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Analysing Essential Commodities Act: How it impacts common households

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On November 3, Bihar Chief minister Nitish Kumar encountered with an unusual embarrassment in Madhubani when onions were thrown at him during electoral campaigning. Onion prices virtually became an indicator to measure inflation for common people of India owing to its consumption by almost every household and its price volatility. Onion prices inherently shoves up food inflation and thus are the key factor in elections. In 1998, BJP lost Delhi election to Congress party because of steep onion price rise during their tenure.

In 2018, PM Narendra Modi had given an acronym TOP collectively for Tomatoes, Onions and Potatoes and intoned that effective price control regime for these horticultural produces is on top priority list for his government. Just before few days to Bihar elections, Central government reintroduced a stock limit on onions in order to control rising prices which already been crossed 80 Rs/kg in many cities. Before this, on 14th September, central government banned onion exports with a plan to import to arrest escalating price rise.

LACUNAS OF ESSENTIAL COMMODITIES ACT

Statutory measures are meant to ensure stability and certainty in price regulation of critical commodities such as onions, pulses and edible oilseeds over the period of time. In pursuance with this postulation, Essential Commodities Act was enacted in 1955 as a cushion against inflating essential commodity prices. It is in fact a product of Nehruvian pattern of economic management aimed at harmonious fusion of virtuous principles of socialism and capitalism.

It facilitated imposition of stock limits and seeks to control production, supply chain, distribution, trade and commerce of commodities by regulatory government interventions. This government intervention was exercised through ‘Direct participation’ (as a market maker or as buyer/supplier of goods and services) or ‘Indirect participation’ (in form of subsidy, taxation and imposition of charges) or use of price stabilization fund. It was all meant to prevent commodity hoarding for price manipulation, curbing black marketing of most essential foodstuffs and ensuring its smooth supply to masses.

The act has not explicitly defined the term ‘essential commodity’ but according to section 2(A) of the act, central government have power designate a particular commodity as essential one by putting it under schedule of this act. At present, there are seven commodities in schedule of the act. Ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution which enforces this act issues a notification from time to time to control the market prices of commodity. Central government, by using its powers under the Act, enables the state governments to issue ‘control orders’ which then inter-alia, regulate the movement of goods within and across states and fix stock limits.

WHY AMENDMENT WAS NECESSARY

This act was enacted when India was going through acute food grain scarcity. Diametrical change in productive capabilities over the years are responsible for achieving self-sufficiency from the level of scarcity. The production of wheat, rice and pulses has increased 10 times, 4 times and 2.5 times respectively between 1955-56 and 2018-19. This made certain provisions responsible for arresting steep price rise redundant to some extent.

Along with this, purpose behind this enactment diluted by political ambitions of executives who frequently invoked provisions of it sighting electoral calculations. Control orders issued under this act substantially amplified ripples in the market prices rather than smoothening them.

Unqualified government interventional powers in commodity market, legitimised by the statute had apparently stifled economic freedom of trade and thus dissuaded private sector players from participating actively in agricultural sector. It also dis-incentivized investments in storage and warehousing infrastructure due to unpredictable imposition of stock limits. In the absence control orders, traders would have stored part of procured commodity to ensure its uninterrupted supply at stable prices. Stock limit also hampered commodity trading on exchange platform since traders could not deliver promised quantity of commodity at future date.

Sometimes small traders need to hoard some stock owing to the nature of their operations. But stock control regime under this act applied universally over the range of agricultural activities. As a result of this, it was difficult to distinguish between genuine hoarders suffer at the cost of controlling manipulative price stock hoarders.

TRAJECTORY OF AMENDMENT

In order to ger rid of all these shortcomings, parliament amended this act multiple times to make it compatible with contemporary market scenarios. After economic reforms, this statute was further liberalised and government control over market prices diminished substantially from time to time. In 2002, Vajpayee government eliminated licensing and stock limits on certain commodities like coarse grains, rice, paddy wheat and edible oils. Global food crisis of 2006-07 reversed back liberalising trend to some extent and brought back certain provisions owing to sharp rise in wheat prices.

