Companies ‘feel betrayed’ due to capping of Covid vaccine price: Shaw

NEW DELHI: Biocon Chairperson Kiran Mazumdar Shaw on Sunday hit out at the government capping Covid-19 vaccine price at Rs 250 at private hospitals, saying vaccine companies “feel betrayed” as it is too low to sustain.
Reacting to a report that the health ministry has fixed Rs 250 per shot at private hospitals and health centres, she tweeted, “We r (sic) crushing instead of incentivising vaccine industry.”
She further said, “Covid Vaccine Jab Capped At Rs 250 At Private Hospitals: Government – understand vaccine cos (sic) feel betrayed as price is too low to sustain.”
Mazumdar-Shaw asked, “If WHO has agreed to USD 3 per dose, why beat them down to USD 2?”
The government’s capping of the vaccine price at private hospitals comes at a time when India is preparing to vaccinate people aged above 60 years and those over 45 with co-morbidities from March 1.
The COVID-19 vaccine will be given free of cost at government hospitals, while people will need to pay for it at private facilities.
It is understood that the Rs 250 ceiling per dose includes Rs 150 per dose of vaccine plus Rs 100 service charge.

In Video:Covid-19: Companies ‘feel betrayed’ due to capping of vaccine price, says Shaw

1 crore more free LPG connections in 2 yrs: Oil Secretary

NEW DELHI: The free LPG connection scheme is one structural reform of the Modi government that has been internationally acclaimed for ridding indoor household pollution and improving women’s health.
And now, the government plans to give one crore more free LPG connections to the needy over the next two years and make it easier to access cooking gas to achieve near 100 per cent penetration of the clean fuel in the country.
Oil Secretary Tarun Kapoor said plans are in the works to provide LPG connection with bare-minimum identity documents and without insisting on residence proof of the place of availing the cooking gas.
Also, consumers would soon get a choice of getting a refill cylinder from three dealers in his or her neighbourhood instead of being tied to just one distributor, who may not be able to provide LPG on demand due to availability or other reasons.
In an interview with PTI, Kapoor said a record-breaking 8 crore free LPG connections were provided to poor women households in just four years alongside the aggressive rollout of cooking gas, taking the number of LPG users in the country to about 29 crore.
The Union Budget earlier this month announced a plan to give out one crore more free cooking gas connections under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala (PMUY) scheme.
“Our plan is to complete these additional one crore connections in two years,” he said.
While no separate allocation for this has been made in the Budget for 2021-22, the general fuel subsidy allocation should be enough to cover the expense of about Rs 1,600 per connection, he said.
“We have done a preliminary estimate of the people who are now left out. The number comes to 1 crore,” he said. “After the successful Ujjwala scheme, households without LPG are very less in India. We have around 29 crore households with LPG connections. With the one crore connections, we will be close to 100 per cent LPG penetration.”
He, however, hastened to add that one crore unserved population was a dynamic number and there may be more families that may need LPG connections as they move to cities or other places for employment and other reasons.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s signature Ujjwala scheme for providing a free cooking gas connection to the poor had been lauded by the WHO in 2018 and by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in the following year as one that reduced indoor household pollution by helping families switch to cleaner energy sources and improving the environment and health of women.
The carbon footprint of LPG is 50 per cent lower than coal. LPG helps reduce carbon dioxide and black carbon emissions, which are the second-largest contributors to global warming.
Before Ujjwala, India was the second-largest contributor to global mortality due to household and ambient air pollution.
“We want to connect everyone in the country to the LPG network,” Kapoor said. “Besides Ujjwala, we are also easing out the procedure for getting LPG connections.”
While theoretically, the current rule is that everyone is eligible to get a cooking gas connection, practically it is difficult to get one due to requirements such as proof of residence of the place, where the connection is being sought.
“We have asked our oil companies that those kinds of complaints should be eliminated. A person who is even shifting from one city to another, even temporarily, should also be able to get an LPG connection without hassles. We want to move to a stage where with very basic documents, just some proof of identity, one can get an LPG connection,” he said.
As a step towards that, a unified software for all the three fuel marketing companies – Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum – is being prepared.
“We are getting a common information technology-based system in place. Right now, the three companies have their separate IT-based systems. We also want to popularise the mobile applications that our companies have so that no one has to keep a physical booklet,” he said.
Through this software, inter-company migration will become very easy, he said, adding in cities a person would have a choice of seeking an LPG refill from three distributors of the same company.
The Ujjwala Yojana was launched in May 2016 with a target to give free LPG connections to 5 crore mostly rural women members of below the poverty line (BPL) households. The list was later expanded to include all SC/ST households and forest dwellers, among others.
In 2018, the scheme was extended to all poor households and the target raised to 8 crore connections.
Under the scheme, the government provides a subsidy of Rs 1,600 to state-owned fuel retailers for every free LPG gas connection that they give to poor households. This subsidy is intended to cover the security fee for the cylinder and the fitting charges.
The beneficiary has to buy her own cooking stove. To reduce the burden, the scheme allows beneficiaries to pay for the stove and the first refill in monthly instalments. However, the cost of all subsequent refills has to be borne by the beneficiary household.

