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Significance of RAW and Army chiefs’ Nepal visit

Now that Nepal is grappling to steer clear of China, will its relationship with India improve?

Vijay Darda

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Not a long time back, it seemed that Nepal had drifted away from us but last fortnight, Samant Kumar Goel, chief of the Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the Nepal Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli had a closed-door meeting. After this, Oli greeted the countrymen by tweeting an old map of Nepal on the occasion of Vijayadashami.

This is a big change in the attitude of Oli and the approach of Nepal, because the biggest reason for the dispute between India and Nepal was the latter’s new map projected on the incitement of China, which was favoured by Oli himself and passed by the Nepali Parliament too. In that map, the Indian territory that included Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura were shown as parts of Nepal. Naturally, India rejected it. Oli used to be a supporter of India before coming under the influence of China. Therefore, India’s efforts can reverse Nepal’s stance. It also knows that China has completely captured the resources of the countries in which it has made inroads.

It is unfathomable to find out what the RAW chief advised him, but it seems that some wisdom has been drilled into the Nepalese side that its interests will be best served by maintaining close ties with India. However, the pro-Chinese political class in Nepal is criticising Oli for this meeting. It is also reported that during this visit, the RAW chief also met former prime ministers of Nepal Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Madhav Kumar Nepal and Sher Bahadur Deuba of Nepali Congress but these leaders are denying that any meeting took place. Whatever may be the fact, the RAW chief’s meeting is significant for sure.

However, before analysing the relationship between Nepal and India, let’s consider one more bit of information. Indian Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane will visit Nepal from November 4 to November 6 this year. The question is what is the purpose of this visit? In fact, since 1950, there has been a tradition between India and Nepal that both the countries ceremonially decorate each other’s Army chief with the rank of ‘General’. Under this tradition, the President of Nepal Vidya Devi Bhandari will decorate the Indian Army chief with the title of ‘General of the Nepal Army’. This is quite important because Oli was earlier criticising the 1950 peace agreement too. Bestowing the title of ‘General’ on General Naravane would mean that Nepal is maintaining the old tradition. Along with this, during this visit, General Naravane will talk to Nepal Army chief General Purna Chandra Thapa and other top military officials.

It is clear that after the RAW chief, the visit of Indian Army chief General Naravane is going to shock China. India and Nepal share a border of about 1,800 km and China has started capturing Nepal to encircle India. Only at the behest of China did Oli’s attitude become stricter against India. It is only after China captured many villages along the Nepal border up to Tibet that the common people of Nepal and the media there started objecting to it. It is possible that Oli’s affinity to China has decreased after these protests. In such a situation, India’s initiative can rekindle Oli’s earlier liking for India.

The relationship between India and Nepal is as ancient as the Himalayas. A majority of the prime ministers of Nepal were educated in India. Some studied in Delhi, others did so in the Banaras Hindu University or in Kolkata. After becoming a Rajya Sabha member, I lived for the first year in a bungalow at 7, Gurudwara Rakabganj Road in New Delhi. Ram Manohar Lohia, a prominent socialist leader, once lived there as an MP. Girija Prasad Koirala who lived with him too, later became the prime minister of Nepal. When Koirala came to India as prime minister, during the meeting I mentioned about the bungalow. He remembered those days with joy. This is to say that relations between Nepal and India have been very deep-rooted.

It is a great challenge for India to bring Nepal on board since it has been comfortably ensconced in the lap of China, but there is a ray of hope for sure. The people of Nepal are feeling the danger of Chinese imperialism and the voices of protest are beginning to rise. This is an opportunity for India to seize quickly and bring Nepal back into its fold.

