The Union government has taken a serious note of a surge in the illegal transfer of raw incense sticks from Vietnam to India under the garb of import of joss powder, which attracts zero per cent duty and is a raw material used in making “agarbatti” (incense sticks), ever since the import of such sticks was put under the “restricted category” in August 2019 by India.
According to highly-placed government sources, the surge in the import of supposedly joss powder from Vietnam – which has led to revenue loss to the exchequer due to import duty evasion as well as loss of employment in joss-sticks manufacturing units — has prompted the authorities to hunt for the smuggling cartel operating in India apart from Vietnam, and may even order a CBI probe in the coming days.
Joss powder is used in a very small quantity in making incense sticks. For making 1,000 incense sticks, 500 gm charcoal powder, 400 gm wood powder, 300 gm bamboo sticks and only 100 gm joss powder are required.
The sources said that after the government put the raw incense sticks under the restricted category on 31 August last year to check imports from China and Vietnam, it noticed a four-fold spike in joss powder import from Vietnam in four months thereafter even as import of raw incense sticks declined to certain extent.
Citing the figures on joss powder imports from January to August 2019, the source said that only 5,749 metric tonnes at an average of 718 metric tonnes per month was imported. However, after August 2019, in the first four months, the import of joss powder from Vietnam saw a surge to 10,436 metric tonnes at an average of 2,609 MT per month.
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Late-life exercise shows rejuvenating effects on cellular level: Study
The pandemic has made the role of exercise in people’s lives even more poignant than before. Amidst this, a new study has suggested that exercise, even if not adopted until later in life, can slow the effects of ageing.
The study, published in ‘Aging Cell’, named, “Late-life exercise mitigates skeletal muscle epigenetic ageing,” suggested this could be the case. The paper was written by a team of seven researchers across three institutions, including Kevin Murach, an assistant professor in the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation at the U of A. Murach’s grant from the National Institute of Health funded the study, and he was one of three co-first authors.
While the paper is dense with data, reflecting the use of several analytic tools, the experiment that generated the data was relatively straightforward. Lab mice nearing the end of their natural lifespan, at 22 months, were allowed access to a weighted exercise wheel. Generally, mice required no coercion to run and would do so voluntarily.
Older mice would run anywhere from six to eight kilometres a day, mostly in spurts, while younger mice might run up to 10-12 kilometres. The weighted wheel ensured they built muscle. While there was not a direct analogue to most human exercise routines, Murach likened it to “a soldier carrying a heavy backpack many miles.”
When the mice were studied after two months of progressive weighted wheel running, it was determined that they were the epigenetic age of mice eight weeks younger than sedentary mice of the same age 24 months. Murach noted that while the specific strain of mice and their housing conditions could impact lifespans, “historically, they start dropping off after 24 months at a significant rate.” Needless to say when one’s lifespan is measured in months, an extra eight weeks roughly 10 per cent of that lifespan is a noteworthy gain.
The science behind this, while complicated, hinged largely on a biological process known as DNA methylation. A recent New York Times article discussing Murach’s work on muscle memory described methylation “as a process in which clusters of atoms, called methyl groups, attach themselves to the outside of genes like minuscule barnacles, making the genes more or less likely to turn on and produce particular proteins.”
As the body starts ageing, there tends to be increased DNA methylation, or even hypermethylation, at promoter sites on genes in muscle. “DNA methylation changes in a lifespan tend to happen in a somewhat systematic fashion,” Murach explained, “to the point you can look at someone’s DNA from a given tissue sample and with a fair degree of accuracy predict their chronological age.” Due to this, researchers could use one of a number of “methylation clocks” to determine the age of a DNA sample.
While the paper strengthened the case for exercise, there was still much that needed to be learned. Though the connection between methylation and ageing was clear, the connection between methylation and muscle function was less clear. Murach was not yet prepared to say that the reversal of methylation with exercise was causative for improved muscle health. “That’s not what the study was set up to do,” he explained. However, he intended to pursue future studies to determine if “changes in methylation result in altered muscle function.”
“If so, what are the consequences of this?” he continued. “Do changes on these very specific methylation sites have an actual phenotype that emerges from that? Is it what is causing ageing or is it just associated with it? Is it just something that happens in concert with a variety of other things that are happening during the ageing process? So that’s what we don’t know.”
GOA SHOWCASES INVESTMENT-FRIENDLY POLICIES TO GLOBAL INVESTORS AT EXPO-2020 DUBAI
The Goa Week at India Pavilion, EXPO2020 Dubai concluded on January 20, 2022. J Ashok Kumar, Secretary to Chief Minister, Sports & Youth Affairs, Tourism, Industries Trade & Commerce, Handicrafts Textile & Coir, Government of Goa and Dr Aman Puri, Consul General of India in Dubai and Deputy Commissioner General of India at EXPO2020 inaugurated the state’s floor on January 14 2022.
The state has successfully highlighted its business potential across sectors such as Tourism & Hospitality, Pharmaceuticals & Biotechnology, Agro-based and Food Processing Industries. Dr Puri also presided over other key events of the state.
The delegation, led by J Ashok Kumar held various business meetings with global investors showcasing the investment-friendly policies and the availability of skilled labour in the state.
Talking about Goa’s participation at EXPO2020 Dubai, J Ashok Kumar, said, “The state’s participation at the EXPO2020 was a great success. The Goa delegation had the opportunity to visit several other country pavilions as well as meet with key investors of the region. We look forward to building upon the relationships that we were able to establish in this brief time and host interested investors in Goa soon. My special congratulations to team India for their hard work.”
The Goa delegation also met with Indian Business & Professional Council (IBPC) that resulted in a potential for investment collaboration with the state. The meeting was attended by J Ashok Kumar, Secretary to Chief Minister, Sports & Youth Affairs, Tourism, Industries Trade & Commerce, Handicrafts Textile & Coir, Sanjay Kumar, Secretary – Revenue, Information Technology, Labour & Employment and Swetika Sachan, Director, Directorate of Industries, Government of Goa, at the India Pavilion Dubai EXPO2020, Dilip Sinha, Secretary-General, IBPC along with other distinguished members of IBPC.
Sanjay Kumar, Secretary – Revenue, Information Technology, Labour & Employment said, “The Expo is a marvellous exhibition of the technologies of not only today but also the future. Through our interactions with other delegates, investors, and innovators, we see the endless opportunities and will strive to implement their suggestions back home in the short term, while planning for the long term.”
Swetika Sachan, CEO, Goa Investment Promotion and Facilitation Board said, “The Dubai EXPO2020 has become a great place for countries to come together and pave the way for innovation and advancement. The state of Goa participated to showcase its business potential in the fields of Tourism, Financial Service, Pharmaceuticals, and Biotechnology to global investors. We actively engaged with the business community of Dubai to strengthen our ties and reassured them of our commitment towards ease of doing business. Personally, I am excited about the investment opportunities that will make a difference in the lives of the people of Goa.”
Besides the focus sectors, the state of Goa also showcased its prowess in the start-up segment. Goa is the first state in India to have two consecutive start-up policies with a supportive ecosystem. It is also one of the most preferred destinations for start-ups across industries. The IT Policy 2017 and Start-up Policy 2021 offer attractive incentive packages to the budding start-ups in the state.
Goa is the smallest state in the country with a rich heritage, serene atmosphere and well-developed infrastructure. Goa’s economic growth is driven by the strong performance of its industrial sectors such as tourism, fishing, agriculture and pharmaceuticals.
Tourism is the backbone of the state’s economy, with 40 per cent of the population directly or indirectly dependent on it. The state has recently framed a new tourism policy to offer a uniquely Goan experience to visitors by presenting a versatile concoction of historic, natural, ethnic, cultural locations and attractions. Besides Tourism, the state is also expanding its presence in sectors such as Light Engineering and R&D, Aviation and Technology.
SIMPLIFICATION IS THE STATE OF UNDERSTANDING: MANISH SHARMA
In this exclusive conversation, he spoke to us about his work life experiences, his company Saarathi and much more.
Manish Sharma, CBO, Saarathi, recently joined NewsX for an enriching chat as part of NewsX India A-List. In the exclusive conversation, he spoke to us about his work-life experiences, his company Saarathi and much more. Read excerpts:
Talking about his educational background, Manish said, “Little over two decades I started from BITS Pilani and started my career with Honda in Delhi. Then I started working for this large biotech company Genentech, the number 1 company in the Fortune hundred best companies to work for at that time. After that, I had the pleasure of working for Apple right before the iPhone was launched. But I always wanted to come back to India, do something meaningful here. Therefore, I came back to head operations for Blackberry, move back to Apple and be in the team that built the very first iPhone. Then it was Microsoft, very humble under the leadership of Satya Nadella and so much to learn from them.”
“I then decided to do something big in India. Right now we are working on a platform that is a digital lending marketplace. I feel like it is going to make a big difference to how India lending is and I am super excited”, he added.
Sharing his experience with working with such prominent organizations, Manish revealed, “I think my experience with Honda was all about quality and that quality comes first. With Genentech, I learned that if you put the customer in the centre, every business strategy is around it. To me, the two things that are always taken to heart are, first one from Apple was simplify. Simplification is the state of understanding. Then with Microsoft, I learned that you can’t win it all alone and having a partnership DNA is what would actually make you succeed in this world.”
Giving us an insight about his company Saarathi, the CBO said, “At Saarathi our vision is to bridge the credit gap in India. We want to focus on the offline channel and transform it digitally. For all lending products, people need assistance or expertise before choosing one. Moreover, typically a direct sales agent makes that decision for you. Now, if that agent is not digitally sound, then they are not going to be able to do it effectively and for many people. What we do is, we pull that intelligence that lies with the bank back into the channel so that the channel is intelligent and can reach out to people. And that is how we will bring credit access to a much higher level than now.”
Talking about how he builds trust among people when his business involves credit, Manish exclaimed, “To me insights and bringing actual data closer to the person instead of verbal advice makes the trust much higher. What we are enabling through digital means is that we provide complete transparency of information. And when that happens, the trust automatically comes in.”
Sharing his mantra for a better future, Manish said, “Everything revolves around creating a great team. Respecting talent and loving people is also important here.”
HOW POWDER BASED CLEANSERS AND PRODUCTS ARE MAKING THEIR WAY UP
Powder cleanser gives a better, deeper cleanse and light exfoliation to gently resurface the skin. It also has nourishing and healing properties.
A time-tested skincare product that everyone recently is swearing by is POWDER CLEANSERS. These granular concoctions originally became popular amongst new-age users and they’re beauty game-changers. Cleansing powders are concentrated versions of liquid cleansers that form a paste or foam when activated with water. Most Indian facial cleansers contain naturally derived ingredients like gram flour, turmeric, or clay but in the west too people have started using matcha powder or ground coffee to give the products gently, non-abrasive exfoliating properties, making this product perfect for those with sensitive skin.
DIY powder facial cleanser for all skin types.Herbal powdered face cleanser.
A powder cleanser will give a better, deeper cleanse and light exfoliation to gently resurface the skin every day. More potent than a liquid cleanser and without the need for harsh chemicals or preservatives, a powder cleanser is infinitely kinder to the skin than its foam and liquid counterparts. They are all gentle enough to use on any skin type, even easily irritated or acne-prone complexions. Powder cleansers minimize pores, moisturize skin, and clear the complexion of imperfections. There really isn’t much a powder cleanser won’t be able to fix and that to instantly.
No water in formulas also means smaller packaging made of significantly fewer materials,” Lighter, smaller packaging reduces shipping weight and space consequently reducing the overall carbon footprint, which makes it a sustainable eco-friendly choice. Moreover, because they are typically more concentrated and more potent, waterless cosmetic and skincare essentials also tend to last longer as you can get away with using less.
Cleansing powders don’t just remove grime, but also have nourishing and healing properties, depending on the ingredients used. Hence, experts suggest taking a close look at the ingredients. It’s very important to scan the ingredients of powder cleansers since they consist of fine particles that can clog and irritate the skin. Active molecules can help control acne, smooth wrinkles, rejuvenate, hydrate, protect and nourish your cells. Some great ingredients to look out for in cleansers are sandalwood, amala, neem, fruit powders, turmeric, coffee, and green tea.
Technically, Indians have been using powder cleansers, or what we call ubtan, for ages. What differentiates ubtan from commercial powder cleansers is the addition of surfactants, which makes the latter foam when in contact with water. If you are reluctant to add the extra element of exfoliating scrubs to your routine, powder cleansers could change your mind. They even allow you to decide the exfoliation level by using less or more water. Remember, though, that a bad product could be abrasive and leave scars.
How to Choose Ingredients for DIY Powder Cleanser?
1. The Base
The base ingredient for the cleanser should have cleansing properties. Shikakai for hair and turmeric for skin is the most popular ingredient used in almost all powder cleansers on the market.
It soothes the skin and has natural saponins that cleanse the skin without causing any dryness or irritation. Other options one can pair these for skin are gram flour, neem powder, or vetiver and for hair, you can also incorporate soapberries, amla, fenugreek, etc
2. A Mild Exfoliator
Products with organic sandalwood work amazingly well to scrub dead skin cells and make the skin brighter due to their cooling effect.
3. Herbal Powders
Keep in mind your skin type and any specific problems you want to target. Here are some suggestions for ingredients you can use based upon your skin type.
For all skin types– liquorice root, vetiver, rose, turmeric,
For dry skin– hibiscus, rose, chirongi
For oily skin– tulsi, neem, clay, mint
For sensitive skin– cinnamon, mint, majishta
For detox– camphor, red sandalwood, and marigold
Brands whose core inspiration lies in using the ancient science of healing that is Ayurveda has an entire range of products is either in powder form that making it not only free of preservatives or harsh chemicals or in the form of cold-pressed oils which ensures chemical-free formulas that are potent and Nutrient dense.
The Author is Founder & CEO, The Tribe Concepts
Budget 2022-2023: Healthcare sector expects substantial increase in budgetary allocation, tax sops
Coronavirus crisis has brought healthcare to the focus of priorities for the common people and the policymakers alike. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is likely to give a big push to investments in health infrastructure and provide some other financial support to healthcare sector in the Union Budget 2022-23 scheduled to be presented on February 1. Public expenditure on healthcare in India is among the lowest in the world. As per the government data, it stands at around 1.2 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Compare it with other countries: the United States spends over 16 per cent of its GDP in public healthcare. The countries like Japan, France, Germany and Canada spend around 10 per cent. Even the poorer countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh spend around 3 per cent of their GDP on public health system. The world average is around 6 per cent of GDP.
Clearly, India requires to give a big push to investment in health sector. In 2021-22 budget presented in the parliament on February 1, 2021, the finance minister announced to more than double the budgetary allocation for health sector. The budgetary allocation to health sector was increased to Rs 2,23,846 crore for the financial year 2021-22, which is 137 per cent higher when compared with the outlay of Rs 94,452 crore in 2020-21.
Sitharaman not only announced 137 per cent increase in the budgetary allocation to health sector in 2021-22 budget but also gave assurance of continued support and enhanced allocation in the future.
While presenting the 2021-22 union budget, Sitharaman stated that while the investment on health infrastructure in this Budget has increased substantially, “progressively, as institutions absorb more, we shall commit more”.
According to a survey conducted by the industry body ASSOCHAM, the finance minister is likely to give top priority to health sector.
As many as 47 per cent of the respondents in the industry survey expressed hope that the finance minister will give top priority to healthcare in 2022-23 Budget.
