• Current Affair , 18th March 2020

    NATIONAL NEWS

    1. Research and Development Centres for Ayurveda And Siddha

    • The Ministry of AYUSH has established Central Council for Research in Siddha (CCRS) and Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS) which are apex organizations for developing and promoting research & development in Siddha system and Ayurvedic system of medicine respectively in the country including Hyderabad (Telangana). CCRAS has a total of 30 Ayurvedic Research Institutes/Centres/Units located all over India and CCRS has a total of 08 Siddha Research Institutes/Units functioning under it.
    Under Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS), one Siddha Wellness Centre at Delhi and two at Chennai are providing treatment facilities. The details of Siddha CGHS Centres are as under:-
    1.
    i. KK Nagar Siddha Unit – Chennai, Tamil Nadu
    ii. Anna Nagar Siddha Unit – Chennai, Tamil Nadu
    iii. Lodhi Road Siddha Unit – New Delhi

    The following steps are taken/being taken by the Ministry of AYUSH in developing the Ayurveda and Siddha Systems of medicine to cure diseases which are presently incurable under allopathy:-

    1. Center for Integrative Oncology (CIO) has been established as a joint venture of All India Institute of Ayurveda (AIIA) and National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research (NICPR-ICMR) for treatment of cancer.
    2. CCRAS is coordinating, formulating, developing and promoting research in Ayurvedic Sciences on scientific lines. The research activities mainly include Medicinal Plant Research (Medico-ethno botanical Survey, Pharmacognosy and Tissue Culture), Drug Standardization, Pharmacological Research, Clinical Research, Literary Research & Documentation and Tribal Health Care Research Programme and carried out through its 30 Institutes/Centres/Units located at different states across the Country and also in collaboration with reputed academic and research organizations. The outcomes of these researches are being disseminated through research articles, technical reports, Ayush research portal and journals etc.
    3. CCRS is providing health care facilities for various diseases like Psoriasis, Eczema, respiratory disorders, Musculoskeletal diseases, Skin diseases, Respiratory diseases, Women’s Health, Neuro degenerative diseases, Peptic ulcer diseases, Non-healing ulcers, male and female reproductive diseases, non-communicable diseases, vector-borne diseases etc. through its eight peripheral institutes / units.
    4. Siddhar Kaayakalpam, Siddhar Yogam, external therapies like Varmam, Thokkanam and Pura maruthuvam are the strength of Siddha system for prevention, management and treatment of incurable diseases along with internal medications.
    5. Nilavembu Kudineer, a Siddha medicine has proven effect in the prevention and management of Dengue and Chikungunya in epidemic out breaks.
    6. Treatment and management of Dengue in Siddha system offers Nilavembu kashayam and papaya leaf juice which increases platelet count and reduces further complication. Moreover, it proves to be less expensive and highly effective.
    7. Specialized treatments are also being provided by CCRS to the public through Diabetic OPD, Geriatric OPD, Reproductive and Child health care OPD, Varmam, Thokkanam, Bone setting and Yogam OPD.

    A. List of the Siddha Research Institutes/units under CCRS:-
    1. Siddha Central Research Institute, Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
    2. Siddha Regional Research Institute, Puducherry.
    3. Siddha Regional Research Institute, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
    4. Siddha Clinical Research Unit, Palayamkottai, Tamil Nadu.
    5. Siddha Clinical Research Unit, Karol Bagh, New Delhi.
    6. Siddha Clinical Research Unit, Bengaluru, Karnataka.
    7. Siddha Medicinal Plants Garden, Mettur Dam, Tamil Nadu.
    8. Siddha Clinical Research Unit, Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh.
    B. List of the Ayurvedic Research Institutes/Centres/units under CCRAS:-
    1. Central Ayurveda Research Institute for Cardiovascular Diseases, New Delhi.
    2. National Ayurveda Research Institute for Panchakarma, Cheruthuruthy, Kerala.
    3. Central Ayurveda Research Institute for Hepatobiliary Disorders, Bhubaneswar, Odisha.
    4. Central Ayurveda Research Institute for Drug Development, Kolkata, West Bengal.
    5. Central Ayurveda Research Institute for Respiratory Disorders, Patiala, Punjab.
    6. Regional Ayurveda Research Institute for Eye Diseases, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.
    7. Raja Ramdeo Anandilal Podar (RRAP) Central Ayurveda Research Institute for Cancer, Mumbai, Maharashtra.
    8. M.S. Regional Ayurveda Research Institute for Endocrine Disorders, Jaipur, Rajasthan.
    9. Regional Ayurveda Research Institute for Drug Development, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh.
    10. Regional Ayurveda Research Institute for Skin disorders, Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh.
    11. Regional Ayurveda Research Institute for Mother and Child Health, Nagpur, Maharashtra.
    12. Regional Ayurveda Research Institute for Metabolic Disorders, Bangalore, Karnataka.
    13. Regional Ayurveda Research Institute for Life style related Disorders, Trivandrum, Kerala.
    14. Regional Ayurveda Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, Patna, Bihar.
    15. Research Ayurveda Regional Institute for Gastro-Intestinal Disorders, Guwahati, Assam.
    16. Regional Ayurveda Research Institute, Gangtok, Sikkim.
    17. Regional Ayurveda Research Institute, Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh.
    18. Regional Ayurveda Research Institute for Urinary Disorders, Jammu, J&K.
    19. Regional Ayurveda Research Institute for Nutritional Disorders, Mandi, Himachal Pradesh.
    20. Regional Ayurveda Research Institute for Skin Disorders, Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
    21. Regional Ayurveda Research Institute, Ranikhet, Uttarakhand.
    22. Regional Ayurveda Research Institute, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh.
    23. Regional Ayurveda Institute for Fundamental Research, Pune, Maharashtra.
    24. National Institute of Indian Medical Heritage, Hyderabad, Telangana.
    25. Captain Srinivasa Murthy Regional Ayurveda Drug Development Institute, Chennai, Tamil Nadu .
    26. Dr. Achanta Lakshmipati Research Centre for Ayurveda, Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
    27. Regional Research Center of Ayurveda, Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
    28. National Research Institute for Sowa-Rigpa, Leh, Ladakh.
    29. Regional Ayurveda Research Centre, Dimapur, Nagaland.
    30. Regional Ayurveda Research Centre, Agartala, Tripura.

