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'No intention to delay fixing minimum wages'

June 19, 2021 - 2:46pm
The government has no intention to delay fixing minimum wages and national floor wages, the labour ministry said on Saturday.The clarification comes amid reports that forming an expert group on the issue with three-year term is an attempt to delay fixing minimum wages and national floor wages.Earlier this month, the ministry announced that the Centre has constituted an expert group under the chairmanship of renowned economist Ajit Mishra to provide technical inputs and recommendations on fixing these wages. The tenure of the expert group is three years."It has come to the notice that certain section of the Press and some of the stakeholders have opined this as an attempt to delay the fixation of Minimum Wages and National Floor Wages by the government.?"This is clarified that the government does not have any such intention and the Expert Group will submit its recommendations to the government as early as possible," the ministry said.The tenure of the expert group has been kept as three years so that even after fixing minimum wages and national floor wages, the government may seek technical inputs/advice from the group on related subjects, as and when required, it further said.The first meeting of the group was held on June 14, 2021 and the second is scheduled for June 29, it added.Minimum wage is different for different categories of workers.National floor wage refers to the minimum level of wage that is applicable to all categories of workers across the country.
Categories: Business News

Urgently trying to work with AstraZeneca, SII, Indian govt to restart COVID-19 vaccine shipments: WHO Official

June 19, 2021 - 2:46pm
The WHO is "urgently" trying to work with AstraZeneca, Serum Institute of India (SII) as well as the Indian government to restart shipments of COVID-19 vaccines to countries that had to suspend the rollout of second doses of vaccines amid the disruption in supplies, a senior official at the UN health agency has said. "We have a huge number of countries that have had to suspend rollout of their second doses of vaccines," Bruce Aylward, Senior Advisor to World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on Friday at a press briefing. "It's over 30 or 40 countries that could have been targeted for second doses of AstraZeneca vaccines (but they) will not be able to do that," Aylward said. "We are now urgently trying to work with AstraZeneca itself as well as SII, the Government of India to restart those shipments so that we can get those second doses into those populations because we are running" to a longer interval "than we would have liked," he said. Aylward added that several countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Middle East and South Asia have been hit hard by this. "Some countries particularly hit hard include those that surround India like Nepal, Sri Lanka, others who suffered a severe wave of disease. We are very, very desperately trying to access doses. We've had quite a substantial problem related to this," he said. Earlier this month, Aylward had said about 80 million ((8 crore) doses have been distributed through COVAX and the global alliance for equitable vaccine distribution is about 200 million (20 crore) doses behind where it should be due to disruption in COVAX supplies as a result of the devastating second wave of the coronavirus in India. "The problem now is the supplies are being interrupted. We're having disruptions because of the problems in India and others and having trouble filling that gap. And as a result, the countries are having trouble getting momentum and getting started well," Aylward had said. He added that supplies out of India were interrupted because of the need to redirect them there amid the surging second wave. He noted that the donation of vaccines is a "short-term" solution in the face of a very imperfect market and those countries that have the financial resources and are producing the products actually have access to vaccines. "That is what we're trying to change, particularly in this period June through September," he said. Earlier this month, Aylward had said WHO expects SII volumes to open up again in the fourth quarter at least and had warned that "we're setting up for failure if we don't get early doses."The Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, is the key supplier of AstraZeneca doses to COVAX. However, the supply of vaccines from SII to COVAX has been impacted as the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic ravages India. Last month, Ghebreyesus had said that once the devastating outbreak in India recedes, "we also need the Serum Institute of India to get back on track and catch up on its delivery commitments to COVAX."
Categories: Business News

Which are the best sectoral bets to play on economic revival?

June 19, 2021 - 2:46pm
After playing safe due to the uncertainty over the Covid pandemic and sticking to defensive plays, such as healthcare and IT stocks, investors are now betting big on a cyclical recovery. Actually, investors are looking at the next avenues for growth. There are many stocks or sectors that have come out of hibernation after many years. Economic activity is likely to gather momentum as most states are gradually opening up with a drop in fresh Covid cases.With the opening-up of the economy at states’ levels, the government’s higher allocation towards capital expenditures for FY22E should be helpful in driving economic growth in the coming days. Moreover with the expectations of a sharper-than-expected economic recovery back home, it is expected that economy-related sectors will continue to be in focus as global central banks continue with their easy money policies, which will ensure ample liquidity global markets, including India.Moreover, the government’s focus appears to be shifting back towards growth. Its disinvestment agenda, privatisation of select public sector banks (PSBs) and focus on infrastructure are key steps that indicate that it is expecting faster growth in the economy. Besides, inflation is back and on the other side, there is a visible recovery in growth and demand. Undoubtedly, the government’s continuous spending on the infrastructure sector will support faster economic growth as it has a high multiplier effect due to the positive impact on other sectors.Banks are seeing loan books grow across all major segments such as agriculture, retail, MSMEs and personal loans except corporate loans and advances to large businesses.Base metals like steel have seen capacity utilisations moving up due to high demand. Even consumer discretionary specifically rural-focused ones and automobile sector, basically two-wheelers, are expected to see significant growth. However, as the pandemic is not yet out of the way, IT and healthcares sectors will continue to be on the investor radar.Going forward, sectors like capital goods, construction materials, consumer services, transportation, financials and metals & mining will continue to do well and the reflation trade will hold sway. Financials should benefit from the rotation to economically sensitive sectors, and are one of the biggest beneficiaries of higher bond yields. Besides, investors should consider the role of commodities, especially oil & gas in portfolios, both as beneficiaries of faster economic growth and as a hedge against the risk of persistent inflation. Some of these sectors are also expected to see the most earning upgrades, making them a good bets in a portfolio.With demand increasing steadily, economies re-opening and vaccination drive picking up pace, it is expected that the Indian economy will continue to see a sold revival. Undoubtedly, the ease of doing business, infrastructure creation and positive fiscal policies will help India becoming a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25. So, this could be a good time to invest in stocks of these flourishing sectors. However, one should do the due diligence on the fundamentals of such stocks before investing. (DK Aggarwal is the CMD of SMC Investment and Advisors)
Categories: Business News