According to Covid-19 Induced Healthcare Transformation in India’ report published jointly by FICCI and KPMG in October 2021, public health sector allocation is expected to increase to 2.5 per cent of GDP by 2024-25 from around 1.2 per cent of the GDP in 2021-22.
The report notes that the Covid -19 pandemic not only brought into focus that the healthcare sector is the backbone of a country but also opened a floodgate of opportunities for the country to head towards a more resilient and robust healthcare system one that is capable of not only fighting the current situation but also in safeguarding populations against any unanticipated challenges in the future.
“The Covid -19 pandemic exposed weaknesses in our health systems and amplified already existing challenges pertaining to gaps in health infrastructure, workforce, accessibility and equity in health services. But at the same time, it also reinforced an urgent need to make greater investments in augmenting health preparedness and quality of care,” said Alok Roy, Chair, FICCI Health Services Committee & Chairman, Medica Group of Hospitals.
The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has suggested that the public investment in healthcare should be increased to at least 3 per cent of the GDP by FY 2025. The industry body has also pitched for creation of a Medical Innovation Fund that should support private sector and empower them to innovate and conduct research and development (R&D). The Fund should also support in implementation of new digital healthcare platforms and adoption of new technologies. The healthcare sector also expects some tax sops from the finance minister. The industry has been pitching for reduction in GST on raw materials that goes into active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) from 18 per cent to 12 per cent. There has also been demands for reduction import duties on medical devices.
GOVERNMENT SHOULD FOCUS ON EDUCATION IN THIS BUDGET, REDUCE DIGITAL DIVIDE
In comparison to 2021, India is in a much better state to handle the upcoming wave of Covid-19 cases. A majority of the sectors has recovered and is now back on track for rapid growth. One sector, however, has seen the slowest recovery – the Education sector, with students still unable to attend school physically and unable to get vaccinated, either.
We expect the Government to shift a lot of focus to the Education sector in this version of the budget in the following ways:
Higher allocation in overall budget
1. Last year, the Government slashed it’s allocation towards Education in the Annual Budget by 6%, amounting to a total allocation of Rs. 93,223 crores, against Rs. 99,311 crores in the year before that. This year, we expect the Government to increase allocation by around 10%, since last year the 6% slash was attributed to funds allocation towards healthcare and other emergency services.
Reducing the digital divide
2. We expect this year’s Education budget to focus on reducing the digital divide, which has kept a significant number of students – that rely on the country’s public education system and belong to challenged socio-economic backgrounds – from accessing education during the pandemic. We have already seen states like Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat provide devices and connectivity to needy students for free, or with heavy subsidy; we expect the Central Government to address this issue to ensure that students can resume classes virtually.
Reduced GST rates
3. The pandemic’s impact on the education system, particularly the public education system, has increased reliance of all students on supplementary sources of education that are provided by private organisations. Traditionally, such sources have been categorized under ‘Educational Services’ and taxed at 18% under Goods & Services Tax (GST). We expect the Government to revise the GST rate for this category to 5%, thereby easing the financial pressure on the students’ parents, particularly those from lower and middle class families .
Partner with private companies
4. Given the utility of education-technology (EdTech) tools during the pandemic, we expect the Government to announce a host of schemes this year to make EdTech tools accessible to students across the country. These schemes could pertain to Public Private Partnerships (PPP), subsidies or Direct Bank Transfers (DBT) to enable citizens to procure devices, connectivity and even subscription to educational services that will enable them to garner knowledge amidst closure of their educational institutions
Focus on vernacular languages
5. Since a significant number of students relying on the public education system learn in vernacular languages which are largely ignored by private EdTech players – it is quite likely that the Education budget will observe the Government mobilising resources towards creation or curation of regional-language educational content that will be aimed at such students. Efforts in this direction have already been initiated over the last few years, however, they are likely to receive a shot in the arm this year.
I believe that these key features, if addressed in the upcoming budget, will help India’s education system get back on track to recovery and help students continue their education even if they are unable to visit their schools till the students get fully vaccinated.
The Author is the Co-founder of ConnectEd Technologies which is an ed-tech social enterprise
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