IndiGo to operate 5,000-series flights from T1 in Mum

MUMBAI: IndiGo will be operating flight numbers with subset series 6E 5500-6E 5900 to and from Terminal 1 (Vile Parle) at the Mumbai International Airport from March 10 as directed by Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL), said the airline in a press statement on Saturday.
“All other flights, including 5,000 series, will continue to operate from Terminal 2 (Sahar),” the airline said adding that it has taken measures to ensure passengers are informed of this change at every stage of their
journey with 6E.
IndiGo is reaching out to all impacted passengers and their respective travel agents via SMS, calls, and emails provided in reservation details, it said.
The airline requested its passengers to retrieve their PNR on IndiGo’s website or mobile app to check their terminal before leaving for the airport.

Low gold prices spark flurry of activity in India

NEW DELHI: Physical gold demand in India gained momentum this week as retail buyers and jewellers lapped up bullion at near eight-month low prices, while Singapore continued to see steady interest for both gold and silver.
Gold futures in India were trading around Rs 46,000 per 10 grams, not far from the eight-month trough of Rs 45,861 touched last week.
“Consumers are quite comfortable with current price level. There is good demand for jewellery from retail buyers,” said Harshad Ajmera, the proprietor of JJ Gold House, a wholesaler in the city of Kolkata.
He added the Rs 50,000-mark is a psychological price barrier for Indian consumers.
Dealers charged premiums of about $4 an ounce over official domestic prices, inclusive of 12.5% import and 3% sales levies, versus last week’s $7 premium, which was an eight-month peak.
Jewellers are aggressively building inventory as prices are attractive and retail demand is robust, said a Mumbai-based dealer with a bullion importing bank.
In Singapore, premiums of $1.4-$2 an ounce were charged amid firm demand.
“We’ve seen a little more buying from wholesale and also retail especially after the Lunar new year,” said Brian Lan, managing director at dealer GoldSilver Central, adding interest for silver remained elevated.
Suppliers have flagged delayed deliveries for gold and silver due to physical shortages developing in the global market, said Vincent Tie, sales manager at another Singapore dealer, Silver Bullion.
In traditional top consumer China, activity was muted by Covid-19 related restrictions during the usually busy holiday period, dealers said, with premiums of around $3-$7 an ounce over benchmark spot gold prices.
China’s net gold imports via Hong Kong fell in January as the restrictions dimmed market activity.
In Hong Kong, dealers sold bullion at anywhere between on par with the benchmark to a $1 premium. Japanese dealers charged a premium of $0.50.

Indian Oil plans $4.5bn Panipat refinery expansion

NEW DELHI: Indian Oil Corp will invest Rs 32,946 crore ($4.46 billion) to raise the capacity of its Panipat refinery by two-thirds to 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) by September 2024, the country’s top refiner said on Friday.
India, the world’s third biggest oil importer and consumer, aims to expand its 5 million bpd refining capacity by 60% to meet rising local demand as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to boost the manufacturing sector.
Along with expanding capacity, IOC will install catalytic dewaxing and polypropylene units at its Panipat refinery in northern Punjab state, it said in a statement.
In 2018 IOC announced capacity expansion of the 300,000 bpd Panipat refinery costing 231 billion rupees. At that time it did not announce plans to set up the two other units.
IOC said expansion of the refinery would raise production of petrochemicals and value-added specialty products to improve its margins and help “de-risk the conventional fuel business of the company”.
To meet India’s growing energy demand, oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan is seeking 175 acres of land in eastern West Bengal state for expansion of IOC’s 160,000-bpd Haldia refinery, IOC said.
IOC along with its subsidiary Chennai Petroleum Corp Ltd, has a total installed refining capacity of 1.6 million bpd.