Milkha's first response after contracting COVID

June 19, 2021 - 11:46am
"It will go away," sprint legend Milkha Singh had told when he first got to know that he had contracted COVID-19, fully confident that his healthy lifestyle and regimented exercise routine would be enough to beat the dreaded virus. The 91-year-old, who died at Chandigarh's PGIMER hospital on Friday night after battling the infection for a month, was in high spirits when his positive test report came on May 19. "Yes Bachcha, I tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday (May 19). But I am fine, I have no problem, no fever, no cough. It will go away. My doctor told me I will be alright in three-four days," he had said when rang him up to check whether the buzz on social media about him testing positive for the virus was correct. A couple of days later, Milkha was hospitalised at Mohali's Fortis hospital as a precautionary measure. While there, he was joined by his former national volleyball captain wife Nirmal Kaur, who died six days ago on Sunday because of COVID complications. The couple shared a room before Milkha was discharged on the family's request. He was subsequently hospitalised again on June 3 after his oxygen saturation levels dipped, this time at the PGIMER where he battled it out till Friday night. "Our cook had fever but he concealed it from us. We sent him to his home (native village). After that we thought it's better that all the family members should get COVID-19 tests done," Milkha had said during the May 20 conversation detailing what exactly led to the positive tests. "I am surprised. How could I get this infection?" he wondered. At that point Milkha did not feel any symptoms and said that he had even been jogging and exercising. "I have been keeping indoors except for morning jogging and exercise. I did jogging just yesterday. Don't worry, I am in good spirits," he asserted. "I have been telling people that doing physical exercise and remaining healthy is very important during this COVID times. I am 91 but I have been doing exercise regularly," he had said. And it was this lifestyle that he was banking on to recover. "Though I am surprised to have tested positive, I hope to get over it soon." His wife had, however, spoken about Milkha complaining of slight weakness before his COVID test was done. "This was the first time in my life that he had complained of weakness and body ache," Nirmal, who was negative for virus at that time, had said. The legendary athlete was a four-time Asian Games gold-medallist and the 1958 Commonwealth Games champion but his greatest performance was a near miss, the fourth place finish in the 400m final of the 1960 Rome Olympics. Howevere, his timing at the Italian capital remained the national record for 38 years and he was bestowed the Padma Shri in 1959.
Categories: Business News

DPIIT Secretary Guruprasad Mohapatra passes away

June 19, 2021 - 11:46am
Secretary in the Department of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) Guruprasad Mohapatra died of COVID-19 related complications on Saturday. "Extremely saddened to hear about the loss of Dr. Guruprasad Mohapatra, Secretary DPIIT. His long-standing service and dedication to the Nation have left a lasting impact. I convey my deepest sympathies to his family and friends," Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said in a tweet. Mohapatra was admitted to AIIMS in mid-April. Prior to taking over as DPIIT secretary in August 2019, Mohapatra served as chairman of the Airports Authority of India (AAI). He was a Gujarat cadre 1986 batch IAS officer. He had earlier served as joint secretary in the Department of Commerce. At the state level, he held the portfolio of Municipal Commissioner in Surat, Gujarat.
Categories: Business News