The present Prime Minister Oli and other leaders of Nepal also know that China can never be alternative to India. India never harms the sovereignty of other nations whereas China is known for its expansionism. The second thing is that India and Nepal are so much mixed religiously, socially and culturally that the two countries cannot be seen apart. The two countries have a ‘roti-beti’ relationship. The 2019 report of the International Organisation of Migration says that 30 to 40 lakh people of Nepal live in India while five to seven lakh Indians live in Nepal. The brave Gorkhas of Nepal have been immortal in India’s security system. General Sam Manekshaw once said, “If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or he is a Gorkha.” The Gorkhas are indeed a shining example of bravery.

Of course, Nepal has been our own brother and it is our responsibility to protect it from the designs of China. Mistakes like the undeclared economic blockade of 2015 have also been committed by us, but now is the time to keep aside the follies of the past. Both the countries should move forward with an open mind and embrace each other. India is the big brother and it should shoulder bigger responsibility. Nepal’s grievances should be redressed and China should be told that Nepal had always been a brother, a friend to India and it will always remain so.

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

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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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Policy & Politics

GST TAX BASE & ITS REVENUE CAN INCREASE MANIFOLD: CAIT TO FM SITHARAMAN

Tarun Nangia

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In a communication sent to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) candidly accepted that over almost 4 years of GST implementation in India, the current registration of dealers under GST is almost 1.30 crore is much less than the volume of people engaged in business activities pertaining to goods & services whereas the current accrued revenue of Rs 1.15 lakh crore per month through GST is also highly insufficient. These figures of both tax base and revenue can be increased substantially provided both Central & State Governments should work closely to provide ease of doing business and widening the tax base and earning more revenue .

CAIT National President B C Bhartia & Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal in communication to Mrs Sitharaman said that there are about 8 crore traders, 1 crore transporters and 1.25 crore small Industries in the Country beside having a large corporate structure and large number of service providers engaged in business activities pertaining to sale & purchase of goods & services in the Country and large number of other sectors providing taxable services in India. Under such a vast spectrum of trade, industry and services that exists as on today, it is strange that so far only 1.30 crore people have obtain GST Registration. Even if it assumed that might be half of this huge number might be under the prescribed threshold limit, yet there exists quite huge number which should come under ambit of GST.

Both Mr Bhartia & Mr Khandelwal said that over last 4 years of GST implementation in the Country, the tax base should have been at leat 2.5 crore and the accrued revenue should be above Rs 2 lakh crore per month. Therefore, a serious discussion should be held between stakeholders and the Government that whether there are genuine roadblocks in adopting GST as a taxation system and what are the core areas where large number of people are avoiding registration under GST.

Mr Bhartia & Mr Khandelwal said that though traders and people of other vertical of trade & industry etc are more willing to join the ambit of GST because of its nature which is giving every trader in the system to avail facility of input credit. However, no step was taken in last 4 years to launch neither a statewide nor a nationwide drive to enroll people in GST and any awakening drive and in the meantime, the system has become complicated.

The CAIT has suggested that the GST Council should take assistance of more than 40 thousand trade organisation of trading community in widening the tax base and generation of more substantial revenue to both Central & State Governments but the Government and GST Council will have to take an initiative.

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Policy & Politics

Making it Happen: Genome Valley, the biotech hub of India

The story of the Genome Valley began two decades ago in a sleepy village of Shameerpet Mandal called Turkapally, about 30 km from Hyderabad. An intrepid NRI scientist Dr Krishna Ella decided to return to India and set up his biotech industry (Bharat Biotech) in 1996, little realising then that his would be the anchor industry in the global biotech hub.

Anil Swarup

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A world class life science cluster in the outskirts of Hyderabad would have gone unnoticed but for COVID. This is the place where, led by Bharat Biotech, 4 out of 6 home grown vaccines are being developed (some already developed and being manufactured). Genome valley has about a third of world’s vaccine manufacturing capacity and is bound to play a major role in the months to come to control the pandemic. All this did not happen overnight.

The story of the Genome Valley began two decades ago in a sleepy village of Shameerpet mandal called Turkapally, about 30 kms from Hyderabad. An intrepid NRI scientist Dr Krishna Ella decided to return to India and set up his biotech industry (Bharat Biotech) in 1996, little realizing then that his would be the anchor industry in the global biotech hub.

