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Policy & Politics

A holistic approach in agriculture development: Part 2

The issue today is not one of lack of laws or financial and other resources, or even an appropriate policy—it is simply one of having patch work approach. The answer lies in paradigm shift to holistic planning.

Aruna Sharma

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Irrigation accounts for, by far, the largest part of the total investment in the agricultural sector. However, the intensively irrigated crop production regions that currently hold the key to the country’s food security are experiencing technology fatigue and are under increasing environmental stress. There is also the problem of major investments not yielding optimum results because of inefficient or insufficient support structures or inputs. The answer lies in dovetailing major and minor irrigation projects. For example there are dams which cannot function because no water courses are made. They can be dovetailed to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme. Other activities and programmes that can be converged are: construction of new tanks or deepening of existing water tanks; small and minor irrigation schemes; making provisions for protection from flooding; micro management plan; watershed; and water conservation. The thrust activity of irrigation needs to be planned in a holistic manner, bringing all these components together. The next step is optimum utilisation of water by encouraging the use of sprinklers, drip irrigation, plastics for horticulture water conservation and subsidy for instruments for plant protection. Thus irrigation is not just an issue of one department but requires dovetailing with employment generation schemes, proper land shaping, planning, credit for drip/well/ sprinklers/lift irrigation, grants and loans from special targeted schemes for SC/ ST/OBC and women.

Agricultural implements: These include sprayers, hand sprayers, machine sprayers, harvesters and even simple instruments for top working for fruit trees and floriculture. These instruments can be given on credit, through grants, as part of mini-kits or through direct purchase or hire. Often the distribution of these implements is taken in isolation, resulting in its nonavailability for some needy farmers. A holistic approach links it with the identified thrust activity so that appropriate implements in sufficient quantity are available and there is no wasteful expenditure.

Fertilizers: The Government gave a subsidy on fertilizers to manufacturers in the hope that the benefit would ultimately be passed on to the poor farmers. However, that has not happened. It is commonly felt that this subsidy has benefited the manufacturers more than the farmers. The book adjustments make it appear like a relief to the farmer but this scheme does not improve his immediate income levels, increase productivity and nor does it amount to a complete waiver of the loan – it just means some relief from the accrued interest and postponement of the installments to be paid. It is important that any activity directed relating to fertilizer subsidy has an individual rather than general approach. The correct dose of fertilizer to be used has to be individualistic (landspecific) – this ensures that no farmer is burdened with more fertiliser than he needs, thus saving himself from unnecessary indebtedness. The extension staff should be Agriculture doctors (using the green cross to help farmers identify them) who can prescribe to individual farmers the right dose of fertilisers, and also the cropping pattern to rejuvenate the micronutrients in the soil in a natural way — for example, leguminous planting after wheat works as the best rotation pattern. There is a trend towards organic farming andfarmers should be informed about its benefits, essentials and other details.

Pesticide: With control of pests being the objective, activities target both the issue of subsidies in pesticide control and also propagation of organic pesticides. The Agriculture doctor plays an important role in recommending the kind of pesticide (natural or chemical), the amount to be used and the timing.

Harvesting: Holistic approach guides farmers to a holistic approach to harvesting and towards using appropriate technology. Systematic convergence can help them minimize costs (by linking them with appropriate credit schemes) and even give them an additional source of earning if they operate through SHGs and Cooperatives. If they are made part of a Labour Cooperative, they can earn for their labour and those with sophisticated instruments can add value to their labour and thus increase their earnings.

Storage: Activities and funds of several ministries and other stakeholders can be converted to ensure good storage facilities. These include the Ministry of Rural Development’s infrastructure schemes, public-private partnerships, funds of agriculture mandis (autonomous bodies for agriculture marketing), the Horticulture Board’s subsidy schemes for cold storage, and direct funding by banks for temporary and long term storage facilities.

Marketing: The first need is to converge schemes to educate farmers of their rights in terms of setting prices and empowering them for collective informed negotiations with the buyers. The thrust activity of increase in production and crop selection has to include the component of marketing and an investment in building the capacity of farmers to market effectively. They should be exposed to all aspects of this operation (such as the possibility of buy back arrangements with the private sector). Farmers should have established linkages with wholesale mandis, corporate farming, cold storages, private sector, processing plants and retail outlets.

Credit: Loans are available to farmers through several institutions/programmes, such as cooperative banks, lead bank district credit plan, kisan credit cards, Primary Agriculture Cooperative/Credit Societies, Large Adivasi Multi-purpose Cooperative Societies for SC/ ST farmers, credit for land development. However, there is a need to rationalise their borrowing, both in terms of the extent of finance required and the cost of that loan. The holistic approach will enable them on both, ensuring a better repayment percentage by facilitating linkages that ensure optimum utilization of the money at the least cost. The credit gets supplemented by forward and backward linkages automatically and thus ensures fruitful usage of the credit given. There is also a need to focus more on the root of the problem and the attitude to loans by empowering them to take decisions that are beneficial to them and have some relation to the size and potential of their land holding. Misguided by the lure of cash crops, many of them indulge in heavy borrowing. They have no belief in or understanding of the banking system and depend on money lenders. There is a need to converge efforts to increase productivity, educate them in the advantages of the banking system and create a more flexi-lending system with low interest rates. In this context, the issuing of Kisan Credit Cards is a good initiative. This Government of India scheme aims to save farmers from high-interest rates usually charged by money lenders in the unorganised sector. The interest rate can be as low as 2.00% under this scheme

Finance planning: The root cause of farmers’ suicides is poor finance management rather than crop failure. It is therefore as essential to educate farmers in finance planning as in agriculture technology. The training to farmers is currently done in bits and pieces under various schemes of the Government. The holistic approach on finance planning will empower farmers to plan their finances – and will facilitate the process of doing so.