How to give an asset? Will vs gift deed vs trust

June 19, 2021 - 11:46am
Estate planning involves deciding and naming in advance who your assets will get transferred to after you die. One of the most common methods to lay out who your assets will get transferred to is by means of a will.There are other routes as well that an individual can use to pass on his/her assets to his/her legal heirs, namely by making a gift deed or creating a private family trust.This article looks at transferring of assets to legal heirs via these 3 routes: a will, a gift deed, and a private family trust. The article details the pros and cons of each route, as well as the charges and taxes you will incur. Will vs gift deed vs private family trust What is a will? It is a legal document that names individual/individuals who would receive the property and possessions of the will-maker after his/her death. The document can be revoked, modified, or substituted by the person making it at any point during his/her lifetime.A will comes into effect upon the death of the will writer/maker, says Ashok Shah, Partner, NA Shah Associates. What is a gift deed: A gift deed is a legal document that records the act of giving a gift and is created by the donor (the person giving the gift) and given to the donee (person receiving the gift) along with the gift. Shah says that the transfer by way of gift deed happens during the lifetime of the donor. What is a private family trust: A private family trust allows the creator of the trust to have complete control over the trust and freedom to pass on the assets to the beneficiaries, which can be set out in the Trust Deed by the creator/author. Sudhakar Sethuraman, Partner, Deloitte India says, "For creating a private trust, a trust deed could be executed, or it can be created through a will. Registration of private trust deed may be optional, if created under an executed will." "An individual can decide whether to transfer assets via private family trust during his/her lifetime or after his/her death," says Shah. Also Read: All you need to know about making private family trustAlso Read: Estate planning via will or trustPros and consEase of creation/amendingOne of the advantages of a will is that it can be handwritten on plain paper and can be amended at any time without any limitations. However, do keep in mind that only the last will is effective for distribution of assets. Also, registration of a will is important but not mandatory so that there are fewer legal challenges when it comes into effect.In comparison, a gift deed or trust document will have to be legally drafted by a qualified professional. Dr Neelam Rani, Associate Professor (Finance), IIM Shillong and Samarth Saxena, practising advocate, Bombay High Court say, "Once the gift deed is executed and registered, the gift is complete. This gift deed can only be amended for clerical errors that too by means of a duly registered rectification deed executed by all concerned parties. Further, in case of a trust, any modification to the trust deed will have to be done as per the amendment / alteration provision contained in the original trust deed. In case the original trust deed was registered, such an amendment will also have to be registered."Control over assetsIf one is transferring one's assets through a family trust, it is possible for one to retain some control over the assets transferred either by appointing oneself as trustee or appointing a trusted person as a trustee of the trust, explains Shah.On the other hand, gifting a particular property is never advisable for a person whose primary source of income is the gifted property itself (by renting it out). Here is why: After executing a valid gift deed, the person gifting such property loses his legal right to enjoy the gifted property, say Rani and Saxena. They added that, "A gift (under the Transfer of Property Act, 1882) must be accepted by the donee within the lifetime of the donor. Failing such acceptance, the gift would be invalid. To put it simply, there can be no gift to an unwilling person."In case of assets transferred via will or trust the asset-owner retains control (full or partial) over the asset as long as he/she lives. However, in case of gifting the asset the giver loses control over the asset after gifting.Also read: All you need to know about estate planning, inheritance, will and moreSurety of transferClearly the advantage of gifting as a means of transferring assets is that one is 100% sure that the chosen recipient has received the asset (once the recipient has accepted the gift). There can be no dispute about who is entitled to get the asset as may happen in the case of an asset willed to a person.A will is always open to challenge by persons who may allege that the will is fake or unsound in some way. As a will executed after the death of the will maker he/she is unable to settle any dispute arising over it later on. If a will is held illegal/set aside/ then one's assets may not get distributed among the persons named in the will or in the manner/proportion laid out in the will.Rani and Saxena say, "If the trust is created through a will and the will is held illegal/set aside by testamentary courts, then the trust will not take effect."They further add, "One needs to remember that all three - gift deed, will and trust deed can be challenged before the courts. Therefore, to avoid future disputes, one needs to ensure that the chosen instrument is structured with due care and caution."Will vs Gift Deed vs Private Family Trust WILL GIFT DEED TRUST FUND Transfer of assets After death of individual During lifetime of individual During Lifetime or after death depending on wish of individual Ease of creation Can be handwritten; amendable any number of times Requires gift deed; Owner loses right to the asset during his/her lifetime Requires trust deed to transfer assets from owner-individual to trust Control over assets Control is retained if assets are passed via will Owner loses control over the asset once gifted Owner has an option to retain control Costs One-time cost of making a will unless amendments are made in future Stamp duty is payable Apart from stamp duty, there might be sundry expenses such as payment of salaries to trustees etc. Taxation No taxes will be payable by the legal heirs at the time of receiving the assets Gifts to specified relatives are tax-exempt. Tax-exempt depending on satisfying various conditions under the Income-tax Act. The process of probating a willProbating is the court-supervised process of authenticating a last will and testament of a deceased person and it provides legal validity to the rights and entitlements of the legal heirs.It is important to get a will probated, especially if you reside in either Mumbai, Kolkata or Chennai (as probating of will is mandatory in these cities). There are court fees to be paid for probating a will. Here is the cost of probating a will: In Mumbai, the maximum charges for probation of will is capped at Rs 75,000 irrespective of value of assets. In Kolkata, the maximum fee is capped at 50,000 and, in Chennai the charges are capped at Rs 25,000.Also read: What you need to do after will comes into effectShah says, "If you gift the assets during the lifetime (either directly or through the family trust), the assets so gifted do not form part of the estate and hence not subjected to probate proceedings. In case transfer happens after the death of an individual where a trust is created under the terms of the will, then will may be required to be probated as per the applicable state laws."How much each method will costEach method comes with it its own set of charges. For instance, creation and maintenance of a trust requires constant supervision to maintain compliance with the trust deed. Rani and Saxena explained that this invariably leads to additional sundry expenses such as legal, accounting, payment of salaries to trustees etc. "Therefore, creation of a trust is advisable for only high net worth individuals whose assets require greater upkeep and are also capable of supporting such additional expenses," they said.They added, "Though wills are open to challenge before courts of law, for most regular families and individuals, a precise will which is free from suspicion or ambiguity still remains the best suited. Apart from incurring one-time costs towards legal counsel, wills do not require any special expenses unless any amendments are made."Also Read: How to make a will difficult to challengeThen comes stamp duty. If the assets are passed either via gift deed or private family trust, stamp duty will be payable depending on the assets. The stamp duty varies between the state and depends on several other factors like type of asset, to whom it is gifted etc. Shah says, "There is no stamp duty on assets if they are passed through a will. However, if you gift (either via deed or family trust) during the lifetime, then depending upon the nature of the assets, transfer will be subjected to stamp duty. For instance, stamp duty will be payable in case of transfer of immovable property via gift deed. There is no stamp duty on gift of jewellery unless gift deed is made jewellery can be gifted simply by delivery. However, if you make gift deed then 3% stamp duty is there."Taxation in case of will, gift deed and family trustTo transfer movable property (high value) to relatives, gift deed is one of the options. "There are no tax implications (on the giver of assets) under the Income-tax Act on gifting immovable or movable property (except cash, subject to limit) to specified relatives during a financial year," says Sethuraman.However, gifts are taxable in the hands of the recipient except in certain circumstances. Sethuraman says, "Transfer of existing movable or immovable property to 'relatives' defined as per section 56 of the Income-tax Act are exempted under income tax laws. The transfer of immovable property could be executed through a 'Gift deed' as per Transfer of Property Act,1882 and stamp duty needs to be paid."On the other hand, transfer of assets via will does not attract any tax. Sethuraman says, "Section 47(iii) of the Income-tax Act categorically provides that any transfer of a capital asset under a will is not regarded as a transfer. Thus, the same can be claimed as tax exempt under the Income-tax Act."With regard to private trusts, Sethuraman informs that they are governed by the Indian Trust Act, 1882 and taxation is based on various factors viz. type and nature of trust, framework and status (which continues to remain a matter of debate) as per the Income tax Act. "The transfer of an individual's assets to a private trust can be claimed tax-exempt subject to fulfilment of the conditions mentioned under the Act. Similarly transfer of an asset and its income, if any, from the trust to the beneficiary (for whom the trust has been created) could be considered as tax-exempt or taxable based on the specific provisions under the Act. Therefore, individuals should carefully evaluate the option of setting up a trust while keeping taxation in mind for both himself and the beneficiary," says Sethuraman.Now, what if your gifts are made to non-relatives as mentioned under the Income-tax act, how will that be taxed? Shah says, "If you give your properties or any other assets to a non-relative (a person not in the list of relatives specified in the Income tax Act) under a will, the value of assets is not liable to income-tax in the hands of the recipient. However, if you transfer the assets during your lifetime (either directly via gift deed or through a trust) and if the recipient is a non-relative, then he/she would be subject to income tax on the value of the assets received."Creditors claim"If assets are given via will and the original owner's creditors, if any, claim these assets as payment for your debts, then your assets can be attached by the creditor. If you have already gifted the assets (subject to certain exception relating to defrauding the creditors), the assets gifted by you cannot be attached by the creditors. Between direct gift to a beneficiary and gift through a trust, the latter is the preferred option as objective of "ring fencing of the assets" is better achieved when you gift through the trust," explains Shah.What should you do?While considering the different options, one must understand that when it comes to estate planning (as it is in the case with financial planning) you cannot take the 'one size fits all' approach. Each family is unique with different personalities where each member holds a unique mix of assets. This is why evaluating each of these three methods of transferring one's assets before/after one's death is important. Choose the option that is the most economical, convenient and hassle-free and will allow for the smoothest transfer of assets. For this it is advisable to seek qualified advice.
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Behavioral science can change how marketing is done

