Much stress has been laid on Aatmanirbhar Bharat, and even more on the fact that agriculture will be the backbone of the economy in times to come. But can we have a self-reliant India, or even self-reliant agriculture, without a sovereign seed sector? The Indian government needs to revisit some policies before we can proceed.
First, the government needs to end or change the 100% FDI policy for the seed sector. Currently, 100% FDI through an automatic route is allowed in the seed sector. Several countries like China, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan and even some European countries have not allowed this. Many countries allow FDI in R&D in seed production and distribution, but a local partnership and shareholding is mandatory. This means that while Indian companies cannot have 100% owned subsidiaries in countries like China and Indonesia, companies from these countries can come and set up 100% owned subsidiaries in India. There is a need for revising the FDI policy in India not only for making India self-reliant regarding seeds, but also to protect and leverage the rich biodiversity possessed by our country. We are not only
committing a food security blunder, but also threatening India’s sovereignty.
The second obstacle is the dissonance in the regulatory systems. The implementation of a central legislation on seeds by the states’ seed licencing authorities differs since each state doesn’t interpret seed laws in the same way. This leads to difficulties for national-level seed companies, thereby, slowing down operations. There is a need for a uniform and harmonious licencing of seed companies and
varietal inclusion in the licence across the country. This problem has persisted for many years despite repeated representations by the industry. This step will resolve several issues and enable the seed companies to channelise their energies towards the primary task of developing, producing and distributing quality seeds to farmers.
There is also a need for the central licencing of seed companies with all the important operations like R&D, production, processing and marketing in several states in the new seed legislation. Central licencing and a varietal inclusion process for such companies will eliminate many of the obstacles which are being faced now.
We also need to encourage SMEs in the seed sector for quality seed production by providing free access to seed quality testing. This can be achieved by encouraging the setting up of third-party seed testing laboratories accredited by NABL. There is also a need to promote the establishment of independent seed testing laboratories by associations/trusts/societies without any conflicts of interest. Incentives towards reducing the establishment and operating costs can be provided, especially since these labs serve a very important process in the agricultural sector.
We should also look into R&D investment by SME companies with 100% shareholding by Indian citizens being reimbursed to the extent of 50%. This would encourage local companies to do more R&D. More Public Private Partnership (PPP) with government agri-research institutes (ICAR, IARI, CSIR and SAUs) will be encouraged again with private companies with 100% local-shareholding, and this would also enable public sector research to be oriented to the ground-level requirements of the industry and the farmers. On the issue of testing varietal testing fees in ICAR, All India Coordinated Research Project (AICRP) trials should be reduced and rationalised (for seed companies with 100% local ownership) so that a large number of seed companies can test their varieties at maximum locations. The current testing charges of ICAR prohibit the participation of small and medium companies in the AICRP trails.
We also need to establish crop improvement evaluation by trusts/societies/non-profit companies and by retired scientists or seed technologists. Attention must also be given to providing capital subsidies and funds to meet the viability gap and enhance the variety evaluation bandwidth in the country with an interest to encourage R&D and provide new hybrids/varieties quickly to farmers. Under the scheme of compulsory VCU testing envisaged in the new seed bill, this is absolutely important. No new businesses can emerge without adequate loans and capital, hence, an arrangement for adequate low interest working capital and soft loans for building infrastructure and investments in R&D should be made
available with banks. We need to classify all loans to seed companies as agriculture loans and keep them on the highest priority. Capital subsidy for seed infrastructure should be provided to the extent of 25%. All these provisions can be enabled with a new scheme akin to the “National Seed Project”, with an appropriate title like “Aatmanirbhar Beej Udyog”.
Special economic zones may also be identified for seed production and export to encourage seed production for export in the states which have excellent agro climatic conditions to take up quality seed production. Policy and procedures for custom seed production of foreign varieties, exclusively for export purposes, should be made too.
