Data Privacy
But the government is reportedly standing firm on its demand for traceability of messages.
  • Monday, September 16, 2019 - 10:24

With India pressing for traceability of WhatsApp messages to check the spread of fake news, Nick Clegg, Facebook Vice President, Global Affairs and Communications, has offered alternative ways to help the country, without any reference towards tracing the origin of the WhatsApp messages.

WhatsApp had categorically said in the past that the government's demand to trace the origin of messages on its platform is not possible as it "undermines the privacy of the people".

Clegg who was the UK's former Deputy Prime Minister before joining Facebook, visited India last week and met several senior government officials, including IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, and offered to assist law enforcement agencies in all possible ways like Artificial Intelligence-driven data analytics and access to "meta-data".

"Facebook cares deeply about the safety of people in India and Nick's meetings this week provided opportunities to discuss our commitment to supporting privacy and security in every app we provide and how we can continue to work productively with the government of India towards these shared goals," a company spokesperson said in a statement.

However, the government is reportedly standing firm on its demands of traceability of messages.

Last December, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) proposed changes to Section 79 of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000.

The proposed regulations require a company to "enable tracing out of originators of information on its platform as required by legally authorised government agencies".

The end-to-end encryption feature in WhatsApp makes it difficult for law enforcement authorities to find out the culprit behind a misinformation campaign.

The mobile messaging platform with over 400 million users has already called the proposed changes "overbroad".

"Attributing messages on WhatsApp would undermine the end-to-end encryption, and its private nature, leading to possibilities of being misused," a company spokesperson had earlier said.

WhatsApp's parent company Facebook has over 300 million users in India.

WhatsApp in February stressed that some of the proposed government regulations for social media companies operating in India are threatening the very existence of the app in its current form.

"Of the proposed regulations, the one which concerns us the most is the emphasis on traceability of messages," Carl Woog, WhatsApp's Head of Communications, had told IANS.

Meanwhile, Facebook has filed a petition to transfer the case looking at enforcing traceability on WhatsApp to the Supreme Court. It is currently sub judice in the Madras High Court.

Tamil Nadu, however, is aiming to get Facebook's transfer petition dismissed by the Supreme Court.

A professor at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Madras recently stressed that the issue can be easily resolved without diluting end-to-end encryption and affecting the privacy of users.

"If WhatsApp says it is not technically possible to show the originator of the message, I can show that it is possible," said V. Kamakoti.

When a message is sent from WhatsApp, the identity of the originator can also be revealed along with the message.

So the message and the identity of the creator can be seen only by the recipient.

"When that recipient forwards the message, his/her identity can be revealed to the next recipient," he said, adding that as per the court ruling, those who forward a harmful message can also be held responsible in certain cases.

Economy
These new measures will provide much-needed stimulus to boost the Indian economy that is now facing the slowdown, FICCI President Sandip Somany said.
  • Monday, September 16, 2019 - 10:05

The latest measures announced by the Finance Minister in the field of real estate and exports would help provide stimulus to the slowing economy, industry FICCI President Sandip Somany said on Sunday.

The industry body welcomed the government's move a day after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced steps to help the nearly stalled real estate sector and increase India's exports. Sitharaman on Saturday announced a fresh set of measures worth around Rs 60,000 crore to boost exports and the housing sector.

"These new measures will provide much-needed stimulus to boost the Indian economy that is now facing the slowdown," Somany said.

In a statement, Somany also said that the relaxation of external commercial borrowing (ECB) guidelines for affordable housing and reduction in interest on 'Housing Building Allowance' in line with the 10-year Government-Securities yield is a major step towards achieving the target of the 'Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana' (PMAY).

"Provision of Rs 10,000 crore to provide last-mile funding for completion of the ongoing housing projects (which are not NPAs or facing bankruptcy proceedings under NCLT) is certainly a major push to resolve the problem of stalled projects in the country," he said.

Sitharaman on Saturday announced that there would be a special window for affordable and middle-income housing to provide last-mile funding for housing projects which are not under the insolvency process in the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), and not declared non-performing assets (NPAs or bad loans) to complete unfinished projects.

For this, a fund of Rs 10,000 crore would be contributed by the government and "roughly the same size by outside investors", the minister announced.

