Day 2018, the Indian government is accelerating its leadership on an issue of tremendous magnitude.

World Environment Day is a UN Environment-led global event, the single largest celebration of our environment each year, which takes place on June 5 and is celebrated by thousands of communities worldwide.

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SCIENCE-TECHNOLOGY

India’s Lunar Mission Chandrayaan-2 to Aim for Moon’s South Pole

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Chandrayaan-2, the lunar mission under which the ISRO will for the first time attempt to land a rover on the moon’s south pole, will be launched in April, Jitendra Singh, in-charge of the Department of Space said.

The rover of India’s second lunar mission, costing nearly Rs 800 crore, will be made to land near the yet-unexplored south pole, ISRO’s newly-appointed chairman K Sivan said.

“India is going to launch Chandrayaan-2 in April. It is under Chandrayaan-1 mission that the ISRO spotted water on the moon. Chandrayaan-2 is a further extension of the project and it is as good as landing a man on the moon,” the minister said.

Chandrayaan-2 will be ISRO’s first inter-planetary mission to land a rover on any celestial body.

“The targeted date is April. In case we miss the April date, we will launch it in November,” Sivan added.

Citing the reason behind landing the rover near the south pole, Sivan said it is a “very tricky area” with rocks formed a million years ago. “It has very old rocks. This could possibly help us understand the origin of the universe,” he said.

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ECONOMY-DEVELOPMENT

WhatsApp Payment is Beta Test with Only 10 Lakh User Base

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Amid deep concerns raised by Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has clarified that it has allowed WhatsApp to beta test its payments service with a limited user base of 10 lakhs and a low transaction limit.

WhatsApp payment service will rival the likes of Paytm, whose founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma has been critical of the Facebook-owned company and has even alleged that the US firm was getting unfair advantage.

“Currently, NPCI has given its consent to roll out WhatsApp BHIM UPI beta launch with limited user base of one million and low per transaction limit. Four banks will join the multi-bank BHIM UPI model in phases (in the coming weeks) and full feature product shall be released after the beta test is successful,” NPCI said in a statement.

It added that multi-bank model offers advantages such as transaction load distribution between banks and helps to integrate popular apps easily with BHIM UPI.

NPCI said its broad principles for inter-operability include ability to send and receive money through any BHIM UPI ID, intent and collect call and, read and generate BHIM/Bharat QR code that are required in final BHIM UPI app.

“BHIM UPI enabled app which fulfils such principles only will be permissible for full scale-public launch,” it emphasised.

NPCI — an umbrella organisation for all retail payments in India — asserted that it follows “well-defined guidelines” for BHIM UPI services with the objective of making its platforms “inter-operable and based on open standards, convenient and secure”.

Paytm’s Sharma had raised a storm after Facebook-owned WhatsApp started testing payments through its platform. He alleged that WhatsApp’s UPI payment platform has security risks for consumers and is not in compliance with the guidelines.

Alleging Facebook of having “arm-twisted” UPI to derive benefits, Sharma had said Facebook was “killing beautiful open UPI system with its custom close garden implementation.”
Emails sent to WhatsApp for their response remained unanswered.

Paytm spokesperson said NPCI statement addresses the concerns of interoperability violation that it had raised and also clarifies that the trial has been restricted to 1 million users.

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