Aatmanirbhar Bharat needs to be built on our terms and our sovereign laws. Hence, IPR protection available for seeds and plant varieties, including transgenic plant varieties, is under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act (PPVFRA). All trait licencing, including GM traits, shall be as per section 26 of PPVFRA. Section 3(j) of the Indian Patent Act (which excludes seeds and plant varieties) shall be enforced in letter and spirit in India so as to stop monopolies in the seed industry, which is detrimental to farmers and to national agriculture as well.
Moving to the public institutions, ICAR and SAUs should focus on the development of the human resource requirements of the seed industry through constant interaction, to make their syllabus and courses relevant to the industry’s needs.
Finally, the government needs to bring reforms to the seed sector too. We need to bring a rule, like in the case of coffee, tea or rubber, to tax about 20% income since seed production, which is agriculture in nature also involves processing, packing and labeling as per the Seeds Act.
If all these parameters are met, the Indian seed sector will undergo a revolution which will uplift our nation to be the pioneer, not only in the seed sector, but also in agriculture.
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Former Assam CM Tarun Gogoi shows some improvement but still critical
The health of former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has slightly improved after deteriorating on Saturday, the Superintendent of Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, where he is admitted, said on Sunday. His condition, however, is still critical.
“Last evening former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s health deteriorated so we intubated him, he was critical yesterday. His AGB (arterial blood gas) test and parameters are slightly better today,” hospital Superintendent Dr Abhijit Sarma told ANI here.
Gogoi’s heath had deteriorated on Saturday. He was “critical” and on ventilator support following post-Covid complications. There were also reports that Gogoi is suffering from multi-organ failure.’
The 86-year-old Congress leader had become “completely unconscious” on Saturday afternoon after difficulty in breathing, Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said. He also suffered multiple organ failure, the minister confirmed.
Since Saturday, Gogoi has been on mechanical life support at the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, where a team of doctors is monitoring his health and efforts are being made to revive his organs with medicines and dialysis.
The GMCH doctors are in constant touch with experts from Delhi’s premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences who have ruled out the possibility of shifting Gogoi outside the state in this condition.
Tarun Gogoi’s son, Congress leader and MP Gaurav Gogoi, is at the hospital.
The three-time former Assam CM had tested positive for Covid-19 in August. On 26 October, he had thanked the medical team at Guwahati Medical College and Hospital including the specialists, doctors, nurses, staff, for their “excellent care for the past two months” and had said that he looked forward to continuing his recovery at home under medical supervision.
With agency inputs
Bharti Singh, her husband sent to judicial custody till 4 December
On Sunday, a court in Mumbai sent comedian Bharti Singh and her husband Haarsh Limbachiyaa to judicial custody till 4 December. The two were arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in connection with the alleged consumption of cannabis.
Before producing the couple in the court, the NCB took them to the hospital for medical examination.
Bharti Singh was held on Saturday while Haarsh Limbachiyaa was arrested a day later on Sunday.
“Charges of consumption of drugs have been invoked against them,” said Sameer Wankhede, Zonal Director of the NCB, Mumbai.
NCB on Saturday raided the production office and house of comedian Bharti Singh and recovered 86.5 grams of ganja (cannabis) from both places.
The NCB had earlier raided a place in Khar Danda area and nabbed a trafficker aged 21 years with various drugs including 15 blots of LSD (commercial quantity), ganja (40 grams), and Nitrazepam (psychotropic medicines). In follow up and in corroboration with previous inputs, the NCB raided the production office and house of comedian Bharti Singh.
This comes as the probe, which began from the drug case in connection with the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, continues to expand to the alleged drug abuse by Bollywood celebrities.
Recently, a raid was also conducted at the residence of actor Arjun Rampal, after which he and his girlfriend were summoned by the NCB for questioning in the matter.
With rise in respiratory diseases, Covid-hit Delhi in a health soup
Amid the massive spike in Covid-19 cases in the national capital, Delhi-NCR has another cause for big concern: Deadly smog and its health implications. With pollution seeing a big rise with the first hint of winter in the sight, health experts on Sunday said they have seen a substantial increase in patients with respiratory disorders in the Delhi-NCR region.