The key measures for exports include extending the scheme of reimbursement of taxes and duties for export promotion, fully automated electronic refund for input tax credits (ITC) in GST, revised priority sector lending norms for exports and expanding the scope of Export Credit Insurance Scheme (ECIS).

Somany also expressed confidence that the initiatives of export-related incentives, finance, credit and facilitation will help in achieving a turnaround in India's exports which have declined by 6 per cent in August.

"The new scheme for Remission of Duties or Taxes on Export Product (RoDTEP) that will be effective from January 1, 2020, will go a long way in addressing the problem of non-compliance of our export promotion scheme," the FICCI President said.

"Fully automated electronic refund module for Input Tax Credits (ITC) in GST will speed up the ITC refund and ease the problem of working capital for exporters. Expanding the scope of Export Credit Insurance Scheme, moderation in premium incidence for MSME, and revised Priority Sector Lending (PSL) norms for export credit are also encouraging features of the new package," he said.

Additional funding of Rs 36,000 crore to Rs 68,000 crore as export credit under the priority sector is also encouraging in the backdrop of recent decline in export credits, he added.

Somany also praised the idea of annual mega shopping festivals for promoting exports of gems and jewellery, handicrafts, textiles, leather, yoga and tourism.

"In view of the critical importance of technical standards, the plan for expanding and developing affordable testing and certification facilities under PPP (Public Private Partnership) mode will equip our engineering goods exporters to align with the globally accepted tests and certification processes," he added.

He also welcomed the measures related to Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), in particular setting up of 'FTA Ultilisation Mission' as well as setting the goals for FTA ultilisation by Indian business.

"This is extremely crucial because so far Indian exporters have not utilised the existing FTAs in a major way," he said.

Technology
The centre housed at Arizona State University will focus on autonomous technologies, data science and cyber security.
  • Sunday, September 15, 2019 - 08:06

Global software major Infosys has opened a technology centre at Phoenix in Arizona, US, to accelerate innovation for its American enterprises.

“We will hire 1,000 American techies over four years to work at the centre in the south-western state for local enterprises,” said the city-based IT behemoth in a statement, here on Saturday.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey inaugurated the centre in the presence of state officials, company executives, employees and representatives of a few enterprises.

The centre, housed at the Arizona State University (ASU), will focus on autonomous technologies, Internet of Things (IOT), full-stack engineering, data science and cyber security.

“Our investment in the centre will attract local and global talent. Hiring is underway to recruit around 500 techies by 2020 and reduce the IT skills gap in the state,” it said.

Infosys Chief Executive Salil Parikh said the Arizona centre, the company’s sixth of its kind in the US since 2017, was set up to help local enterprises go for digital transformation at the earliest.

“The centre allows us to collaborate with our clients across the country in an agile manner,” said Parekh.

The centre will also leverage and empower the workforce to bridge the skill gap in the market and accelerate the digital agenda of its clients.

“Our focus will be on harnessing, modelling and scaling a new model for workforce development in the US, where the private sector has a key role to implement it (model) or learning and on-the-job training,” said company's president Ravi Kumar.

The centre boasts of living labs, showcasing prototypes in virtual reality, augmented reality and robotic technologies and will help foster co-creation, training and collaboration.

Lauding Infosys for foraying into the state, Ducey said its presence reinforced Arizona's reputation as a tech hub and one of the best places to relocate and expand.

The centre will allow the company to develop cross-functional solutions to pressing business challenges in machine learning, artificial intelligence, user experience and advanced digital technologies, such as big data and cloud.

As part of its commitment to workforce development and bridging the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skill gap in the US, the $11 billion outsourcing firm also announced a partnership with InStride to allow its employees complete degree programmes and education courses through ASU.

"Infosys’ commitment to Arizona and learning speaks of the strength of talent in our community. We welcome it as a partner that will boost our competitiveness in the global economy,” said ASU president Michael Crow.

 

Tech Shorts
Realme XT features a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED panel with a 92.1 percent screen-to-body ratio.
  • Saturday, September 14, 2019 - 19:08

Chinese smartphone manufacturer Realme on Friday launched its first smartphone with 64MP camera - Realme XT- in India.

"Our latest product offerings, realme 5, realme 5 Pro and realme XT are the only quad camera smartphones in Rs 9,000 to Rs 18,000 price segment. And I am sure our 64MP Quad Camera realme XT, will lead the market and have the support and love of our realme fans," said Madhav Sheth, Realme India CEO. 

