Current News - Indian Economy - Plan Policy

Textiles Ministry Announces Quality Control Orders for Medical and Agro-Textiles

Recently, the Textiles Ministry has issued two Quality Control Orders (QCOs) covering six medical textiles and twenty agro-textiles items. These orders are set to be effective from April 1, 2024, as per an official statement.

Key Points

  • Medical Textiles: The QCOs for medical textiles encompass a range of crucial healthcare and hygiene products, including sanitary napkins, shoe covers, dental bib/napkins, disposable baby diapers, reusable sanitary pads/sanitary napkins/period panties, medical bed sheets, and pillow covers.
  • SHGs Benefit: Self-help groups (SHGs) engaged in the production of items covered by the medical textiles QCOs have been exempted.
  • This exemption promotes small-scale production of essential products such as sanitary napkins, baby diapers, and reusable sanitary pads/sanitary napkins/period panties, according to the release.
  • Compliance Deadline for SMEs: Micro and small industries (SMEs) involved in the manufacturing of sanitary napkins, baby diapers, and reusable sanitary pads/sanitary napkins/period panties will have more time for compliance.
  • The medical textiles QCO will come into effect for these SMEs on October 1, 2024, allowing them sufficient time to meet the QCO conformity requirements.
  • Public Interest: The ministry stated that the conformity assessment requirements outlined in these QCOs are equally applicable to domestic and foreign manufacturers intending to export their products to India.
  • The Indian Government believes that this step is necessary in the public interest to elevate the standards and quality of agro-textiles and medical textiles.
  • Exemptions and Extended Deadlines: Self-help groups engaged in the production of essential medical textile items have been exempted from QCO requirements, fostering small-scale production.
  • Micro and small industries manufacturing specific medical textile products will have an extended compliance deadline until October 1, 2024, to align with QCO conformity.
  • Government's Perspective: The Indian Government believes that applying these QCOs to both domestic and foreign manufacturers is necessary to enhance the standards and quality of medical and agro-textiles in the interest of the public.

Mohamed Muizzu Elected President of Maldives

On 30th September, 2023, Mohamed Muizzu, the front runner and Opposition candidate, secured the presidency in the Maldives, defeating incumbent Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in a closely contested election, indicating potential shifts in domestic governance and foreign policy.

Key Points

  • Muizzu's Victory: Mohamed Muizzu clinched the presidency with approximately 54% of the vote, while incumbent Solih received nearly 46%.
  • Higher Voter Turnout: The run-off election saw a higher voter turnout of 86%, contrasting with the low 79.85% recorded in the inconclusive first round.
  • Anti-Incumbency Sentiment: The election reflected strong anti-incumbency sentiment against the Solih administration.
  • Opposition Campaign: The Opposition, led by former President Abdulla Yameen, campaigned for a change in leadership, echoing demands for India to reduce its influence in the country.
  • Solih's 'India First' Policy: President Solih's 'India first' policy drew sharp criticism from the Opposition.
  • Safeguarding Sovereignty: Muizzu pledged to "safeguard the country’s independence and sovereignty" during his campaign.
  • Balancing Ties: Observers suggest that while the Opposition historically leaned towards China, Muizzu is unlikely to abruptly sever ties with India. He is expected to balance India-China relations while continuing India's infrastructure projects in the Maldives.
  • Economic and Climate Challenges: Muizzu faces challenges such as mounting debt, dwindling foreign reserves, and increasing climate risks.
  • Infrastructure Promises: Both top candidates focused on housing issues, a key concern for Maldivian voters, as the country grapples with congestion and unequal development.
  • Parliamentary System Referendum: The Maldives is preparing for a referendum next month, where citizens will decide whether to adopt a parliamentary system of governance.
  • This move aligns with the long-standing demand of former President and parliamentary Speaker Mohamed Nasheed.

Implementation Date for GST Amendments on Online Gaming

The Finance Ministry has officially designated October 1 as the commencement date for the amended provisions in Central GST and Integrated GST laws.

