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Time to take proactive approach towards bio-defence preparedness
Jun 24,2016

It has been witnessed in the past that bio-threat and bioterrorism have the ability to deeply impact the socio-economic status of a country; therefore, it is essential to anticipate potential threats in advance and take necessary steps to combat these bio-threats. This was stated by Mr. Jesper Elsgaard, Vice President, Governmental Affairs, Bavarian Nordic, Denmark, at a FICCI conference on Bio-Defence: Preparedness & Need for Proactive Approach. The conference focused on bioterrorism which is use of biological agents to intentionally produce disease or intoxication in susceptible populations - humans, animals, or plants - to meet terrorist aims. Bioterrorism and bio threat underline the need for a proactive approach, said Mr. Elsgaard and added that bio defence is a proactive action that uses medical measures to protect people against bioterrorism and includes medicines and vaccinations.

Mr. Elsgaard said that as bio defence is a complicated industry because of the many things that have to be aligned together such as public perception, incentives, understanding of threat, transparency, acceptance of failure and long-term commitment. He added that bio defence includes medical research and preparations to defend against bioterrorist attacks.

Through long-standing collaborations, including a collaboration with the U.S. government, Bavarian Nordic has developed a portfolio of vaccines for infectious diseases, including the nonreplicating smallpox vaccine, said Mr. Elsgaard and added that biotech companies spent considerable amount of time developing a vaccine against what has so far been a non-existent disease and also explore possible avenues for the re-emergence of disease, including the impact of developments in synthetic biology.

Lt. Gen. (Dr) JR Bhardwaj, PVSM AVSM VSM PHS (Retd), MD DCP PhD FICP FAMS FRC Path (London), Former Member, National Disaster Management Authority, Government of India, Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services, said that bio threat is from both state and non-state agents and there was a need to create awareness about bio threats as in India it has not been given due importance. India possesses one of the best national guidelines on biological warfare but not much progress has taken place on the ground, he added.

Lt. Gen. (Dr) JR Bhardwaj said that bio threats have the potential to paralyse an economy and can prove to be far more dangerous than nuclear and chemical weapons. India has the capability to undertake bio defence and DRDO and other such institutions were working towards it. He added that it is of great importance to define potential bio threat agents and keep the labs updated with skilled first responders and work on prevention by way of immunization.

Mr. Nirankar Saxena, Senior Director - BISNET, Science & Technology Innovation Disaster Management, ATA Carnet & Commercialization of Innovation, FICCI, said that the conference was focused on preparedness by having a plan before bio-terrorism strikes. The possible avenues for bio defence, including the impact of developments in synthetic biology were discussed, giving an inside view on the bio defence industry and its unusual business model.

Mr. Saxena said that the there was a need for long-term planning to resolve an outbreak of an infectious disease. The time is to be proactive, not reactive in developing preparedness against bio threats. He added that the leading companies and their experts should engage themselves in multiple development programmes with governments, the more success stories there will be, and eventually innovation will create a more substantial market with more players.

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World Bank partners with the Indian Council of Arbitration (ICA) for Dispute Board services in India
Jun 24,2016

Dispute Board (DB) system is a concurrent mechanism for resolution of dispute before arbitration/litigation. The DB usually consists of three experts, who are experienced, respected, and impartial, acceptable to both the parties and conversant with the nature and complexity of the work involved.

The DB is organized before construction begins and meets at the jobsite periodically. DB Members are provided with the contract plans and specifications, become familiar with the project procedures and the participants, and are kept abreast of job progress and developments. The DB process helps the parties to head off problems before they escalate into major disputes. The system has been highly effective in most parts of the world.

In India, however a perception have developed that the DB system is not implemented as envisaged and as a result is not effective. There is not much respect for the system of DB, whose decisions/recommendations are routinely rejected, and taken to arbitration, which is far more time consuming as also costlier, resulting in delays and cost overruns in project deliveries.