Realme XT features a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED panel with a 92.1 percent screen-to-body ratio and features Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on both the front and back. This is the first smartphone from Realme to feature Gorilla Glass 5. The smartphone also features an in-built fingerprint sensor.

It is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 712 AIE processor along with Adreno 616 GPU.

The device houses a quad-camera set up at the back with a 64MP Samsung ISOCELL Bright GW1 sensor, other three cameras are - an 8MP wide-angle camera, a 2MP macro camera, and a 2MP depth sensor.

For the front, it has a 16-megapixel sensor for selfies and video calls.

The smartphone runs on Android 9.0 based on Color OS 6.0 and comes packed with 4000mAh battery along with VOOC 3.0 flash charge support. It comes in Pearl White and Pearl Blue colour options.

The phone comes in three storage variants - 4GB + 64GB, 6GB + 64GB, and 8GB + 128GB priced at Rs 15,999, Rs 16,999 and Rs 18,999 respectively.

It will be available on Flipkart and Realme.com starting September 16 and offline later on. With the festive season around the corner, the company will first make 64,000 devices available in 64 hours of the launch.

Controversy
On September 7, when several retired officials were present to witness the Vikram moon lander at ISRO, Annadurai's absence was conspicuous.
  • Saturday, September 14, 2019 - 19:07

Has Padma Shri M. Annadurai, former Director of the U.R. Rao Satellite Centre (URSC) and who was involved in India's three inter-planetary missions, a persona non grata at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) wonder serving and retired officials.

 At a time when several retired officials were present to witness the Vikram moon lander Vikram on September 7 at the ISRO's Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bengaluru, Annadurai's absence was conspicuous.

"Annadurai was involved in all the inter-planetary missions of the country. Did ISRO extend any invitation to Annadurai to witness the landing of Vikram?" wondered a retired official of the space agency.

"No. I was not invited. There was no invitation from ISRO to witness the landing of Vikram at ISTRAC," Annadurai told IANS and declined to delve on the topic further.

It is learnt that the heads of various ISRO centres would send a formal invitation to invitees chosen by the space agency's headquarters.

"Annadurai has spent his entire career in the satellite division. He was the Project Director for India's first successful moon mission Chandrayaan-1 and was also deeply involved with Chandrayaan-2 mission. He also contributed for the success of the Mars Orbiter Mission," a retired ISRO official told IANS and wondered at his exclusion from the invitee list.

Annadurai was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri award in 2016 for his contributions in the field of science and engineering.

He retired in 2018 from ISRO and is currently the Vice President for the Tamil Nadu State Council for Science and Technology, Chennai.

According to a space technology expert, out of the total 130 crore population in India, the experts in space science will be very miniscule.

"Their experience and knowledge should be harvested effectively and not allowed to go waste," he added.

 

 

 
Exports
FM Nirmala Sitharaman said that the new scheme, which will replace Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS) will incentivise exporters than existing schemes put together.
  • Saturday, September 14, 2019 - 17:34

With GDP growth sliding to six-year low of 5 per cent in April-June quarter and several sectors facing low demand, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday announced a fresh set of measures to boost exports and the housing sector.

The key measures include extending the scheme of Reimbursement of taxes and Duties for export promotion, fully automated electronic refund for Input Tax Credits (ITC) in GST, revised priority sector lending norms for exports and expanding the scope of Export Credit Insurance Scheme (ECIS). An inter-ministerial working group has also been formed to monitor export finance.

Accordingly, the Scheme for Remission of duties or Taxes on Export Product (RoDTEP) was announced which will replace Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS) for textiles. In effect, RoDTEP will more than adequately incentivise exporters than existing schemes put together.

Revenue foregone on this account is projected at up to Rs 50,000 crore.

Existing dispensation in textiles of MEIS plus old ROSL scheme will continue up to December 12, 2019. Textile and all other sectors which currently enjoy incentives upto 2 per cent over MEIS will transit into RoDTEP from January 1, 2020.

Sitharaman also announced to reduce turnaround time for exports by leveraging technology and benchmarking it to Boston and Shanghai ports.

She said that priority sector lending norms for exports is being examined by the RBI and the guidelines will come out soon. Further, government will provide Rs 1,700 crore for export guarantees and to cut credit cost for the exporters.

