Govt sanctions funds for unique identity numbers

New Delhi: The Indian government on Thursday sanctioned funds for the second phase of the ambitious scheme to allocate unique identity numbers to 10 crore of the country's population, reports PTI.

The Cabinet Committee on Unique Identification Authority of India, at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, approved the commencement of Phase II of the scheme at an estimated cost of Rs3,023.01 crore.

"Of this, an amount of Rs477.11 crore would be towards recurring establishment expenditure and Rs2,545.90 crore would be towards non-recurring project related expenditure," an official spokesperson said.

The estimated cost includes project components for issue of 10 crore unique identity (UID) numbers by March 2011 and recurring establishment costs for the entire project phase of five years ending March 2014.

The first set of 10 crore UID numbers are expected to be issued between August 2010 and March 2011. Thereafter, 600 million UID numbers are expected to be issued within the next three years. The UID project would provide unique numbers to all residents of India.

The UIDAI proposes to collect the demographic and biometric attributes of residents through various agencies of the union and the state governments and others who, in normal course of their activities, interact with the residents.

The UID project, established last year, is primarily aimed at ensuring inclusive growth by providing a form of identity to those who do not have any identity. It seeks to provide UID numbers to the marginalised sections of society and thus would strengthen equity, an official release said.

Apart from providing identity, the UID will enable better delivery of services and effective governance.

The phase I of the scheme comprised setting up necessary infrastructure for offices at headquarters and regional headquarters, creating testing facilities for running the pilots and proof of concept (PoC) experiments, initial work of creating standards in various areas of operations.

Setting up of a project management unit and hiring of consultants for preparation of detailed project reports (DPRs) for various components of the project also formed part of the first phase of the project.

The phase I proposal was approved in November 2009.
The UIDAI has since established its Headquarters at New Delhi and six out of the eight regional offices.

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Facebook now has 500 million ‘friends’

Boston: Social networking site Facebook, started six years ago by a 20-year old student in his Harvard dorm, announced it now has 500 million users worldwide, reports PTI.

This number means that if Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest in the world.

“This is an important milestone for all of you who have helped spread Facebook around the world. Now a lot more people have the opportunity to stay connected with the people they care about,” Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zukerberg said in a message on his site.

Facebook crossed the 500 million milestone yesterday. It had over 400 million active users by February this year.

Mr Zukerberg said in celebration of the milestone, Facebook has launched a new application called ‘Facebook Stories’.

“We have put together a collection of stories you’ve shared with us about the impact Facebook and your friends have had on your lives,” he said.

Facebook is the world's largest social networking site, surpassing Twitter which has 105 million users and LinkedIn with 70 million users.

Mr Zukerberg started Facebook in February 2004, when he was a student at Harvard.

“Our mission at Facebook is to help make the world more open and connected. I could have never imagined all of the ways people would use Facebook when we were getting started 6 years ago,” he said.

About 70% of Facebook users are outside the US. It has 12 million users in India.

An average Facebook user has 130 friends and people spend over 700 billion minutes per month on the site. There are more than 150 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices. Facebook content can be translated into more than 70 languages.

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Oil PSUs to seek legal opinion on impact of sanctions on Iran

Dalat (Vietnam): The Indian government has asked its public sector oil companies to seek legal opinion on the impact of the latest round of US sanctions on Iran on their investment in the Persian Gulf nation, oil secretary S Sundareshan said here, reports PTI

The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2010 provides for sanctions against persons, including foreign firms, who invest more than $20 million in Iran's energy sector in any 12-month period.

“These are listed companies pursing opportunities in Iran. There is a need to access the potential impact of sanctions (on these investments),” Mr Sundareshan said. “The companies have been asked to seek legal opinion.”

The new US law targets companies investing, assisting or transferring technology to Iranian oil and gas companies.

The US administration had in May named Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL), Oil India Ltd (OIL), IndianOil (IOC), Hinduja Group and Petronet LNG among the 41 companies worldwide having energy ties with Iran, an act for which it may impose sanctions on them.

OVL, IOC and OIL explored for oil and gas in Farsi block and have proposed investing $5.5 billion in producing gas from the 21.68 trillion cubic feet discovery they made in the offshore block located near the Saudi Arabian border.

Besides, ONGC, OVL, Petronet and Hinduja Group last year signed agreements with Iran to develop one of the 28 phases of the giant South Pars gas field and convert the fuel into liquefied natural gas (LNG) for exports at an investment of over $10 billion. Besides, state gas utility GAIL India is spearheading talks on Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project.

The US administration has not imposed sanctions on any firm for their Iran energy ties since 1998, also names Hinduja for ties with Iran but lists it as a UK firm.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao this month had stated that India was “justifiably concerned that the extra-territorial nature of certain unilateral sanctions recently imposed by individual countries, with their restrictions on investment by third countries in Iran’s energy sector, can have a direct and adverse impact on Indian companies and more importantly, on our energy security and our attempts to meet the development needs of our people.”

“The Indian government does not invest in Iran. It is the publicly listed companies which are investing or are proposing to invest. Naturally, we want to assess if there will be any impact (of US sanctions) on such investment,” Mr Sundareshan said adding IOC, ONGC, OVL and GAIL will be seeking separate legal opinions.

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