Alternatives after calamities – Crop insurance and Insurance of farmers: Given the high vulnerability of the Indian farmer to the vagaries of nature, it is essential to have in place a plan of action after calamities, including insurance cover for the farmers. However, insurance policies need to be aligned to ground realities, otherwise, like the National Crop Insurance scheme, they will be nonstarters. This scheme uses the tehsil as the unit – it is based on the area approach, with ataluk/tehsil taken to be the area. Indemnities payable to farmers in the area are assessed on the basis of the average yield for the area; the variations in the yield within the area are neglected. This method is considered unsatisfactory. To be effective, insurance schemes in this sector have to be more localised and even individualised. Recommendations for improved schemes have reduced the unit area to Panchayat level and have brought localised calamities also into the purview of coverage. Thus they have defined areas for notified crops for widespread calamities, whereas the insurance provisions are on individualbasis for localised calamities such as hailstorm, landslide, cyclone, and flood. The recent Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana also have an issue of what should be the unit and thus acceptance among farmers is not very large.

 The Tsunami relief package is a typical illustration of the problems referred to above. The farmers in the affected region were given seeds which would not give a suitable yield in the soil which had become saline as an aftermath of the Tsunami. In fact, the compensation package (apart from giving the right kind of seeds for saline soil) should have factored in low early returns and given seeds for three crops — till the soil became normal. Thus the issue of compensation of crop has to be more technology-based than a revenue model. It also has to be rights-based and not given as a charity. After any calamity, it is important to salvage the crop/ suggest alternatives and provide a bridge in terms of compensation. Converging welfare with the effective technological inputs ensures a cushion in case of calamities. Thus necessary amendments are required in the relief manuals.

The other relevant insurance schemes include Janashree to ensure higher education to children of farmers; life insurance schemes of the private sector; group insurance and insurance for small and marginal farmers. Then there are the federations (e.g. those of fisheries and dairy farmers) which have welfare measures for the family of the deceased. Schemes like Janashree encourage higher education among the wards. The premium for these schemes should be paid by SC/ST/OBC corporations.

Details of Janashree: The Central Government and Life Insurance Corporation together launched the Janashree Bima Yojana (JBY) on August 10, 2000. JBY is sponsored by the government. The scheme is devised to provide life insurance cover  to rural and urban people below and marginally above the poverty line.The premium to be paid for the scheme is Rs.200/- per member. 50% of the premium will be paid by the members or the State Government/Nodal Agency. The other 50% of the premium will be borne from the Social Security Fund. Nodal Agencies comprise Self Help Groups (SHGs), NGOs, Panchayat, or any other institutional arrangement. Janashree Bima Yojana  offers a special scheme to women SHG members. The plan assists women under SHG members in their children’s education. It also offers a term insurance plan with a coverage of Rs. 30,000 on a premium of Rs.200/ year. 50% of the premium is shared with LIC and 50% of the premium is paid by SHG member. It also offers a social security scheme, Shiksha Sahyog Yojana which covers children of parents covered under the JBY. The benefit comes as a scholarship amount of Rs.600, which is paid in every six months to students studying in IX to XII including students pursuing ITI. Maximum number of two children under this plan is offered with the scholarship.

Biogas: Holistic planning enables the farmer to make use of abyproduct of his farming as compost and as energy for cooking and, if possible, for electricity as well. It could trigger an environmental initiative like creating a smoke-less chulha(cooking stove). The convergent approach thus fills the gap for these products by constant education by different field workers and does not restrict it to a field visit by a functionary of the department or agency dealing with biogas.

Forest dwellers: The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 is a key piece of forest legislation focusing on the rights of forest dwelling communities to land and other resources, denied to them over decades as a result of the continuance of colonial forest laws in India. The Act has generated a lot of debate – and concern among conservationists. However, this manual will limit itself to the issues related to sustainable income, displacement and rehabilitation of tribal. Despite forest produce being a multi-million-rupeetrade, there are few mechanisms for using it to generate sustainable livelihood opportunities for the tribal population. This in itself can be a thrust activity to list land and forest-based produce, their collection, growth, marketing, value addition etc. There is ample scope for convergence to achieve the outcome of giving the forest dwellers an income that can move from sustainable to surplus. The tendu patta (leaf used for making beedis) trade in Madhya Pradesh is an excellent illustration of linkage between the collectors of leaves and professional marketing practices.

CONCLUSION

There are countless schemes for all the above elements but little information is available on the impact of schemes at the critical cutting-edge level. There is a need for effective outcomeoriented monitoring. Most of these schemes are universal and do not take into account specifics. Schemes are often lost in the mazeof scores of schemes; many lie unutilised, their objective forgotten, even though the scheme remains. An objective analysis shows that only 12% of the schemes are utilised. Thus after a calamity, waiverof interest and giving a fresh loan is easier said than done; watershed development has become just a meaningless formality to be included in plans; major irrigation schemes have been accorded low priority; rain water harvesting is done more as a demonstration than a regular practice. Extension services, which have a pivotal role to play, have unfortunately been ignored. Respect for the last functionary needs to be regained to make these schemes work for the actual targeted beneficiaries.