The World Bank has been advocating the use of the DBs as an effective and speedy means to resolve dispute in infrastructure projects so as to minimize, if not eliminate, the delays and consequent cost overruns. However, the DB system had lost its value mainly because of the mindset of the parties which led to treating the system lightly.

n++India is the largest borrower of the World Bank with about 100 Projects under implementation with loan commitment of about US$ 27 Billion.

Contractual disputes delay the implementation of the contracts as well as increase the cost and thus adversely impact development outcomes from Projects. Even though Dispute Boards (DB) are less legalistic, less adversarial, less time consuming and less costly, DBs are not popular in India and very few government agencies use them. Even in those contracts where DBs are mandatory, Parties to the Contract resist constituting DBs or try to bypass them.

World Bank has partnered with Indian Council of Arbitration (ICA) to introduce some improvements in DB to make them more popular and acceptable in India. This is a very important initiative as institutional DRB option (to be offered by ICA) would be available not only for Bank funded projects but also for projects funded by other sources.n++ Said Mr. Shanker Lal, Senior Procurement Specialist, World Bank.

ICA is an allied body of industry chamber FICCI. The concept of institutional support to DB system is new in this country. Under this system, the institution will provide various services for organizing empanelment of DB members, as well as updating the list of DB members from time to time, provide names of DB out of maintained panels, provide a continuous platform for training of all stakeholders including the functional employees and operating staff of the employer, the contractor and the engineers organizations, giving guidance on issues and problems faced in the operation of DBs, assisting the parties by appointments to vacancies in the DB as per contract conditions. The institution will also monitor whether this DB is performing its functions as stipulated and as expected and point out deficiencies, if any, and improvements required by DBs and also standardizing the procedure for functioning of DBs.

ICA has consequently empaneled nearly 200 experts in different trades. Besides the first training program for the empaneled DB members as also for several other professionals in the field have also been completed. Empanelment as well as training both are ongoing processes and will be continued from time to time.

The Institutional DB services, launched this day, along with standardizing of its operations and training of DB members, holds a promise to build up confidence among all stakeholders in the DB mechanism and usher the system in a new era of timely resolution of disputes.

ICA has thus become the pioneering institution in providing Institutional Dispute Board services in India.

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Proposal to provide flexibility to garment industry, under various labour laws would help industry to meet their orders timely & be competitive too
Jun 24,2016

Commenting on the Cabinets approval for a special package for employment generation and promotion of exports in Textile and Apparel sector, Mr Shishir Jaipuria, Chairman, FICCI Textiles Committee said n++We welcome the special package which addresses the issues of textiles industry holistically. This is timely and would provide a much needed impetus to the value addition and employment in the countryn++.

n++The proposal to provide flexibility to the garment industry which is seasonal in nature, under various labour laws would help the industry to meet their orders timely and be competitive too. This would attract large investments and create more job opportunities especially for the women in the sectorn++ said Mr Jaipuria.

n++As the Indian textiles and garment industry is facing tough competition in the global market, the refund of State levies come as a breather and would help them to gain more competitiveness in global markets where we have to compete with other countries that enjoy duty free regimen++ Mr Jaipuria stated further.

FICCI added that such a package could also be extended to made-up sector that is high employment generating sector and also a value added segment of the textiles value chain.

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Easing For FDIs In Various Sectors To Attract Chunk Of Investments: Phd Chamber
Jun 24,2016

President, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr. Mahesh Gupta welcomed Union Cabinet decision, of radical changes in the FDI Policy regime terming it a right move which was long overdue, saying that it will not only boost the job creation in the economy but also enable India to attract chunk foreign direct investment (FDI).

Dr Gupta said that the increase in sectoral caps, bringing more activities under automatic route and easing of conditionalities for foreign investment will make India a more open economy in the world economic system.

We have a good room for more and more openness vis-a-vis strong macroeconomic fundamentals, said Dr. Gupta.

He added that the FDI reforms were very crucial at this juncture which will lead to further FDI inflows which already increased from around US$36 billion in FY14 to US$55 billion in FY16 due to recent initiatives of the government.

The PHD Chamber appreciates the Modi government for taking pro-active reforms oriented decisions.