    2. Increased Agricultural Production

    • The Government has taken various steps to promote the use of modern techniques and plans to increase the agriculture production and thereby doubling the farmers income. Some of the interventions in this direction are :
    • (i) Sub-Mission on Seed and Planting Material (SMSP)
    • (ii) Per Drop More Crop (PDMC)
    • (iii) Soil Health Card (SHC) Scheme
    • (iv) Creation of a network of Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) by Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) to facilitate farmer’s access to knowledge and information generated by Agricultural Universities and ICAR Institutes of the country.
    • (v) Initiatives under Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA) Scheme like Extension Reforms, Mass Media Support to Agricultural Extension, Kisan Call Centres, Agri-Clinics and Agri-Business Centres, Exhibitions/ Fairs etc.
    • (vi) Sub Mission on Agricultural Mechanization (SMAM)
    • (vii) National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) scheme
    • The Government is implementing schemes for imparting various training programmes and awareness campaigns for the benefit of farmers at Panchayat and village level under Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA) Scheme, Four Farm Machinery Training & Testing Institutes(FMTTIs), Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH), National Food Security Mission (NFSM) etc. through its wide network of Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) under Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and agriculture Universities etc.
    • Awareness campaigns, advertisements etc are also organized in print and electronic media to raise awareness among the farmers about the various initiatives taken by the Govt. of India for their welfare.

    3. Import of Bulk Drugs/APIs

    • The Indian Pharmaceutical industry is 3rd largest in the world in terms of volume and 14th largest in terms of value. India exported medicines worth US $14389 mn in Financial Year 2018-19. India also exported Bulk Drug/Drug Intermediates worth US $ 3911mn in Financial Year 2018-19. However, the country also imports various Bulk Drugs/Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) for producing medicines. Two-thirds of the total imports of Bulk Drugs/ Drug Intermediates is from China. The imports from China are mainly due to economic considerations. The details of India’s imports of Bulk Drugs/ Drug Intermediates (including from China) are as under:
    As per the information received from the port offices of CDSCO, the quantity of raw materials imported for the formulation of antibiotic medicines in the country during each of the last three years is as follows:

    Year Quantity of raw materials imported for the formulation of antibiotic medicines in the country (in MTs)
    2019 11230.50
    2018 12006.11
    2017 5591.44

    • Department of Pharmaceuticals has constituted a Committee under the chairmanship of Dr. Eshwara Reddy, Joint Drugs Controller, Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) to address the issue of drug security in the country in the context of novel coronavirus outbreak in China. Based on the recommendations of the Committee, the department has issued necessary instructions to National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) and State Governments to ensure adequate supply of APIs and formulations at affordable prices in the market and to prevent black-marketing, illegal hoarding, creating artificial shortages in the country. In this regard, Department of Pharmaceuticals has written to DGFT to restrict exports of 13 API and formulations made out of these APIs which includes paracetamol. NPPA has also written to Chief Secretaries of States with copies to Principal Secretaries Health and State Drug Controllers requesting them to closely monitor the production and availability of APIs and formulations to prevent the black marketing and hoarding in their States and UTs as well as to ensure that there is no violation of provisions of Drugs (Prices Control) Order, 2013 with regard to compliance of ceiling prices/ permissible increase in prices of scheduled/ non-scheduled formulations respectively.
    • The Department of Pharmaceuticals has formulated a Scheme namely ‘Assistance to Bulk Drug Industry for Common Facility Centre’ for providing assistance of upto Rs.100 crore for creation of Common Facility Centre (CFC) in any upcoming bulk drug park promoted by State Governments/State Corporations. The department has given ‘In-principle’ approval to the following proposals under this scheme:

    1. Govt. of Andhra Pradesh (AP Economic Cities Promotional Corporation Ltd.)
    2. Govt. of Telangana (Telangana State Industrial Infrastructure Corporation Ltd.)
    3. Govt. of Himachal Pradesh (HP State Industrial Development Corporation Ltd.)
    As per the said scheme the time frame for development of a CFC is 2 years from the date of final approval.

