Announcing a fresh stimulus package and calling it ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat 3.0’, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman laid down a total of 12 new measures to support the economy and industry, ranging from employment generation, collateral-free credit for stressed sectors to subsidised fertiliser for farmers.
The Finance Minister announced the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat Rozgar Yojana’ to incentivise creation of new employment opportunities during the Covid-recovery phase. The employment scheme, effective from 1 October, will be applicable to eligible new employees joining the EPFO-registered establishments and for those who exited these concerns during the Covid pandemic (1 March to 30 September 2020) and drawing monthly wages of less than Rs 15,000.
Under the scheme, the central government will subsidise the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) contributions for two years. The Centre will provide 12 per cent of the contributions of both employers and the employee for establishments with up to 1,000 employees. In the case of establishments with over 1,000 employees, the Centre will only subsidise 12 per cent of the employees’ EPF contributions.
Also, in order to provide a further boost to rural employment, the government will provide an additional outlay of Rs 10,000 crore for the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Rozgar Yojana. The government will provide Rs 65,000 crore to farmers to ensure adequate supply of fertilisers in the upcoming crop season.
In a major decision to support the pandemic-hit industry, the government has also announced an Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS 2.0) for providing much needed relief to stressed sectors by helping entities sustain employment and meet liabilities. The ECLGS scheme for MSMEs, MUDRA loan borrowers and individuals has been extended till March next year.In a bid to boost housing sales, Sitharaman announced an increase in the permitted differential between the circle rate and agreement value of housing units to 20 per cent from the current mandated limit of 10 per cent till 30 June. The increase in differential will be applicable in residential units of value up to Rs 2 crore. Section 43CA of IT Act restricts differential between circle rate and agreement value at 10 per cent. However, prices may actually be lower than that, and the restrictions curbs sale of housing units.
To provide ease of doing business and relief to contractors whose money otherwise remains locked up, performance security on contracts will be reduced to 3 per cent earnest money deposit (EMD) for tenders will be replaced by bid security self-declaration. The relaxation will be available till 31 December 2021.
The Centre will also make an additional outlay of Rs 18,000 crore for Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban), which is likely to help ground 12 lakh houses and complete 18 lakh houses, as per the Finance Minister.
In another boost for infrastructure development, the government will invest Rs 6,000 crore in the NIIF (National Infrastructure Investment Fund) debt platform, which will provide infrastructure project financing of Rs 1,10,000 crore.
The Finance Minister said that the total value of the Centre’s stimulus support so far is about Rs 30 lakh crore, post the three rounds of ‘Aatmanirbhat Bharat’ economic measure and the measures by the Reserve Bank of India amid the pandemic. Total stimulus accounts for 15 per cent of the GDP, with the Central government’s component being 9 per cent and the rest of the RBI.
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GOVERNMENT HAS NO BUSINESS TO BE IN BUSINESS: PM MODI
Addressing a webinar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says that the government has decided to monetise 100 PSUs valued at Rs 2.5 lakh crore.
The government has “no business” to be in business, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday in a clear push for disinvestment and privatisation of public sector undertakings (PSUs). The PM made the remarks during a webinar on privatisation by the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM).
“It is the government’s duty to support enterprises and businesses. But it is not essential that it should own and run enterprises,” the Prime Minister said, adding: “There was a different time when public sector enterprises were established and the needs were also different.”
PM Modi said that work is going on in full swing on modern infrastructure and multi-modal connectivity for Aatmnirbhar Bharat. He said the government is working on Rs 111 trillion National Infrastructure Pipeline and there is a scope for the private sector to invest around Rs 25 trillion in this project. He emphasised that there should be transparency in “monetise and modernise” process and it should follow rules.
“The government is going ahead with the mantra of ‘monetise and modernise’. When government monetises, that space is filled by the private sector of the country. The private sector brings investment and best global practices with them. This modernises other things and brings modernisation to the entire sector, the rapid expansion of the sector and the creation of new employment opportunities. It is important to monitor this to ensure that there is transparency in this process and rules are followed,” he said.
Noting that the government has many underutilised or unutilised assets, PM Modi said that this is the reason why the Centre announced the National Asset Monetisation Pipeline. “The government has many underutilised or unutilised assets. This is the reason why the Centre announced the National Asset Monetisation Pipeline. We have set a target to monetise around 100 assets including oil, gas, ports, airports and power. It is estimated to get a Rs 2.5 trillion investment. This process will continue,” he said.
“The money comes from assets monetisation and privatisation is being used to build houses for the poor, making roads in villages, opening new schools, providing clean water etc. Every decision related to asset monetisation and privatisation will help
Every family to get insurance benefit of Rs 5 lakhs under Universal Healthcare scheme in Rajasthan
Jaipur (Rajasthan) [India], February 25 (ANI): Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Wednesday assured that every family will get an insurance benefit of Rs 5 lakhs under the Universal Healthcare scheme in the state.