Key Points

  • GST Amendments: Online gaming, casinos, and horse racing are now categorized as "actionable claims" and subject to a 28% Goods and Services Tax (GST) on the full-face value of bets, in line with lottery, betting, and gambling.
  • IGST Act Amendments: Offshore online gaming platforms are now required to register in India and pay 28% tax as per domestic law.
  • Access Blocking: Provisions have been made to block access to overseas online gaming platforms in cases of non-compliance with registration and tax payment requirements.
  • Council Approval: The GST Council approved these amendments in July and August, clarifying the 28% tax rate for such supplies.
  • Legislative Updates: Parliament passed the amendments to Central GST and Integrated GST laws to implement the Council's decision. Valuation rules were also notified on September 6.
  • State GST Law Amendments: The All-India Gaming Federation (AIGF) has expressed concern about states that have not yet amended their State GST laws, creating ambiguity in GST treatment for online gaming companies registered in those states.
  • Appeal for Suspension: AIGF urged the Centre to suspend the notifications until all states pass their respective amendments and provide necessary clarifications for industry clarity.
  • Compliance and Data Storage: Tax experts emphasized the importance of compliance with the new GST regulations, including the need for online gaming companies to create data repositories for GST compliance data.

Ministry of Textiles Approves R&D Projects for Advancing Technical Textiles

On 28th Sept, Union Minister Shri Piyush Goyal emphasized the pivotal role of industry and institutes in advancing India's technical textiles sector during the 7th Meeting of the Mission Steering Group (MSG) of National Technical Textiles Mission.

Key Points

  • Diverse R&D Projects Approved: The Ministry of Textiles sanctioned 18 research and development (R&D) projects during the 7th MSG meeting, with a total value of INR 46.74 crores.
  • These projects span critical domains of technical textiles, including Geotech, Protech, Indutech, Sustainable Textiles, Sportech, Smart E-Textiles, and Meditech segments.
  • Project Breakdown: Among the 18 approved projects, 14 are categorized as high-value projects, while 3 fall under the Prototype Grant projects, and 1 is an Ideation Grant project.
  • These initiatives encompass a wide range of applications within technical textiles, with specific allocations for various sectors.
  • Education and Skill Development: Progress in education, training, and skill development was also on the agenda. A total of 26 applications from 15 public and 11 private institutes, amounting to INR 151.02 crores, were approved to enhance technical textiles education and training.

GOBARdhan Unified Registration Portal

On 25th September,2023, the Ministry of Jal Shakti launched a unified registration portal for GOBARdhan to streamline the registration of compressed bio-gas (CBG) and biogas plants in the country.

Key Points

  • New MDA Guidelines for Biogas and CBG Plants: New guidelines have been issued for Market Development Assistance (MDA) for biogas and CBG plants under the GOBARdhan initiative.
  • An MDA of Rs 1500/MT will be granted for the sale of Fermented Organic Manure (FOM), Liquid Fermented Organic Manure (LFOM), and Phosphate Rich Organic Manure (PROM) produced at biogas and CBG plants.
  • Eligibility: To be eligible for MDA, manufacturing plants must be registered on the unified GOBARdhan portal of the DDWS and adhere to Fertilizer Control Order (FCO) specifications for organic fertilizers.
  • GOBARdhan Initiative: The GOBARdhan initiative aims to transform biodegradable and organic waste, including cattle dung, agricultural residues, and biomass, into high-value resources such as biogas, CBG, and organic manure.
  • Importance: The new MDA guidelines are expected to boost the adoption of organic fertilizers produced from biogas and CBG plants, which will help to achieve the goals of the GOBARdhan initiative.

India Expands Mandatory Gold Hallmarking to 55 Additional Districts

Recently, the Central government has officially announced the third phase of mandatory gold hallmarking, bringing 55 more districts under its purview.

  • The Hallmarking of Gold Jewellery and Gold Artefacts (Third Amendment) Order, 2023 has come into effect as of 8th September, 2023.

Key Points

  • Extended Mandatory Hallmarking: With the implementation of the third phase, an additional 55 districts are now included in the mandatory hallmarking system, where designated hallmarking centers have been established.
  • This brings the total number of districts covered under mandatory hallmarking to 343.
  • Currently, nearly 4 lakh gold articles are being hallmarked daily, each with a Hallmark Unique Identification (HUID) number.
  • Impact of Mandatory Hallmarking: Since the introduction of mandatory hallmarking, the number of registered jewelers has risen significantly from 34,647 to 1.81 lakh, and Assaying and Hallmarking Centers (AHCs) have increased from 945 to 1,471.
  • Verification and Authenticity: Consumers are encouraged to verify the authenticity and purity of hallmarked gold jewelry items by using the 'verify HUID' feature in the BIS Care app, available for download from the Play Store.
  • The app has witnessed a surge in downloads, with numbers rising from 2.3 lakhs in 2021-22 to 12.4 lakhs in the current fiscal year.
  • High Usage of 'Verify HUID' Feature: Furthermore, the 'verify HUID' feature in the BIS Care App has recorded over one crore hits in the last two years, indicating a significant level of engagement and usage among consumers.