Part of the 59th Round of the National Sample Survey Organisation carried out in 2003, was the Situation Assessment Survey (SAS) of Farmers. The results of the SAS survey were compiled in five valuable reports: Indebtedness of Farmers; Some Aspects of Farming; Access to Modern Technology; Household Consumption Expenditure for Farmers; and Income, Expenditure and Productive Assets of Farmer Households. The National Commission on Farmers, chaired by Prof. M. S. Swaminathan, submitted five reports through the period December 2004 – October 2006with recommendations for rejuvenating Indian Agriculture. Following from the first four, the final report focused on causes of famer distresses and the rise in farmer suicides, and recommends addressing them through a holistic national policy for farmers. The National Development Council (NDC) has also prepared its diagnosis and prescriptions. There have been a number of committees on financial inclusion. But all these recommendations are being addressed in bits and pieces. If they are followed in a comprehensive, consistent manner, Agriculture will emerge as the driving force to push the country’s growth rate even higher. The issue today is not one of lack of laws or financial and other resources, or even an appropriate policy – it is simply one of having patch work approach. The answer lies in paradigm shift to holistic planning. (Concluded)

Dr. Aruna Sharma has served as Secretary, Govt. of India. She is a Development Economist and served as Secretary, Ministry of Steel; Secretary, Electronics and Panchayati Raj. She also held charge of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj in Madhya Pradesh state government. She conceived and launched governance software like Samagra, now operational in 10 states and coordinated for Direct Benefit Transfer. She was member in 5 member high level committee of RBI for deepening digital payments.

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Policy & Politics

CORONAVIRUS VACCINATION: TIME TO CONSIDER REMOVAL OF PATENT

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The coronavirus vaccination process is well in progress, and life is creeping towards normalcy in a few nations. However, for certain nations, the pandemic is unleashing new degrees of decimation. India is wrestling with a cataclysmic second wave, reporting more than 20 million Covid cases and more than 250,000 deaths in the country amid boundless oxygen shortage.

The disparity in admittance to Covid-19 immunizations among rich and low-pay nations has gotten impossible disregarding. As indicated by UNICEF, 86% of all portions surrendered worldwide to 30 March were regulated to those in high-and upper-centre income nations, while only 1% of short of vaccine have been given to those on the planet’s most unfortunate. The Lower risk groups, the UK, the US and Israel are getting qualified for vaccination, while the vulnerable population somewhere else stay in danger of getting the infection.

As of now, eight types of vaccines are being utilized in general. No nation is utilizing every one of them however the more extravagant countries approach three or four, having put ahead of time requests. The vaccine producers are likewise ordinarily situated in these nations and have licenses that keep others from manufacturing and assembling them. The storing of vaccinations and medicines by well off nations, as the pandemic assaults monetarily hindered countries, has brought the issue of immunization licenses i.e. patent to the front.

At the global level, in October 2020, India and South Africa presented a unique proposition at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to defer drug organizations’ intellectual property (IP) rights for Covid-19 vaccines and medicines under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights settlement. The key idea behind this proposal was that the waiver would permit vaccine creators in more unfortunate nations to deliver vaccinations without confronting any legal activity from the organizations that hold licenses on the items. This specific proposal has recently gained steam, after US President Joe Biden reported his help, with trusts that this may make it simpler for some more nations to gain admittance to Covid-19 vaccinations.

This support by the US President has run into opposition from the drug business also known as Big Pharma and nations like Germany, stating this step won’t help in controlling the flare-up any time soon and will only hurt advancement and innovation. Biotechnology Innovation Organization president and CEO Michelle McMurry-Heath wrote in the Economist that this proposal of the patent being removed sabotages the very framework that created the life-saving science in any case and obliterates the motivator for organizations to face challenges to discover answers for the following wellbeing crisis.

The Indian government at home, however, isn’t just taking an alternate position, it has even requested that the Supreme Court not examine or notice the utilization of the state’s ability to abrogate protected intellectual property rights for fundamental medications or immunizations, stating that these could have “extreme and accidental antagonistic outcomes in the nation’s endeavors being made on a worldwide stage.” Whereas specialists believe that the Center’s remain against obligatory authorizing – which the Supreme Court had drifted as an apparatus it could use as a feature of its pandemic reaction – isn’t simply conflicting to its situation at worldwide forums, it could wind up endangering India’s endeavours to guarantee antibody value at the worldwide level. However, as the issues relating to urgent measures with respect to Covid-19 is sub-judice before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and different High Courts, therefore to be seen as to how the Hon’ble Courts deals with this issue.

For India to accomplish widespread vaccination, the prerequisite is of 1,878 million dosages — two portions each for 939 million adults in the country. As there are just two makers of the vaccination presently in the country— Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India — with their present creation limit at 80-90 million dosages each month, which could grow to 160 million portions by July 2021, there is an interest supply hole that should be spanned on a conflict balance.

To overcome this issue, there is a developing fuss to conjure the arrangement of ‘obligatory permitting’ under the Patents Act, 1970 as was done a decade ago for the treatment of cancer, malignancy.

COMPULSORY LICENCES

The shortcoming of India’s vaccination program has gone to the front throughout the most recent month, as the fierce Covid-19 second wave detonated everywhere in the country. The shortage of vaccination in the country have been faced and the current speed would not permit India to arrive at herd immunity before the year’s over. Recently the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has requested that the Center summon its forces to give compulsory licenses so immunization creation can be increase, determined to assist the states with vaccinating individuals throughout a more limited timeframe.

Patent rewards advancement by keeping contenders from essentially replicating an organization’s revelation and dispatching an adversary item. For patented product, the necessary permit arrangement permits the Indian government to concede fabricating rights to different makers without the assent of the proprietor, particularly during public crises. India’s first mandatory permit was conceded by the Indian Patent Office under the corrected 2005 Act to the Hyderabad-based medication maker Natco in 2017. It permitted the organization to produce and sell a comparable variant of Bayer’s medication Nexavar for the therapy of kidney malignant growth. The obligatory permit was conceded because the life-saving medication was not accessible at a moderate cost and Bayer had not made the medication to a sensible degree in India.