    4. Impact of Organic Foods on Fertilizer Industry

    • Government of India has been promoting balanced and judicious use of fertiliser in conjunction with organic fertiliser, bio fertiliser on soil test based recommendations. All India Consumption of major fertilizers namely Urea, DAP, MOP, Complexes and SSP, during the years 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 was 536.11 LMT, 543.83 LMT and 562.09 LMT respectively. The consumption of fertilizer depends on many factors namely, fertility of soil, availability of moisture in soil. Further, overall area under organic farming in the country in comparison to the gross cropped area is very less hence would not impact the chemical fertiliser industry though requirement of bio fertiliser would grow.
    • The demand of organic food is growing due to being chemical free and hence more safe. In order to encourage the use of organic/ bio fertilisers, Government of India has been promoting organic farming under two dedicated schemes namely Mission Organic Value Chain Development North Eastern Region (MOVCDNER) and Parampragat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) since 2015 through State Governments.
    5. Financial Package to boost Rural Income

    • Agriculture and farmers are backbone of rural economy. With a view to provide income support to farmers’ families across the country, to enable them to take care of expenses related to agriculture and allied activities as well as domestic needs, Government launched the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) on 24.2.2019. Under the scheme, an amount of Rs. 6000/- is transferred directly into the bank accounts of farmers’ families every year, in three 4-monthly installments of Rs. 2000/- each. Farmers falling within the purview of exclusion criteria relating to higher income status are not eligible to get the benefit. Land owning farmers practicing animal husbandry and fisheries may also avail the benefit of this scheme subject to the exclusion criteria of the scheme.
    • Government has also been taking various other long term sustainable measures to boost agriculture productivity and farmers’ income and rural economy. For example:
    • (i) With a view to provide better insurance coverage to crops for risk mitigation, a crop insurance scheme namely Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) has been launched, which provides insurance cover for all stages of the crop cycle including postharvest risks in specified instances, with low premium contribution by farmers.
    • (ii) Minimum Support Price (MSPs) are announced for various crops from time-to- time.
    • (iii) Scheme of Soil Health Cards (SHC) has been implemented so that the use of fertilizers can be rationalized.
    • (iv) “Per drop more crop” initiative has been undertaken under which drip/sprinkler irrigation is encouraged for optimal utilization of water, reducing cost of inputs and increasing productivity.
    • (v) Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) has been implemented for promoting organic farming.
    • (vi) e-NAM initiative has been undertaken to provide farmers an electronic, transparent and competitive online trading platform.
    • (vii) Agro forestry has been promoted under “Har Medh Par Ped” for additional income.
    • (viii) An Umbrella Scheme ‘Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan (PMAASHA) has been launched, aimed at ensuring remunerative prices to the farmers.
    • (ix) Bee keeping has been promoted under Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH) to increase the productivity of crops through pollination and increase the honey production as an additional source of income of farmers.
    • (x) The scheme of Kisan Credit Cards (KCC) has been implemented for easy availability of agricultural credit to farmers, including animal husbandry and fisheries farmers.
    • (xi) Institutional agricultural credit at affordable interests has been brought within the reach of more and more farmers. Government provides interest subvention of 2% on short-term crop loans up to Rs.3.00 lakh. Presently, loan is available to farmers at an interest rate of 4% per annum on prompt repayment.
    • (xii) Further, under Interest Subvention Scheme 2018-19, in order to provide relief to the farmers on occurrence of natural calamities, the interest subvention of 2% has been made available for the first year on the restructured amount. In order to discourage distress sale by farmers and to encourage them to store their produce in warehouses against negotiable receipts, the benefit of interest subvention will be available to small and marginal farmers having Kisan Credit Cards for a further period of upto six months post harvest on the same rate as available to crop loan.

    6. Increase in MSP

    • The Union Government has increased the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for Kharif and Rabi crops of 2019-20 season including Paddy, wheat, pulses and oilseeds on the line of fixing the MSP at a level of 1.5 times of the cost of production as announced in Union Budget 2018-19.
    • Government fixes MSPs of 22 mandated crops including wheat, pulses and oilseeds on the basis of recommendations of Commission for Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP), after considering the views of State Governments and Central Ministries/Departments concerned & other relevant factors. In addition, MSP for Toria and De-Husked coconut is also fixed on the basis of MSPs of Rapeseed & Mustard and Copra respectively.
    • While recommending MSP, CACP considers various factors viz. cost of production, overall demand-supply situations of various crops in domestic and world markets, domestic and international prices, inter-crop price parity, terms of trade between agriculture and nonagriculture sector, likely effect of price policy on rest of economy, rational utilization of land, water and other production resources and a minimum of 50 percent as the margin over cost of production. The views of the farmer and farmer’s association are also considered by CACP before recommending MSP.
    • Government receives suggestions from state government regarding various aspect of increasing MSP. CACP seeks suggestions from different stakeholders including State Governments before recommending MSP. National Commission on Farmers (NCF) headed by Dr. M.S. Swaminathan had recommended that the MSP should be at least 50 percent more than the weighted average cost of production. The Union Budget for 2018-19 had announced the pre-determined principle to keep MSP at levels of one and half times of the cost of production. Accordingly, Government has increased the MSP for all mandated Kharif, Rabi and other commercial crops with a return of atleast 50 per cent of all India weighted average cost of production for the agricultural year 2018-19 and 2019-20.

    7. NPPA has issued 2083 demand notices for Rs. 6406.33 crore in matters of overcharging Consumers

    • The Minister for Chemicals & Fertilizers, Shri. D.V. Sadananda Gowda informed the Lok Sabha today In written replies that fixation of prices has resulted in a total saving of Rs. 12,447 crores per annum to the public after implementation of the DPCO, 2013.
    • National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) fixes the ceiling price of scheduled formulations adopted from National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) and new drugs as per the provisions of para 4, 5 and 6 of the Drugs (Prices Control) Order, 2013 (DPCO, 2013). Further, the prices of non-scheduled formulation are monitored so that their MRP is not increased by more than 10% of MRP during preceding twelve months.
    • The Minister elaborated steps taken by NPPA for making medicines available at affordable price as below :
    • NPPA fixed the ceiling prices of 530 scheduled formulations under NLEM, 2011. The details of reduction in prices of scheduled formulations effected under the DPCO, 2013 as compared to the highest price prevailed prior to the price fixation is as below:
    % reduction with respect to Maximum Price No. of drugs
    0<= 5% 80
    5<=10% 50
    10<=15% 57
    15<=20% 43
    20<=25% 65
    25<=30% 49
    30<=35% 26
    35<=40% 34
    Above 40% 126
    530