The Chamber believes that the easing of FDI rules in various sectors viz. Animal Husbandry, Broadcasting, Civil Aviation, Defence, Pharmaceutical and Single Brand Retail trading is something which needs to be applauded.

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Pilot Programme to run two wheelers on CNG launched by Shri Dharmendra Pradhan & Shri Prakash Javadekar
Jun 24,2016

In a major step to curb rising air pollution in Indian cities, Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas (I/C) Shri Dharmendra Pradhan and Minister of State (I/C) for Environment, Forests & Climate Change Shri Prakash Javadekar launched first of its kind Pilot Programme in the country to run two wheelers on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). Smt. Meenakshi Lekhi, Member of Parliament, was also present on the occasion.

Welcoming the initiative, Shri Pradhan said that the Government is pro-actively striving to promote clean fuel in the country. He said that under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, the Government is promoting the use of gas in the country, thereby providing a better lifestyle to the people and also fulfilling the COP-21 commitments to curb pollution. Shri Pradhan said that the Gas share in the countrys fuel basket is just 7% compared to world average of around 24%. Describing the pilot programme to run two wheelers on CNG as historic, he said that after evaluating its experience, it will be expanded very fast. Expressing the Governments commitment to Clean Delhi, the Minister said that he has already written to Delhi Government to make Bawana power plant fully operational on LNG so that cheaper and clean power is made available to residents of Delhi, but no satisfactory reply has been received. He said that 350 MW Badarpur Thermal power plant in the capital is making several times more pollution than all the vehicles of Delhi put together.

Speaking on the occasion, Shri Prakash Javadekar said that the Government is fully committed to control pollution in the country, and for this purpose, there will be a jump from Euro-IV type fuel to Euro-VI by 2020. He said that Environment Ministry will fully support the endeavours to promote clean fuel, including Gas. The Minister said that the launch of pilot phase of the project for CNG kit in two-wheelers will have a far-reaching implication in reducing pollution. Outlining the steps taken by the government, Shri Javadekar said that steps such as cess of Rs. 400 per tonne on coal, introduction of E-rickshaws and providing subsidy to electric/hybrid cars, show the urgency and intention of the government to fight pollution.

Mrs Meenakshi Lekhi congratulated the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas for initiating the welfare measures. She said that pilot project is a sign of growing India-Iran cooperation, as the Iranian kits have been used for retrofitment.

Being implemented by Indraprastha Gas (IGL) and one of its parent company, GAIL (India), the Pilot Programme involves 50 CNG retrofitted two wheelers. Of these, the first batch of ten CNG retrofitted two wheelers were flagged off by the dignitaries today. The introduction of CNG in two wheeler segment has the capacity to revolutionize the fight against air pollution in the country and especially in the metros like Delhi, where two wheelers contribute a major portion in the vehicular emissions, according to several studies.

The Hawa Badlo movement is a peoples initiative to fight air pollution which is supported by GAIL and city gas distribution companies. As part of the movement, a number of awareness drives have been carried out regarding the fight against air pollution. Hawa Badlo also supports research initiatives in this regard, of which the CNG retrofitted two wheeler programme is a part.

The scooters are being retrofitted with CNG kit manufactured by M/s Ituk Manufacturing India Pvt. Ltd. The type approval of the CNG kit has been taken from Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) as well as Transport Department, Govt. of NCT of Delhi. The type approvals of all Components, parts, assemblies in the kit have been received from Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization (PESO), International Center for Automotive Technology (ICAT) and Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), as applicable. The retrofitment in vehicles has been undertaken in a centre authorized by Transport Department, Govt. of NCT of Delhi.

As per idle emission test, the hydrocarbon emissions from CNG retrofitted two wheelers are 75% lesser and CO emissions are 20% lesser as compared to petrol driven similar models. The CNG kit for two wheelers comprises two CNG cylinders of 4.8 litre water capacity each, which can be filled with up to 1 kg of CNG in each cylinder. These CNG retrofitted two wheelers can drive upto 120 kms in a single fill and are expected to be substantially economical as compared to a similar petrol run vehicle at the current level of prices, as per the kit manufacturer.