Economic Survey of 2019-20 dedicated chapter 4 of volume-I to the distortions in India’s agricultural economy. In particular, it noted that “blanket stock limits on commodities under Essential Commodities Act (ECA) neither brings down prices nor reduces price volatility”. Further it also observed that, “ECA only seems to enable rent-seeking and harassment”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan (Self-reliant India Mission) campaign in order to stimulate economic growth stumbled due to global Covid-19 pandemic in the month of May. In the Third tranche of the mission corpus of Rs 1,50,000 Cr allocated eyeing on strengthening of agricultural market in concurrence with administrative and legislative reforms.

WHAT ESSENTIAL COMMODITIES (AMENDMENT) ACT, 2020 SOUGHT TO CHANGE

To give effects to recommendations by various committees for reforming statute, President promulgated an ordinance on 5th June which later on reintroduced as a bill and became The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 after passing by both the houses of the parliament on 22nd September.

This amendment added new subsection 1(A) under section 3 of the act. Under this section, supply of certain foodstuffs can be regulated only under unexpected circumstances such as Extraordinary price rise, War, Famine and Natural calamity of severe nature.

Further, it also envisaged ‘price trigger clause’ which laid down clear cut criteria to interpret ‘extraordinary price rise’ situation in order to prevent executives from invoking the clause sighting political objectives. It mandated price rise of 100% increase in retail price for perishables and 50% increase for non-perishables over preceding 12 months or average of last 5 years, whichever is lower to invoke ‘price trigger clause’.

This amendment also exempted processor of agricultural produce and value chain participant of any agricultural produce from orders regulating stock limit.

POSSIBLE EFFECTS OF AMENDMENT

One of the prime motives of government behind this amendment was to further ease of doing business by enhancing economic freedom and deregulating agricultural sector. India currently ranking at 105th position in Global Economic Freedom Index 2020 and 63rd in Ease of doing business index 2020. This amendment has potential to improve India’s ranking further.

It will also support development of commodity futures markets as doing away with control orders will facilitate traders to engage in speculative trading and provide a better basis for private storage in order to avoid ‘peaks’ and ‘troughs’ in prices.

Freeing chunk of agricultural sector from government control can ensure better price realisation for farmers can attract more investment. As a consequence of this, agricultural sector would become more integrated, competitive, efficient and productive. It will remove fear from the minds of private investors of excessive regulatory interference and their private investment would help in overcoming challenges of poor infrastructure and fragmented agricultural market.

SCOPE FOR FURTHER IMPROVEMENT

Despite bringing more clarity and objectivity in provisions of the act there are some issues that needs to be dealt with. Terms like ‘extraordinary circumstances’, ‘extraordinary price rise’ or ‘natural calamity of grave nature’ are inherently subjective in nature and it may ensue interpretational disputes.

‘Price trigger clause’ has its own limitations while measuring ‘extraordinary price rise’ as dynamic nature of monsoon and pest attacks will lead to its frequent invocation. Monsoon failures of 2014-15 and 2015-16, excessive rain for Soyabean crop and Fall Armyworm attack on maize this year comfortably satisfies price trigger clause criteria. This can make amendments superficial as it would be difficult to curb government intervention in free market.

Terms like ‘horticultural produce’ or ‘perishable agricultural foodstuff’ are also subjective in nature leading to disputes as each state have different approach towards commodity owing to local climatic conditions.

State governments exercise their power in implementing provisions of this act which may result into conflict between states. It may hamper universal application of price measures across the length and breadth of country.

Government also need to robust data and price collection system at APMCs as well as at Private storages in order to make vibrant decisions for effective management of commodities.