    • Further, Schedule-I of the DPCO, 2013 was amended by adopting NLEM, 2015. The NPPA has notified the ceiling prices of 866scheduled formulations under NLEM, 2015.The details of reduction in prices of scheduled formulations effected under the DPCO, 2013 as compared to the highest price prevailed prior to the price fixation is as below:
    % reduction with respect to Maximum Price No. of formulations
    0<= 5%* 237
    5<=10% 138
    10<=15% 99
    15<=20% 100
    20<=25% 92
    25<=30% 68
    30<=35% 46
    35<=40% 26
    Above 40% 60
    Total formulations in NLEM, 2015 866

    • NPPA fixed prices of 106 Anti-diabetic and Cardiovascular drugs under Para 19 of DPCO, 2013 in Public interest.
    • NPPA has fixed ceiling price of Cardiac Stents being scheduled formulation under DPCO, 2013 affecting price reduction for Coronary Stents worked out up to 85% for Bare Metal Stents and 74% for Drug Eluting Stents.
    • NPPA has fixed ceiling price of Orthopedic Knee Implants under Para 19 of DPCO, 2013 in Public interest affecting price reduction for orthopedic Knee Implants worked out up to be 69%.
    • NPPA capped the Trade Margin of non-scheduled formulations of 42 select Anti-cancer medicines under “Trade Margin Rationalization” approach as a Pilot for proof of concept, wherein price of above 500 brands of medicines were reduced upto 90%.
    • Shri. Gowda also informed the house that Since inception of the NPPA, 2083 demand notices (including suo-moto deposits) have been issued to pharmaceutical companies for their having overcharged consumers on the sale of formulations at prices above the ceiling price notified by the NPPA. Demand Notices have been issued for an amount of Rs. 6406.33 crore. Amount to the tune of Rs. 960.38 crore has been deposited by the companies to the Government. An amount of Rs. 4032.91 crore is under litigation. The demand notices are issued under various provisions of the DPCO, 1995 and the DPCO, 2013 read with Section 7A of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955. The Detailed list of overcharging cases where demand notices have been issued is available on NPPA’s website www.nppaindia.nic.in.
    • National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), as an ongoing process, fixes the ceiling prices of the formulations as and when formulations are included in the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM). The NPPA monitors the prices of both scheduled and non-scheduled formulations on regular basis to check overcharging by pharmaceutical companies. Whenever companies are found to be overcharging the consumer in sale of medicine, NPPA issues notices to the companies to deposit the overcharged amount along with applicable interest under section 7A of Essential Commodities Act, 1955.

    8. Review of Agricultural Income Insurance and Social Security Scheme

    • Government has implemented an income assurance scheme for the land owning farmers, namely, the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN). Under the Scheme an amount of Rs.6000/- per year is transferred in three 4-monthly installments of Rs.2000/- directly into the bank accounts of the farmers, subject to certain exclusion criteria relating to higher income status. The scheme has been aimed at augmenting the income of land owning farmers’ families by providing income support to enable them to take care of expenses related to agriculture and allied activities as well as domestic needs. The scheme, which was launched on 24.2.2019, was initially implemented for the Small and Marginal Farmers’ families only with total land holding upto 2 hectares. Government reviewed the scheme and extended its purview to all farmers, irrespective of the size of their land holding. The PM-KISAN Scheme has been successfully implemented across the country. So far, as on 11.3.2020, financial benefit under the scheme has been released to 8,69,79,391 beneficiaries.
    • Further, Government launched the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Maan Dhan Yojana (PM-KMY) on 12.9.2019 with a view to provide social security to Small and Marginal Farmers in their old age when they have no means of livelihood and minimal or no savings to take care of their expenses. Under this scheme, a minimum fixed pension of Rs.3,000/- is provided to the small and marginal farmers, subject to certain exclusion criteria, on attaining the age of 60 years. It is a voluntary and contributory pension scheme, with entry age of 18 to 40 years. The farmer is required to contribute between Rs.55 to Rs.200 per month to a Pension Fund depending on the entry age. The Central Government also contributes in equal amount to the Pension Fund. The Pension Fund is being managed by the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC). So far, as on 11.3.2020, 19,97,553 farmers have registered themselves under the Scheme.
    • For the PM-KISAN Scheme, Rs.20000 crore was provided for the financial year 2018-19 and Rs. Rs.75000 crore for the financial year 2019-2020. Out of that, Rs.6005.48 crore was released to the farmers in 2018-19 and Rs.46653.62 crore in 2019-20 so far, as on 11.3.2020. For the PM-KMY, a budgetary provision of Rs.900 crore has been made during the financial year 2019-20 towards the Central Government contribution to the Pension Fund of subscribing farmers. An amount of Rs.50 crore has so far been released to the LIC for the purpose.