June 19, 2021 - 11:46am
As the president and founder of the Ogilvy Center for Behavioral Science at Ogilvy Consulting, Christopher Graves’ focus is to understand the real ‘why’ of human behavior for brands that want to boost their marketing effectiveness. Graves wants agencies to view the world multi-dimensionally and advises brands to use data wisely to make a difference in consumers’ lives.In your opinion, what’s the impact of behavioral science on marketing, especially at a time when consumer sentiments have hit a new low?Behavioral science can change the way marketing is done – from taking a targeted approach to being empathic. Marketing as a function is known for being aggressive in nature. What behavioral science shows is that humans are ruled by forces beyond our own awareness. It helps at looking consumer minds at a deeper level, almost like making sense of DNAs. Brands have been targeting and personalising ads for consumers using data, but not necessarily the data that matters, and not always in their best interest. Behavioral science has the power of empathically decoding consumers’ mindset.Let me give you an example. I have been working on projects around vaccine hesitance for a while now. Earlier on researchers thought vaccine hesitancy is because of information deficit syndrome. A year and a half ago The Global Wellcome Trust found that countries that have enough information and are affluent were more vaccine hesitant. The whole premise of vaccine awareness needs a different approach. It is important to understand the ‘why’ factor from people who are hesitant than bombarding them with information that may not change their decisions. It’s the same case with brands’ relationships with consumers.How do you think brands can use behavioral science to push consumers around the globe to get vaccinated for Covid-19?Firstly, brands should stop the hunt for finding that one killer tagline for their public service ad. Agencies sometimes tend to not be super diverse, and I don’t mean racially or ethically. They tend to view the world in the same way. If agencies create global campaigns with the theme, “we’re in this together”, technically not all countries are in this together. That kind of messaging will not resonate. Theories like individualism versus collectivism and tight and loose cultures help in understanding consumer minds differently. Brands can’t push a cool ad to talk about vaccine hesitance or drive the vaccination movement. It may fetch them a Cannes Lion, but it may not make people step out to get their jabs. Brands have to use analogies to inform consumers about the vaccine, why it is needed, and how it works. Behavioral science often is effective in the area of medicine and nudges people if they are given the right information.Many in the industry believe that behavioral science is an extension of market research in advertising and marketing. Your thoughts on this comment.Behavioral science is not an extension of traditional marketing. That’s because traditional marketing most of the time doesn’t give brands answers to the ‘why’ questions. However, behavioral science has the power to discover the deeper consumer understanding that help brands get the right insights and answers without making any biases.Critics may use the word "manipulative" to describe the use of this science in marketing. Your views.I think a lot of things in marketing should be regularised. If brands are surveying consumers, they should know about it. Brands’ goals should be aligned with consumers’, if not that is manipulation. The other important thing is data collected by brands should be anonymous. Companies have to be transparent about these exercises. Brands shouldn't be targeting consumers with the data they collected without telling them. That then becomes an ethical problem.In many ways, the use of intrusive technology has eroded consumers' trust in brands. How do you think marketers can use science to win trust?According to social giants, their terms of service give the consumers the right to choose their privacy levels. However, the fact is that consumers at large often don’t know what to do with these terms of service. In behavioral economics, the concept of choice architecture states that as humans we stick to what we are given, we like to choose the default mode. Unless the models are reversed. If brands decide to gather data from their consumers only if they opt-in, and don’t keep data with themselves, then that could build trust. There are also experiments done by several startups on rewarding consumers when they get access to their data, but that has a long way to go.The writer spoke to Graves on the sidelines of Nudgestock 2021, a global festival curated by Ogilvy Consulting, which brings the worlds of creativity and behavioral science together.
Categories: Business News