CONCLUSION

Government of India envisioned doubling farmers income by 2022-23 in concurrence with promotion of farmers’ welfare, reduce agrarian distress and bring parity between income of farmers and those working in non-agricultural professions. Amendments to this act is certainly a positive step in this direction.

Government have capability to ensure a fair price to farmers and to keep hoarding and undue price rise by unscrupulous elements in check but this should be done with minimum free market distortion.

Reforms brought by successive amendments to the act are welcome and are responsible for addressing need of the time but there is wide scope for continuing reformative trend.

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Policy & Politics

National Education Policy: Govt aims to save Rs 2 lakh crore spent by Indian students abroad

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There are almost 8 lakh Indian students studying in various foreign universities and spend on an average Rs 2 lakh crores every year in fees and other expenses. The government is taking steps to ensure that quality education and similar facilities are provided in India itself so that these students are retained here, stated Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’, Union Minister of Education, Government of India. He was speaking at the 14th NATIONAL EDUCATION SUMMIT 2021 – NEP 2020 – ‘Transforming Educational Landscape of the Nation and Carving a Road Map for Implementation’ organized by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).

The minister stated that the education ministry is in talks with more than 128 foreign universities on ways to collaborate so that similar facilities can be given to the students here as well. “We have already got more than 50000 student registrations and there are already almost 1000 students involved in research and development in India,” he said.

According to Dr Pokhriyal, the government of India ensured that even during the lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic, none of the students lost an academic year due to the non-accessibility of academic facilities.

“Almost 33 crore students across the country were able to get online education. Even in remote villages, the education institutes ensured that students could get access to their studies through radios and rooftop loudspeakers,” he said.

Speaking on the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020, the minister explained that till class 5, students would be able to get an education in their mother tongue or the language of their preference. “The Education facilities in India would get a huge boost with the introduction of the NEP. This would also help in the promotion of Local languages for education,” he said.

Dr Pokhriyal also asked the Industry representative to collaborate with educational institutes to help design the curriculum.

“Education is the most important pillar for any economy. Once the industries collaborate with the educational institutes, the curriculum can be designed in a way where the students can also gain industrial experience as a part of their studies,” he informed.

Professor Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science & Technology (DST) explains that the education system should be designed as a means of achieving creativity and skill development.

“NEP 2020 aims to achieve that. The education curriculum should be aligned with the needs of the industry. Its objective should be to help in problem-solving of the society,” he said.

According to Prof. Sharma, setting up of the National Research Foundation would also help in building the research capacity of the universities and colleges in the country. “The government has also earmarked a huge budget of Rs 50000 crores to spend over the period of 5 years for the creation of the National Research Foundation (NRF). This in turn will help in funding the research in the range of disciplines right from science and technology to humanities,” he added.

Kunwar Shekhar Vijendra, Co-Chairman, National Council on Education & Chancellor, Shobhit University explained that the National Education Policy will connect the past with the future with a focus on excelling in the education sector.

“The National Research Fund and the National Technical Research Organization will bring big changes in the research and development ecosystem of the country and will be more inclusive. National Education Policy will play a crucial role in bridging the gap between research and education,” he said.

According to Prof Ashutosh Sharma, setting up of the National Research Foundation would help in building the research capacity of universities and colleges in the country. “The government has also earmarked a huge budget of Rs 50,000 crore to spend over the period of 5 years for the creation of the National Research Foundation. This in turn will help in funding the research in the range of disciplines right from science and technology to humanities,” he added.

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Policy & Politics

The 21st century belongs to young India, country poised to become R&D capital: Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’

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Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’, Union Minister of Education, Govt of India today said that as universities and Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) move towards academic reforms, an ecosystem that is both flexible and innovative is being created. “As we move towards self-reliance, it is important that we rediscover the ancient knowledge and tradition of education system of India.

Addressing the inaugural of the 16th FICCI Higher Education Summit 2021, organised in collaboration with the Union Ministry of Education and Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Mr Pokhriyal said that “India is poised to become the R&D capital of the world not because of the cost advantage but due to the rich and intelligent human capital that the country is bestowed with.