The minister came out with several measures to prop up country's housing sector which is considered one of the main job creators. Now, there would be relaxed ECB norms for housing sector. Further, interest on house building advance would be lowered by linking it with 10-year government securities.

Sitharaman said that there would be special window for affordable and middle-income housing. Under this, a special window to provide last-mile funding for housing projects which are non-NCLT, non-NPA cases to complete unfinished projects. For this, a fund of Rs 10,000 crore would be contributed by the government and "roughly the same size by outside investors."

The fresh set of measures to boost the economy has come in the wake of sinking business sentiment across the industry.

With most engines of growth stuttering, the Reserve Bank of India recently lowered its GDP forecast and pegged it at 6.9 per cent in 2019-20. Several rating agencies and research firms expect the growth to be in the range of 6.5-7 per cent.

Besides domestic consumption slowdown, the external factors remain adverse threatening to pull down the economy. A lingering US-China trade war and fears of a global recession could make things worse.

Politics
KTR told the Assembly that despite repeated requests to Union Ministers and also several letters sent by the state, the Centre had not sanctioned a single rupee.
  • Saturday, September 14, 2019 - 15:33

The Centre has not sanctioned a single rupee for creating Information Technology and Investment Region (ITIR) in Hyderabad, Telangana's IT Minister K T Rama Rao said on Saturday.

KTR told the state Assembly that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government did not provide any assistance for the project sanctioned by the earlier United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-II government.

He said despite repeated requests during the meetings with then IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and also several letters sent by the state, the Centre did not provide any funds. KTR pointed out that Prasad went to the extent of saying that the government has shelved ITIRs.

He recalled that UPA-II government just before the end of its tenure had announced setting up of five ITIRs including one each in Hyderabad and Bengaluru. He said then government did not provide any funds for the project.

He rubbished the allegations by the opposition Congress that the state government did not provide requisite information to the Centre and this resulted in the delay in ITIR not taking off.  KTR asked Congress leaders why their own government in Karnataka failed in setting up ITIR in Bengaluru.

KTR said that despite the Centre not giving any funds for ITIR, Telangana's growth in IT sector had not stopped. He claimed that due to the pro-active policies of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government, the sector is witnessing rapid growth.

"The IT exports from Telangana has been growing at over 17 percent against the national average of 8-9 percent for last five years," he said.

KTR said the state registered IT exports of nearly Rs 1.10 lakh crore during 2018-19.

He said the state government announced a policy for information and communication technology and separate policies for sub-sectors like animation and gaming, innovation, data centre, drones and cyber security.

He told the House that the government was working to take IT to tier-II cities and announced that an IT Tower in Karimnagar would be launched in October while the one in Khammam would be opened by the year-end.

Under the rural technology policy, BPO companies will start functioning in towns like Jangaon, Nizamabad, Huzurnagar, Karimnagar and Jadcherla.

He said Innovation in Multimedia, Animation, Gaming and Entertainment (IMAGE) towers, coming up in Hyderabad, would be completed in two years.

He also assured members that the government will take steps to ensure that the growth of IT sector is not confined to the western part of Hyderabad but spread in other directions too.

Read: 'Modi govt copies Telangana's schemes, gives them new names': KTR hits back at BJP

Business
IT Secretary Ajay Sawhney said that over $15 billion worth of investment proposals have been received directly by the IT Ministry under its flagship investment scheme.
  • Saturday, September 14, 2019 - 13:22

IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad will hold discussions with CEOs of over 50 global technology companies including Apple, Samsung, Vivo, and Xiaomi on Monday, seeking their inputs on opportunities and expectations from the government to make India a powerhouse for the electronics manufacturing sector, IT Secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney said on Friday.

He said that over $15 billion worth of investment proposals have been received directly by the IT Ministry under its flagship investment scheme.

"Number of factors already make India an attractive destination for electronics manufacturing. There is a huge talent pool, cost competitiveness and all major brands are already here. The value addition being done in India for feature phones have now increased to 25 per cent from 11 per cent earlier. In case of smart phones, it is now 18 per cent. 

"We have embarked upon major policy changes already stepping up from small clusters policy where 50 acres land were given to the companies... now 200 acres are being proposed to be given under 'Anchor units clusters' where companies will be encouraged to have a supply chain also to develop a full ecosystem. Our aim is to encourage larger clusters," Sawhney said on a curtain raiser briefing. 