The performance of 50 CNG retrofitted two wheelers would be closely monitored in terms of efficiency, emissions, etc. during the pilot phase by all the stakeholders and the learning from this project would be used to develop the roadmap for introduction of CNG in two wheeler segment across the nation.

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Prime Minister to launch Smart City projects
Jun 23,2016

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will launch Smart City projects on Saturday i.e June 25,2016 kick starting execution of Smart City Plans of 20 cities selected in the first round of Smart City Challenge Competition. This marks the beginning of holistic and integrated urban development in the country as envisaged under the new urban missions launched by the Government.

Prime Minister will launch 14 projects under the Smart City Plan of Pune from the citys 5,000 capacity Shiv Chatrapati Sports Complex at a programme to be presided over by the Minister of Urban Development Shri M.Venkaiah Naidu. Maharashtra Governor Shri Ch.Vidyasagara Rao and Chief Minister Shri Devendra Fadnavis will also be present on the occasion. Another 69 such projects will be launched the same day in the other Smart Cities entailing a total investment of about Rs.1,770 cr.

The projects to be launched in Pune and other cities include Solid Waste Management projects under Swachh Bharat Mission, Water Supply Projects, Sewage Treatment Plants and development of open and green spaces under Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), Housing Projects for urban poor under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and area development and technology based Pan-city Solutions under Smart Cities Mission realizing the objective of convergence in implementation of new urban missions.

Saturdays launch also marks the beginning of implementation of urban development plans based on five year action plans formulated after detailed analysis of infrastructure gaps in over 500 cities included in Smart City Mission and AMRUT, accounting for about 70% of countrys urban population. This brings to an end the ad hoc and project based approach to urban development followed so far.

Prime Minister Shri Modi will also inaugurate Make Your City SMART contest aimed at involving citizens in designing roads, junctions, parks etc. Suggestions and designs suggested by the citizens will be duly incorporated by respective smart cities. Winners of this contest will be given rewards in the range of Rs.10,000/- to Rs.1,00,000/-. This is aimed at continuing citizen participation in the planning under which about 1.50 crore citizens participated in the formulation of Smart City Plans to making of smart cities.

Smart Net Portal also will be inaugurated by the Prime Minister which enables the cities under different urban missions to share ideas and source solutions for various issues during the implementation of various missions.

All the first batch of 20 smart cities will be linked through video-conferencing on the occasion of launch of projects by the Prime Minister.

Smart Cities Mission, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) were launched by the Prime Minister on June 25 last year. Subsequently, two rounds City Challenge competitions were conducted to pick up the first batch of 20 smart cities whose projects are being launched on Saturday. These 20 cities have proposed a total investment of Rs.48,000 cr in area development and Pan-city solutions.

Some of the projects to be launched city-wise are:

Pune : Slum Rehabilitation of Dr.Balasaheb Ambedkar Vasahat Aundh, Steet and Pedestrian Walkway, Modern Buses with Alternative Fuels, Traffic Demand Modelling Project, City Common Mobility Card.

Ahmedabad : Sewage Treatment Plant, Irradiation Sludge Hygienation project, housing project, River Front Garden, Common City Payment System, Smart Learning in Municipal Schools, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System (SCADA) for water supply.

Bhubaneswar: Railway Multi-modal Hub, Traffic Signalisation Project, Urban Knowledge Centre.

New Delhi Municipal Council : Mini-sewerage Treatment Plants, 444 Smart Class Rooms, Bio-methanation Plant, WiFi, Smart LED streetlights, City Surveillance, Command and Control Centre.

Jabalpur: Waste to Energy Project, Sewerage Treatment Plant, Multilevel Car Parking, Multipurpose Smart Card, Sensor based tags for household dustbins.

Jaipur: Beautification of Ramnivas Garden, 100 MW Rooftop Solar Power Plant, Public Bike Sharing

Kakinada (Andhra Pradesh): Solar Roof Top Power Plant, distribution of e-rikshaws, e-pathasalas.