'IAF undergoing monumental transformation'

June 19, 2021 - 11:46am
The Indian Air Force (IAF) is undergoing a monumental transformation with rapid infusion of technologies due to rapidly evolving security challenges coupled with rising geopolitical uncertainty in the neighbourhood and beyond, IAF Chief RKS Bhadauria said on Saturday. Addressing a Combined Graduation Parade (CGP) at the Air Force Academy here, he said, "IAF is undergoing a monumental transformation. Rapid infusion of niche technologies and combat power in every facet of our operations has never been as intense as it is now. This is primarily because of the unprecedented and rapidly evolving security challenges that we face, coupled with the rising geopolitical uncertainty in our neighbourhood and beyond." Noting that the last few decades have clearly established the critical role of air power in achieving victory in any conflict, he said it is in this backdrop that IAFs ongoing capability enhancement assumes tremendous significance. The IAF Chief, who reviewed the parade earlier, also spoke about the crucial role played by IAF in the national fight against COVID-19 pandemic.
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PM to meet political parties from J&K

June 19, 2021 - 11:46am
The political parties in Kashmir including the members of People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, have received a communication from the government of India for a meeting with the Prime Minister, scheduled later this month.The invite came at a time when J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha along with the top brass of police and administration met Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi. This is the second meeting of Sinha with Shah and BJP members within two weeks. “Government of India has invited us for the meeting around June 24, but we will decide on future course of action only after sharing and confirming the developments with other parties,” a senior leader from People’s Democratic Party told ET. The meeting would be the first formal engagement with the pro-election political leaders from J&K, most of whom were detained ahead of passing of J&K Reorganization Bill in the parliament on August 5, 2019, which brogated the special status of J&K and downgraded the erstwhile state of J&K state into the two Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh. Most of the politicians were released in 2020 in a phased manner, after several months of detention. The government had detained over 7500 persons including Hurriyat leaders, lawyers, activists and trade leaders from across J&K around August 5, 2019. Some of them continue to remain under detention.The regional parties in J&K formed PAGD in October 2020, with former chief minister and sitting parliamentarian from Srinagar Dr Farooq Abdullah as its president and former chief minister and PDP president, Mehbooba Mufti, as its vice president. The PAGD recently met in Srinagar after a gap of over six months, stating that 'all doors were open for engagement with New Delhi.'A senior politician from the National Conference said that they have also got the invitation for the meeting, but the party is yet to decide. “We have to first decide at the party level and then at the PAGD level on how to go about it,” said another political leader.However, PAGD spokesperson and CPI(M) leader Muhammad Yusuf Tarigami said that the amalgam will only react, when development’s take any formal shape. “We can’t react to rumors. We are together and we will always share our concerns jointly,” said Tarigami. The LG’s meeting in Delhi is also seen as a precursor to the political meeting scheduled later this month. A senior politician, from J&K Apni Party which is not part of the PAGD, also confirmed that there is a meeting of political parties from J&K in Delhi later this month and some of the politicians have already been intimated. Interestingly in the last two weeks, several politicians from Kashmir have flown to Delhi for some kind of separate informal meetings.
Categories: Business News

