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Policy & Politics

Making it happen: Vande Bharat Express

Anil Swarup

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Indian Railways has a long history and legacy of close to 170 years and it is a subject of a great deal of romance apart from being the lifeline of the nation. However, anyone associated with the Indian Railways (IR) has always wondered why all its thousands of trains hardly looked different form one another. Why aren’t trains with better aesthetics and higher speeds? The trend world over for the last 25/30 years has been to switch over to trains that had higher speed, improved maintainability, better energy-efficiency and saved travel time. It makes a great sense in India to introduce such modern trains as ours is the heaviest passenger railway in the world and it would make trains more punctual and more trains could be run.

So why is it that we do not have such trains at all? It is perhaps on account of departmental turf wars. There is one wing which maintains coaches and another which maintains locomotives. A solution had to be found amidst this quibbling to give the country a modern train.

In August 2016 Sudhanshu Mani, a Railway Engineer was due to become a General Manager. He requested for and was posted as the head of the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai. This factory was set up in 1950s as a part of the then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru’s vision to make India self-reliant in manufacture of coaches but was nowhere near being a great vision of being a world-class manufacturer of trains as matching action lacked. When Sudhanshu landed at ICF, he found a great team of officers and staff, a fertile ground to innovate. The design and manufacturing staff had a certain technical audacity, a chutzpah to try something new. Boredom of doing more of the same was writ large on their faces. Adopting some simple leadership principles, like openness, discarding feudal protocol, welcoming ideation and recognizing those who worked and coming hard on those who did not was the need of the hour

A number of measures were initiated but the main thrust was on harnessing the potential and exciting the team. Soon ICF became the biggest factory in the world through some exponential growth in production. With large scale installation of solar power, it became the only carbon-negative factory of IR, generating more renewable energy than it actually consumed. Creativity was encouraged and with murals and sculptures from metal scrap, the factory looked like an art gallery. And for the first time, ICF broke free from the shackles of more of the same to make coaches with a new look and identity.

For Sudhanshu it was an opportunity to fulfil his dream to make a world class train. There were indeed huge challenges. The project required sanction of the Ministry. The Ministry, steeped in red tape, greed, inaction thought that Sudhanshu was just spinning a yarn and it would hamper the attempts to import. But the Chairman who had worked with him was inclined. He was, however, held back by other members of the Board. Sudhanshu didn’t give up. He met the Chairman and pleaded with him to approve the project for just two trains at one-third the cost of import and let the Board import what they wanted. His persuasive skills worked and he got the sanction the same day.

Next day, on reaching Chennai, he called all key team members and shared the good news. The team was now tasked to design and manufacture a train set for 180 km/h capability with modern features, the very first and best in India. They were enthused but some of them weren’t very sure because they had not done anything at this scale ever. They were also a trifle apprehensive that if they failed, they would be made the scapegoat. They were motivated to take up the venture as Sudhanshu, like a true leader, volunteered to shoulder the entire responsibility if the project failed. The team was now fully on board.

The next doubt was about the mode to develop this train. Hitherto, all the rolling stock, be it locomotives or coaches had come to India through the transfer of technology (ToT) route. A big international company was usually engaged at huge cost and other conditions. There were IPR issues as well. Hence, a decision was taken to develop in-house technology. A matrix of the requirements of a modern train was worked out. It was found that a lot of work could be done in-house. However, there were some areas where some hand holding was required. A few European consultants who had no stake in future supplies were engaged. However, they were only to deliver a good design. The in-house team was to work with them for bogies, external finish and interiors. At the end of the day, the entire IPR, full ownership of the product was to be with ICF without any dependence on an “outsider”. And, Indian manufacturers were encouraged to join in this effort to keep the cost down.

What followed was history in the making. Hard work and travails, a hitch here and a roadblock there. Problems galore but solution soon, with great synergy. The team worked like men possessed, not only the ICF team but all the partner companies as well. These companies saw in this project the pride of nation building, not business alone. Daily meetings were held with European consultants. Even at odd hours to suit the convenience of the consultants. Shop floor related discussions were not held in airconditioned conference room but at shop floor itself.