We must continue to trade with China: Bajaj Auto MD Rajiv Bajaj

MUMBAI: Favouring continuation of trade with China, Bajaj Auto managing director Rajiv Bajaj on Saturday said goods should be procured from wherever they are most competitively available.
He was speaking at a session on ‘Building Reliable Supply Chain’ at the second day of the three-day virtual Asia Economic Dialogue 2021, jointly convened by the ministry of external affairs and Pune International Centre.
Bajaj also said that in terms of ease of doing business, operating something in one of the Asean countries is certainly easier than “what we encounter here in India.”
“We like to believe that we are a global company, and therefore, this to my mind, from a cultural point of view, and an operational point of view, demands completeness or inclusiveness not just of employee gender, but also of having dealers, distributors and equally suppliers from all over the world.
“And that is why I believe that we must continue to trade with China. Because if we conduct our business at the exclusion of such a large country, such a large market, we will find ourselves incomplete over time, and we will be poorer for the loss of that experience,” Bajaj said.
Stating that in supply chain, commitment is important, he said that a sense of mutuality and reciprocity is indispensable to building, at least, the kind of very intricate supply chain that the auto industry needs to deliver the final product to the customer.
Emphasising on the continuity in the supply chain, Bajaj said, “I say this in the context of what happened in around June or July, when our government for whatever reasons, suddenly came down hard on imports, especially from China.”
“Now, to my mind, doing something like that is to cut your nose to spite your face. Because overnight, how can one source components that are simply not made in the domestic market, that you need to deliver product to domestic or export customers?” he said.
So, maintaining continuity is the second important aspect of the holistic view of supply chain, he added.
Noting that if it is cheaper to make something out of China or procure something from Thailand, Bajaj said, “we must always procure stuff from wherever it is most competitively available.”
He said that since the company hopes to venture into Asia in a significant way in the future, it did an elaborate comparison of certain metrics.
Based on the five metrics – the land, labour, electricity, logistics and the legal system, “we did an exhaustive comparison of India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia” Bajaj said.
“And to be honest, we were not very pleased with the conclusion we drew for India, basis this analysis, and I think we can put it all together and call it the ease of doing business. So, our experience so far has been that, however limited, operating something in one of the Asean countries is certainly easier than what we encounter here in India, “Bajaj said.

Trading halt: NSE defends decision to stay with primary site

MUMBAI: The country’s largest stock bourse NSE on Friday said it stuck to the primary site for carrying out trading on Wednesday and did not switch to the disaster recovery site after a considered view while dealing with telecom connectivity issues which led to the nearly four-hour halt in trading earlier this week.
It can be noted that Sebi had asked the exchange, which also trades the highest derivative volumes in the world, as to why it did not switch to the Disaster Recovery (DR) site.
“Post shut down of trading on NSE, we considered all the available alternatives on hand including invocation of DR to decide on the course of action that would bring up the market at the earliest with least disruption to market participants and post evaluation, a decision was taken to bring up the systems at the primary site,” a statement from NSE said.
NSE regularly tests its DR readiness in line with Sebi regulations wherein quarterly drills are conducted and live trading sessions from DR site are conducted twice a year, it added.
There are multiple telecom links with two service providers to ensure redundancy and a communication about instability of the links was received from both the service providers on Wednesday, as per the statement.
“While there was no impact on the trading system, the instability of telecom links mentioned above resulted in an impact to the online risk management system of NSE Clearing and other systems. Critical systems such as the risk management system are configured with redundancies such that there is no single point of failure,” it explained.
The stock bourse said it was working on resolution of the problem continuously and announced re-opening of the markets to its members at 3:17 pm after the same was resolved.
Meanwhile, reacting to news reports of low spend on technology, the statement said the exchange has tripled its investments on technology in the last three-four years and infused over Rs 900 crore on the same during the time period.
The exchange said it has a strong technology governance process wherein the technology infrastructure is reviewed on a regular basis by panels like the Standing Committee on Technology which has technology experts and also multiple types of audits by various firms/ institutions with specialised expertise.
It has a strong technology workforce of approximately 1,500 people, which include employees and also vendor staff, the statement said.
The exchange said multiple transformational projects have been completed and are ongoing to ensure that its systems continue to be robust, resilient, secure and state of the art.
“NSE constantly endeavours to provide a glitch free environment. However, the complex technology architecture has significant external and vendor dependencies in terms of connectivity and hardware,” the statement said, adding that in the last two years, there have been trading outages in many markets such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Germany and UK.