Kochi (Kerala):Pashinithodu canal rejuvenation and refurbishment, St.John Park renovation, MG Road Footpath renovation.

Belagavi (Karnataka): Natural Gas Distribution Network, Rooftop Solar Plant, GSM based monitoring of solid waste collection vehicles.

Under Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), projects with a total investment of Rs.2,900 cr are also set to be launched in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Kerala, Chandigarh and Manipur. These include sewerage projects with an investment of Rs.1,275 cr and water supply projects at a cost of Rs.817 cr.

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Suspension of Operations Agreement with NDFB (P) Extended
Jun 23,2016

A meeting of Joint Monitoring Group (JMG) consisting of representatives of Government of India, Government of Assam and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Progressive) was held here today. The observance of Agreed Ground Rules for Suspension of Operations was reviewed.

After discussions, it was agreed to extend Suspension of Operations for a period of six months upto December 31, 2016.

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India and UK join hands to work as R&D partners in Solar Alliance and Nano Material Research
Jun 23,2016

Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr. Harsh Vardhan led the Indian delegation at the 5th Indo-UK Science and Innovation Council Meeting (SIC) held at London earlier last week, co-chaired by Mr. Jo Johnson, Minister of State for Universities and Science, UK. After the event, Dr. Harsh Vardhan stated that India and UK have agreed to work together in two major initiatives in the fields of Solar Energy and Nano Material Research, inter alia.

The SIC is the apex body which oversees the entire gamut of the India-UK science, technology and innovation cooperation and meets once in two years. The last meeting of the SIC was held in New Delhi in November 2014 during which both countries had launched the Newton-Bhabha Programme to support the bilateral Science & Technology cooperation. Currently, the value of investment in Indo-UK research and development cooperation from multiple Indian and UK agencies exceeds 200 million pounds of co-funding. UK stands amongst the top three collaborating countries in science and technology with India.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan informed that as a part of the commitment to the Solar Alliance, the India-UK networked Centre on Solar Energy would be established. It would be linked to Indias renewable energy mission and UKs Supergens Programme. The research projects will focus on systems level design and development covering Solar energy generation, storage systems and grid integration particularly for micro-grid systems. India would be investing Rs.50 crores over a period of five years with matching contribution from Research Council UK (RCUK) under the Newton-Bhabha Programme.

As a result of this strengthening of the Indo-UK Science & Technology cooperation, the SIC announced access to Indian researchers to the Neutron Scattering facility of the UKs Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxford. This unique facility, based on the use of neutron scattering and muon spectroscopy, is a world class facility at Oxford to carry out fundamental research on understanding a wide range of matter at the fundamental level. This will help to enhance Indian capability to fabricate structures at Nano scale level for creating interesting and technologically important materials through research in fundamental science. As a part of the Nano mission program, the Department of Science & Technology would be investing Rs.26.5 crores.

The Minister also noted that the Ministry of Earth Sciences of Government of India and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), UK are working on large observational campaign involving UK aircraft, Indian ships accompanied by surface observations primarily to address role of small scale processes to address variability of Indian monsoon leading to improved prediction of monsoon from short range to seasonal time scale.

Both nations have also agreed to address a gamut of societal challenges in the fields of food, energy and water security; health and well-being; smart cities and rapid urbanization with increasing access and sharing of expertise, resources and facilities. The cooperation is aimed to yield high quality and high impact research outputs having industrial relevance, targeted towards addressing societal needs.

In the area of life and health sciences, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), India and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), UK have agreed to provide continued support to the virtual joint centers on Agricultural Nitrogen. The two agencies are also supporting research collaboration under Global Research Partnership in Aquaculture. In the area of health sciences, the focus is to address health needs of women and children.

In the field of Water Quality Research, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and NERC-UK will initiate a collaborative research program to improve water quality in India. The program would address the problem of natural, geogenic contaminants such as arsenic and fluoride as well as man-made pollutants like pharmaceutical and personal care products increasingly being found in ground water. This program is being developed to support implementation of the goals of the National Mission for Clean Ganga.