When an administration conjures a necessary permit, it awards consent to an individual to make or sell an innovation or item without looking for authorization from the patent holder. The topic of necessary authorizing in India includes two significant provisions under the Patents Act, 1970. The first is Section 92-as per this section the public authority can pronounce necessary permitting for any protected innovation amid a public or outrageous crisis. When an announcement is made, the regulator general of licenses can give licenses to any candidate. The patent holder will be paid an eminence fixed by the regulator general. Second is Section 100 of the Act-this section permits the Center or others to utilize the development or the innovation for governmental use whenever considered significant. This would permit Indian organizations to start fabricating while the eminence is being negotiated. On the off chance that the negotiation fizzle, it falls upon the High Court along with the jurisdiction to fix a sensible eminence.

Taking everything into account, specialists are proposing that through open permit strategy, antibody vaccine innovation could be moved from Bharat Biotech to different producers because the immunization was concocted with the help of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). Notwithstanding, comprehend that the ICMR’s help can measure up to banks giving asset backing to new companies. Accordingly, this doesn’t imply that one can remove the IPR of the immunization maker since Bharat Biotech is a separate company, not a part of the public authority. Indeed, even among various PSUs or government divisions, frequently lawful questions crop up because they are singular entities.

According to the current pandemic condition in the country, a humanitarian approach is the need of the hour and there probably won’t be any grievances or resistance if conventional standards are disregarded, regardless of whether at the degree of WTO or the homegrown front. On the other side, would it not be better that a reasonably balanced approach is embraced keeping in view the supply of vaccinations in the current times but also for the fulfilment of the same in the future?

WILL PHARMA COMPANIES SUFFER HUGE LOSSES?

At last, it comes down to the billion-dollar question. Pharma organizations have been contending that IPR and licenses are at the core of development, as is the speculation and cash that goes into it. Notwithstanding, will IPR waivers truly be uncalled for to enormous drugs and send them into misfortunes.

As opposed to what some are situating this tussle as a philosophical one around IPR, American Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky said during the TWN that it was basically about cash and benefits. “We are at battle with an infection, yet the thing we are seeing is making profits.”

It isn’t that an IPR waiver will leave pharma organizations poor the governments could take a gander at giving certain eminences to the trailblazer and originator organizations. For example, India gave its first mandatory permit permitted under its patent laws in 2012 for a malignant growth drug Nexavar made by Bayer.

Right now the patent situation is a “barbarous” one, with an “impetus structure adjusted to enormous drugs.” We need to move away from exclusive methods of licensing to a more open-source method of making medications.

CONCLUSION

The special cases being taken up today to guarantee all-inclusive vaccination is simply a transitory measure to pad individuals at the most for a very long time. According to clinical specialists, another portion or two of an improved rendition of the immunization will be along these lines should have been trailed by an antibody vaccination forever. Additionally, an immunization for kids under 18 years is still to be created.

It is similarly imperative to comprehend and not invalidate the way that the issue of licensed innovation rights was coordinated into the exchange plan. In the pre-WTO period, agricultural nations including India took into account the assembling of the protected item by different producers through an adjustment of the assembling interaction. Accordingly, these organizations likewise began trading medications hence making benefits. The TRIPS Agreement consequently got basic in settling exchange disagreements about protected innovation rights at a worldwide level. Consequently, nations like those in the European Union, which have bookings for loosening up IPRs, might be persuaded with the confirmation at WTO that the meds for fix and avoidance of the Covid would be utilized uniquely for homegrown use and not for trades.

In India, endeavours ought to be made for the move of innovation from organizations like Bharat Biotech to producers with the potential and required ability. In any case, brand value ought to be with Bharat Biotech with a kind of establishment plan. The organization’s R&D use ought to be remunerated through a proper evaluating strategy.

Though numerous legislatures across the world seem uncertain on whether to answer the call and on the off chance that they do — would it truly resolve the worldwide deficiency of vaccination and medicines, particularly in more unfortunate and low pay nations? Stand that the world takes on the issue will be a critical decision in fighting the battle against the coronavirus surge.

As of now, eight types of vaccines are being utilised in general. No nation is utilising every one of them, however the more extravagant countries approach three or four. The vaccine producers are likewise ordinarily situated in these nations and have licences that keep others from manufacturing and assembling them. The storing of vaccinations and medicines by well-off nations, as the pandemic assaults monetarily hindered countries, has brought the issue of immunisation licences i.e. patent to the front.

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Policy & Politics

‘What are the key learnings that hospitality industry can take from current conditions?’

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The Connaught has been turned around as one of the Taj Group’s prestigious SeleQtions hotels.

The world is currently battling with the unprecedented effects of the COVID-19. With the UN claiming it to be a crisis on humanity like never before, it has put our social fabric and cohesion under tremendous stress. In the face of this fatal virus, the economies worldwide have come to a standstill, making the travel restrictions and social distancing policies the new normal.

Impact of the Outbreak: The hospitality industry has taken a massive hit around the globe with occupancy rates dropping by 59% in US hotels alone. Significant declines are also forecasted in average daily rate (ADR), occupancy, demand, and revenue per available room (RevPAR) for 2020.

Current forecasts predict a deep economic contraction in the first half of the year, followed by a bounce-back in the latter half. However, there could also be a prolonged economic uncertainty that would resist a sharp bounce-back. As hotels counter this economic crisis, there will be a dire need to assess the business continuity and operational challenges, both for the short and long term, and understand the impact on Cash, Working Capital, and Profitability.