On 29th October of 2018, the train was unveiled in an electric atmosphere ceremony never seen before in any railway factory. Train 18 had lived up to its name twice over, not only was it turned out in 2018 itself but the project took exactly 18 months from drawing board to prototype turn out. The proudest moment ever for ICF.

After the turn out, the train was taken for extensive on-line testing for roadworthiness & safety. The approval came in November. The train had breached the 180 km/h speed work in test with all parameters well within the safe limits. Vande Bharat express was flagged off by the PM himself. Two rakes of the train have been running successfully ever since, a feat not paralleled by even any imported rolling stock so far. ICF had delivered the first modern train entirely of Indian origin from concept to manufacture at much less than half the cost of import.

A committed Sudhanshu and his fabulous team demonstrated that despite severe limitations, it can be made to happen.

Anil Swarup has served as the head of the Project Monitoring Group, which is currently under the Prime Minister’s Office. He has also served as Secretary, Ministry of Coal and Secretary, Ministry of School Education.

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Policy & Politics

A lurking air pollution emergency amidst farmers’ agitation

It is surprising that dispensing with the fine on stubble burning is turning negotiable for the government and the farmers at the cost of the health of millions of people in northern India who choke whenever the farm fires are lit.

Sudhir Mishra

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By imposing fines that were as high as Rs 2000 for not wearing masks, the Government of the NCT of Delhi demonstrated that when words do not work, restrictions become necessary. One cannot help but wonder where are these restrictions when it comes to protecting the air in and around Delhi.

The Central Government promulgated new farm laws/ ordinances in India during 2020 to protect the interests of farmers and also, to save the environment. Over the last few months Indian farmers have put up a strong resistance to the farm laws introduced by the Central Government in more ways than one. Since the highlight of their protest is their non-negotiable demand to repeal the three farm laws and a legal guarantee of MSP, some other demands of the farmers have gone unnoticed by the national media and especially the people of Delhi. 

A crucial part of their demand, apart from rolling back the three farm laws has been dispensing with the fine imposed on stubble burning. It is surprising that such a discussion on dispensing with the fine on stubble burning is turning negotiable for the Government and the farmers at the cost of the health of millions of people in northern India who choke whenever the farm fires are lit. The air pollution in Delhi has been the focus of the entire world for the last one decade with Delhi topping the list of the most polluted cities around the world. Needless to say, little has been done to address the issue effectively. On the contrary, conflicting stands have been taken by governments for the ‘state’ of Delhi.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for example, openly supports the agitation against the farm laws, while he had previously been very critical of the farmers in Punjab and Haryana for stubble burning. All his Press campaigns on the issue of air pollution in Delhi during 2019 had centred squarely on stubble burning, which he had blamed for the foul air in Delhi. Sadly, not even once did the Delhi Government suggested the stakeholders during the farmers’ crisis that stubble burning needs to be regulated and discouraged. In fact, during the ongoing farm agitation, stubble burning increased many folds and the capital city choked yet again, in the absence of any state protection whatsoever.

The Delhi Government has time and again identified stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana as the main contributor to air pollution in Delhi. The Central Government recently passed the Commission for Air Quality Management for NCR Ordinance, 2020 to tackle this issue. Through this ordinance, stubble burning was to be penalised which was hopefully an effective step towards curbing the menace. However, the farm protests may even compel the Central Government to concede to the demand to exclude the penalty clause for stubble burning from the laws. In this sticky situation of blame-game, concessions and vested interests, the Delhi’s air emergency is once again pushed to the backburner. 

