Higher education in India gets a Rs 8,000 crore boost

Government’s estimated schematic budgetary expenditure on health, education and social protection for 2018-19 is Rs 1.38 trillion. Photo: HT

Government’s estimated schematic budgetary expenditure on health, education and social protection for 2018-19 is Rs 1.38 trillion. Photo: HT

New Delhi: To increase investment in higher educational institutions, the Union Cabinet today approved a proposal for expanding the scope of Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) by expanding its capital base to Rs 10,000 crore and tasking it to mobilise Rs 1 trillion by 2022.

Briefing reporters after the Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government wants to increase investments in higher education, for which an announcement was made in the last budget and HEFA was established.

“At that time its authorised capital was Rs 2,000 crore and now it has been increased to Rs 10,000 crore,” Prasad said, adding that earlier central government universities and other new varsities didn’t get advantage of HEFA but in today’s cabinet meeting, it was decided that they can utilise this fund.

In his Union Budget 2018, the then finance minister Arun Jaitley had announced a new initiative of the government—‘‘Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE)”—to step up investments in research and related infrastructure in premier educational institutions, including health institutions. HEFA, a joint venture company of Canara Bank and Ministry of Human Resource Development which provides financial assistance for creation of educational infrastructure and R&D in India’s premier higher educational Institutions, was tasked to fund this initiative.

Government’s estimated schematic budgetary expenditure on health, education and social protection for 2018-19 is Rs 1.38 trillion against estimated expenditure of Rs 1.22 trillion in 2017-18.


With the launch of TESS, NASA will boost its search for exoplanets

illustration of TESS telescpope

NASA is stepping up its search for planets outside our solar system. Its next exoplanet hunting telescope, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), is due to launch from Cape Canaveral on the evening of April 16.

Following the Kepler space telescope’s discovery of more than 5,000 possible exoplanets since 2009, TESS will continue the galactic census — flagging more planetary candidates for further study.

Astronomers expect TESS to find about 20,000 planets in its first two years in operation, focusing on nearby, bright stars that will be easy for other telescopes to investigate later. About 500 of those expected exoplanets would be less than twice the size of Earth — and therefore may be good places to look for life.

NASA’s next exoplanet hunting telescope, TESS

SMALL BUT MIGHTY NASA’s next exoplanet hunting telescope, TESS, is only 1.5 meters tall (shown here with engineers). Its size is partly due to the fact that it was designed to launch on NASA’s small Taurus rocket, but will instead launch on a larger SpaceX Falcon 9 on April 16.


The TESS mission is “a whole new opening for exoplanet studies,” MIT astronomer Sara Seager, TESS’ deputy science director, said during a news conference describing the upcoming launch.

TESS will be the first NASA science mission launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Once in orbit, the spacecraft will trace an unusual, elliptical path between Earth and the moon that will enable it to observe at least 85 percent of the sky — 350 times as much sky as Kepler saw.

Most of the planets found by Kepler orbit stars 1,000 light-years away or farther. TESS will focus on 200,000 stars that are a few hundred light-years away at most, and shine between 30 to 100 times brighter on average than Kepler’s.

The brighter the star, the easier it is to determine its planet’s characteristics, such as its mass and whether it has an atmosphere, Seager says. “Photons are our currency — the more, the better,” she says.

That follow-up will help TESS avoid some of Kepler’s pitfalls. Because Kepler’s stars were so far and so dim, some of its planet candidates were confirmed as actual planets only by statistics rather than by other telescopes. And not all those confirmations may stick. A recent paper posted at arXiv.org showed that Kepler 452b, an Earth-sized planet that orbits a sunlike star at the same distance Earth orbits the sun, may be a mirage (SN: 8/22/15, p. 16). Many of TESS’ planets won’t face the same uncertainty.

the TESS sattelite

COASTING IN SPACE The TESS satellite’s unusual 13.7-day orbit uses the moon’s gravity to stabilize it, so it needs little fuel. During the part of the orbit colored blue, TESS will observe the sky. During the part marked in orange, it will transmit data back to Earth. The gray ring marks the moon’s orbit.


But the way TESS will search for exoplanets is the same as Kepler: The satellite will watch stars for signs of dimming, which can indicate that a planet is transiting, or crossing in front of, the star. Measuring how much starlight is blocked can tell astronomers the size of the planet.

Once TESS finds a planet, astronomers will need more information to understand its qualities, such as whether it’s rocky or gassy (SN Online: 6/19/17). For that, other telescopes will follow up. Ground-based telescopes will measure the gravitational tug of a planet on its host star to learn the planet’s density, which is a clue to its composition. Astronomers plan to measure masses for at least 50 TESS planets that are smaller than Neptune in the hopes that many of them will have rocky, and therefore potentially habitable, surfaces.

Undiscovered country

Before TESS, most known planets were more than 1,000 light-years away, with a few closer than 30 light-years (a parsec is 3.26 light-years). TESS (orange circles) will fill in the gap. The size of the circles represents how easy the planets are to find.

graph showing where TESS will be able to detect planets

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, now scheduled to launch in 2020, will then check some of those planets for signs of life (SN: 4/30/16, p. 32).

“This is one of the major questions that TESS is intended to answer: Where will we be pointing Webb?” said the mission’s principal investigator, MIT astronomer George Ricker, at the press conference. Webb will peer at the starlight filtering through planetary atmospheres to try to detect molecules that could be produced by something living on the surface.

It will take a few months for TESS to swing into its regular orbit before it begins collecting data. At that point, it will be able to use the moon’s gravity to stabilize itself for decades in orbit without using extra fuel. The mission is set to last two years, but could continue taking data almost indefinitely.