The severe situation had stalled travel plans for the majority of the people around the world but it is expected that hotel bookings will see a recovery after September 2020. However, it is also predicted that people will be more inclined towards traveling domestic rather than international. Thus, it is imperative for the hotels to be prepared before the business starts to ramp up and use this interim period as an opportunity to overhaul their legacy systems.

THE NEED OF THE HOUR

Regain Guest Confidence: The core of the relationship between any brand and its consumers is “the trust”, and thus recapturing guest confidence should be the primary step for any brand amidst this pandemic situation. At a time when consumer confidence is at an all-time low, communication will play the lead role in re-assuring the guests of the safe environments at different hotels. Also, within the hotel premises, the way hotels empower their guests with increasingly relevant and timely information, will also hold the key to future.

Revisit Hospitality Offerings:Hotels will need to review their existing service offerings to adapt to the “new normal” and provide a touch-free experience to their guests when they arrive at the property. To achieve this, Hotels will need a transformation in their daily operations to provide an experience that would ensure that both the guests and the hotel staff are in safe hands.

Employee Well Being: A turnaround is also expected in the hospitality industry at the employer level. The current working models need to be re-evaluated for efficiency with ‘employee wellbeing’ positioned higher than ever in the hotel’s priority list. Providing them with safety kits and eliminating the different touchpoints while serving the guests are the major needs of the hour.

Regulatory Compliances Liabilities: In this new environment, hotels need to adopt new practices to regulate the environment in which the business happens. Once the operations begin, stern measures on sanitation and hygiene will be very important and hotel properties will have to not just be aesthetically clean but also clinically clean. It will also be important to ensure that the mandatory regulatory guidelines such as social distancing are being followed at their properties

OPPORTUNITIES TO UPGRADE THE SKILL SET

Up-skill: Creating opportunities for hotel employees to add value to their skill-sets could build confidence in hotel companies, as layoffs can be expected by all major and minor hotel companies. Hyper-local hotels may see the largest number of layoffs due to the popular asset-light model, where large number of operating units, scattered across countries, could be written off all at once. This will bleed out a vast number of hospitality employees into an already difficult market. Individuals who can upgrade their skill sets by way of enrolling in speciality-specific courses could benefit greatly.

Re-skill:Offering routes such as ‘Recognition of Prior Learning’ opportunities to qualified hospitality front-line professionals could accelerate the process in re-skilling individuals, hence preparing them for roles in hotels and other hospitality-related operations in an environment where lean, yet skilled operations will be required.

Hygiene and sanitation remained a recurrent sub-theme throughout the responses, be it about foreseeable consumer behaviour or learnings for the industry and educators or trainers. The issue of hygiene has been well documented in tourism and hospitality literature. However, for a developing country like India that deals with issues like over-crowdedness and congestion, it is too serious a concern to be overlooked. where the researchers have speculated presence of SARS-COV-2 in human waste water becomes more consequential if not managed effectively. The seriousness of this issue can’t be emphasised enough and regardless of the type and size of the establishment, next crucial aspect that is likely to govern the survival would be the presence of standards of waste management and effective sanitation practices visible in all forms of hospitality operations.

Hospitality management must consider wearing masks mandatory until a sustained solution, for instance the most contemplated solution+COVID-19 vaccine, is achieved. Irrespective of type of operations, managers must consider creating dedicated task forces among employees to address hygiene issues and related training and awareness creation. Basing on the responses received it seems clear now that there is stark need of formulating national standards for tourism and hospitality enterprises, and their implementation and monitoring should be effectively carried out, failing that should invite relative penalties. The need of national standards also resonate with the recommendations made by authorities/researchers. One such standard practice could be mandatory temperature checking and its record keeping at the entry and exit points of work places and institutions.

The notion of retaining optimism and hopes of revival remained highThis was particularly visible with the responses pertaining to the manpower development. This viewpoint of the experts in tourism and hospitality may be attributable to their rich experiences, where they must have observed highs and lows in the industry. Although COVID-19 presents an unprecedented case before all the sectors, in that the reduced demand and revenues are obvious consequences, which can resonate with the previous crises that also had detrimental effects. However, in previous health (e.g. SARS, Swine Flu, MERS, and Ebola) or other sorts of crises (acts of terrorism, natural calamities) travellers mostly had alternatives at their disposal. This time the entire planet has been held hostage to this severe pandemic, which has brought an absolute halt on various activities, leisure sector being the prominent casualty. From the responses it is evident that alike educators, industry managers too didn’t shy away from highlighting the human resilience and seemed hopeful towards the eventual recovery, meanwhile reassuring individuals who have or intend to pursue careers in the industry.

Budgets and Capital Expenditure:Hotel owners should consider whether the existing rights of the owner in relation to the setting, approval and variation of budgets and decisions relating to capital expenditures are adequate or should be enhanced in order to give the owner greater say on decisions relating to expenditure that is considered necessary or desirable in light of Covid-19, for instance investments towards improving the health and safety components of the hotel.

This is extremely important from a hotel owner’s perspective because: (a) they have the obligation to fund the hotel’s working capital and capital expenditure requirements; and (b) the owner’s performance termination rights will typically be linked to the level of operating profit generated by the hotel operator relative to the budgeted operating profit. If the owner does not have adequate rights in respect to the setting of the budget and approval of variations from the budget and sufficient control over the budget process, then the operator could provide for a lower operating profit in the budget and thereby ensure that it does not fail the operating profit test (this is over and above a general exclusion which an operator may include for force majeure events).

Additionally, it would also be worthwhile to consider including a mechanism thereby the owner and operator have to mutually agree to adjust the budgets and capital expenditure for a specific period in the event of a force majeure event occurring and the operator should not have a unilateral right to make any such adjustments.