“Every family will get an insurance benefit of Rs 5 lakhs under Universal Healthcare scheme. Those covered under Ayushman Bharat Mahatma Gandhi Rajasthan Swasthya Bima Yojana along with contract workers and small and marginal farmers can avail this scheme for free,” Gehlot said while addressing a press conference.
Gehlot also assured that all those who are not covered under the above schemes can avail a treatment of Rs 5 lakhs at any private and government hospital in the state.
“While others in the state can pay half of the insurance premium, of Rs 850 annually and avail the treatment of Rs 5 lakhs at any private and government hospital,” Gehlot said.
During the Rajasthan Budget session of 2021 held yesterday, Gehlot said in the parliament that the Rajasthan government will also introduce a ‘Right to Health’ Bill, which will provide preventive, private and curative cure to the people. It will also for the first time implement a ‘Universal health Coverage’ in the state to provide healthcare to five crore families.
For COVID-19 management, Gehlot also announced a ‘Special COVID package’ where Rs 2,000 each will be provided to 33 lakh destitute families and an interest-free loan up to Rs 50,000. Under Mukhyamantri Laghu Udyog Protsahan Yojna, Rs 50 crore will be provided to entrepreneurs. Free uniforms and books will be provided to students. (ANI)
PM Modi to inaugurate multiple developmental projects in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry today
New Delhi [India], February 25 (ANI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Tamil Nadu and Puducherry on Thursday and will inaugurate and lay the foundation stone of various development initiatives.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the Prime Minister will lay the foundation stone for 4 laning of NH45-A – 56 kms Sattanathapuram – Nagapattinam package of Villupuram to Nagapattinam project covering Karaikal district in Puducherry at around 11:30 am. The capital cost to be incurred in this project is about Rs 2,426 crores.
He will also lay the foundation stone of the Medical College Building at Karaikal New Campus- Phase I, Karaikal District (JIPMER). The estimated cost of the project is Rs 491 crore.
The Prime Minister will lay the foundation stone for the development of Minor Port at Puducherry under Sagarmala Scheme. He will inaugurate the Blood Centre at Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), Puducherry, which will function as a research laboratory and a training centre for the short- term and continuous blood bank personnel training in all aspects of transfusion.
The school education department has announced a holiday for government and private schools as traffic in the city has been diverted due to the Prime Minister’s visit tomorrow.
In Tamil Nadu at around 4 pm, he will dedicate to the nation the Neyveli New Thermal Power Project.
“It is a lignite-based power plant designed for power generation capacity of 1000 MW and has two units of 500 MW capacity each. Built at a cost of about Rs 8000 crore, the pit head power plant will utilise lignite as fuel from the existing mines of Neyveli, which have sufficient lignite reserves for meeting the lifetime requirement of the project. The Plant has been designed for 100 per cent Ash utilization. The power generated would benefit Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Puducherry, with Tamil Nadu having a major share of about 65 per cent,” read the release.
The Prime Minister will also dedicate to the nation the 709 MW Solar Power Project of NLCIL, established over an area of about 2670 acres of land across the districts of Tirunelveli, Tuticorin, Ramanathapuram and Virudhunagar. The project has been set up at a cost of over Rs 3,000 crore.
He will lay the foundation stone of the extension, renovation and modernization of the Lower Bhavani Project System. The extension, renovation and modernization of the Lower Bhavani System has been taken up at a cost of Rs 934 crore under NABARD Infrastructure Development Assistance.
The Prime Minister will inaugurate the 8-laning of Korampallam Bridge and Rail Over Bridge (ROB) at V.O.Chidambaranar Port. He will lay the foundation stone for the design, supply, installation and commissioning of a 5MW grid-connected ground-based solar power plant at V.O.Chidambaranar Port.
He will inaugurate the tenements constructed under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) scheme.
PM Modi will lay the foundation stone for the development of Integrated Command and Control Centers (ICCC) in nine Smart Cities including Coimbatore, Madurai, Salem, Thanjavur, Vellore, Tiruchirappalli, Tiruppur, Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi. (ANI)
New study uncovers new genes linked to glaucoma risk
New Delhi [India], February 25 (ANI): A new study led by QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute and Harvard Medical School has significantly increased understanding of the genetics of glaucoma, identifying 44 previously unknown genes linked to a person’s risk of developing the degenerative eye disease.
The findings of the large, international study take the total number of genes now known to increase a person’s glaucoma risk to 127. The research also shows that most of the genes are shared across different ethnic ancestry groups.
The findings have been published in the journal ‘Nature Communications’.
“Glaucoma causes a progressive degeneration of the optic nerve. It is the leading cause of irreversible blindness globally, affecting more than 75 million people,” read the study on Thursday.
The head of QIMR Berghofer’s Statistical Genetics group and co-senior researcher on the study, Professor Stuart MacGregor, said the 44 identified risk genes uncover new biological processes, such as immune function, associated with glaucoma.
“Glaucoma is one of the most strongly genetic human diseases, which is why we are looking at the genetic architecture of the disease to find clues on how to prevent and treat it,” Professor MacGregor said.
“We’re hopeful that understanding the biological processes and knowing which genes control them could help scientists develop new drugs in the future,” MacGregor said.