Filing death claims in EPF, EPS, EDLI

June 19, 2021 - 11:46am
Those who have lost an earning member to the novel coronavirus should remember to file the claim for money lying in the deceased person's Employees' Provident Fund (EPF), Employees' Pension Scheme (EPS) and Employees' Deposit Linked Insurance Scheme (EDLI) accounts.Here is how nominees can file a claim for money in a deceased person's EPF, EPS and EDLI schemes' accounts online.Relaxation of rules and additional benefits for claimantsNominees should note that the Labour Ministry, via a notification dated April 28, 2021, has announced additional benefits under these schemes for members who have lost their lives due to Covid-19. As per the measures announced, the sum insured under the EDLI scheme has been hiked to Rs 7 lakh from Rs 6 lakh earlier.Employees' Deposit Linked Insurance (EDLI) scheme is an insurance cover available to EPF member. It is payable to a person (nominee or legal heir) belonging to member's family or otherwise entitled to it in the event of death of the employee while he/she was a member of EPF.As per the EPF scheme rules, a person can nominate different persons in his/her EPF and EPS accounts. However, the nominee for EDLI will be the same as it is for EPF.Further, the condition to avail the minimum assurance benefit of Rs 2.5 lakh for eligible family members of the deceased employee has been tweaked. As per the new condition, minimum assurance benefit will be available if the member was in service for a continuous period of 12 months in one or more establishments preceding his death. Earlier, the deceased member was required to have been in continuous employment in the same company for 12 months. Puneet Gupta, Director - People Advisory Services, EY says, "The benefit under EDLI scheme is calculated as per a specific formula based on average balance in the member's provident fund account and average monthly wages for last 12 months. Recently, the government via a notification dated April 28, 2021, has retrospectively enhanced the minimum benefit under EDLI to Rs 2.5 lakh and maximum benefit to Rs 7 lakh."Let us now take a look at the claims process. Documents required to file claim under EPF, EPS and EDLIGupta says, "In the event of death of an EPF member, the claim for provident fund refund, pension and EDLI can be filed either by filling up and submitting Composite Claim Form in Death cases with the regional EPFO office or online on the EPFO portal."Following documents will be required to be submitted:a) Death certificate of the EPF memberb) Date of birth certificate of the claimantsc) Bank account proof (cancelled cheque/passbook) of claimant/sd) Beneficiary's Aadhaar numbere) Photograph of the claimant/s The nominee should have their mobile number linked with Aadhaar in case of online submission of claim. While filling the form online, do ensure that the beneficiary's (nominee) name, Aadhaar number and date of birth matches with the records of the EPFO which was submitted by the member (i.e., the deceased person) at the time of filing the nomination.Gupta says, "In case of death of EPS member while being in service (irrespective of number of years of pensionable service), the nominee will be eligible to receive monthly pension. Do keep in mind that the nominee will be eligible to receive monthly pension only if at least one month's contribution has been made in the EPS account and the deceased member dies while in service. However, if the deceased member has left employment earlier and has not rendered pensionable service for 10 years or more, the nominee shall be entitled to lump-sum withdrawal benefit from EPS. If the number of years of pensionable service is 10 years or more, then monthly pension will be paid to the nominee." Do keep in mind that a member will get monthly pension only if he/she is a member of EPS. An individual who has joined the EPF after September 1, 2014, and basic wages at the time of joining did not exceed Rs 15,000 per month is eligible to join EPS.Steps to file claim for EPF, EDLI and EPS onlineBefore starting the process of filing an online claim, do make sure to keep scanned copies of the documents mentioned above. This will make it easier at the time of filling up the claim form online. The scanned files should be in PDF format and size of each file should be less than 2 MB. Gupta explains the steps that a nominee should undertake to file the claim online:Step 1: Visit online portal of EPF: https://unifiedportal-mem.epfindia.gov.in/memberinterface/Step 2: On the portal, there is link available, 'Death claim filing by beneficiary'Step 3: The nominee has to enter the following details: Universal Account Number (UAN), Aadhaar of the beneficiary, name of the beneficiary, date of birth of the beneficiary and captcha code. Once the details are entered, click on Authorised Pin. Step 4: An OTP will be sent on the beneficiary's mobile number which is linked to Aadhaar. Once the beneficiary submits the PIN, the beneficiary can file the death claim with EPFO. Processing of death claimsField officials have been directed by EPFO that death case claims submitted by spouse/nominee of the EPF member should be settled within a period of 7 days from the date of submission of claim form at the concerned field office where the deceased member's account is being maintained. Further, Provident Fund authorities will verify the nominee details as per Form 2 (Nomination Form) mentioned in the withdrawal application.Submitting claims for exempted establishmentsGupta says, "In case of exempted establishments, the nominee has to file application for claiming provident fund accumulations of the member to the employer/ Trust. For Pension and EDLI contributions made to the EPFO, the composite claim form for death cases has to be filed with EPFO through online or offline mode along with necessary supporting documents."
Categories: Business News

Assam rocked by 4.2-magnitude earthquake

June 19, 2021 - 11:46am
A 4.2-magnitude earthquake struck Assam in the early hours of Saturday, the fifth such tremor to hit the northeastern region during the past 24 hours, officials said. A National Center for Seismology report said the latest quake was recorded at 1.07 am, with its epicentre near Tezpur, the headquarter of Sonitpur district, at a depth of 30 kms. There was no immediate report of injury or damage to property. The state was rocked by two more quakes, including a 4.1-magnitude one early on Friday, which also had its epicentre in Sonitpur district. Besides Assam, an earthquake of magnitude 3 with epicentre in Chandel district of Manipur was recorded on Friday, and another 2.6-magnitude tremor with epicentre in West Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya. No loss of life or property has been reported in any of the temblors. The northeastern region sits over a high seismic zone, making it prone to earthquakes. A strong 6.4-magnitude quake had shaken Assam on April 28.
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India abstains on UNGA resolution on Myanmar