Compulsory Acquisition:During recent times, there have been instances where government authorities in certain countries have taken over hotels to use them as quarantine facilities for Covid-19 patients. While these instances may not be common, it gives rise to another scenario which may need to be covered in the condemnation provisions of hotel operating contracts. Further, as the hotel owner is unlikely to receive any substantial compensation from the government, the rights of an operator to receive any portion of the compensation received from the government should also be considered and re-examined and specific carve-outs may need to be agreed. Consideration should also be given to the hotel’s insurance policies and whether any conversion of use of the hotel into a quarantine or other medical facility may vitiate these insurance policies.

Public Health Emergency Obligations:Hotel operating contracts do not, usually, contain any provisions on: (a) the procedures to be followed by the parties; and (b) the rights and obligations of each party, in the event of a public health emergency occurring in the hotel (for example, a guest or staff testing positive for Covid-19). It is important that these gaps are filled to ensure that there is no ambiguity on the roles and responsibilities of the parties and thereby avoiding the blame-game.

HOTEL MANAGEMENT REQUIRES LIFELONG LEARNING

Albert Einstein said, “Once you stop learning, you start dying”, and the saying has never been truer than in the current context. Even if you were a seasoned hotel manager, the COVID-19 crisis has likely challenged all of your past experience and knowledge about the profession. In the face of uncertainty, hoteliers have had to relearn some of the key cornerstones of the industry, such as staffing and revenue management, both of which underwent major transformations because of COVID.

As a result, web traffic on hospitality-related educational platforms nearly doubled in the past few months. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, hoteliers understood that they needed to take action in order to adapt and save their business. In a great showing of courage and resilience, most of them took the matter into their own hands and kept looking for ways to survive amidst the plethora of constraining safety measures and lockdowns. This gave birth to new innovative strategies for hotels to generate revenue.

HOPING FOR A BEGINNING OF AN END

We can say that,

Post Covid19, organisations will surely redesign/reorganise their business models based on the loss handled and market conditions for the future. Workforce reduction is a possibility however smarter organisations may look at utilising the available workforce in newer roles as per the need of the business. Its (sic) important to understand that hospitality is all about human connections and people will be at the heart of everything we strategize.

COVID-19 is pushing the industry to manage, adapt, and respond to the uncertainty and risk associated with this global health incident. Managing the guests’ & employees’ safety and delivering as per guests’ expectations will not be considered a competitive advantage, but rather an industry imperative. Enterprises in the hospitality industry should partner with the right technology solutions providers to ensure a foolproof digital transformational strategy for the future.

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Policy & Politics

RELAXATIONS PROVIDED UNDER GAS CYLINDERS RULES, 2016 TO FAST-TRACK IMPORTS

The relaxations in rules will fast-track approvals for imported cylinders and pressure vessels for storage and transportation of medical oxygen.

Tarun Nangia

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Government of India has reviewed the existing procedure for approval of global manufacturers for importing oxygen cylinders by Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organization (PESO). In view of the COVID pandemic, PESO shall not carry out physical inspection of global manufacturers’ production facilities before grant of such approval. Now, such approvals shall be granted online without any delay on submission of manufacturer’s particulars; ISO certificate of manufacturer; List of Cylinders their specifications, drawings & batch number; Hydro test certificate and Third-Party inspection Certificate. Every foreign manufacturer/ importer who wants to import oxygen cylinders is required to apply for import permission through PESO online system.

In view of emergent situation, procedures are relaxed and the following process is to be followed wherever due to unavoidable circumstances or urgencies, consignment of oxygen cylinders, ISO containers or PSA plants or its related equipment have already arrived in India, without taking import permission from PESO. The filling permission for these cylinders will be issued based on the following relaxation in the rules. Same procedure will apply for import of further such equipment in case the online approvals have not been taken.

As such, Certification of PESO will not be mandatory pre-shipment. However, the certification of PESO will be required before use of the oxygen cylinders which entails weight and hydro testing. The Indian Missions should however ensure that the oxygen cylinders should comply with India or International standards before shipment. In case of filled cylinders, the agency exporting to India shall certify that the oxygen filled in the cylinder is of such purity and concentration that is fit for medical use. The certification shall be attested by the Indian Mission in the exporting country. Further, soon upon receipt in India, such filled cylinders shall be inspected on sample basis by an empanelled agency of PESO and certified as fit for medical use.

All the filled cylinders must be verified for quality of gas filled therein under the supervision of medical/ Food and Drugs Controllers and if quality of gas conforms to their requirement of medical oxygen, cylinder may be sent directly to hospitals for use. On emptying out the oxygen, cylinder shall be sent to filler and the process as given above shall be followed.

Guidelines for PSA installations at hospitals with filling facility or at COVID centers:

A. PSA plants where generated oxygen is directly supplied to hospital/ no filling of cylinder is taking place; does not need any permission or license under rules administered by PESO and can be allowed.

B. If PSA is attached with a compressor and filling of oxygen cylinder is to take place, hospital must notify it to PESO with following information:

a. Number of filling points.

b. Number of cylinders to be stored at site

c. An SRV shall be mandatorily installed in the pipeline outlet to compressor.

d. Well ventilated location with adequate illumination.

e. Before filling the cylinder, shall be examined/ cleaned for absence of any Carbonaceous grease and valid hydro test certificate (tested cylinder at 225 Kg/Cm2 hydrostatically)

f. Filling operation shall be carried out under supervision of a competent & experienced person.

g. The space for filling of cylinders to be isolated and maintain clearance of 1m from filling point on all the sides.