“Built on the foundational pillars of access, equity, quality, affordability and accountability, the Minister said that the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is aligned to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and aims to transform India into a vibrant knowledge society and a global knowledge superpower,” Dr Pokhrialsaid.

In the next 20-30 years, the energy and talent of young India will be used in the development of the nation and advancing the world. The 21st century belongs to Young India,” he said.

I firmly believe that NEP 2020 has been formulated for the rise of the nation- the nation of ancient world class universities of Nalanda, Takshashila, Vikramshila, among others; the nation that was the ‘VishwaGuru’ (global leader). India has been pioneers in fields of medicine, mathematics and chemistry, yoga. We want India to rediscover the ancient knowledge and tradition of the education system of India and rise to newer heights as far as education, R&D and innovation is concerned, Dr Pokhrial said.

Further, elaborating on the NEP 2020, the Minister added that the NEP and its implementation has drawn global attention to India. The Cambridge University, in its message of appreciation for the NEP 2020 has said that India, aided by NEP 2020 is set to regain its stature of world leaders in education.

“The NEP will ensure that India can appreciate and utilise the talents of the youth of our country,” he said. Dr Pokhriyal also spoke about the importance of retaining talent in the country. The ministry is trying to curb the brain drain and intends of taking higher education gross enrolment ratio to 50 per cent, he said.

Talking about the importance of the involvement of the private sector, the Minister said that while the government formulates policies, it is up to the private bodies and institutions to implement and execute the same. The government, he said, looks towards a greater private participation in the education sector by planning to convert 30 universities into Institutes of Eminence (IoEs) from the existing 20.

Lauding the FICCI Higher Education Summit, Dr Pokhriyal said that over the years, the summit has evolved into a thought leadership forum and brings together key stakeholders including, policymakers, educationists, industry and students for deliberations and knowledge sharing at both national and international levels.

Padma Vibhushan Dr RA Mashelkar, National Research Professor and Chancellor of Institute of Chemical Technology said that from ‘Right to Education’ we must move to ‘Digital Rights Education’. “This digital disruption will change the fundamentals of the legacy education system; hence, we must take advantage of that. Coupling future of jobs with future of education; a seamless system of linking education, research and innovation and finally borderless multidisciplinary education is the need of the hour,” he said.

Speaking at the inaugural, Mr Uday Shankar, President, FICCI said that the radical changes in the education sector have placed learners at the centre and shifted the focus from teaching to learning through digital modes.

“However, with its 672 million young population, preparing to join the workforce and citizenry for the new order society requires massive disruption and of rethinking the traditional educational model. Jobs will have to be created to gainfully employ 100 million youth who will enter the job market over the next decade,” Mr Shankarsaid.

However, Mr Shankar further said that this challenge is not an easy one. “It requires the best of technology, the best of minds, but it also requires an enabling policy framework that thinks of education very differently,” he added.

Over the years, said Mr Shankar, education has gained interrupted focus of the government and policy interventions. “The NEP 2020 released by the government is a powerful document. It conveys a clear bias for a disruptive change and takes into cognizance the issues of equitability, inclusivity, accessibility, exploratory and experimental- all ingredients required for transforming into Education 4.0 and beyond.

“We should give serious consideration to participation from the private sector into unlocking the real value in education,” he further added.

Dr Vidya Yeravdekar, Chair, FICCI Higher Education Committee and Pro-Chancellor Symbiosis, International University said that it is imperative that all stakeholders work together in these (COVID) times. “The government, universities, teachers, students, and civil societies that will absorb our students need to come together. The NEP 2020 has carved a new path for all of us. The world is watching this transformation of the Indian education system,” she said.

The govt is now in the process of implementing the NEP and this implementation has gained a lot of momentum. “We will see a lot of changes in our education system right from this academic year,” she said.