June 19, 2021 - 11:46am
India has abstained on a UN General Assembly resolution on Myanmar, saying its views have not been reflected in the draft and New Delhi does not believe the resolution, tabled hastily, is conducive to "aiding our joint efforts towards strengthening democratic process" in the country. The UN General Assembly adopted the draft resolution 'The situation in Myanmar' on Friday with 119 Member States voting in favour, including Myanmar while 36 nations abstained, including Myanmar's neighbours - India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Laos, Nepal and Thailand. Russia also abstained. Belarus was the sole country voting against it. "This resolution was tabled in the UN General Assembly in a hasty manner without adequate consultations with neighbours and regional countries. This is not only unhelpful but may also prove counter-productive to the efforts of the ASEAN to find a solution to the current situation in Myanmar," India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti told . In the explanation of the vote in the General Assembly hall, Tirumurti said as Myanmar's immediate neighbour and close friend of its people, India is cognizant of the "serious impact of political instability" and the potential of its spillover beyond Myanmar's borders. India has been calling for greater engagement with the objective of peacefully resolving all issues. "We already have such an ongoing initiative under the aegis of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). It is important that we extend support to the ASEAN efforts," Tirumurti said. "During the discussions on this resolution, we had engaged in a spirit of finding a constructive and pragmatic way forward and had accordingly shared our suggestions to those who piloted this resolution," he said. "However, we find that our views have not been reflected in the draft being considered for adoption today. We would like to reiterate that a consultative and constructive approach involving the neighbouring countries and the region, remains important as the international community strives for the peaceful resolution of the issue," Tirumurti said. He emphasised that the fact that there is a lack of support from all neighbouring countries as well as several countries in the region itself "should, hopefully, serve as an eye-opener to those who chose to pursue a hasty course of action. "We, therefore, do not believe that the tabling of this resolution for adoption at this juncture, is conducive to aiding our joint efforts towards strengthening the democratic process in Myanmar. We are therefore constrained to abstain," Tirumurti said. The resolution expressed "grave concern" at the February 1 coup and called upon Myanmar's military junta to immediately and unconditionally release President Win Myint, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and other government officials, politicians and those arbitrarily detained or arrested. It also called "upon all Member States to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar". The resolution called on the Myanmar armed forces to end the state of emergency and respect all human rights of all the people of the country. It also called on Myanmar to allow the sustained democratic transition, "including the opening of the democratically elected parliament and by working towards bringing all national institutions, including the armed forces, under a fully inclusive civilian government that is representative of the will of the people." It voiced concern at the human rights situation of persons belonging to ethnic, religious and other minorities in Myanmar, "including the Rohingya Muslim minority, in particular with respect to the violations committed against them and their rights related to citizenship status." Tirumurti said as Myanmar's neighbour, India has direct stakes in the maintenance of peace and stability in the country and welcomes the ASEAN initiative on Myanmar and the 'Five-Point Consensus'. "Our diplomatic engagements will be aimed at strengthening these efforts. We also call for upholding the rule of law and release of detained leaders," he said. Tirumurti also noted that Security Council has expressed strong support for ASEAN's positive and constructive role in facilitating a peaceful solution in support of the people of Myanmar. The ASEAN Five-point consensus states that there shall be an immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar and all parties shall exercise utmost restraint and constructive dialogue among all parties concerned shall commence to seek a peaceful solution in the interests of the people. It also states that a special envoy of the ASEAN Chair shall facilitate mediation of the dialogue process, with the assistance of the Secretary-General of ASEAN. ASEAN shall provide humanitarian assistance through the AHA Centre (ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management) and the special envoy and delegation shall visit Myanmar to meet with all parties concerned, it states. Stressing that India's position on the situation in Myanmar has been "clear and consistent", Tirumurti said New Delhi has expressed its deep concern on the developments in Myanmar and strongly condemned the use of violence and urge maximum restraint. "We are firm that the path to democracy in Myanmar should continue to move forward through the process of democratic transition, which India has steadfastly supported," Tirumurti said. "There can be no turning back on this. India will continue to engage with measures to accelerate and support the democratic transition in Myanmar so that the hopes and aspirations of the people of Myanmar are fully respected and met," he said. On the issue of repatriation of displaced persons from Rakhine state, he said India has the highest stakes in resolving this issue at the earliest since it is the only country that shares a long border with both Bangladesh and Myanmar. "We have continued to counsel our partners on the need for a balanced and constructive approach to this issue. Our support has been for people on the ground, at both Cox's Bazar and in the Rakhine State," he said. He said that it was important to ensure efforts towards safe, speedy and sustainable repatriation of the displaced persons currently in Bangladesh to the Rakhine State of Myanmar, be expedited. "We call on both sides to engage actively on this," Tirumurti said. India also commended Bangladesh for hosting a million displaced persons in its territory.
Categories: Business News