    9. Dr Harsh Vardhan reviews status, actions and preparedness on COVID-19

    • Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family reviewed the status, actions taken by States\UTs, and their preparedness regarding prevention, containment and management of COVID-19, here today. Ms. Preeti Sudan, Secretary (HFW), Dr Balram Bhargava, DG (ICMR), Shri Arun Singhal, Spl. Secretary (H), Shri Sanjeeva Kumar, Spl. Secretary (H), DGHS; Shri G V V Sarma, Member Secretary (NDMA); Dr Randeep Guleria, Director, AIIMS; Dr Minakshi Bhardwaj, MS of Dr RML Hospital; Dr. Sujeet Singh, Director NCDC; Dr Raman Gangakhedkar, Scientist, ICMR; and officials of the Ministry were present during the meeting.
    • Dr Harsh Vardhan was apprised of the emerging international and national status on COVID-19, and the steps by Government of India and the states/UTs for prevention, containment and management of COVID-19. He reviewed the status and preparedness of the States/UTs in terms of quarantine facilities; isolation wards, adequacy of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), masks, testing kits etc. He also advised the states/UTs for maintaining hygiene and cleanliness in the hospitals and adhere to all laid down protocols for containment and management of COVID-19. He reviewed the steps taken by various States for social distancing in great detail. The measures taken for avoiding non-essential travel and mass gatherings was also reviewed by Dr Harsh Vardhan.
    • The Union Health Minister discussed the further measures to be taken for strengthening capacities of the states, mass awareness among the people for prevention through social distancing, work-from-home etc. Management of quarantine facilities was discussed in detail at the review meeting.
    • Outcomes of the discussion of the meeting held today shall be put up to the Group of Ministers (GOM) on COVID-19, at their meeting tomorrow.
    • Dr Harsh Vardhan has directed for scaling up capacity of the 24×7 Control Room Helpline (011-23978046) by adding more lines and additional human resource, to serve the queries on COVID19 through the Control Room.
    • In addition, as part of efforts of the Government to evacuate Indian citizens from COVID-19 affected countries, an Air India flight from Milan, Italy arrived in Delhi this morning carrying 218 evacuees. These evacuees are quarantined at the ITBP camp at Chhawla, as per protocol. In addition, the third batch of 236 evacuees from Iran has arrived today; they are being quarantined at the Army facility in Jaisalmer. They have already been tested prior to their departure from Iran. All are reported to be asymptomatic at present. Also, a total 265 passengers coming from COVID-19 affected countries have been quarantined at Trivandrum, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.
    • As of now, 23 new cases have been detected since the last update. Of these, 17 are from Maharashtra, 2 from Telangana, 1 from Rajasthan and 3 from Kerala. Both deceased patients had pre-existing co-morbidities. Contract tracing of these cases is being rigorously pursued. So far, this has led to identification of more than 4000 contacts who have been put under surveillance.
    • The Buldana patient, who was in a private hospital and whose sample was taken and who died yesterday, has tested negative for COVID-19.

    10. ROPAX Service from Bhaucha Dhakka to Mandwa commences

    • Shri Mansukh Mandaviya, Minister of State for Shipping (I/C) visited ROPAX service at Bhaucha Dhakka today in Maharashtra. Shri Mandaviya also visited ROPAX terminal and inspected the facilities created for the passengers as the ROPAX Service from Bhaucha Dhakka to Mandwa commences today. Shri Mandaviya reiterated the importance of Waterways as a mode of transportation and said that it has opened new avenues for the people to travel with reduced journey time and it will prove as a catalyst for the local economy.
    • ROPAX service is a ‘Water Transport Service Project’, under Eastern Waterfront Development. The benefits of this service include reduction in the travel time, vehicular emission and traffic on the road. The road distance from Mumbai to Mandwa is about 110 kilometres, and gruelling road journey takes three to four hours, whereas by waterway it is about 18 kilometre and journey of just an hour.
    • Currently, about 15 lakh passengers commute annually by catamarans and launches from Gateway of India to Mandwa. There is an exponential increase in the number of tourists and commuters in this stretch. Mumbai Port Trust and Maharashtra Maritime Board recognised the importance of this waterway, and with Government support decided to start ROPAX service from Bhaucha Dhakka (Ferry Wharf), i.e. Mumbai to Mandwa. Mumbai Port Trust has developed ROPAX jetty and terminal facilities at Bhaucha Dhakka (Ferry Wharf) at the cost of Rs 31 Crores. Maharashtra Maritime Board has developed Breakwater, ROPAX jetty and terminal facilities at Mandwa at the cost of Rs 135 Crores.
    • ROPAX Vessel M2M -1 was built in Greece in September 2019. This Vessel is highly manoeuvrable and has a speed of 14knots, and will complete one way trip in about 45 minutes to an hour. The features of this Vessel is that it can carry 200 cars and 1000 passengers at a time and has a ramp on both sides, hence cars can move in and out of the vessel easily and reduce the turn- around time. . Thus, people can now travel in their cars directly on to ROPAX vessel. Vessel is capable of operating even in Monsoon season, which is a big boon to commuters from Alibag area.
    • ROPAX service will help in reducing road traffic from Mumbai to Alibag/Goa to a certain extent, as travellers will certainly prefer a peaceful, novel and time saving journey. This will also reduce fuel consumption and vehicular emission, a step towards reducing Carbon Footprint.