Personally, my fight for clean air in Delhi is on since 2015 before the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in the matter titled as ‘Sudhir Mishra vs Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ors.’ in W.P. (C) 2115/2015 tagged with a suo-moto matter of the High Court. Unfortunately, I suffer serious demotivation when I see professed global climate change crusader activists like Greta Thunberg supporting farm laws and not the right of the children of Delhi to breath in clean air. At the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, I had again moved to the High Court of Delhi to somehow control air pollution in Delhi, which was being adversely affected by stubble burning. However, the court was advised by the Central Government that it would soon bring a law to penalise stubble burning. And now here we are, back to square one, with the likelihood of the law or ordinance that could have penalised farmers for stubble burning being sacrificed, while climate change activists protest in favour of the farmers and their historical ways. In fact, we also know the deplorable condition of ground water and that it›s brazen extraction for water intensive farming in Punjab and Haryana is detrimental to our hopeful climate goals. 

In October, 2020, the Supreme Court of India had indicated that it would study the stubble burning ordinance and pass orders, if necessary. However, in spite of the absence of any opinion of the Supreme Court on the said ordinance, the Government may concede to the demand of farmers and agree to remove the provision for imposing a fine on stubble burning and hence, wreak havoc with the health of millions of people. Moreover, Nobel Prize winners and other luminaries in the public eye internationally have come out in support of the farmers, turning a blind eye simultaneously to the consequences of stubble burning affecting the air pollution and smog in the national capital of Delhi. While climate change activists share toolkits and enhance international camaraderie around the laws, they fail to raise a climate change question supporting clean air for Delhi. 

Arguments have also been made by many distinguished environmentalists that the farmers’ protests for repealing the three farm laws are a smokescreen to arm-twist the Government into allowing the other demands made by the farmers, and here we see that the environmental concerns have gone for a toss in this tug-of-war between the farmers and the Government. To top it, the opposition is fighting tooth and nail to maybe gain political advantage, which is a point of concern for actual climate change warriors. The massive vote bank in areas of Punjab and Haryana have probably motivated political parties to single-handedly parrot the farmers at the cost of middle-class taxpayers of the National Capital of Delhi, who inhale smoke-filled foul air. 

In the entire maze of confusing discussions over the new farm laws controversy, somewhere the taxpaying middleclass of the capital city of Delhi have been the most neglected. Not only are the state borders closed and movements of Delhi residents restricted, but their lungs too are choking on account of the air quality in Delhi. The entire city is in a hostage situation and we are going to see sustained stubble burning in future as well, as farmers continue to be instigated to persist with their stir.  What is even more uninspiring is that while Delhi bears the brunt of this farm law crisis, there is no encouraging talk or message for Delhi citizens to build their faith in improved air quality in Delhi. Instead, people governing them have abandoned their responsibility and are looking the other way for a considerable period of time now. Global Climate Change Activists like Greta Thunberg’s support towards the farmers agitation against the farm laws, ostensibly for the climate has raised many eyebrows. If one considers the ground issues concerning environment, then Thunberg may not be an inspiration to many young children, especially of Delhi.

While it is desirable that the farmers concerns are resolved soon, but does it have to be at the cost of health of so many owing to the Air Emergency?

The author is Founder and Managing Partner, Trust Legal, Door Tenant at  No5 Barristers’ Chambers, United Kingdom and Climate Change Lawyer. 

In October 2020, the Supreme Court had indicated that it would study the stubble burning Ordinance and pass orders, if necessary. However, in spite of the absence of any opinion of the Supreme Court on the said Ordinance, the government may concede to the demand of farmers and agree to remove the provision for imposing a fine on stubble burning and hence, wreak havoc with the health of millions of people. Moreover, Nobel Prize winners and other luminaries in the public eye internationally have come out in support of the farmers, turning a blind eye simultaneously to the consequences of stubble burning affecting the air pollution and smog in the national capital of Delhi.

Global climate change activists like Greta Thunberg’s support towards the farmers’ agitation against the new farm laws, ostensibly for the climate, has raised many eyebrows. If one considers the ground issues concerning environment, then Thunberg may not be an inspiration to many young children, especially of Delhi. 