Committee Led by Amitabh Kant Submits Report on Stalled Real Estate Projects

Recently, a committee of 14 members, headed by former NITI Aayog CEO and India’s G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant, presented its findings on stalled real estate projects.

Key Points

  • Reasons for Stalled Projects: The committee identified "lack of financial viability" as the primary cause for stress in stalled projects, resulting in cost overruns and delays.
  • The report emphasized that improving the Internal Rate of Return (IRR) of projects would attract funding and address the issue.
  • Recommendations: The committee made several recommendations to address the challenges of stalled real estate projects:
  • Enforcing RERA Registration: The committee reiterated that projects meeting specific criteria must be registered with the respective state RERA for transparency.
  • De-linking Grant of Registration: The committee suggested detaching registration or sub-lease grant from developers' dues recovery. Around 1 lakh homebuyers could benefit from this.
  • Expedited Certificate Grant: In cases where projects are substantially complete, administrative hurdles often delay granting no-objection and completion certificates. The committee proposed streamlining this process by RERAs.
  • Rehabilitation Package: States were advised to establish a rehabilitation package to revive stalled projects. Developers joining this package would commit to project completion within three years.
  • Model Package Example: The committee provided a model package example for Noida and Greater Noida. It included a "Zero Period" during the pandemic, co-developer involvement, and a "partial surrender policy" for unused land.
  • Implementation: The implementation of recommendations largely falls under the jurisdiction of respective state governments.
  • States will decide on the extent and nature of implementation. UP's Noida and Greater Noida authorities have already initiated steps based on the committee's suggestions.
  • Central Government's Role: The report recommended proactive financing of stalled projects through the Special Window for Affordable and Mid-Income Housing (SWAMIH) Fund.

Overview of SWAMIH Fund

  • What is SWAMIH: The Special Window for Affordable and Mid-Income Housing (SWAMIH) Investment Fund I has been established with a distinct focus on revitalizing distressed and halted residential projects in the affordable and mid-income segments.
  • Sponsor and Management: Sponsored by the Ministry of Finance, Government of India, the SWAMIH Fund operates under the guidance of SBICAP Ventures Ltd., an entity within the State Bank Group.
  • Dedicated Real Estate Expertise: Renowned for its specialization, the fund boasts one of the largest domestic real estate private equity teams.
  • SEBI Registration: Recognized as a Category-II AIF (Alternate Investment Fund) debt fund by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the SWAMIH Fund adheres to stringent regulatory standards.

Current State of Housing Projects:

  • As per the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) assessment, a staggering number exceeding 4 lakh dwelling units, amounting to more than Rs 4 lakh crore, are directly affected by the stagnation in these distressed real estate ventures.
  • According to the findings of the committee, a substantial 44% of these suspended projects are concentrated within the boundaries of the National Capital Region, with an additional 21% being located in the Mumbai Metropolitan Area.

Key Challenges in the Indian Real Estate Sector

  • Affordability and Financial Volatility: Urban housing presents exorbitant prices, making it a challenge for the majority to afford homes in major cities due to rising construction costs driven by global commodity price increases.
  • Inefficient Project Management: Multiple clearances from various government departments, delayed approvals from civic bodies, limited funding sources, and budget overruns due to substantial delays impede efficient project execution.
  • Lack of Transparency: While real estate agents and projects are registered, not all are verified, highlighting gaps in authoritative action and transparency.
  • Corruption: A nexus involving corrupt officials, builders, and local political figures undermines adherence to laws and regulations, such as land-use norms, FSI, and safety compliance.

Steps Taken to Address Real Estate Sector Challenges in India

  • Affordability Focus:
    • Government emphasis on affordable housing to make homes accessible to all.
    • Changes in floor space index (FSI) rules discourage land hoarding.
    • 'Housing for All' initiative boosts demand for affordable housing, infusing liquidity.
  • Enhancing Transparency:
    • Implementation of the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 (RERA) enhances sector transparency.
    • RERA facilitates improved project approval information availability, fostering investor confidence.
  • Revival of Stalled Projects: Launch of the Special Window for Affordable & Mid-Income Housing (SWAMIH) fund to revive stalled projects.
  • Affordable Housing Fund:
    • Establishment of an affordable housing fund with an initial corpus of around INR 10,000 crore.
    • The fund supports housing finance companies (HFCs) in the priority sector.
  • Real Estate Debt Restructuring: Initiatives for restructuring real estate debt to alleviate financial burdens.
  • Moratorium Benefits during Pandemic: During the COVID-19 pandemic, moratorium provided on interest payments for loans.