It was around this time that an IAS Officer, B P Acharya made a fortuitous entry into the scene in his capacity as Secretary, Industries and Commerce. Despite being a trifle apprehensive, he gave his best shot. Meanwhile, the ICICI Knowledge Park, the first R&D park of the country, had come up in May 2000, near Bharat Biotech and about 150 acres of Government land was earmarked next to it to develop as Biotech park on the new-fangled Public- Private partnership mode. Draft biotech policy of the State was ready and Ernst & Young was chosen as Consultants to guide the State in this sector. A biotech advisory committee headed by eminent scientist Dr D Balasubramanian (former Director, CCMB) was also set up to ensure industry- academia-government interface.

For the next 4-5 years, team Genome Valley, led by B P Acharya worked as men (and women) possessed to build up the cluster bit by bit, brick by brick.

The first task was to get the Biotech policy of the State finalized. Utkarsh and Vishal of E&Y helped immensely to finalize the document called “Beyond Tomorrow” (BT) that provided the basis to attract investments to the State in this sector. This sowed the seeds of the Genome Valley Project. Competition came from Karnataka. The Project was road-showed at BIO, San Diego. World renowned personalities in bio-tech like Dr Clause Plate of Germany and Dr Robert Naismith of the USA became its supporters.

The team was quick to realize that promotion without actual development on ground won’t take them far. Hence, each of the elements that could make the cluster viable was considered. The first step was to finalize the developer of the Biotech park under the PPP mode. Shapoorji Pallonji (SP), then headed by Cyrus Mistry, came around after several rounds of discussions. They finally agreed to build, operate and market what was known then as SP biotech park over 150 acres allotted to them adjacent to the ICICI Knowledge Park (now called IKP).

As this was the first of its kind Biotech cluster in India, attempt was made to bench mark it against the best in the world. Research Triangle Park in North Carolina was visited in 2002. By this time, the first of the allottees in Biotech Park started their manufacturing units.

These included the one set up by Dr Ella’s Bharat Biotech in what was to become a vibrant Life Sciences cluster in a few years. But there were issues like water supply, pollution control, fire station, cafeteria, housing etc, that had to be addressed. The whole area was declared as pollution free zone to make it suitable for Life science sector. Fortunately, B P Acharya utilized his subsequent assignment (MD, HMWS&SB) in 2004-5. It enabled him to complete the project to draw water from a distance of about 20 kms (Alwal reservoir of Water Board). A felt need of the cluster was met. This paved the way for its growth and expansion in the years to come. Meanwhile, it was felt necessary to hold a regular event to show case Genome Valley. That is how Bio Asia (which has grown to be one the major global shows over the years) and FABA (Federation of Asian Biotech Associations) were born.

Soon the area allotted for biotech park was fully occupied and there was a need to plan for its expansion. When Acharya came back to Industry sector again in 2005, this time as MD, APIIC, he could earmark 100 acres of land next to ICICI KP in Lalgadi Malakpet , as Biotech Park Phase 2 ( partly notified as SEZ) and later 150 acres in the nearby village of Karkapatla for Phase 3. This is now fully occupied and search is on for identifying land for the next phase.

In Phase 2, a major vaccine manufacturing facility was set up by Biological E. This is now collaborating with Johnson & Johnson for their Covid vaccine. In Phase 3, Indian Immunologicals has also set up a major vaccine manufacturing unit and is also involved with another Covid vaccine candidate. In Phase 2, 100 acres were allotted by State government to ICMR for setting up the National Animal Research Facility (NARF), the largest of its kind in India, that will be a big boon for the Biopharma industry for pre-clinical trials etc.

Thus, over the last two decades, the Genome Valley has emerged as a truly global life sciences hub, the only one its kind in India. Today it hosts over 300 companies, including major international players. It provides employment to over 20,000 persons, either directly or indirectly.