Dr Sekar Viswanathan, Co-Chair, FICCI Higher Education Committee and VP, VIT University informed that more than 3,000 delegates, including 300+ foreign delegates from 74 countries are participating in the virtual summit. “This conference is an attempt to deliberate upon and understand the system changes that are required to develop a higher education ecosystem that instils resilience, encourages innovation, promotes sustainability, and enables students and workforce to be enterprising to face the disruptive future,” he said.

Mr Dilip Chenoy, Secretary General, FICCI thanked the Minister for the extensive consultation process that went into framing the NEP. “The consultation processes and the task force that had been created to execute the NEP will successfully engage with the industry,” he said.

FICCI EY Report, ‘Higher Education in India: 2040’, was also released at the event. The report, while defining Education 4.0 in the current context, has highlighted the significant emerging trends within the higher education sector and drawn learnings and highlighted global best practices.

Dr Rupamanjari Ghosh, Co-Chair, FICCI Higher Education Committee and Vice Chancellor, Shiv Nadar University; Dr Rajan Saxena, Advisor, FICCI Higher Education Committee and Founder, The Open-Ed Works attended the session.

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Policy & Politics

New Development Financial Institution should balance between infrastructure and development needs

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her Budget speech, said that a Bill would be introduced to set up a DFI and Rs 20,000 crore would be provided to capitalise the institution. ‘The ambition is to have a lending portfolio of at least Rs 5 lakh crore for this DFI in three years’ time,’ she said.

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Professor Stephany Griffith-Jones, Financial Markets Director, Initiative for Policy Dialogue, Columbia University, said that the focus on DFIs now is on helping countries to achieve ‘green growth’, promote innovation, provide counter-cyclical finance not just to the infrastructure sector but also crucial areas.

Former Deputy Governor of the RBI, Rakesh Mohan, on Friday suggested that the proposed new Development Financial Institution (DFI) needs to attract ‘patient capital’ investors as well as leading experts on its board and in top management. Mohan, who was also a former Executive Director at the IMF, made these comments during a webinar organised by the think-tank Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) and India International Centre.

It comes in the backdrop of the Union Budget 2021-2022 recognising the long-term debt financing needs of the infrastructure sector and proposing a “professionally managed” DFI “to act as a provider, enabler and catalyst for infrastructure financing”. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her Budget speech, had also said that a Bill will be introduced to set up a DFI and provided Rs 20,000 crore to capitalise the institution. “The ambition is to have a lending portfolio of at least Rs 5 lakh crore for this DFI in three years-time,” she had said. Later, Financial Services Secretary Debasish Panda had reportedly said India Infrastructure Finance Company Limited could be subsumed into the new DFI – the National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development. The proposed DFI will also play a crucial role in realising the National Infrastructure Pipeline, under which around 7,000 projects have been identified with an estimated Rs 111 lakh crore-worth of investment between 2020 and 2025.

Rakesh Mohan also proposed that the new DFI should be headquartered in Mumbai, India’s financial capital. The first CEO or CMD of the proposed DFI should be a person with India’s best interests in mind.

Echoing Mohan, former Deputy Governor of RBI Shyamala Gopinath also said there should be an emphasis on good governance. In addition, there is a need to focus on issues such as contract enforcement and project bankability, she said.

Speaking on the occasion, former Executive Director of IDBI, G. A. Tadas, said the Budget proposal of providing Rs 20,000 crore to capitalise the institution will not be sufficient to finance infrastructure projects to the tune of Rs 111 lakh crore by 2025 and help the country to be a USD 5 trillion economy. The initial capital for the DFI needs to be augmented to at least Rs 50,000-60,000 crore to achieve a portfolio of around Rs 5 lakh crore in the next three years, he added. He said there has to be an emphasis on a robust risk management System.