    11. Index Numbers of Wholesale Price in India

    • The official Wholesale Price Index for ‘All Commodities’ (Base: 2011-12=100) for the month of February, 2020 declined by 0.6% to 122.2 (provisional) from 122.9 (provisional) for the previous month.
    • INFLATION
    • The annual rate of inflation, based on monthly WPI, stood at 2.26% (provisional) for the month of February,2020 (over February,2019) as compared to 3.1% (provisional) for the previous month and 2.93% during the corresponding month of the previous year. Build up inflation rate in the financial year so far was 1.92% compared to a build up rate of 2.75% in the corresponding period of the previous year.
    • Inflation for important commodities / commodity groups is indicated in Annex-1 and Annex-II.The movement of the index for the various commodity group is summarized below:-
    • PRIMARY ARTICLES (Weight 22.62%)
    • The index for this major group declined by 2.8% to 143.1 (provisional) from 147.2 (provisional) for the previous month. The groups and items which showed variations during the month are as follows:-

    The index for ‘Food Articles’ group declined by 3.7% to 154.9 (provisional) from 160.8 (provisional) for the previous month due to lower price of fruits & vegetables (14%), tea (8%), egg and maize (7% each), condiments & spices and bajra (4% each), gram and jowar (2% each) and fish-inland, pork, ragi, wheat, urad and masur (1% each). However, the price of beef and buffalo meat and fish-marine (5% each), betel leaves (4%), moong and poultry chicken (3% each), mutton (2%) and barley, rajma and arhar (1% each) moved up.

    The index for ‘ Non-Food Articles’ group declined by 0.4% to 131.6 (provisional) from 132.1 (provisional) for the previous month due to lower price of safflower (kardi seed) (7%), soyabean (6%), cotton seed (4%), castor seed, niger seed and linseed (3% each), gaur seed, rape & mustard seed and fodder (2% each) and raw cotton and mesta (1% each). However, the price of raw silk (7%), floriculture (5%), groundnut seed and raw jute (3% each), gingelly seed (sesamum) (2%) and skins (raw), coir fibre and raw rubber (1% each) moved up.

    The index for ‘Minerals’ group rose by 3.5% to 147.6 (provisional) from 142.6 (provisional) for the previous month due to higher price ofiron ore (7%), phosphorite and copper concentrate (4% each), limestone (3%). However, the price of chromite and bauxite (3% each), lead concentrate and zinc concentrate (2% each) and manganese ore (1%) declined.

    The index for ‘Crude Petroleum & Natural Gas’ group declined by 1.5% to 87.0 (provisional) from 88.3 (provisional) for the previous month due to lower price of crude petroleum (2%).
    • FUEL & POWER (Weight 13.15%)
    • The index for this major group rose by 1.2% to 103.9 (provisional) from 102.7 (provisional) for the previous month. The groups and items which showed variations during the month are as follows:-

    The index for ‘Mineral Oils’ group declined by 1.2% to 92.4 (provisional) from 93.5 (provisional) for the previous month due to lower price of naphtha (7%), HSD (4%), petrol (3%). However, the price ofLPG (15%), petroleum coke (6%), furnace oil and bitumen (4% each), kerosene (2%) and lube oils (1%) moved up.

    • The index for ‘Electricity’ group rose by 7.2% to 117.9 (provisional) from 110.0 (provisional) for the previous month due to higher price of electricity (7%).
    • MANUFACTURED PRODUCTS (Weight 64.23%)
    • The index for this major group rose by 0.2% to 118.7 (provisional) from 118.5 (provisional) for the previous month. The groups and items which showed variations during the month are as follows:-

    The index for ‘Manufacture of Food Products’ group declined by 0.9% to 136.9 (provisional) from 138.2 (provisional) for the previous month due to lower price of manufacture of health supplements (5%), rice bran oil, rapeseed oil and processed tea (4% each), gur, cotton seed oil and manufacture of prepared animal feeds (3% each), chicken/duck, dressed – fresh/frozen, copra oil, mustard oil, castor oil, sunflower oil and sooji (rawa ) (2% each) and vanaspati, maida, rice products, gram powder (besan), palm oil, manufacture of macaroni, noodles, couscous and similar farinaceous products, sugar, coffee powder with chicory, wheat flour (atta), manufacture of starches and starch products and other meats, preserved/processed (1% each). However, the price of molasses (4%), buffalo meat, fresh/frozen (2%) and spices (including mixed spices), processing and preserving of fish, crustaceans and molluscs and products thereof, ice cream, condensed milk, groundnut oil and salt (1% each) moved up.

    The index for ‘Manufacture ofBeverages’ group rose by 0.1% to 124.1 (provisional) from 124.0 (provisional) for the previous month due to higher price of wine, country liquor, rectified spirit and beer (1% each). However, the price of aerated drinks/soft drinks (incl. soft drink concentrates) and bottled mineral water (1% each) declined.

    The index for ‘Manufacture of Tobacco Products’ group rose by 2.1% to 154.2 (provisional) from 151.0 (provisional) for the previous month due to higher price of cigarette (4%) and other tobacco products (1%).

    The index for ‘Manufacture of Textiles’ group rose by 0.3% to 116.7 (provisional) from 116.4 (provisional) for the previous month due to higher price of weaving & finishing of textiles and manufacture of other textiles (1% each). However, the price of manufacture of made-up textile articles, except apparel, manufacture of cordage, rope, twine and netting and manufacture of knitted and crocheted fabrics (1% each) declined.
    • The index for ‘Manufacture Of Wearing Apparel’ group declined by 0.1 % to 137.8 (provisional) from 138 (provisional) for the previous month due to lower price ofLeather garments incl. Jackets (2%). However, the price ofBabies garments, knitted (2%) moved up.

    The index for ‘Manufacture of Leather and Related Products’ group declined by 0.4% to 117.8 (provisional) from 118.3 (provisional) for the previous month due to lower price of leather shoe, vegetable tanned leather and harness, saddles & other related items (1% each). However, the price of belt & other articles of leather, plastic/PVC chappals and waterproof footwear (1% each) moved up.