Air pollution is an important cause of worsening of respiratory disorders, including sinusitis, allergic rhinitis, bronchitis and respiratory difficulty in those patients who do not smoke or have pre-asthmatic conditions.
According to experts, air pollution also plays a significant role in making Covid infections worse. Dr Praveen Gupta, Director and Head, Neurology, Fortis Hospital in Gurugram told IANS: “Pollution has been identified as a leading cause of stroke and heart disease increasing the risk by 25 per cent in people who do not have risk factors for stroke or any heart ailment.”
“Exposure to high levels of air pollutants may cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, wheezing, coughing, breathing problems. Air pollution can also affect existing lung and heart conditions,” he added.
Smog can cause irritation in the eyes, throat and can damage the lungs, can also lead to fatigue, migraine, headaches, anxiety and depression.
“It can also worsen the skin, cause allergic disorders as well as significant hair problems,” Gupta added.
He has observed a 25 per cent increase in patients with respiratory disorders in the OPD in past weeks.
Dr. Puneet Khanna, HOD and consultant-Respiratory Medicine, HCMCT Manipal Hospitals in Delhi said that as the winter approaches, smog is exacerbated by low temperature and slow movement of air.
“Ground-level ozone O3 and PM2.5 play a significant role in the formation of smog. Besides industrial activities and public transportation, stubble burning and road dust are majorly responsible for smog in winters,” Khanna informed.
The vulnerable group include newborns and children, pregnant women, elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, diabetics, angina and cardiac diseases.
Peaks in air pollution often irritate the upper and lower respiratory system making it harder to breathe besides aggravating symptoms of asthma and COPD.
According to Dr. Khanna, even a small increase in air pollution leads to heavy rush in OPDs, increased emergency room visits, hospitalisations and deaths. Long-term risks include lung cancer and reduction in life expectancy.
“During smog periods, these people should avoid intense physical activity outdoors particularly in morning and evening hours. They should venture out if absolutely essential and preferably wear an N95 mask during peak hours,” he said.
Dr. Navneet Sood, Pulmonary Consultant, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital said that “the apparent effect of air amid Covid pandemic is creating more problems for people living in Delhi-NCR”.
“A comprehensive approach is needed to deal with the problem. Wear a mask whenever stepping out of the house, avoid going out early morning and late evening, follow every precaution related to Covid-19,” Sood advised.
With IANS inputs
Moderna may cost up to Rs 2,700 per dose, Sputnik V to be much less
Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel says that governments willing to purchase Covid-19 vaccine may have to shell out Rs 1,854 and Rs 2,744 per dose—depending on the size of the order.
Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel has said that governments seeking to purchase Moderna’s potential Covid-19 vaccine may have to shell out $25 and $37 per dose—which amounts to Rs 1,854 and Rs 2,744—depending on the size of the order. Bancel said that this would be a “fair price” and that the company was not interested in “maximum profit”.
However, on Sunday, the official Twitter handle for Russia’s Sputnik V tweeted that their vaccine will cost governments much less than that of Pfizer’s (estimated at Rs 1,446) and Moderna’s.
“Translating pharma lingo: the announced price of Pfizer of $19.50 and Moderna of $25-$37 per dose actually means their price of $39 and $50-$74 per person. Two doses are required per person for the Pfizer, Sputnik V and Moderna vaccines. The price of Sputnik V will be much lower,” said the tweet.
According to a spokesman for the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), RDIF is Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, the price of the Russian vaccine will be made public next week, TASS news agency reported.
Sputnik V is the world’s first registered vaccine against the Covid019 pandemic. It was developed by the Gamaleya National Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology of the Russian Health Ministry. However, it was officially registered and given regulatory approval by the Russian government ahead of large-scale clinical trials.
According to the Russian Health Ministry, these vaccines have proved their ability to form lasting immunity for a period of up to two years.
The third, post-registration, stage of clinical tests for the vaccine had begun on August 25 and the first batch of the vaccine was dispatched to Russian regions on September 12, said the TASS report.