Further, both sides would work towards augmenting the India-UK Centre of Advanced Manufacturing through DST-RCUK cooperation linked to the Make in India Program and UKs Catapult Centre program. The projects will be designed to deliver industry-relevant results that can be readily applied to current challenges in manufacturing supply chain.

Under the Newton-Bhabha Programme, the two sides have also agreed on a collaborative program on Energy Efficiency in Built Environment as a part of the Smart Cities mission. Both the countries have agreed on common research agenda focused on energy-efficient building envelop, low energy cooling and thermal comfort as well as energy efficient technologies for city and community level.

The Industrial R&D program was initiated in 2014 to support industry-led projects aimed to develop new Intellectual Property, technologies, processes and prototypes under the translation strand of the Newton-Bhabha Programme. In addition to the five ongoing projects, five new projects were identified for support in the areas of affordable health care, clean technology, electronic design and Internet of Things.

Besides the Newton-Bhabha Programme, the two countries have also been involved in promoting partnerships through the UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI). Acknowledging the success in building new scientific partnership through R&D projects and networking, the two governments concluded the implementation arrangement for the Phase III (2016-2021) of the UKIERI.

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Mineral Production during April 2016 was 1.4% higher as compared to April 2015
Jun 23,2016

The index of mineral production of mining and quarrying sector for the month of April (new Series 2004-05=100) 2016 at 123.6, was 1.4% higher as compared to April 2015.

The total value of mineral production (excluding atomic & minor minerals) in the country during April 2016 was Rs. 18186 crore. The contribution of Coal was the highest at Rs. 7232 crore (40%). Next in the order of importance were: Petroleum (crude) Rs. 5375 crore, Iron ore Rs. 2031 crore, Natural gas (utilized) Rs. 1982 crore, Limestone Rs. 559 crore and Lignite Rs.220 crore. These six minerals together contributed about 96% of the total value of mineral production in April 2016.

Production level of important minerals in April 2016 were: Coal 486 lakh tonnes, Lignite 20 lakh tonnes, Natural gas (utilized) 2397 million cu. m., Petroleum (crude) 30 lakh tonnes, Bauxite 2305 thousand tonnes, Chromite 252 thousand tonnes, Copper conc. 12 thousand tonnes, Gold 112 kg., Iron ore 170 lakh tonnes, Lead conc. 16 thousand tonnes, Manganese ore 194 thousand tonnes, Zinc conc. 56 thousand tonnes, Apatite & Phosphorite 81 thousand tonnes, Limestone 275 lakh tonnes, Magnesite 24 thousand tonnes and Diamond 1717 carat.

The production of important minerals showing positive growth during April 2016 over April 2015 include Chromite (84.2%), Magnesite (76.5%), Iron ore (54.5%), Copper conc. (22.6%), Gold (16.7%), Manganese ore (13.4%), Apatite & Phosphorite (12.1%), Bauxite (9.4%) and Limestone (8.1%). The production of other important minerals showing negative growth are: Zinc conc. [(-) 55.0%], Diamond [(-) 48.5%], Lignite [(-) 32.0%], Lead conc. [(-) 23.8%], Natural gas (utilized) [(-) 6.9%], Petroleum (crude) [(-) 2.2%] and Coal [(-) 0.7%].

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Cabinet approves Additional Incentives under Duty Drawbacks for Garments
Jun 23,2016

The Union Cabinet chaired by Honble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has decided to provide additional incentives for garments under Duty Drawback Scheme. This is one of the various measures that comprise the special package announced by the Government, for job creation & export promotion in the textile and apparel sector.

To implement the decision, in a first-of-its-kind move, a new scheme will be introduced to refund the state levies which were not refunded so far. This move will greatly boost the competitiveness of Indian exports in foreign markets and is expected to cost Rs 5500 crores to the exchequer.

Further, drawback at All Industries Rate will be given for domestic duty paid inputs even when fabrics are imported under Advance Authorization Scheme.