    The index for ‘Manufacture of Wood and of Products of Wood and Cork ‘ group declined by 0.3% to 132.7 (provisional) from 133.1 (provisional) for the previous month due to lower price of plywood block boards (3%), wooden block – compressed or not (2%) and particle boards (1%). However, the price of lamination wooden sheets/veneer sheets, wooden box/crate and wood cutting, processed/sized (1% each) moved up.

    The index for ‘Manufacture of Paper and Paper Products’ group rose by 0.8% to 120.0 (provisional) from 119.1 (provisional) for the previous month due to higher price of tissue paper (7%), map litho paper and corrugated sheet box (2% each) and hard board, base paper, paper for printing & writing, kraft paper and pulp board (1% each). However, the price of paper bag including craft paper bag (7%) and laminated paper (1%) declined.
    • The index for ‘Manufacture of Chemicals and Chemical Products’ group declined by 0.3% to 116.0 (provisional) from 116.3 (provisional) for the previous month due to lower price of poly propylene (pp) (8%), mono ethyl glycol (5%), sodium silicate and caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) (3% each), menthol, oleoresin, carbon black, safety matches (match box), printing ink and viscose staple fibre (2% each) and acetic acid and its derivatives, soda ash/washing soda, plasticizer, ammonium phosphate, paint, ethylene oxide, detergent cake, washing soap cake/bar/powder, urea, ammonium sulphate, fatty acid, gelatin and aromatic chemicals (1% each). However, the price ofnitric acid (4%), catalysts, organic surface active agent, powder coating material and organic solvent (3% each), alcohols, aniline (including pna, ona, ocpna) and ethyl acetate (2% each) and

    • amine, camphor, organic chemicals, other inorganic chemicals, adhesive tape (non-medicinal), ammonia liquid, liquid air & other gaseous products, polyester film(metalized), phthalic anhydride, poly vinyl chloride (PVC), dye stuff/dyes incl. dye intermediates and pigments/colours, sulphuric acid, ammonium nitrate, fungicide, liquid, foundry chemical, toilet soap and additive (1% each) moved up.

    The index for ‘Manufacture of Pharmaceuticals, Medicinal Chemical and Botanical Products’ group rose by 2.0% to 130.3 (provisional) from 127.8 (provisional) for the previous month due to higher price of anti-malarial drugs (9%), antidiabetic drug excluding insulin (i.e. tolbutam) (6%), anti-retroviral drugs for HIV treatment (5%), API& formulations of vitamins (4%), anti inflammatory preparation (2%) and antioxidants, antipyretic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory formulations, anti allergic drugs and antibiotics & preparations thereof (1% each). However, the price of vials/ampoule, glass, empty or filled (4%) and plastic capsules (1%) declined.

    The index for ‘Manufacture of Rubber and Plastics Products’ group declined by 0.2% to 107.7 (provisional) from 107.9 (provisional) for the previous month due to lower price of elastic webbing (4%), plastic tape and plastic box/container and plastic tank (2% each) and condoms, cycle/cycle rickshaw tyre, tooth brush, rubber tread, 2/3 wheeler tyre, processed rubber, plastic tube (flexible/non-flexible), tractor tyre, solid rubber tyres/wheels and polypropylene film (1% each). However, the price of plastic furniture (5%), plastic button (4%), rubber components & parts (3%), rubberized dipped fabric (2%) and rubber cloth/sheet, rubber tubes- not for tyres, V belt, PVC fittings & other accessories, plastic bag, rubber crumb and polyester film (non-metalized) (1% each) moved up.

    The index for ‘Manufacture of Other Non-Metallic Mineral Products’ group rose by 0.7% to 116.3 (provisional) from 115.5 (provisional) for the previous month due to higher price of cement superfine (6%), ordinary portland cement (2%) and ceramic tiles (vitrified tiles), porcelain sanitary ware, marble slab, slag cement, fibre glass incl. sheet, railway sleeper and pozzolana cement (1% each). However, the price of ordinary sheet glass (2%) and stone, chip, cement blocks (concrete), lime and calcium carbonate, glass bottle and non ceramic tiles (1% each) declined.

    The index for ‘Manufacture of Basic Metals’ group rose by 1.1% to 107 (provisional) from 105.8 (provisional) for the previous month due to higher price of stainless steel pencil ingots/billets/slabs (11%), hot rolled (HR) coils & sheets, including narrow strip, MS pencil ingots, sponge iron/direct reduced iron (DRI), MS bright bars and GP/GC sheet (3% each), alloy steel wire rods, cold rolled (CR) coils & sheets, including narrow strip and pig iron (2% each) and silicomanganese, steel cables, other ferro alloys, angles, channels, sections, steel (coated/not), stainless steel tubes and ferromanganese (1% each). However, the price of stainless steel coils, strips & sheets and, aluminium shapes – bars/rods/flats (2% each) and copper shapes – bars/rods/plates/strips, aluminium ingot, copper metal/copper rings, brass metal/sheet/coils, MS castings, aluminium alloys, aluminium disk and circles and alloy steel castings (1% each) declined.

    The index for ‘Manufacture of Fabricated Metal Products, Except Machinery and Equipment’ group declined by 0.7% to 114.6 (provisional) from 115.4 (provisional) for the previous month due to lower price of bolts, screws, nuts & nails of iron & steel (3%), forged steel rings (2%) and cylinders, steel structures, steel door and electrical stamping- laminated or otherwise (1% each). However, the price of iron/steel hinges (4%), boilers (2%) and copper bolts, screws, nuts, metal cutting tools & accessories (1% each) moved up.