Meanwhile, US pharma giant Moderna said last week that its vaccine has shown more than 94.5 per cent effectiveness in preliminary data from the company’s ongoing study. Before Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech had said that their vaccine candidate was found to be more than 90 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19.
Moderna is expecting to produce approximately 20 million doses of its mRNA-1273 vaccine by the end of 2020. The company said it remains on track to manufacture 500 million to 1 billion doses globally in 2021.
The Moderna CEO also said that his company was engaged in negotiations with the EU Commission for the delivery of its vaccine against Covid-19, adding that talks have been “constructive”, and that it was “only a matter of days” before the contract is signed.
On the other hand, Pfizer said on Friday that it was moving ahead with its request of asking the US regulators to grant emergency approval of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate.
Won’t back down: Australian PM rebuffs Chinese grievance list
A Chinese official gave a dossier to Australian media containing 14 grievances, saying: ‘If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy’.
Australia will not bow to pressure from China, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday after Beijing released a laundry list of complaints about the country. A Chinese official gave a dossier to Australian media containing 14 grievances, highlighting the increasingly fractious relationship between the two nations.
“If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy,” a Chinese government official reportedly told three prominent outlets on Wednesday.
Among the complaints are Australia’s strict foreign interference laws, the country’s ban on Huawei’s involvement in its 5G network and decisions that blocked Chinese investment projects on “national security grounds”.
PM Morrison said the “unofficial document” came from the Chinese embassy and would not stop Australia from setting “our own laws and our own rules according to our national interest”.
“We won’t be compromising on the fact that we will set what our foreign investment laws are or how we build our 5G telecommunications networks or how we run our systems of protecting against interference Australia’s way we run our country,” the Australian PM told Channel Nine.
The document also claimed Canberra had engaged in “incessant wanton interference” in China’s affairs while singling out Australia’s call for an independent inquiry into the origins of Covid-19. It accused Australia of “siding with the US’ anti-China campaign and spreading disinformation” about where the virus originated—a particularly sore point for Beijing.
Relations between China and Australia have reached a new low in recent months, leaving Australian government ministers unable to persuade Chinese counterparts to even accept their phone calls. The discord has left Australian exporters exposed as their largest trading partner places a series of retaliatory bans on agricultural goods including beef, barley and timber.
With agency inputs
Big B to do ‘Khushboo Gujarat Ki’ campaign around Kevadia
Amitabh Bachchan’s campaign will no longer be just about Kutch. The new tagline will be: ‘If you haven’t seen Kevadia, then you have not seen anything.’
Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister, he had a dream that Gujarat would become a tourism hub, now that dream is coming true. Gujarat’s tourist places have become world-famous, first after the development of Kutch and now the Statue of Unity and the development of Kevadia around it which is being considered to promote the campaign starring Amitabh Bachchan.
The ‘Khushboo Gujarat Ki’ campaign will no longer be just about Kutch. A senior government official said that the campaign is being planned around Kevadia. “If you haven’t seen Kevadia, then you have not seen anything,” the new tagline will say.
Sources reveal that the discussions have started that Big B is going to star in a new ad film to promote Kevadia’s tourism development around the Statue of Unity. The world’s tallest statue and the new attractions built around it have enhanced its tourism value.
The Gujarat government led by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani wants the ‘Khushboo Gujarat Ki’ campaign to attract the attention of the tourists from all over the world and this time only Kevadia would be there.
The earlier done ad films done for the campaign included Kutch, Gir, Buddhist Caves, Ambaji, Gujarati Handicraft, Saputara, Gujarat’s Architect Modhera’s Sun Temple and Ahmedabad. Since Kevadia has been revamped, the Gujarat government is now considering this campaign and shooting dates are likely to be announced soon. Once the campaign agreement and shooting dates are set, Amitabh Bachchan will come to Gujarat. Apart from the Statue of Unity in Kevadia, the veteran actor is likely to do jungle safari, river rafting and also visit Butterfly Garden. Amitabh Bachchan’s new ad film might be shot around these tourist spots.
Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated 17 projects in Kevadia. Preparations are going on to invite Big B for international branding.
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