Professor Stephany Griffith-Jones, Financial Markets Director, Initiative for Policy Dialogue, Columbia University, said the focus on DFIs now is on helping countries to achieve ‘green growth’, promote innovation, provide counter-cyclical finance not just to the infrastructure sector but also crucial areas such as health and other social sectors. Larger number of DFIs can have greater impact, she said, adding that post the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, the DFIs have seen a renaissance.

Professor Sachin Chaturvedi, Director General, RIS and Professor Milindo Chakrabarti, Visiting Fellow, RIS, also spoke during the programme.

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Policy & Politics

Bank account & property will be seized for violation of GST rule

Bharat vyapar bandh on 26 February on the call of CAIT .

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The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has called for a Bharat Vyapar Bandh on February 26, and the trade organizations in all the states of the country have decided to join the bandh. CAIT has called for a Bharat Vyapar Bandh, against the recent amendments to the GST rules as it is adverse to business and demanding a ban on e-commerce company Amazon immediately.

CAIT National President B C Bhartia & Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal said that said that on February 26, “Dharna” will be organized at about 1500 places across the country, including Delhi, to raise traders voice against the unjustified amendments in GST rules and traders across Country will not login GST portal on Bandh day as a mark of protest . They said that most of the leading trade organisations in different states of the Country both at national and state level including Delhi have decided to join the vyapar bandh, while some other organizations will also announce their support by this evening.

Bhartia and Khandelwal told that Bharat Vyapar Bandh of traders will be rational and peaceful across the country. While wholesale and retail markets will remain completely closed, shops selling essential commodities have not been included in the shutdown in view of the need of the citizens of the country. Shops which cater to the needs of people in residential colonies have also been kept out of the bandh. They said that shutting down vyapar even for a day was never the intention of the traders but it is the changed format of GST which has forces us for holding a day long Bandh. GST tax system has become very complex rather than simplified and is completely contradict the original declared vision & purpose of GST implementation, which has now become a never ending cycle of huge compliance’s.Instead of simplifying and rationalizing the tax system, the GST Council is working towards imposing maximum burden of tax on traders, which is grossly undemocratic.

Bhartia and Khandelwal said that after amendment in the current rules, the tax officer has been given unlimited rights to many things because of which now the GST registration of any trader will be in hands of the tax officer and he can cancel it even without giving any notice or opportunity of hearing, he can also seize the traders bank accounts and property, also Input credit of tax paid to traders can be blocked. Such provisions will discourage traders and create many obstacles in doing business.

CAIT Delhi State President Vipin Ahuja & State General Secretary Dev Raj Baweja said that the trade associations connected to scooter parts, electrical goods, medicines, computers and computer accessories, chemical, paint chemicals, bicycles, toys, papers, stationary in Delhi , Iron and Hardware, Sanitary Goods, Iron Trade, Jewelery, Rubber Plastics, FMCG Goods, Cosmetics, Readymade Garment, Wood & Plywood, Building Materials, Grocery, Oil, Spices, Food, Electronics, Mobile, Furnishing Fabric, Gift Items, Photo , General store, tarpaulins, ferro alloys, acrylic, aluminum, metal, machinery, marble, radio and radio parts, cement, file and envelope makers, handloom and handloom fabrics, metal scrap, agricultural implements, in Delhi and all over the Country have declared their support to Bharat Vyapar Bandh.

CAIT national president B.C. Bhartia and secretary general Praveen Khandelwal said that on 26 February “dharna” will be organised at about 1,500 places across the country, including Delhi, to raise traders’ voice against the unjustified amendments in GST rules and traders across the country will not login GST portal on that day as a mark of protest .

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Policy & Politics

Government aims to become self-reliant in silk sector in two years

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Smriti Zubin Irani, Union Minister of Textiles and Women & Child Development Government of India today said that the recent Budget has brought cheer to the textile industry with the announcement of seven mega textile parks. Additionally, INR 10,000 crores have been dedicated by the Govt of India for PLI schemes, specially dedicated to MMF and technical textiles.