Other ministries including Finance and Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade will also be there. 

In August, the government relaxed rules for foreign direct investment (FDI) for single brand retail under which definition of 30 per cent domestic sourcing expanded to include exports from third party manufacturers. This, in turn, is expected to help foreign handset makers operating in India to meet the requirements easily and open retail stores that they would own completely and operate. 

Seen as a step to lure Apple, One Plus and others, the government now wants to reach out to the entire global electronics industry for doing more business in India. 

The government has allowed online retailing before opening physical stores under single-brand retail and relaxed the rule of mandatory brick-and-mortar stores while expanding definition of mandatory 30 per cent domestic sourcing norm.

India's smartphone industry is expected to witness a surge in turnover during the next four to five years, with the domestic market demand expected to surge from the current $25 billion to $80 billion by 2025, as per the National Policy on Electronics (NPE), 2019.

"National Policy on Electronics 2019 envisions positioning India as a global electronics hub by encouraging and driving capabilities in the country for developing core components (including chipsets), and creating an enabling environment for the industry to compete globally. MeitY (Ministry of Information Technology) is planning to embark upon a comprehensive investment and trade promotion programme to make Electronics India a brand synonymous with the next electronics hub," the IT Secretary said.

Around 50 industry leaders have confirmed their participation in the round table to deliberate upon the mutual expectations from the government and the industry, to achieve the true potential of domestic electronics manufacturing and the measures required to achieve it, he added. 

The electronics sector, spanning mobile handsets, consumer electronics, strategic electronics, medical devices, IT, electronic manufacturing services, electronic components, telecom and LED lighting, among others, will be there for discussion where key industry leaders from Apple, Samsung, Vivo, Oppo, Lava, Qualcomm, Xiaomi, Dell, HP, Philips, Bosch, Cisco, Flextronics, Foxconn, Nokia, LG, Panasonic, TDK, Intel, AMD, Wistron, will be present, he said.

Sawhney said the government attaches high priority to domestic electronics hardware manufacturing and it is one of the important pillars of "Make in India".

Highlighting the electronics sector, he said that over $15 billion worth of investment proposals received directly by the Ministry of Electronics and IT under its flagship investment scheme and domestic manufacturing has grown from $29 billion (in 2014-15) to $70 billion (in 2018-19). 

He said India has emerged as 2nd largest manufacturer of mobile handsets in the world and one of the world's largest mobile manufacturing facilities is based in India, while the manufacturing units for LCD/ LED TVs have gone up from 25 to 35 units. Number of LED lights manufacturing units has gone up from 10 to 128 units and has generated employment for over 20 lakh persons across the country.

Sawhney said that lately, exports of electronics goods have started growing rapidly. 

"There is a significant scope for growth in this sector with the burgeoning domestic market, which is estimated to reach $400 billion by 2025. With its strengths in market, technology talent pool, rapidly growing competitive economy and positioning in global dynamics, India truly holds the potential to become the 'Electronics Factory' of the world," he added.

Tech Shorts
Lenovo says that these headsets are equipped with advanced technology to bring in an unparalleled and unique experience for Audiophiles.
  • Saturday, September 14, 2019 - 12:23
Image source: Twitter

In line with going strength to strength in the tech accessories market, global technology giant Lenovo has announced the launch of its latest series of ultra-modern, technologically advanced audio devices in India.

These new products include the company's flagship Airbuds, Bluetooth headsets and a Digital Voice Recorder, among others.

Among the five audio devices launched by the company, the HT10 TWS is its premier flagship product. Priced at Rs 3,999, the new-age Airbuds comes with Qualcomm 3020 Chipset, support aptX audio, excellent Bluetooth 5.0 compatibility and a 20 M range. This dual microphone headset has an ergonomic design, is IPX5 sweet and water-resistant, and comes with a magnetic charging case. Users can expect up to 8 hours of play time with 200H standby time.

The second flagship tech audio device that the company has launched is the Sports BT Headset HE15, a next-generation Bluetooth wireless earphone with immersive stereo sound and hands-free mic. This product priced at Rs 1,999 offers HD Sound with super-extra bass, Bluetooth 5.0 support, 12 hours of play time with 240H standby time, and comes in five colors -- pink, bronze, white, black and blue.