C. Any COVID centre may utilize liquid cylinders on board with vaporizer for supplying of gaseous medical oxygen through pipeline or for filling cylinders in open places are permitted subject to conditions stipulated under Sr No. (B) above for PSA and information be submitted to PESO.

These relaxations shall be valid for a period of 6 months or till further orders of Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, whichever is earlier

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RESOLUTION OF PENDING ISSUES OF EXPORTERS WOULD GIVE IMPETUS TO TRADE, SAYS EEPC INDIA CHAIRMAN

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The value of engineering goods shipments registered a year-on-year growth of 238.27% during April, 2021 owing primarily to lower base effect and strong demand from traditional markets. This shows recovery in external trade is very much on track and improved trade outlook, said EEPC India Chairman Mahesh Desai.

“As vaccine coverage rises in Europe and North America we see further increase in demand. Shipments to China have already been quite healthy and we expect the trend to continue,” he noted.

As per data released by the government, India’s overall merchandise exports in April 2021 was US$ 30.63 billion, a jump of 195.72% over US$10.36 billion in April 2020. As compared to April 2019, exports in April 2021 exhibited a positive growth of 17.62%.

Mr Desai said that the recent surge in Covid cases has some downside risks to the growth as various state governments have imposed lockdowns and curfews to contain the spread of the virus.

“This has caused a slowdown in inter-state movement of goods and shortage of manpower. In order to address this, we urge the government to classify the export sector as the essential services,” he said.

The EEPC Chairman noted that the government has largely taken a very balanced approach to deal with the health crisis focussing both on saving lives and protecting livelihood.

In a very encouraging development, Department of Commerce has taken up various issues of exporters with the Finance Ministry for their early resolution. Some of the pending issues pertain to Remission of Duties and Taxes on Export Products (RoDTEP), Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS) and Inverted duty structure.

“Once resolved, it will further provide impetus to the export sector,” said Mr Desai.

Given the growth trends in previous fiscal and April this year, it is hoped that merchandise exports could touch $400 billion in FY22. The value of exports in the first week of May was up by almost 9% (over the same period last year) pointing to a positive trend, the EEPC Chairman concluded.

RBI SUPPORTS MEASURES TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSES HIT BY SECOND PANDEMIC WAVE

Besides providing liquidity support to small borrowers, the measures announced by RBI would boost confidence of the trade and business, said Desai.

“Over the last few months, India’s merchandise exports have shown an upward trend but the surge in new Covid cases has posed some downside risks. The relief measures announced by RBI for MSMEs should mitigate those risks,“ he added.

One of the key focus areas of the central bank was facilitating easy credit for entities in the health sector including vaccine manufacturers and suppliers of oxygen and ventilators. For this, an on-tap liquidity window of Rs 50,000 crore has been announced. This will help strengthen Covid infrastructure in the country and ensure that the impact of the second wave of the infection on the economy is minimal.

Another key support measure announced by the RBI was Resolution Framework 2.0 for Covid related stressed assets of individuals, small businesses and MSMEs. This is a major relief for small and medium players, noted Desai.

Among other things, the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) worth Rs 6,238 crore for air conditioners and LED lights would certainly give a big boost to local manufacturing. The various PLI schemes are being seen as the mega policy plan of the government to make India a global manufacturing hub, said Desai.

He noted that the PLI schemes were also being considered one of the major pull factors for MNCs looking to diversify their supply chains “This will not only bring fresh investments into the country but also offer opportunities for local firms to enter into technical tie-up and form joint ventures,” he said.

The government has so far cleared nine PLI schemes for different sectors. Both local and foreign players have shown keen interest in the scheme. Overall, an outlay of Rs 1.97 lakh crore has been lined up for 13 key sectors. All the schemes together are projected to boost India’s output by over US$ 500 billion in the next five years.

The additional manufacturing capacity coming under the PLI scheme would have a huge multiplier effect and help build a robust supply chain network linked with global giants. It will positively impact the SME sector and spur growth and employment, said Mr Desai applauding the policy action.

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INDIA’S TRADE PRFORMANCE CONTINUES TO BE IMPRESSIVE IN APRIL 2021

Merchandise exports accelerate by an impressive 195.72 per cent over April 2020 levels and 17.62 per cent over the April 2019 levels.

Tarun Nangia

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Piyush Goyal

India’s export performance continues to be impressive in April 2021 with merchandise exports accelerating by an impressive 195.72 per cent over April 2020 levels and 17.62 per cent over the April 2019 levels.

Merchandise export, excluding POL and Gems & Jewellery, have increased by 160.24% in April 2021 over the same period of 2020-21 and by 20.47% over same period of 2019-20.

The Economic recovery is also visible in the rising import growth of 167.05 per cent and 7.87 per cent during April 2021 over same period of 2020-21 and 2019-20 respectively.

Service exports estimated for April 2021* are USD 21.17 Billion, registering a positive growth of 28.68 percent vis-à-vis April 2020. The estimated value of services import for April 2021* is USD 13.00 Billion, registering a positive growth of 39.75 percent vis-à-vis April 2020. The estimated value of Net of services export for April 2021* is USD 8.17 Billion registering a positive growth of 14.28 percent vis-à-vis April 2020.