Addressing the inaugural session of the Karnataka VastraTek – Apparel & Textile Conclave organised by the Department of Handloom and Textiles, Govt of Karnataka in association with FICCI Karnataka State Council, Ms Irani elaborated on the growth of the silk sector in the state, Ms Irani said that Karnataka reigns in the realm of silk. “Under the Silk Samagra Program, the Govt of India dedicated specifically over INR 2,000 crores for the development of silk. I am hopeful that the industry gives the state of Karnataka ideas, proposals or initiatives that can make our country Atmanirbhar in silk. We in the Ministry of Textiles are looking at the next two years to ensure that India is self-reliant in the space of silk,” she said.

“Just reducing the produce line to saris and garments would be doing a great injustice to the potential of the silk sector. We are aware that silk, especially the waste of a cocoon can be used by pharma and cosmetic companies. We are hopeful that industry captains can suggest usage of silk waste to help elaborate our production line or elaborate our diversification prospects, Ms Irani added.

On the future of textiles in the state of Karnataka, the Minister said that the MSP operations for cotton procurement by the Cotton Cooperation of India has touched over INR 359 crores in the state. “From 2014-15 to this year, the Ministry of Textiles has extended support of over INR 1,622 crores only for cotton procurement and MSP operations benefiting over 1.67 lakh farmers,” she said.

Highlighting the importance of the handicrafts sector, the Minister said that Pehchaan Cards were distributed to over 26,000 artisans. The latest handloom census has brought to light that there are over 50,000 weavers in Karnataka who are looking at new opportunities digitally to expand their markets. She further suggested that on lines of the GeM portal that has brought on-board over 1,50,000 weavers from across the country, a similar digital opportunity is given to the marketing of artisans and weavers of Karnataka.

The textile and the apparel sector were tested as an industry during the COVID times and we rose to that challenge nationally and internationally by becoming the second largest manufacturers of PPE suits. “The fact that we could turn around our manufacturing processes in less than 60 days to meet the immediate need of our country speaks volume and is a testimony to the talent of the textile industry,” she added.

Mr Shrimanth Balasaheb Patil, Minister of Handloom and Textile & Minority Welfare Department, Government of Karnataka said that the state was first state to implement a dedicated textile policy and has been an inspiration to other states in the country for the same. The Doddabalapur Integrated Textile Park is the first integrated textile park of the country spread across 48 acres of land and has over 85 units focused on weaving, warping, among others and has generated employment for over 8000 people.

“The Govt of Karnataka is committed to providing world class facilities with easy access to railways, airports and ports for the smooth export of goods and materials. The new Textile and Apparel Policy 2019-2024 has been formulated keeping industrial requirements in mind and the incentives provided is the best in the country. With constant monitoring, the sector will be able to tide over the difficult situation induced by the pandemic,” he said.

Mr Ullas Kamath, Chairman, FICCI Karnataka State Council & Joint Managing Director, Jyothy Labs Ltd said that the special emphasis given by the union budget 2021 to the textile and apparel sector to set up large textile parks are extremely important.

“Very few countries can boast of robust textile value chains that India has. Karnataka has been one of the key states of apparel and garment supplies to both domestic and international markets and the textile industry occupies key position in terms of its contribution to the state’s economy. The policy intervention by the Govt of Karnataka have created thriving manufacturing clusters.” he said.

The FICCI Karnataka State Council has been taking sector specific initiatives to improve industry performance. For the textile and apparel sector we are forming a subcommittee with leading garment manufacturers and this will certainly help to bring more vibrancy, he added.

Dr A Sakthivel, Chairman, Apparel Export Promotion Council (APEC) said that with the support and help extended by the Centre during in the last year, India became the second largest manufacturers of medical textile.