Impact in Three Years

This is expected to yield the following impact in three years:

n++Increase in exports by 9.5 billion US$

n++Increase in employment by 9.5 lakhs

n++Increase in investment by 2.7 billion US$

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Rising tomato price disturbs kitchen budget across metros; tomato puree, ketchup demand rise of up to 40%: survey
Jun 23,2016

Demand for tomato puree and ketchup has shot up by 40 per cent within one month as people have curtailed the use of tomato and prefer dishes which do not require much use of tomatoes, like lady finger or pumpkin etc, according to latest survey done by ASSOCHAM.

A rise in the price of tomatoes has affected the budgets of families in the city. According to the ASSOCHAM recent survey, about 78% of households find difficult to manage their household budget and squeezing families finances to the lowest level due to sudden rise in price of tomatoes, pulses, according to a country-wide survey conducted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).

As per the government recent estimate, the countrys tomato output is pegged at 18.28 million tonnes in the 2015-16 crop year (July-June) as against 16.38 million tonnes in the previous year. Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Odisha are the major tomato growing states.

The survey was conducted in major cities like Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad. Over 1500 hosewives took part in it. The maximum impact was felt in Delhi-NCR followed Mumbai, Ahmedabad.

According to survey, the local grocers have also increased stock of tomato puree/ketchup . The local grocer said, in the last two weeks there has been a rise in sales of products such as puree, ketchup as one spends less on buying puree/ ketchup than a kilo of fresh tomatoes.

The rise in pulses price has come as a double-shocker for the denizens. Vegetables are increasingly becoming unaffordable as the prices have skyrocketed particularly in metros and major cities, said Mr D.S. Rawat, secretary general of ASSOCHAM while releasing the findings of the ASSOCHAM survey.

Prices have gone up because of tight supply from the major growing states of the south where the rabi crop has been damaged during the flowering stage because of the severe drought, adds the paper.

The price of tomato shooting up to Rs 80-100 per kg, nearly double of what it was selling for just a month back, the average housewife is either giving it a miss or picking up just a quarter of a kilo.

About 56% of the respondents said that they have curtailed the use of tomatoes and prefer dishes which do not require much use of tomatoes, like lady finger or pumpkin and some are substituting it with raw mango to get that sour taste, add the respondents.

In the last one month, the rates have gone through the roof and the key vegetable is being sold at Rs 80-100 per kg by local vegetable vendors depending on the quality and locality, adds the paper.

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Amendment in Rule 114H of Income-tax Rules, 1962
Jun 23,2016

The Rule 114H of the Income-tax Rules, 1962 (the Rules) has been amended vide Notification No.48/2016 [S.O.2151(E)] dated 20th June 2016.

In order to provide sufficient time to the reporting Financial Institutions for completing the due diligence procedure in respect of other reportable account referred to in Rule 114H (3)(d)(ii), which is high value account as on 31st December, 2015, the timeline specified for review of pre-existing individual account has been extended from 30th June, 2016 to 31st December, 2016. The timeline in case of U.S. reportable account which is low value account as on the 30th June, 2014, shall continue to be 30th June, 2016.

Similarly, in respect of other reportable account referred to in Rule 114H(5)(e)(i), timeline specified for review of pre-existing entity account has been extended from 30th June, 2016 to 31st December, 2016. The timeline in case of a U.S. reportable account shall continue to be 30th June, 2016.

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Union Minister of Human Resource Development announces new UGC foreign academic collaboration regulations
Jun 23,2016

Indian Universities and Colleges, having the highest grade of accreditation/ threshold accreditation, will now be able to apply online to the University Grants Commission (UGC) for starting twinning and collaborative arrangement with quality Foreign Educational Institutions (FEIs) in undergraduate and postgraduate programmes leading to the award of a degree. The degree will be awarded by the Indian Educational Institutions (IEIs) alone; joint degrees are not permitted. However, the name of the collaborating FEI can be indicated on the degree, the logo and primacy being of the Indian institution. Credits from collaborating FEI when jointly signed by the IEI shall form part of the transcript. FEI may also sign the transcript/credit issued by the IEI.