National Media Campaign for Department of Land

On 11th august, 2023, Union Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj inaugurated the National Media Campaign of the Department of Land Resources (DoLR) in New Delhi.

Key Points:

  • Promoting Land Governance Initiatives: The campaign's objective is to inform the public about advancements in Land Governance and the Watershed Development Component (WDC) of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayi Yojana (PMKSY).
  • Focus Areas: The initial phase of the campaign will highlight the National Generic Document Registration System (NGDRS), WDC-PMKSY, and the Cactus Project.
  • Digital India Land Records Modernization Program (DILRMP): The DILRMP was launched in 2016 to achieve 100 percent financial assistance to State Governments for the computerization of Sub Registrar Offices (SROs) under the Digital India initiative.
  • NGDRS Implementation: NGDRS offers a unified software solution for land registration across the nation, with provisions for state-specific customization.
  • Achievement and Targets: 94 percent computerization of Sub Registrar Offices has been accomplished, and the goal is to achieve 100 percent by the following March. Manual document registration has transitioned to e-registration.
  • Enhancing Public Participation: The national media campaign aims to amplify awareness of the Department's activities and encourage greater public engagement.
  • Comprehensive Media Plan: The Media Plan includes various components such as Outdoor Media, Social Media, Bulk SMS, and Radio Jingle for the first phase of the campaign.

World Health Organisation-Good Manufacturing Practices Certification

Recently, in an effort to enhance the quality management standards of Indian pharmaceutical manufacturers on a national and global scale, the Health Ministry has introduced a deadline for small manufacturers for six months, while larger units have a year to acquire their World Health Organisation-Good Manufacturing Practices (WHO-GMP) certification.

Key Points

  • Aim: The Health Ministry's move aims to foster the growth of the Indian pharmaceutical sector both domestically and internationally.
  • Challenges and Motivation: Based on findings from ongoing risk-based inspections, it became apparent that a reassessment of the current GMP regulations and Quality Management Systems used by pharmaceutical manufacturers was necessary.
  • Issues identified during inspections encompassed various areas such as documentation, validation shortcomings, absence of self-assessment, and more.

About GMP

  • Introduction: Originally introduced in 1988 within Schedule M of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, with the last amendment in June 2005, WHO-GMP standards are now integrated into the revised Schedule M. (Schedule M part of Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940 deals with ‘Good Manufacturing Practices’ for pharmaceuticals that should be followed by pharmaceutical manufacturing units in India).
  • Significance of GMP: Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) entail essential standards that ensure product quality through oversight of materials, methods, machinery, processes, personnel, and facilities.
  • Consequences of Non-Compliance: WHO-GMP certification remains valid for three years. Violations could result in the cancellation of licenses and monetary penalties.
  • Enhancements with Revised Schedule M: The revised Schedule M introduces several significant changes, including the introduction of a pharmaceutical quality system (PQS), quality risk management (QRM), product quality review (PQR), equipment qualification and validation, change control management, self-inspection, and more.

NITI Aayog Unveils TCRM Matrix Framework

NITI Aayog, India's premier policy think tank, has introduced the Techno-Commercial Readiness and Market Maturity Matrix (TCRM Matrix) framework to transform technology assessment.

Key Points:

  • Igniting Innovation and Entrepreneurship: The TCRM Matrix aims to ignite innovation and entrepreneurship across India by providing a comprehensive framework for technology assessment.
  • Integration of Core Principles: The TCRM Matrix framework builds upon the core principles of existing technology assessment frameworks, including Technology Readiness Level (TRL), Commercialization Readiness Level (CRL), and Market Readiness Level (MRL) scales.
  • Comprehensive Assessment Model: By integrating these principles, the TCRM Matrix offers an integrated assessment model, empowering stakeholders with in-depth insights at every stage of technology development.
  • Supporting Technology Ecosystem: The TCRM Matrix is designed to support India's technology ecosystem, fostering the growth of cutting-edge technologies and encouraging their successful implementation in the market.
  • Driving Technological Advancements: With the TCRM Matrix framework in place, India aims to drive technological advancements and establish itself as a leading hub for innovation and technology development.
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