“Karnataka plays a vital role in apparel exports and does about INR 17,000 cr worth of exports per year. The state govt should utilise the PLI scheme and promote MMF garments in a big way, he said. There is a need for plug and play facilities for apparel manufacturing and processing, he suggested.

Speaking on the industry’s role, Mr R D Udeshi, President, Reliance Industries Limited said, “The time has come for the industry to come forward and be aggressive for reinvestment and become one of the major manufacturing hubs in the global arena. We, as an industry, have proved ourselves during the pandemic. From importing PPE suits to manufacturing and exporting the same, this has proved that the industry has the willpower and manufacturing excellence.”

Mr Jacob John, President – Premium Brands, Adithya Birla Fashion & Retail Limited said that the retail sector is pleased to see business bouncing back after a prolonged crisis induced by the pandemic. “With the steps taken by the govt, we expect business to attain normalcy by Q2 of FY22,” he said.

Mr Siddhartha Agarwal, Co-Chair, FICCI Karnataka State Council and Managing Director, Bhoruka Park Private Limited delivered the vote of thanks and said that the conclave had been organised against the background of the new state textile policy unveiled by the Govt of Karnataka.

On the future of textiles in Karnataka, the minister said that the MSP operations for cotton procurement by the Cotton Cooperation of India has touched over Rs 359 crore in the state. ‘From 2014-15 to this year, the Ministry of Textiles has extended support of over Rs 1,622 crore only for cotton procurement and MSP operations benefiting over 1.67 lakh farmers,” she said.

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Policy & Politics

India and Mauritius sign comprehensive economic cooperation and partnership agreement

As regards trade in services, Indian service providers will have access to around 115 sub-sectors from the 11 broad service sectors, such as professional services, computer related services, research & development, other business services, telecommunication, construction, distribution, education, environmental, financial, tourism & travel related, recreational, yoga, audio-visual services, and transport services.

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Dr Anup Wadhawan, Commerce Secretary, Government of India, and Ambassador Mr. Haymandoyal Dillum, Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade, Government of Mauritius signed the India-Mauritius Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA)  in Port Louis yesterday, in the august presence of Prime Minister of Mauritius Mr Pravind Jugnauth, and External Affairs Minister, Govt of India, Mr S. Jaishankar.

CECPA is the first trade Agreement signed by India with a country in Africa. The Agreement is a limited agreement, which will cover Trade in Goods, Rules of Origin, Trade in Services, Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures, Dispute Settlement, Movement of Natural Persons, Telecom, Financial services, Customs Procedures and Cooperation in other Areas

Impact/benefits: CECPA provides for an institutional mechanism to encourage and improve trade between the two countries. The CECPA between India and Mauritius covers 310 export items for India, including food stuff and beverages (80 lines), agricultural products (25 lines), textile and textile articles (27 lines), base metals and articles thereof (32 lines), electricals and electronic item (13 lines), plastics and chemicals (20 lines), wood and articles thereof (15 lines), and others. Mauritius will benefit from preferential market access into India for its 615 products, including frozen fish, speciality sugar, biscuits, fresh fruits, juices, mineral water, beer, alcoholic drinks, soaps, bags, medical and surgical equipment, and apparel.

 As regards trade in services, Indian service providers will have access to around 115 sub-sectors from the 11 broad service sectors, such as professional services, computer related services, research & development, other business services, telecommunication, construction, distribution, education, environmental, financial, tourism & travel related, recreational, yoga, audio-visual services, and transport services.

 India has offered around 95 sub-sectors from the 11 broad services sectors, including professional services, R&D, other business services, telecommunication, financial, distribution, higher education, environmental, health, tourism and travel related services, recreational services and transport services.

Both sides have also agreed to negotiate an Automatic Trigger Safeguard Mechanism (ATSM) for a limited number of highly sensitive products within two years of the Signing of the Agreement.

Timelines: The Agreement will come into force at an early date.

The India-Mauritius CECPA will further cement the already deep and special relations between the two countries.

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