Announcing this the Minister of Human Resource Development mentioned that this step has been taken by the UGC today in order to promote foreign collaborations with a view to increasing synergy between Indian and foreign academic institutions, to offer students additional choices, improve curriculum and the delivery of knowledge and educational content.

The UGC has superseded its 2012 regulations with its new regulations for promoting and maintaining standards of academic collaboration between Indian and Foreign Higher Educational Institutions. The regulations will be notified shortly by the Ministry. The amendments respond to a felt and aspirational need expressed by students to engage with FEIs of repute, study in part in these institutions and acquire a formal recognition of this in the degree and related transcripts.

For students wishing to study abroad, for the experience, exposure and academic benefits, this represents lower cost to achieve that. This will offer unprecedented academic mobility through acquiring of credits and study at reputed institution abroad.

The dedicated UGC portal to receive applications and convey approvals will be launched shortly by the UGC. Timelines have been stipulated at different stages of the application.

The regulations do not cover technical institutions, for which AICTE will leverage and bring out similar methodology and facilitative regulations. Universities/institutions that are recognized by UGC and FEIs intending to collaborate will be benefitted.

The Regulations stipulate that only IEIs with A grade or threshold accreditation (or IEIs other than governing institutions) should have experience of 6 years or at least 2 batches passed out and similarly A grade or threshold level accreditation if the IEIs in their own country will be eligible for collaboration. A bench mark for quality has therefore been set for the collaborations. To maintain academic credibility and seriousness, a minimum duration of collaboration has been specified under one semester for postgraduate degree and 2 semesters for undergraduate degree.

The UGC will examine complaints relating to academic collaborations being run in violation of these regulations and if prima-facie evidence of fraud is found, it will inform Central and State authorities for appropriate action under the framework of the law, including penal action.

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More than enough sugar in the country to meet domestic requirement
Jun 23,2016

There is more than enough sugar in the country to meet the domestic requirement. Even in coming sugar season 2016-17, there would be no shortage of domestically produced sugar in India.

During the current Sugar Season 2015-16, India had started with a carryover stock of 9 million MT of sugar. The production of sugar has been estimated at about 25.1 million MT in the current sugar season while demand about 25.5 million MT. Exports being low, the stock position at the close of the current sugar season (Sept. 2016) will stand at 7 million MT which will be carried forward for the next sugar season 2016-17

Thus with the closing stock of about 7-7.5 million tonnes, and the estimated production of about 23 - 24 million tonnes, during 2016-17, the total availability of sugar during 2016-17 season will be over 31 million tonnes, against the domestic demand of about 26 million tonnes.

The government has taken necessary steps to maintain sufficient stocks in the country. It has imposed 20 % duty on export of sugar and has empowered state governments to impose stockholding limits on traders to ensure availability of sugar at reasonable prices.

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Cabinet decides to bring in more Flexibility in Labour Laws to increase Productivity
Jun 23,2016

The Union Cabinet chaired by Honble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has announced a set of measures that would bring in more flexibility in labour laws in the textile and apparel sector. These measures form a part of the special package announced by the Government today, for job creation & export promotion in the sector.

Following are the labour reform measures, announced by the Government:

Increasing overtime caps

Overtime hours for workers will not be allowed to exceed 8 hours per week in line with ILO norms. This shall lead to increased earnings for the workers.

Introduction of fixed term employment

Considering the seasonal nature of the industry, fixed term employment will be introduced for the garment sector. A fixed term workman will be considered at par with permanent workman in terms of working hours, wages, allowanced and other statutory dues.

Employee Provident Fund Scheme Reforms

EPF will be made optional for employees earning less than Rs. 15,000 per month. This will leave more money in the hands of the workers and also promote employment in the formal sector.

Impact in Three Years

This is expected to yield the following impact in three years:

n++Increase in exports by 1.4 billion US$

n++increase in employment by 1.75 lakhs

n++increase in investment by 4.2 billion US$

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