“TESS is not going to be limited by any expendable or other aspects,” Ricker said. “It will be basically limited by how long NASA has the patience to fund the mission.”


No concessions for Apple, but govt to review mobile manufacturing policy to boost the sector

apple_reutersNEW DELHI: The government won’t offer any special concessions to Apple but is reviewing its entire policy on mobile phone manufacturing as part of an effort to promote the ‘Make in India’ initiative, officials said. This could meet some of the demands that Apple has made apart from benefitting other phone makers as well.

Apple had sought the concessions to set up plants in the country. The issue will be examined in depth at a high-level meeting with Apple executives next week. On Apple’s wish list is said to be a 15-year customs duty holiday on the import of iPhone kits, new and used capital equipment, and consumables. Apple’s requests are being considered by three government departments — revenue, industry and information technology.


India needs to support an iconic brand like Apple for the success of the Make in India campaign, officials said. “Our import duty is high,” one of them said. “As long as they are getting into exports, our objective should be to give them lowest duty so as to ensure that their product is competitive. Hence we may even relook at the policy as a whole.” Another official said no decision had been taken but that concessions cannot be given to just one company. “Normally, similar dispensation has to be given to others similarly placed,” he said.

The Make in India programme is aimed at encouraging investment in manufacturing to drive job creation in the country and thereby boost growth and raise incomes to lift people out of poverty.

Apple had earlier sought permission to set up fully owned retail outlets by forgoing the compulsory 30% local sourcing rule on the ground that it was bringing cutting-edge technology to India. The finance ministry didn’t allow the exemption.

Explaining the rationale behind a fresh look at the trade policy, the first official said India cannot be isolated from the rest of the world. “India has to follow same set of principles prevalent elsewhere which has helped players to become global manufacturers,” the official said.

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In its application submitted to the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion under the commerce ministry, Apple has sought full duty exemption on manufacturing and repair inputs (raw materials), yield loss on inputs, components, capital equipment (including parts), and consumables for smartphone manufacturing and services/repair for a period of 15 years for both domestic and export markets. Currently, 12% duty is levied on fully imported phones while 12.5% countervailing duty is charged on the import of mobile phone equipment, discouraging global manufacturers from setting up production bases in India.

Apple is betting big on the India market where it currently holds a market share of just 2% as growth slows in developed markets like the US and China.

Apple’s products are manufactured in six countries — mostly in China but also in South Korea, Japan and the US.

As many as 42 companies make mobile phones in India, including Chinese firms Huawei and Xiaomi. No other company has approached the government for any incentives, people with knowledge of the matter said.

During his visit to the country last year, Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook had said India was the next big market for the company. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had urged Cook to set up factories in India when they met during that trip.


Vocus.io Chrome Extension Aims to Boost Email Productivity

Vocus.io Chrome Email Extension Aims to Boost Email Productivity



Vocus.io is a Chrome extension that will help you to accurately track email opens and link clicks, find any person’s email from their name, automate “gentle reminder” followups and more.

Want to keep better track of your email? Vocus.io, is a Google Chrome browser extension that founder Ahmad AlNaimi says will “dramatically improve your productivity on Gmail”  — and more.

How It Works

Adding the extension to Google Chrome is pretty straight forward. Just go to the Vocus.io website and click the get started tab. The extension will immediately ask your permission to integrate with your Gmail account. You will also receive an email confirming your request.

Vocus.io Chrome Email Extension Aims to Boost Email Productivity

You will also be prompted to add the extension to Google Chrome. Here’s how it appears when integrated.

Vocus.io Chrome Email Extension Aims to Boost Email Productivity

Now you are ready to start using the feature as you please.


The Chrome extension carries with it the ability to: accurately track emails, find any person’s email from their name, integrate with Salesforce and other CRMs, launch multi-stage mail merge campaigns, schedule emails, and more.

Accurate Email Tracking

Vocus.io helps you to take the guess work out of email tracking. The extension is able to tell you not just who, but also when, where, and how your email was opened. Classic email trackers will just send you a notification that someone opened your email and that’s just about it. Vocus.io, however, goes on to tell you who that someone is, the gadget they were using and the exact time they opened the email.

Automation of Followups

Another important feature that any business will find useful is the ability to automate followups. We all know that followup emails certainly double the chance of getting a response, but many times, the day-to-day business activities hinder effective followup of emails. Vocus.io, however, allows you to create what they call “a sequence of gentle reminders” to your recipients. This instantly doubles the response rate.

Smart Planner

The Chrome extension also offers you a chance to smartly organize meetings. Instead of engaging in the daunting back and forth emailing when planning a meeting, Vocus.io allows to you share your availability and poll the invitees in a single email. The poll content automatically changes to show responses from your team members.

Ability to Write Now, Send Later

The extension also allows you to schedule your email to be sent at the most appropriate time that your recipient is most likely to see and respond to it. You can therefore write an email on a weekend or late on Sunday night and schedule it to be sent at 9 a.m. in the morning.

Besides, you can also use the extension to run a multi-stage business campaign with attachments. All you have to do is to create a new campaign from Dashboard > Mail Merge and upload a CSV file. The CSV file must have a column with emails. You can as well have any number of columns that will be available as variables in your subject line or message body. You can then schedule the emails to be sent at a certain time.


The company offers a 30-day free trial of their extension and if satisfied with its performance then you can opt for the Starter pack that costs $4.99 per month or the Professional pack that has a limited offer of $7.99.


Vocus.io is truly an effective email management tool that will dramatically increase your productivity. The downside is that it is only works with Gmail for now, but in an email to the Small Business Trends, Ahmad says that they will soon be bringing support for Outlook.

Image: Vocus