"Lenovo is constantly pushing the envelope in terms of innovation in technology, and these new products are no different. With a solid growth in smartphones in India, and content consumption on the go, headphones as a category have become crucial in the accessories segment. According to some reports, branded headphones form a Rs 1,000 crore industry, growing at 8-10 per cent CAGR, which is what we aim to capture. We believe that smart headphones are the future of audio and we will continue to develop state-of-the-art technology to lead in this category," said XieSenchu, CEO, International Business at Shenzhen Aodishi Technology Limited, Lenovo Beijing's authorized Channel Partner for Sales in India.

"These headsets are equipped with advanced technology to bring in an unparalleled and unique experience for Audiophiles. We have tried to resolve some of the most common complaints of wireless headsets, such as battery, by offering our users a great battery life in each device. Audio devices are an essential part of modern lifestyle across age groups, no matter the purpose. Hence, we hope to lure the audience with not just something that looks good and offers many colour options, but also something that performs extremely well," said Naveen Bajaj, Head India Business, Aodishi Technology Limited.

The other audio devices launched include the Bluetooth Headset HE16, Metal Earbuds Wired Headset HF118, the Lenovo Digital Voice Recorder B613, priced at Rs 1,499, Rs 599 and Rs 3,699 respectively.

All the products will be available for purchase across Flipkart online platforms and offline stores starting September 13.

Banking
Due to strikes and holidays, the several banks across the country are expected to remain closed from September 26 to September 29.
  • Saturday, September 14, 2019 - 12:08
Image for representation

Four bank unions have threatened to go on a two-day strike from September 26 to protest against the government decision to reduce 10 state-run banks to four through mergers.

These four unions have also sought fulfilment of a charter of nine demands, including wage revision.

Due to strikes and holidays, the several banks across the country will remain closed from September 26 to September 29, which can affect customers' regular banking services. September 28 will be the last Saturday of the month and September 29 is a Sunday, and hence banks will be closed on those two days.

The four banking unions - All India Bank Officers' Confederation (AIBOC), All India Bank Officers' Association (AIBOA), Indian National Bank Officers' Congress (INBOC), National Organisation of Bank Officers (NOBO) - have called for a strike following the recent government announcement on consolidation of 10 public sector banks into four.

In a letter to the Chairman, Indian Banks' Association, signed by the General Secretaries of the four organisations, on Thursday, the unions said: "In accordance with the provisions contained in sub-section (1) of Section 22 of the Industrial Dispute Act 1947, we hereby give you notice that 4 Officers' Trade Union Organizations as stated above, propose to go on continuous strike from midnight of 25th September to midnight of 27th September 2019 and indefinite strike from the second week of November 2019."

The organisations have said that they are doing so to oppose the "merger and amalgamations in the banking sector."

They have also listed out nine demands -- expeditious wage revision as per Charter of Demands, with an unconditional and clear mandate from all banks; immediate introduction of a 5 day week in full; reduction of cash transaction hours and regulated working hours; halting of undue interference in the existing procedure of vigilance cases by outside agencies; under provisions of amended Section 17(A) of Prevention of Corruption Act, 2018; settlement of issues pertaining to retirees-updation of pension as per RBI formula/revision of family pension without any ceiling, quantum and percentage; and medical insurance at par with serving employees.

The other demands listed by the unions include -- adequate recruitment, scrapping NPS and reintroduction of Defined Pension Payment Scheme, reduction of service charges for customers and stopping of harassment of Officers under specious plea of non-performance.

"We strongly oppose and protest the government's move of merger/consolidation of public sector banks. Just adding two balance sheets will not make a resultant balance sheet stronger," they said in their strike notice.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had on August 30 announced that the Punjab National Bank, the Oriental Bank and the United Bank will be merged to become the second largest PSU Bank in India. The Canara Bank and the Syndicate Bank will be merged to become the 4th largest PSB, while the Union Bank, the Andhra Bank and the Corporation Bank will be amalgamated into a single entity to be the 5th largest PSB, and the Indian Bank and the Allahabad Bank will become one entity to be the 7th largest PSB.

The Finance Minister further said that the Bank of India and Central Bank of India would remain independent. After the amalgamation, only 12 PSBs will be left in India from the 27 earlier.