Lead researcher Associate Professor Puya Gharahkhani, from QIMR Berghofer’s Statistical Genetics group, said they examined data from more than 34,000 people across five continents and compared it to genetic information from almost 350,000 people without glaucoma.
“Glaucoma rates are highest in people of African and Asian ancestry, but the largest genetic studies of glaucoma in the past have focused on people of European ancestry,” Associate Professor Gharahkhani said.
“Those studies showed genetic tests could be used to help identify who would benefit from sight-saving early monitoring or treatment, but because of the narrow scope of the genetic data, we weren’t sure until now that the genetic indicators applied to people of different ancestries.
“By combining data from around the globe, our study suggests genetic tests could work well across a wide range of ancestries to identify people at risk of glaucoma.”
Co-senior author and Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, Janey Wiggs, said there are currently no treatments to prevent glaucoma.
“More than 50 per cent of glaucoma cases are not diagnosed until irreversible optic nerve damage has occurred,” Professor Wiggs, who is also Associate Chief of Ophthalmology Clinical Research at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, said.
“Available drugs can only slow disease progression during the early stages, so identifying improved means by which we can diagnose the disease earlier is an exciting development – especially since we now know this would be effective globally.”
Professor MacGregor said the researchers hoped to build on the study to identify even more genes associated with glaucoma. (ANI)
Kerala polls: CPI-M slams Rahul Gandhi’s remarks on gold smuggling case
Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala) [India], February 25 (ANI): A day after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi criticised the Left party over gold smuggling case in a campaign rally, CPI(M) state secretariat said he would have Robert Vadra in mind who is constantly appearing before investigative agencies over assets illegally acquired.
“Gandhi would have Robert Vadra in mind who is constantly appearing before investigative agencies over assets illegally acquired by him,” said the secretariat.
In a statement issued here on Wednesday, CPI(M) Kerala secretariat also alleged that Rahul Gandhi’s speech was like that of “Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) recruiting agent, which is shocking”.
“In the speech, the national leader of the Congress party did not even dare to criticize the BJP. In fact, Rahul Gandhi had the same voice as that of BJP in attacking the Left. This shows the communal allegiance of Congress. It is this approach that is encouraging Congress MLAs in many states to join the BJP,” said CPI(M) state secretariat.
CPI(M) alleged that it has become clear that it was not a coincidence that the UDF did not speak out against the BJP during the march and that it was on the instructions of the central leadership.
“Rahul Gandhi’s allegations against the Kerala government was pathetic,” said the CPIM secretariat.
“References on smuggling case and the job issues may be made with regard to Congress, which was in power earlier at the Centre. While making the speech, Rahul Gandhi may also remember Robert Vadra, who is constantly appearing before investigative agencies over assets illegally acquired through administrative influence,” alleged the CPI(M).
Further, the CPI(M) state secretariat said, “Rahul Gandhi has criticized the central agencies for not being quick to hunt down the Left. In this context, it would be good to remember that Rahul Gandhi is the person who is being held on bail in a financial fraud case.”
Further, regarding the trawling controversy, CPI(M) leader said: “In 1991, Congress completely fed the sea to foreign trawlers in the country. The policy of liberalization, which left the agricultural sector to the corporate powers, is also that of Congress. The BJP has now implemented the law announced by Congress in its manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections. Rahul Gandhi held a tractor rally in Wayanad against this and made a mockery of himself. The CPM requested that strong public sentiment be raised against Congress, which is becoming the mouthpiece of the BJP.”
Kerala Assembly Elections are scheduled to take place this year. However, the dates of the election have not been announced yet. (ANI)
Conduct COVID-19 test of international travellers arriving in India for free: Cong MP urges PM Modi
Alathur (Kerala) [India], February 25 (ANI): Kerala Congress MP Ramya Haridas on Wednesday wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking to conduct an RT-PCR test of all international air travellers arriving at the airports in India free of cost.
“The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare gives directions that all the passengers arriving at the airports in India should do the RT-PCR test compulsorily. This will affect the passengers and the felt very difficult in the type of both money and time. Moreover, for the RT-PCR test, there is levied a sum of Rs 1700 per passenger and will occur large expenses for those who come back with a family with lost their job etc due to the pandemic situation,” read the letter.
“All countries are required the departure air travel for 72 hours prior to RT-PCR certificates and hence the repeated test at arrival station is a vain process. Hence, the RTPCR test done for passengers at arrival either by free of cost born by the Government or it should be fully cancelled,” read the letter.
The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) on Wednesday deputed high-level multi-disciplinary teams to Maharashtra, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Jammu and Kashmir for supporting them in public health measures for targeted COVID response and management.
According to the official release, the three-member multidisciplinary teams will work closely with the states and UT administration and ascertain the reasons for the recent surge in the number of COVID19 cases. They will also coordinate with health authorities of the states and UT for requisite COVID-19 control measures to break the chain of transmission.
The health ministry has advised states and UTs for regular critical review of the emerging situation with concerned district officials to ensure that gains made so far in COVID management are not lost. (ANI)
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