FM highlights India’s Covid response at G20 meet

NEW DELHI: Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday highlighted India’s policy response to Covid pandemic and the world’s largest inoculation drive during a meeting with her G-20 counterparts.
Speaking at the virtual meeting of the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors, she said India’s domestic policies have been based broadly on supporting citizens through measures such as credit guarantees, direct transfers, food guarantees, economic stimulus packages and accelerating structural reforms.
Sitharaman also spoke about India’s vaccination programme, which is the world’s largest and the most ambitious vaccination drive. The finance minister also mentioned that India has extended vaccine support to several countries, an official statement said.
This was the first such meeting under Italian Presidency and it discussed policy actions for transformative and equitable recovery along with other issues on the agenda, including global economic outlook, financial sector issues, financial inclusion and sustainable finance.
During the meeting, G20 finance ministers and central bank governors also discussed the implications of climate change on global growth and financial stability.

Gadkari urges MSMEs to install rooftop solar

NEW DELHI: Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Friday invited MSMEs to avail concessional debt finance to install rooftop solar for business efficiency.
The minister for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and road transport & highways said rooftop solar offers an excellent value proposition to MSMEs by significantly bringing down cost of electricity consumption, which on an average, is up to one-fifth of their operations cost.
Addressing a programme virtually, Gadkari said, “I believe there is a strong business case for MSMEs to install rooftop solar and achieve significant savings to achieve the cost-competitiveness. I am confident that MSMEs will stand together in generating and consuming solar power using their rooftops.”
The minister observed that a large amount (average Rs 8 and higher per unit) is being paid by the MSMEs for power consumption, which contributes to up to one-fifth of the overall production costs.
“To assist MSMEs in implementing rooftop solar projects, the ministry is working with the World Bank on a credit guarantee program to make financing accessible to unrated MSMEs. Considering the rates of solar power from large utility power plants have come down to a record Rs 1.99/kWh, MSMEs must leverage this opportunity to bring down their energy expenses,” he said.
Addressing the event, Junaid Ahmad, country director India, World Bank, said the World Bank is committed to the cause of MSMEs and an investment in this industry will aid India’s aim to become ‘Aatmanirbhar‘ or ‘self-reliant’.
“By facilitating MSMEs to decarbonise their power consumption in a sustainable manner, India can achieve a twin objective of greening the economy and uplifting MSMEs to become highly competitive by reducing its power costs,” he added.

PM asks toy makers to use more eco-friendly material

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday exhorted toy manufacturers to use less plastic and more eco-friendly and recyclable material in a bid to increase the share of the domestic industry in the global market.
Inaugurating the first India Toy Fair, the Prime Minister said, “We have to become Aatmanirbhar in the toy sector and also cater to the global market”.
Observing that India’s share in the $100 billion global toy market is very small, and 85 per cent of the toys in the country are sourced from abroad, Modi said there is a need to change this situation.
“In the field of toys, India has tradition and technology, India has concepts and competence. We can take the world back towards eco-friendly toys. Through our software engineers, computer games can bring the stories of India to the world,” he said.
While referring to the traditional toy industry, the Prime Minister underlined the need for promoting Handmade in India.
If there is a demand for Made in India today, then the demand for Handmade in India is also increasing equally, he said, adding “today people do not only buy toys as a product, but also want to connect with the experience associated with that toy. So, we have to promote Handmade in India as well”.
The Prime Minister appealed to the manufacturers to make toys that are better for both ecology and psychology, using less plastic and more of such things that can be recycled.
Referring to the initiatives of the government, Modi said the country has now graded the toy industry in 24 major sectors.
The National Toy Action Plan has also been prepared, he said, adding, “it has included 15 ministries and departments to make these industries competitive, the country to become self-reliant in toys, and India’s toys also go into the world. Throughout this campaign, state governments have been made an equal partner in developing the toy clusters”.
He said along with this, efforts are made to strengthen the possibilities of toy tourism. Toyathon-2021 was also organised to promote Indian sports-based toys and more than 7,000 ideas were brainstormed.
The Prime Minister also used the occasion to interact with traditional toymakers from Chennapatnam, Varanasi and Jaipur and impress upon them the need to innovate and make toys more relevant keeping in view the changing taste of children.
More than 1,000 exhibitors participated in the Toy Fair 2021, which will continue till March 2.
The first toy fair is not just a business or economic event, he said, adding that it seeks to strengthen the country’s age-old culture of sports and cheer.
This toy fair is one such platform where one can discuss toy design, innovation, technology, marketing and packaging and also share their experiences, he said, adding the world has done research on toys from the era of Indus Valley civilisation, Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa.