Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given its approval to re-establish Pharmacopoeia Commission for Indian Medicine and Homeopathy (PCIM&H) as Subordinate Office Under Ministry of AYUSH by merging into it Pharmacopoeia Laboratory for Indian Medicine (PLIM) and Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia Laboratory(HPL) – the two central laboratories established at Ghaziabad since 1975.
- Presently, Pharmacopoeia Commission for Indian Medicine & Homoeopathy (PCIM&H) is an autonomous body under the aegis of Ministry of AYUSH established since 2010.
- The merger is aimed at optimising the use of infrastructural facilities, technical manpower and financial resources of the three organisations for enhancing the standardisation outcomes of Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Homoeopathy drugs towards their effective regulation and quality control.
- This merger will facilitate focused and cohesive development of standards of AYUSH drugs and publication of pharmacopoeias and formularies.
- It is also intended to accord legal status to the merged structure of PCIM&H and its laboratory by virtue of making necessary amendment and enabling provisions in the Drugs & Cosmetics Rules, 1945.
About Indian Pharmacopoeia –
- Indian Pharmacopoeia (IP) is an officially recognised book of standards as per the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Rules 1945 thereunder.
- The IP specifies the standards of drugs manufactured and marketed in India in terms of their identity, purity and strength.
- In order to ensure the quality of medicinal products, the legal and scientific standards are provided by Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission (IPC) in the form of Indian Pharmacopoeia (IP).
- IPC also develops IP Reference Substances (IPRS) that act as fingerprint for identification of an article under test and its purity as prescribed in the IP monographs.
- Standards prescribed in the IP are authoritative in nature and are enforced by the regulatory authorities for quality control of medicines in India.
- Afghanistan has recently become the first country to recognise Indian Pharmacopoeia.
Empowered Group of Secretaries (EGoS) and Project Development Cells (PDCs)
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for setting up of an “Empowered Group of Secretaries (EGoS) and Project Development Cells (PDCs) in Ministries/Departments of Government of India for attracting investments in India”. This new mechanism will reinforce India’s vision of becoming a US$ 5 trillion economy by 2024-25.
About EGoS –
In order to provide support and facilitation to investors for investing in India and to boost growth in key sectors of the economy, an Empowered Group of Secretaries (EGoS) is approved with the following composition –
- Cabinet Secretary (Chairperson)
- CEO, Niti Aayog (Member)
- Secretary, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (Member Convenor)
- Secretary, Department of Commerce (Member)
- Secretary, Department of Revenue (Member)
- Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs (Member)
- Secretary of Department concerned (to be co-opted).
Objectives of EGoS –
- To bring synergies and ensure timely clearances from different departments and Ministries.
- To attract increased investments into India and provide investment support and facilitation to global investors.
- To facilitate investments of top investors in a targeted manner and to usher policy stability & consistency in the overall investment environment.
- To evaluate investments put forward by the departments on the basis of their (i) project creation (ii) actual investments that come. Further, these departments would be given targets for completion of various stages by the Empowered Group.
About ‘Project Development Cell’ –
- A ‘Project Development Cell’ (PDC) is also approved for the development of investible projects in coordination between the Central Government and State Governments and thereby grow the pipeline of investible projects in India and in turn increase FDI inflows.
- Under the guidance of the Secretary, an officer not below the rank of Joint Secretary of each relevant central line Ministry, who will be in-charge of the PDC will be tasked to conceptualise, strategise, implement, and disseminate details with respect to investable projects.
Objectives of PDC –
- To create projects with all approvals, land available for allocation and with the complete Detailed Project Reports for adoption/investment by investors.
- To identify issues that need to be resolved in order to attract and finalise the investments and put forth these before the Empowered Group.
Boost to rural India
- Amendment to Essential Commodities Act –
The Union Cabinet has approved historic amendment to the Essential Commodities Act. This is a visionary step towards transformation of agriculture and raising farmers’ income.
While India has become surplus in most agri-commodities, farmers have been unable to get better prices due to lack of investment in cold storage, warehouses, processing and export as the entrepreneurial spirit gets dampened due to hanging sword of Essential Commodities Act.
- With the amendment to Essential Commodities Act, commodities like cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes will be removed from list of essential commodities.
- This will remove fears of private investors of excessive regulatory interference in their business operations.
- The freedom to produce, hold, move, distribute and supply will lead to harnessing of economies of scale and attract private sector/foreign direct investment into agriculture sector.
- It will help drive up investment in cold storages and modernisation of food supply chain.
Safeguarding interest of consumers –
It has been provided in the Amendment, that in situations such as war, famine, extraordinary price rise and natural calamity, such agricultural foodstuff can be regulated. However, the installed capacity of a value chain participant and the export demand of an exporter will remain exempted from such stock limit imposition so as to ensure that investments in agriculture are not discouraged.
2. Barrier-free trade in agriculture produce –
The Union Cabinet has approved ‘The Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020‘.
Farmers in India today suffer from various restrictions in marketing their produce. There are restrictions for farmers in selling agri-produce outside the notified APMC market yards. The farmers are also restricted to sell the produce only to registered licensees of the State Governments. Further, Barriers exist in free flow of agriculture produce between various States owing to the prevalence of various APMC legislations enacted by the State Governments.
- The Ordinance will create an ecosystem where the farmers and traders will enjoy freedom of choice of sale and purchase of agri-produce.
- It will also promote barrier-free inter-state and intra-state trade and commerce outside the physical premises of markets notified under State Agricultural Produce Marketing legislations. This is a historic-step in unlocking the vastly regulated agriculture markets in the country.
- It will open more choices for the farmer, reduce marketing costs for the farmers and help them in getting better prices.
- It will also help farmers of regions with surplus produce to get better prices and consumers of regions with shortages, lower prices.
- The ordinance also proposes an electronic trading in transaction platform for ensuring a seamless trade electronically.
- The farmers will not be charged any cess or levy for sale of their produce under this Act. Further there will be a separate dispute resolution mechanism for the farmers.
One India, One Agriculture Market –
The ordinance basically aims at creating additional trading opportunities outside the APMC market yards to help farmers get remunerative prices due to additional competition. This will supplement the existing MSP procurement system which is providing stable income to farmers. It will certainly pave the way for creating One India, One Agriculture Market and will lay the foundation for ensuring golden harvests for our hard working farmers.
3. Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance –
The Union Cabinet has approved ‘The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020’.
Indian Agriculture is characterised by fragmentation due to small holding sizes and has certain weaknesses such as weather dependence, production uncertainties and market unpredictability. This makes agriculture risky and inefficient in respect of both input & output management.
- The ordinance will empower farmers for engaging with processors, wholesalers, aggregators, wholesalers, large retailers, exporters etc., on a level playing field without any fear of exploitation.
- It will transfer the risk of market unpredictability from the farmer to the sponsor and also enable the farmer to access modern technology and better inputs.
- It will reduce cost of marketing and improve income of farmers.
- This Ordinance will act as a catalyst to attract private sector investment for building supply chains for supply of Indian farm produce to global markets. Farmers will get access to technology and advice for high value agriculture and get ready market for such produce.
- Farmers will engage in direct marketing thereby eliminating intermediaries resulting in full realisation of price.
- Sale, lease or mortgage of farmers’ land is totally prohibited and farmers’ land is also protected against any recovery.
- Effective dispute resolution mechanism has been provided for with clear time lines for redressal.
With the aim of making the best of our skilled workforce returning to the country due to the ongoing pandemic, the Government of India has launched a new initiative SWADES (Skilled Workers Arrival Database for Employment Support) to conduct a skill mapping exercise of the returning citizens under the Vande Bharat Mission.
- This is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Ministry of External Affairs which aims to create a database of qualified citizens based on their skillsets and experience to tap into and fulfil demand of Indian and foreign companies.
- The collected information will be shared with the companies for suitable placement opportunities in the country.
- The returning citizens are required to fill up an online SWADES Skills Card. The card will facilitate a strategic framework to provide the returning citizens with suitable employment opportunities through discussions with key stakeholders including State Governments, Industry Associations and Employers. MSDE’s implementation arm National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) is supporting the implementation of the project.
Amendments in Mineral Laws
Ministry of Coal has taken initiatives to re-visit old laws with an aim to improve efficiency, ease of doing business and to open up coal sector which would result in improving domestic coal production and reduce imports.
Considering the long gestation period of coal mines due to complexity of multiple laws, restrictive rules affecting entry of potential investors in the coal sector, the following changes have been brought into the system for freedom of operations for improving coal production and to facilitate adoption of technology.
Salient features of Mineral Laws (Amendment) Act, 2020 –
- Amendment to provide for allocation of coal blocks for composite Prospecting License-cum-Mining Lease (“PL-cum-ML”) to help in increasing the available inventory of coal/ lignite blocks for auction.
- Provisions for any company selected through auction/ allotment to carry on coal mining operation for own consumption, sale without possessing any prior coal mining experience in India.
- FDI Policy in Coal Sector allowing 100% FDI through automatic route for sale of coal, coal mining activities including associated processing infrastructure.
- Provisions to remove the requirement of previous approval in cases where the allocation or reservation of coal/ lignite block is made by the Central Government
- Entitlement to an allottee to utilise mined coal in any of its plants or plants of its subsidiary or holding company.
Real time Market in Electricity
Ministry of Power has launched pan-India Real Time Market in electricity. This has placed Indian electricity market amongst a league of few electricity markets in the world, which have real time market.
What is ‘real time market in electricity’?
- Real time market is an organised market platform to enable the buyers and sellers pan-India to meet their energy requirement closer to real time of operation.
- Introduction of real time market will bring required flexibility in the market to provide real time balance while ensuring optimal utilisation of the available surplus capacity in the system.
- It will also help manage diversity in the demand pattern in the country with an organised market at national level.
How will it work?
- Real time market would be for every 30 minutes in a day based on double sided closed auction with uniform price.
- The concept of “Gate Closure” has been introduced for bringing in the desired firmness in schedules during the hours of market operation.
- Buyers/sellers shall have the option of placing buy/sell bids for each 15-minute time block.
- The proposed real time market would provide an alternate mechanism for Discoms to access larger market at competitive price.
- On the other hand, generators would also benefit by participating in the real time market with their un-requisitioned capacity.
- A mechanism has been provided for generators having long-term contract and participating in this market to share the net gains with the Discoms.
- National Load Despatch Centre-POSOCO is facilitating necessary automation in coordination with power exchanges to ensure faster transactions and settlements in the real time market framework.
- The real time market would help to mitigate challenges to the grid management due to intermittent and variable nature of renewable energy generation and therefore, help to integrate higher quantum of renewable energy resources into the grid.
- It is expected that shorter bidding time, faster scheduling, and defined processes (e.g. gate closure) are expected to enable the participants to access resources throughout the all India grid, promoting competition. It would lead to better portfolio management by the utilities with efficient power procurement planning, scheduling, despatch, and imbalance handling.
- The distribution companies would be able to manage their power purchase portfolio optimally and need not tie up excess capacity. It would lead to cost optimisation of power purchase and serving the consumers with reliable supply as any last minute requirement of power can easily be bought from the Real Time market.
Thus, it is win win for all stakeholders generators having opportunity to sale their surpluses, better management of variability of RE generation, better utilisation of transmission systems, discoms opportunity to buy or sell power and finally consumer getting reliable power supply.
A group of scientists working at the Pune-based National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA) have recently discovered tiny flashes of radio light emanating from all over the Sun, which they say could help in explaining the long-pending coronal heating problem.
What has been observed?
- These radio lights or signals result from beams of electrons accelerated in the aftermath of a magnetic explosion on the Sun.
- These observations were the strongest evidence till date that the tiny magnetic explosions, originally referred to as ‘nanoflares’ by eminent American solar astrophysicist Eugene Parker, can indeed be heating up the corona (the aura of plasma that surrounds the sun and other stars).
Why is it significant?
- The strength of the magnetic fields varies a lot from one place on the surface of the Sun to another, by more than a factor of 1,000. But the corona is hot everywhere.
- So, this heating process has to work all over the corona, even in regions of weak magnetic fields. Until now, the process of how this magnetic energy is deposited in the corona had remained a mystery. Now, these observations can bring us closer to solving this.
About Sun’s Corona –
- Our Sun is surrounded by a jacket of gases called an atmosphere. The corona is the outermost part of the Sun’s atmosphere.
- The corona is usually hidden by the bright light of the Sun’s surface. That makes it difficult to see without using special instruments. However, the corona can be seen during a total solar eclipse.
- The corona extends far out into space. From it comes the solar wind that travels through our solar system. The corona’s temperature causes its particles to move at very high speeds. These speeds are so high that the particles can escape the Sun’s gravity.
- It has a temperature of approximately two million kelvins and an extremely low density.