    The index for ‘Manufacture of Computer, Electronic and Optical Products’ group declined by 0.2% to 109.5 (provisional) from 109.7 (provisional) for the previous month due to lower price of telephone sets including mobile hand sets (2%) and meter (non-electrical), colour TV and electronic printed circuit board (PCB)/micro circuit (1% each). However, the price of ups in solid state drives and electro-diagnostic apparatus, used in medical, surgical, dental or veterinary sciences (4% each), scientific time keeping device (2%) and x-ray equipment and capacitors (1% each) moved up.

    The index for ‘Manufacture of Electrical Equipment’ group declined by 0.1% to 110.7 (provisional) from 110.8 (provisional) for the previous month due to lower price of lead acid batteries for vehicles & other uses (5%), solenoid valve (3%), ACSR conductors, aluminium wire and copper wire (2% each) and domestic gas stove, PVC insulated cable, batteries, connector/plug/socket/holder-electric, aluminium/alloy conductor, air coolers and washing machines/laundry machines (1% each). However, the price of rotor/magneto rotor assembly (8%), jelly filled cables (3%), electric mixers/grinders/food processors and insulator (2% each) and AC motor, insulating & flexible wire, electrical relay/conductor, safety fuse and electric switch (1% each) moved up.

    • The index for ‘Manufacture of Machinery and Equipment’ group rose by 0.4% to 113.4 (provisional) from 113.0 (provisional) for the previous month due to higher price of pressure vessel and tank for fermentation & other food processing (6%), roller and ball bearings, oil pump and manufacture of bearings, gears, gearing and driving elements (3%), air gas compressor including compressor for refrigerator, precision machinery equipment/form tools, grinding or polishing machine and filtration equipment (2% each) and pharmaceutical machinery, conveyors – non-roller type, excavator, lathes, harvesters, sewing machines and threshers (1% each). However, the price of dumper, moulding machine, open end spinning machinery and roller mill (raymond) (2% each), injection pump, gasket kit, clutches and shaft couplings and air filters (1% each) declined.

    The index for ‘Manufacture of Motor Vehicles, Trailers and Semi-Trailers’ group declined by 0.3% to 114.8 (provisional) from 115.1 (provisional) for the previous month due to lower price of seat for motor vehicles (3%), shock absorbers, crankshaft, chain and brake pad/brake liner/brake block/brake rubber, others (2% each) and cylinder liners, chassis of different vehicle types and wheels/wheels & parts (1% each). However, the price of head lamp (1%) moved up.

    The index for ‘Manufacture of Other Transport Equipment’ group rose by 1.5% to 120.5 (provisional) from 118.7 (provisional) for the previous month due to higher price of motor cycles (2%) and scooters and wagons (1% each). However, the price of diesel/electric locomotive (4%) declined.

    The index for ‘Manufacture of Furniture’ group declined by 1.2% to 128.2 (provisional) from 129.7 (provisional) for the previous month due to lower price of foam and rubber mattress (4%) and wooden furniture, hospital furniture and steel shutter gate (1% each). However, the price of plastic fixtures (1%) moved up.

    The index for ‘Other Manufacturing’ group rose by 3.4% to 117.0 (provisional) from 113.1 (provisional) for the previous month due to higher price of gold & gold ornaments (4%) and silver and playing cards (2% each). However, the price of stringed musical instruments (incl. santoor, guitars, etc.), non mechanical toys, football and cricket ball (1% each) declined.

    INTERNATIONAL NEWS

    12. Spain confirms nearly 2,000 new cases of COVID-19

    • Spain confirmed nearly 2,000 new cases of COVID-19, sending the total spiralling past 11,000, with 491 deaths.
    • The Health Ministry said, over the past 24 hours, the number of people infected rose by 1,987, hiking the overall total to 11,178. The Ministry’s Emergency Coordinator Fernando Simon said, the number of people who had recovered stood at 1,098.

    13. France says, ready to nationalise firms to protect them from bankruptcy due to COVID-19 threat

    • France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has said that he was willing to nationalize large companies to protect them from bankruptcy while warning that the country faces recession this year as the Coronavirus epidemic sinks the economy. He announced a 45 billion euro (USD 50 billion) aid package to help businesses and employees cope with the escalating health crisis.
    • During a conference call with journalists, he said that he would not hesitate to use any means at his disposal to protect large French enterprises. He said, this could be through capital injections or stake purchases. The Minister said, he can even use the term nationalization if necessary.

    14. Rockets hit Iraqi base hosting foreign troops: military

    • Iraq military said today that a pair of rockets hit an Iraqi base hosting US-led coalition and NATO troops. It is the third attack on installations hosting foreign forces within a week.
    • A statement by the Military said, the rockets slammed into the Besmaya base, south of Baghdad late last night, making no mention of casualties.
    • Spanish forces linked to the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, as well as NATO training forces, are present in Besmaya.

    SPORTS NEWS
    15. Cricket Australia planning to host men’s T20 World Cup as per schedule

    • Cricket Australia is planning to host the men’s T20 World Cup as per schedule in October despite the COVID-19 pandemic causing a collapse of sports events worldwide. The novel coronavirus outbreak has shredded sports calendars worldwide, including international and domestic cricket.
    • Cricket Australia Chief Kevin Roberts hopes that all forms of sport can be played again in a few weeks or a few months’ time.
    The men’s T20 World Cup is slated to begin with the pre-qualifiers from October 18-23 followed by the main 12-team competition from October 24.
    • The final will be played on November 15 at the MCG and Cricket Australia is planning for a full house.

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