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Policy & Politics

Entire rail network to be fully electrified by December 2023, says Piyush Goyal

Tarun Nangia

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Piyush Goyal, Union Minister for Railways, Commerce & Industry and Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Govt of India today said that the government is working to ensure that the entire rail network will be fully electrified by December 2023 and the entire rail network will run on renewable energy by 2030. Addressing the virtual session ‘Investment Opportunities in Andhra Pradesh’, during the‘Maritime India Summit 2021’, organized by the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, jointly with FICCI, Goyal said that India has had a glorious maritime history and we are on the path to build an even greater maritime future. “In the last 6 years, the capacity of our major ports has almost doubled. We have developed smart cities and industrial parks and integrated ports with the coastal economic zones. Integration of Road, Rail & Waterways can truly make India ‘One Nation, One Market, One Supply’,” he added. Mr Goyal further said that we need to reduce our logistics cost so that the international and domestic freight costs will reduce from 13-14% cost of goods to a more acceptable international benchmark of 8%. “Bringing down the logistics cost is the need of the hour today. India cannot be competitive as long as our logistics cost remains so high. We are working on multi-modal logistics solutions to bring down the cost of transportation & increase supply chain efficiency. It’s time that we plan our port sector in such a manner that we can have modern and efficient ports, the turnaround time of ships can be brought down significantly. A more competitive spirit will help to keep the cost in freight and at port low,” he said. Maritime India summit 2021, he said will be the beginning of our victory against high freight costs, our victory to be an international player in maritime sector, our victory in ensuring jobs. “Under PM’s leadership, the country has had a very rapid V-shaped recovery. This Maritime India Summit 2021 will be the beginning of our victory to be an international player in the sector,” he added. Highlighting the potential in Andhra Pradesh, Goyal said that the government is working closely with the Govt of Andhra Pradesh to further develop road, rail and port infrastructure and promote dedicated freight corridor as both for encouraging economic activities and bring manufacturing activity & promote industrial parks in the State. “I would urge industry captains to let us build industry at sea. We on our part will ensure ease of doing business. We will work in partnership with States for enhancing ease of doing business at state and local level. He further stated that the maritime sector is a very critical sector for Atmanirbhar Bharat. We are working to turn our coastal region into a role model for ease of living and ease of doing business. He added that the government is working on 3 mantras for the infrastructure sector in the country – Upgrade, Create, Dedicate. “If we re-invent with technology driven solutions like robotics, automation, artificial intelligence, big data analytics, our sector is SAFE- Sustainable, Agile, Futuristic, Efficient. I appeal to all stakeholders to utilize this opportunity to transform from being ‘service provider’ to ‘knowledge provider’,”Mr Goyal asserted. Mr R Karikal Valaven, Special Chief Secretary Industries, Investment & Commerce, Govt of Andhra Pradesh said that the state of Andhra Pradesh is a natural choice for any investor to come and invest because of a very vibrant coastline. He further said that it is the endeavour of the state government to reduce the cost of doing business. “The state has a very good network of roads and railways and now with port infrastructure, the maritime economy is going to thrive. We are developing multimodal logistics parks to facilitate transportation,” he added. Highlighting the State’s industrial policy, YSR AP1,Mr Valaven, said that it is a one stop shop for investors providing all solutions, handholding, facilitation, market support and all support required for doing business. He further stated that the state government is also planning to promote maritime tourism. “Tourism is an area of our interest. All sea ports and fishing harbors will be connected through cruise tourism. We are aiming at inclusive growth for the state,” added Mr Valaven. MrK. Rama Mohana Rao, Chairman, Visakhapatnam Port Trust MrNP Ramakrishna Reddy, CEO, AP Maritime Board;Lt Cdr Ravindra Reddy, Dy. CEO, AP Maritime Board and Mr Durgesh Dubey, Deputy Chairman, Visakhapatnam Port Trust also shared their perspective during the session.

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Policy & Politics

Despite umpteen ceasefire agreements, Pakistan continues to provoke us

Another chance for Pakistan to mend fences with India.