COMMODITY-WISE GROWTH TRENDS

The commodities/commodity groups which have recorded positive growth during April 2021 vis-à-vis April 2020 are Gems & jewellery (9271.21%), Jute mfg. including floor covering (1684.62%), Carpet (1352.68%), Handicrafts excl. handmade carpet (1275.46%), Leather & leather products (1201.44%), RMG of all textiles (927.08%), Cotton yarn/fabs./made-ups, handloom products etc. (618.26%), Man-made yarn/fabs./made-ups etc. (587.01%), Other cereals (451.39%), Ceramic products & glassware (444.45%), Electronic goods (372.62%), Oil meals (279.49%), Cashew (260.48%), Mica, Coal & other ores, minerals including processed minerals (241.21%), Engineering goods (238.27%), Petroleum products (191.53%), Tobacco (187.4%), Cereal preparations & miscellaneous processed items (174.61%), Iron ore (172.16%), Oil seeds (169.04%), Meat, dairy & poultry products (148.81%), Tea (146.31%), Marine products (107.94%), Spices (97.56%), Coffee (75.02%), Organic & inorganic chemicals (68.54%), Rice (61.64%), Plastic & Linoleum (51.89%), Fruits & vegetables (25.4%) and Drugs & pharmaceuticals (23.43%).

Iron Ore and Drugs & Pharmaceuticals exports have been consistently growing throughout 2020-2021 and April 2021. Rice export has been consistently growing during 2020-2021 and April 2021 except for the month of April 2020. Cereal preparations & miscellaneous processed items, Other Cereals and Oil Meals exports have been consistently growing since June 2020. Jute Mfg. including Floor Covering and Carpet exports have been consistently growing since July 2020. Handicrafts, excl. handmade carpet, Cotton Yarn/Fabs./made-ups, Handloom Products etc., Ceramic products & glassware, spices and ‘others’ categories exports are growing consistently since September 2020. Mica, Coal & Other Ores, Minerals including processed minerals export is consistently growing since October 2020.

Sectors such as Leather & leather products, Man-made Yarn/Fabs./made-ups etc., and Marine products which had been exhibiting negative growth during the pandemic (2020-2021) have picked up from March 2021 onwards.

*Note: The latest data for services sector released by RBI is for March 2021. The data for April 2021 is estimates, which may undergo revision with subsequent releases of RBI.

Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal had a virtual meeting with Ambassador Kathleen Tai, US Trade Representative on 14th May 2021. The meeting focused on increasing vaccine availability in an inclusive and equitable manner to combat the global pandemic caused by Covid-19. The proposal of India on waiver of certain TRIPS provisions to increase global vaccine production in order to take on the challenge of vaccinating the poorest of the poor and save lives was also discussed. The Minister thanked the USTR for the US announcing its support for India’s proposal. The Minister mentioned the supply chains for the vaccine manufacturers must be kept open and unbridled as the entire world is in dire need of vaccines. Both sides agreed to work towards the common resolve of increasing vaccine availability and saving lives.

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GOYAL LAUNCHES ‘DGFT TRADE FACILITATION APP’ FOR PROVIDING INSTANT ACCESS TO EXPORTERS/IMPORTERS ANYTIME, ANYWHERE

Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal says that the trade facilitation app is ready for Industry 4.0.

Tarun Nangia

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Piyush Goyal

Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal recently launched DGFT ‘Trade Facilitation’ Mobile Application, for promoting ease of doing business and providing quick access to information to importers/exporters.

Speaking about the app, Goyal said that in the post-covid world, tech-enabled governance will play a key role in determining India’s growth and competitiveness. He said that a Single-window approach has enabled tech transformation of service delivery in India. It has liberated last-mile beneficiary from location based constraints, and enhanced ease of doing business. He said that Progress in technology helps develop the economy and strengthen Indian firms in the competitive global market. “We desire to move towards paperless, automated processing systems, simple procedures for trade players, online data exchange between departments & digital payments & acknowledgements.”, he added

Lauding the initiative of DGFT, Goyal said that the new Trade Facilitation App is a step in the right direction as it provides easy, omni-channel access to various trade related processes and enquiries at the touch of button. He said that truly imbibing Prime Minister’s vision of Minimum Government, Maximum Governance, DGFT is standing up for businesses as a true leader with e-issuance of certificates, QR scan process to validate documents. It will reduce transaction cost and time for imports and exports related processes, and usher in transparency. He said that ‘Trade Facilitation Mobile App’ is a symbol of India’s Idea of Aatmanirbharta – Making governance easy, economical & accessible, as it symbolises shift in traditional thinking.

Shri Goyal said that Trade facilitation App is READY for Industry 4.0, as it provides

• Real-time trade policy updates, notifications, application status alert, tracking help requests

• Explore item-wise Export-Import policy & statistics, Track IEC Portfolio

• AI-based 24*7 assistance for trade queries

• DGFT services made accessible to all

• Your Trade Dashboard accessible anytime & anywhere

The Minister said that ‘Mobile’ India creates an international trade opportunities for MSMEs and Foreign players. It will enable creation of a quality conscious and cost-competitive domestic industry. Further, it will significantly contribute to export target of $1 Trillion by 2025 and GDP target of $5 Trillion. He said that for advanced App development, more inputs & ideas of all stakeholders should be invited for further refinement which will help in expediting our technological transformation. Shri Goyal also called for engagement with technology and language specialists to develop Governance Apps in various regional languages, which will support the spirit of oneness amongst our citizens.

The new Mobile App of DGFT provides the following features for ease of the exporters and importers –

• Real-time Trade Policy Updates and Event Notifications

• Your Trade Dashboard Anytime Anywhere

• Access all services offered by DGFT in App

• Explore Item-wise Export-Import Policy and Statistics

• 24×7 Virtual Assistance for Trade Related Queries

• Track your IEC Portfolio – IEC, Applications, Authorizations

• Real-time Alerts on status of applications

• Raise and track help requests in real-time

• Share Trade Notices, Public Notices easily

The App will be available on Android and iOS platforms. The App can also be downloaded from the DGFT Website (https://dgft.gov.in). It has been developed by the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), as per the directions of the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT).

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