It is indeed a proud moment for all those involved in this venture since its inception. The initiative taken almost a couple of decades ago is in the forefront of the battle against the pandemic. The story of the Genome Valley is also an example of building a viable ecosystem for a successful industrial cluster. It entailed careful planning and implementing each of the elements essential for its growth and meticulously placing bits and pieces of this big jigsaw puzzle together. B P Acharya and his committed team demonstrated that officers can make-it-happen

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

The first task was to get the biotech policy of the state finalised. Utkarsh and Vishal of E&Y helped immensely to finalise the document called “Beyond Tomorrow” that provided the basis to attract investments to the state in this sector. This sowed the seeds of the Genome Valley Project. Competition came from Karnataka. The project was road-showed at BIO, San Diego. World-renowned personalities in biotech like Dr Clause Plate of Germany and Dr Robert Naismith of the US became its supporters.

The whole area was declared pollution-free zone to make it suitable for the life science sector. Fortunately, B P Acharya utilised his subsequent assignment (MD, HMWS&SB) in 2004-5. It enabled him to complete the project to draw water from a distance of about 20 km (Alwal reservoir of Water Board).

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Policy & Politics

Indian apparels should target Colombia’s fashion industry: Ambassador Sanjiv Ranjan

B2B meeting held between Indian apparel exporters and Colombian buyers.

Tarun Nangia

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Indian Ambassador to Colombia Sanjiv Ranjan said that there is a huge potential for Indian apparel exporters in Colombia, particularly in its “resilient and innovative” fashion industry with domestic sales of about $7 billion.Speaking at ‘India-Colombia Synergies in Apparel and Textiles’, a virtual B2B meeting organized by Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) and Embassy of India, Bogota, Colombia, on Monday evening, Mr Ranjan said that the readymade garment exports from India were limited to around $21 million in 2019.

“India’s apparel exports to Colombia is just 3% of its global imports. This does not really reflect the strength of what our sector stands for. We have a huge untapped potential in this sector which requires to be explored and utilized by our exporters,” he said.

Highlighting the growing popularity of Indian apparels in Colombia, Ranjan said that the apparel exporters should focus on Colombia’s fashion industry that accounts for 9.4% of the country’s industrial GDP and employs about 600,000 people. The annual household expenditure on fashion in Columbia is roughly 24.3 trillion Columbian peso.

“It is one of the most vibrant sectors of the region. Columbia has a robust network of almost 14,000 companies in the fashion industry, mostly in the small and medium sized categories. Even during the peak of the pandemic in June 2020, clothing accounted for nearly 57% of the total fashion spending followed by jewelry. While the government is trying at its level, the private sector should find out how to contribute to this resilient and innovative sector,” the ambassador said.

Ranjan congratulated AEPC for setting up a virtual exhibition platform to showcase Indian apparels to overseas buyers at a time when physical presence is restricted.

“I am sure that this virtual, 24×7 platform offers more experience at one place, with the flexibility for importers to zoom in and look at the various products on offer. This will go a long way in further energizing our bilateral engagement in the apparel sector,” he said.

AEPC Chairman Dr A Sakthivel informed the attending Colombian brands and buyers that AEPC through its virtual platform will work as a bridge between the Indian apparel exporters and Colombian apparel importers. About 320 apparel exporters have already put up their products for exhibition on the platform, he said.

“On our request, the government has come out with a production linked incentive (PLI) scheme for manmade fibre (MMF) based garments. We do 85% cotton garments and only 15% MMF garments, while the global apparel demand is exactly the opposite. Very soon we will see a rise in exports of MMF garments from India,” Dr Sakthivel said.

Sudhir Sekhri, Chairman (Export Promotion), AEPC, said, “Of the top 10 apparel imports from India to Colombia, only two are in the MMF category and the rest are cotton garments. Perhaps this is where Bangladesh and Vietnam are scoring ahead of us. This is one area that we are trying to address very quickly along with the help from the government.”

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