Vijay Darda

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This is not the first time that India and Pakistan have signed a ceasefire agreement on their borders to give peace a chance. After the fierce Kargil War of 1999, there was peace on the border for sometime, but it was short-lived. By 2003, when the situation went from bad to worse, a ceasefire agreement was reached between the two countries. Now, India and Pakistan’s Director Generals of Military Operations have agreed to fully implement the ceasefire understanding of 2003 in letter and spirit and to ensure that the ceasefire agreement will not be violated by both the sides and peace will be restored along the border from Rajasthan to Kashmir! Will it really happen?

The world rests on hope and it reinforces trust. Therefore, the supporters of peace should hope for peace and efforts should be continued for achieving this objective. However, the 2003 ceasefire agreement also did not last long and in 2018 a similar agreement had to be reached once again. Interestingly, within the next three years, a ceasefire agreement has had to be signed again. The question is, once the agreement is reached why is it violated? Blame lies at the door of Pakistan. Our army does not fire needlessly. Our army responds when Pakistani army fires bullets and lobs mortars at innocent villagers or its snipers fire at our jawans.

This is indeed an act of noble-mindedness on the part of India that it has agreed for the latest ceasefire with its recalcitrant neighbour. Pakistan always tries to spoil the relationship. When India responds, it starts propaganda about the Kashmir issue around the world. Right now that its condition is bad, it wants to get some relief at the border because our army has kept a tight vigil over the region. Seeing the retreat of the Chinese army, the Pakistani establishment is feeling demoralised. Since India has always been in favour of peace, it is giving one more chance to Pakistan to mend its ways.

I also want to mention that the people of Pakistan also want good relations with India. The problem is their army. Enmity with India is its staple diet. Given that relations between India and Pakistan have reached such a nadir, the question in everyone’s mind is what drove Pakistan to opt for this ceasefire agreement?

In a significant shift of tone, Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa seemed to have softened his approach towards India on February 2 when he announced that, “The time has come to extend a hand of peace and friendship in all directions.”

Consequent upon this statement, the firings from across the border have started to decrease. India replied in the affirmative to this gesture. Even Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s aircraft on the way to Sri Lanka was allowed to pass through the Indian airspace, whereas Pakistan’s attitude has always been negative. Even our Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s aircraft was not allowed to pass through Pakistani airspace. India would have given a befitting reply but it was not done because India wants to improve relations with its neighbouring country.

An effort to restore peace was also made by the then Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee but Pakistan responded with the Kargil War. By the way, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always been in favour of the fact that relations with Pakistan should be normal. After the 2008 Mumbai bomb blasts, all relations were frozen but in 2015, Narendra Modi broke the ice by paying a surprise visit to Pakistan and meeting the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at his residence. Perhaps Nawaz Sharif also wanted to normalise relations, but a few days later there was a terrorist attack on the Pathankot air base. Pakistani terrorists were involved in it, which the army there had trained and radicalised them for this terror attack. When Imran Khan became the Prime Minister, he also tried to thaw the frozen relationship, but the army took him under its wings. Pakistan keeps sending consignments of arms and ammunition for terrorists in the Kashmir Valley. It should be kept in mind that those who play the game of blood are the enemies of democracy and the misfortune is that many invisible hands are always active to aid and abet those who do so.

Whatever may be the reason for the ceasefire agreement, it cannot be denied that peace on the border is very vital for both the countries. If the daily skirmishes on the borders cease and the relationship between the two nations becomes normal, then peace and harmony will prevail which will be beneficial for both of them. If there is peace and mutual understanding, it will surely be good for the people on both the sides. Both the countries are spending crores of rupees on war preparations. The amount of expenditure incurred by Pakistan is not known, but India spends about Rs 7 crores every day to maintain its troops on the peaks of Siachen Glacier. Pakistan is on the lower peaks there, so it may be spending less but that amount will also run into crores.

Apart from this, huge expenditure is also incurred in guarding the borderline of about 2900 km. Just think how good it will be if this money is spent on basic needs like health services and education for the common people! If that country gives up the path of terrorism, it will stand to gain immensely. We are a strong country, we are eliminating terrorists and we will destroy them root and branch. Pakistan should not even try to dream of snatching Kashmir. It has got an opportunity now to mend its ways and improve relations with India. The ball is in Pakistan’s court now.

The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.

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Policy & Politics

India’s merchandise trade: Preliminary data, February 2021

The country’s merchandise imports in February 2021were $40.55 billion, as compared to $37.90 billion in February 2020, an increase of 6.98%.

Tarun Nangia

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India’s merchandise exports in February 2021 were USD 27.67 billion as compared to USD 27.74 billion in February 2020, a decrease of 0.25%. Exports during April-February 2020-21 were USD 255.92 billion, as compared to USD 291.87 billion during the same period of last year, exhibiting a negative growth of 12.32%.

 India’s merchandise imports in February 2021were USD 40.55 billion, as compared to USD 37.90 billion in February 2020, an increase of 6.98%. Merchandise imports during April-February 2020-21 were USD 340.88 billion, as compared to USD 443.24 billion during the same period of last year, exhibiting a negative growth of 23.09%.

India is thus a net importer in February 2021, with a trade deficit of USD 12.88 billion, as compared to trade deficit of USD 10.16 billion in February 2020, improvement by 26.74%.

In February 2021, the value of non-petroleum exports was USD 25.16 billion, registering a positive growth of 3.55% over February 2020. The value of non-petroleum and non-gems and jewellery exports in February 2021 was USD 22.48 billion as compared to USD 21.28 billion in February 2020, registering a positivegrowth of 5.65%. The cumulative value of non-petroleum and non-gems and jewellery exports in April-February2020-21 was USD 211.25 billion, as compared to USD 219.22 billion for the corresponding period in 2019-20, exhibiting a decrease of 3.63%.

In February 2021, Oil imports were USD 8.99 billion, as compared to USD 10.78 billion in February 2020, a decline by 16.63%. Oil imports in April-February2020-21 were USD 72.08 billion, as compared to USD 120.50 billion, showing a decline of 40.18%. 

Non-oil imports in February 2021 were estimated at USD 31.56 billion, as compared to USD 27.12 billion in February 2020, showing an increase of 16.37%. Non-oil imports in April-February2020-21 were USD 268.78 billion, as compared to USD 322.74billion, registering a decline of 16.73% during the same period of the last year.

Non-oil, non-GJ (gold, silver &Precious metals) imports were USD 23.85 billion in February 2021, recording a positive growth of 7.40%, as compared to non-oil and non-GJ imports of USD 22.21 billion in February 2020. Non-oil and non-GJ imports were USD 225.49 billion in April-February 2020-21, recording a negative growth of 17.11%, as compared to non-oil and non-GJ imports of USD 272.05 billion in April-February 2019-20.

Major commodities of export which have recorded positive growth during February 2021 vis-à-vis February 2020 are: Other cereals (542.06.62%), Oil meals  (244.12%), Iron ore (167.79%), Jute mfg. Including floor covering (45.4%),Rice (30.1%), Cereal preparations and miscellaneous processed item (26.68%), Meat, dairy and poultry products (26.43%),Carpet  (19.4%), Spices  (18.46%), Drugs and pharmaceuticals (14.58%), Handicrafts excl. Hand-made carpet (13.14%), Ceramic products and glassware (10.8%), Cotton yarn/fabrics/made-ups, handloom products etc. (9.34%), Tobacco (7.69%), Plastic and linoleum  (3.03%), Mica, coal and other ores, minerals including process (2.33%), and Organic and Inorganic Chemicals (1.16%).

Major commodities of export which have recorded negative growth during February 2021 vis-à-vis February 2020 are Petroleum products  (-27.13%), Oil Seeds (-25.45%), Leather and leather manufactures (-21.62%), Cashew (-18.6%), Gems and Jewellery (-11.18%), RMG of All Textiles (-8.5%), Electronic Goods (-5.8%), Fruits and vegetables (-4.01%), Man-made yarn/fabrics/made-ups etc. (4.0%), Engineering goods  (-2.56%), Tea (-2.49%),Coffee  (-0.73%), and Marine products  (-0.25%).

 Major commodity groups of import showing positive growth in February 2021 over the corresponding month of last year are: Sulphur & Unroasted Iron Pyrites (235.96%), Gold (123.95%), Dyeing/tanning/colouring materials (46.38%), Chemical material & products (45.51%), Electronic goods (37.77%), Organic & Inorganic Chemicals (37.61%), Metaliferrous ores & other minerals (29.52%), Artificial resins, plastic materials, etc. (25.07%), Iron & Steel (23.41%), Textile yarn Fabric, made-up articles (21.43%), Wood &  Wood products (18.56%), Medcnl. & Pharmaceutical products (15.38%), %), and Non-ferrous metals (12.39%).

Major commodity groups of import showing negative growth in February 2021 over the corresponding month of last year are: Silver (-91.55%), Newsprint (-80.76%), Fertilisers, Crude & manufactured (-46.01%), Coal, Coke & Briquettes, etc. (-28.09%), Leather & leather products (-26.75%), Transport equipment (-23.0%), Petroleum, Crude & products (-16.63%), Project Goods (-12.56%), Pulses (-11.6%), Machine tools (-6.35%), Cotton Raw & Waste (-5.08%), Machinery, electrical & non-electrical (-4.85%), Professional instrument, Optical goods, etc. (-3.17%), Pulp and Waste paper (-2.8%), Pearls, precious & Semi-precious stones (-1.42%),Fruits & vegetables (-0.88%), and Vegetable Oil (-0.56%).

• India’s merchandise exports in February 2021 was $27.67 billion as compared to $27.74 billion in February 2020, a decrease of 0.25%.

• India’s merchandise imports in February 2021 were $40.55 billion as compared to $37.90 billion in February 2020, an increase of 6.98%.

• India is thus a net importer in February 2021 with a trade deficit of $12.88 billion as compared to trade deficit of $10.16 billion in February 2020, increase of 25.84%.

• Value of non-petroleum and non-gems and jewellery exports in February 2021 was $22.48 billion as compared to $21.28 billion in February 2020, a positive growth of 5.65%.

•  Non-oil, non-GJ (gold, silver & Precious metals) imports were $23.85 billion in February 2021 as compared to non-oil and non-GJ imports of $22.21 billion in February 2020, a positive growth of 7.40%.

•  Top 5 commodity groups of export which recorded positive growth during February 2021 vis-à-vis February 2020 are: Other Cereals (542.06%), Oil meals (244.12%), Iron Ore (167.79%), Jute manufacturing including floor covering (45.40%), and Rice (30.10%).

•  Top 5 commodity groups of import showing a fall in February 2021vis-à-vis February 2020 are: Silver (-91.55%), Newsprint (-80.76%), Fertilisers, Crude & manufactured (-46.01), Coal, Coke & Briquettes, etc. (-28.09%), and Leather & leather products (-26.75).

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Policy & Politics

Rising global demand for copper, zinc, other non-ferrous metals helps engineering exports: EEPC India

Tarun Nangia

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A sharp rise in global demand for non-ferrous metals like copper, aluminium and zinc along with their products , has greatly helped the Indian engineering exports brave through the Covid-19 pandemic hit world trade, an EEPC India analysis has shown.

A near 16 per cent increase in overall engineering exports during January,2021 over the same month last year was influenced by a sharp rise of 66.66 per cent in shipments of copper/products to USD 138.50 million from USD 83.10 million. Likewise, zinc and products witnessed a rise of 39 per cent in shipments to USD 72.17 million from USD 52 million. Exports of aluminium and products went up by 21 per cent to USD 512 million from 423 million for the month, on annualised basis.

‘’The non -ferrous metals are in great demand in the international market thanks to their usage in electric vehicles and their batteries as the world moves towards cleaner energy, “ EEPC India Chairman Mr Mahesh Desai said.

Malaysia,South Korea,China, the US and Singapore are the top destinations for export of non-ferrous metals from India.

Iron and steel, the largest contributor to the country’s engineering exports, too saw an impressive increase of 17.47 per cent in shipments during the month under review on Y on Y basis. These shipments went up to USD 847 million from USD 721 million for the month.

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Policy & Politics

INDIA’S WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANT MARKET LIKELY TO REACH $4.3 BILLION BY 2025: AMITABH KANT

Tarun Nangia

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Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog on Monday said that India’s wastewater treatment plants market stood at $2.4 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach $4.3 billion by 2025 owing to increasing demand for municipal water as well as sewage water treatment plants across the country. “There will be a huge gap of investments in this market and the private sector can fill this gap in terms of technology selection, fund rotation and implementation,” he added.

Kant said that climate change along with rapid population and economic growth is resulting in an increased demand for water and food, potentially leading to over stressing not only for our present resources but also jeopardizing the resources for future generations. “Therefore, a move towards a circular economy is critical for ensuring the economic and social stability of not only four economy but for the world economy as a whole,” he added while addressing the valedictory session ‘6th Edition of India Industry Water Conclave & 8th Edition of FICCI Water Awards’,

Kant said that to encourage circular economy, there is a need to develop an enabling framework that uses smart regulations, market-based instruments, research and innovation, incentives, information exchange for voluntary approaches. “To implement the circular economy and achieve sustainable industrial renaissance we should rely on proactive businesses and consumers with a special focus on small and medium sized enterprises implementing circular economy solutions,” he added.

Kant said that in circular economy innovations, our goals should be to design ways through the value chain rather than relying on the solutions at the end of the product life. This, he said can be achieved by reducing the quantity of water required to deliver services, reducing the use of energy in production, creating a market for secondary raw materials, incentivising and supporting waste reduction and high-quality separation by consumers along with facilitating the clustering of activities to prevent by-products from becoming waste. “Exploring and accessing alternate water sources is highly required,” he added.

Kant further stated that there is a need for rationalization in freshwater allocation for drinking in urban and rural areas with due proportion to industry. “Efficient use of water in agriculture should also be encouraged by adopting micro irrigation methods. All these uses should be interdependent for recycling and reuse of wastewater,” he noted.

To achieve the SDG 6.3 targets significant investments will be required in new infrastructure, grey and green and locally appropriate combinations along with appropriate technologies to increase the treatment in use of water. Inadequate sanitation resulting in poor hygienic practice leads to huge economic and social losses for the country, he said.

Collection, treatment, and reuse of municipal wastewater provides an opportunity for not only environmental rehabilitation but also meeting the increasing water needs of different economic sectors, added Mr Kant.

Rajendra Singh, Water Man of India said that for the country to become water sufficient nation, we have to ensure to use retreat, recycle and reuse the C-class water category. We must focus on using the B-class water for agriculture and A-class which comprises of fresh water should be kept separated from other classes of water. He also stated that in agriculture we must focus on reducing the use of water through new technology and skill development. “We need to link the crop pattern with rain pattern to ensure efficiency,” he added.

Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, DG, National Mission for Clean Ganga, Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti said that we are trying to develop a national framework for reuse of treated wastewater, and we are also working on developing national sludge management framework. “The government is not only developing policy but also supporting programs and we want to bring more private sector under these programs. Partnership is the key and does not only include public private partnership, but it should be public, private and people at large,” he added.

Naina Lal Kidwai, Chair, FICCI Water Mission and Past President, FICCI said that many state policies have come up for recycle and reuse of water, however a comprehensive policy which integrates all policies which exists in various ministries should be brought out which focusses on resource recovery model and not just on recycle and reuse of water. “There is also a need to develop a central water regulatory authority to cater these water issues,” she added.

Kidwai stated that Champions should be present in every city from both the private and public sector to create awareness related to water issues along with mobilization of community in addressing them is the need of the hour. She also noted that the potential of wastewater management in India is huge and this is an area for the industry to explore. “Water sector, if, made investor friendly by equitable sharing of risks between the investor, technology provider and Government, can bring in more private sectors investments in water projects,” she said.

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