Country pays tribute to 'Flying Sikh' Milkha Singh

June 19, 2021 - 11:46am
The nation mourned the end of an era as it paid homage to nonagenarian sprint icon Milkha Singh, who died on Friday after battling COVID-19 for a month, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading the tributes by describing him as a "colossal sportsperson".Milkha died at Chandigarh's PGIMER hospital, less than a week after he lost his wife Nirmal Kaur, a former national volleyball captain, to the same ailment.He was 91 and is survived by his golfer son Jeev Milkha Singh and three daughters."In the passing away of Shri Milkha Singh Ji, we have lost a colossal sportsperson, who captured the nation's imagination and had a special place in the hearts of countless Indians," PM Modi said in a tweet."His inspiring personality endeared himself to millions. Anguished by his passing away."India's sporting fraternity also paid homage to one of its most inspiring figures, who continued to be a keen observer even after quitting the track.Olympic-bound star javelin throwers Neeraj Copra tweeted "We lost a Gem. He will always remain as an inspiration for every Indian. May his soul Rest in peace."Condoling the death, Home Minister Amit Shah said the one of the brightest stars of Indian sports has been lost."India mourns the sad demise of legendary sprinter Shri Milkha Singh Ji, The Flying Sikh. He has left an indelible mark on world athletics. Nation will always remember him as one of the brightest stars of Indian sports. My deepest condolences to his family and countless followers"Sports Authority of India (SAI) expressed "immense sadness at the demise of one of India's greatest ever sportspersons 'The Flying Sikh' Milkha Singh."A gold medalist at the CWG & Asian Games, he held the 400m National record for 38 years. Condolences to his family & the millions whom he inspired," the SAI said in a tweet.Athletics Federation of India said in a tweet: "Very very sad news for all #Indians, legend Shri Milkha Singh Ji passed away."AFI President Adille Sumariwalla called Milkha "a Titan who lifted the profile of athletics in a young nation...""...his sharp observations on Indian sport will be missed. His towering legacy will continue to inspire generations of young Indians. Rest in peace legend.""A huge loss for the sport of athletics today. Rest well #MilkhaSingh ji," Olympian Anju Bobby George tweeted."Really shocked by the demise of the legend Milkha sir. You will forever have a very special place in my heart.The Flying Sikh will live forever. RIP" Indian sprinter Mohamad Anas Yahiya.Former India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh also expressed also expressed his condolences on the micro-blogging site."Very sad,heartbreaking to hear flying sikh Sardar Milkha singh ji is no more... waheguru RIPMilkhaSinghji."Indian tennis star Sania Mirza said "Had the honour of meeting you and you blessed me so many times .. the kindest and warmest Palms up together RIP Milkha Singh sir .. the world will miss a legend like you ..MilkhaSingh"Really shocked and sad to learn about the passing away of the legend Milkha Singh ji. Om Shanti," Javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia said.Decorated doubles badminton player Jwala Gutta also joined in expressing her sadness."What an inspiration you were to the millions like us…. There will be none like you sir Rest in peace legend MilkhaSingh," she posted.The official handle of the Indian football team also mourned Milkha's death."We join the nation in mourning the loss of the iconic 'Flying Sikh' Milkha Singh. His incredible achievements will continue to inspire future generations. May his soul rest in peace RIP."Assam Chief Minsiter Himanata Biswa Sarma said: "Saddened at the demise of ‘Flying Sikh' Captain Milkha Singh. His laurels had not only made India swell with pride but also inspired generations of sports enthusiasts. My condolences to his family. Om Shanti!"Indian wicketkeeper batsman Wriddhiman Saha, squash player Joshna Chinappa and shooter Sanjeev Rajput also paid homage to the sprint icon."Saddened by the passing away of #MilkhaSingh ji. RIP the Flying Sikh. An inspiration for millions. A great loss to our nation," Saha tweeted."Very saddened to hear about the passing of Milkha Singh Sir. A True Legend and Champion. You will be greatly missed. RIP Sir," Chinappa wrote."A great loss to the nation. Rest in Peace legend #MilkhaSingh ji. Om Shanti," Rajput tweeted.All India Football federation president Praful Patel said: "Deeply pained to learn about the passing of 'The Flying Sikh' Shri #MilkhaSingh Ji. The legendary athlete made India proud with his sporting achievements & his legacy will continue to be one of the most inspiring stories in Indian sports. May his soul rest in eternal peace""Sad to hear about the passing away of legendary Indian sprinter Sardar #MilkhaSingh . He will always remain an inspiration for all. Om Shanti," Union Minister Praksh Javadekar said.
Categories: Business News

Tech companies lobby for change in IT rules

June 19, 2021 - 11:46am
Global internet and social media giants including Google, Facebook and WhatsApp that have complied with India’s new IT rules continue to engage with the government as they seek the withdrawal of certain contentious clauses, people familiar with the developments told ET.These companies, along with industry bodies, are pressing for the removal of specific clauses, especially the one that imposes personal criminal liability on the chief compliance officer of a significant social media intermediary, sources said.“We, along with the other companies and trade bodies, have made clear our concerns regarding the potential impositions of criminal liability on company employees and will continue to engage with the Indian government to try and address these concerns,” said one person cited above.This ongoing discussion with the government comes in the wake of these top global internet majors having already complied with India’s new intermediary rules that came into effect on May 26.Facebook and WhatsApp declined to comment for this story.A representative for Google said the company respects India’s legislative process and has historically responded to the government’s requests to remove content that violates local laws.“If there is a local law, we have to comply and then engage with the government. It is a constant dialogue to resolve issues,” an executive of a technology major told ET.Industry lobbies are also pressing the government to finalise and publish the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for relevant provisions, which they claim will help ensure due process is followed.“The SOPs or guidelines will add safeguards for employees and help in building confidence for such officers in India,” sources said.The revised intermediary rules categorise companies with over five million registered users as “significant social media intermediary” and requires them to appoint three key executives — nodal, grievance and a chief compliance officer based in India.Legal experts are of the view that criminal liabilities for technology companies have been part of India’s rules since the Information Technology Act 2000 and are not a new concept.“The problem now is that these rules have reiterated criminal liability and the removal of statutory exemption from legal liability in crystal clear terms. Earlier it was left to subjective interpretations,” said senior Supreme Court lawyer Pavan Duggal.“The kind of honeymoon period that these service providers and intermediaries were enjoying in India, from 2008 when the amendments came across until 2021, is now gone,” he added.In recent weeks, microblogging platform Twitter’s failure to employ a chief compliance officer has led to a stand-off with the government . Official sources had earlier told ET that non-compliance has likely led to Twitter losing its intermediary status, along with the safe harbours against criminal liability for content posted on its platform that come with it.There have already been cases and complaints filed with law enforcement agencies across India implicating Twitter for alleged misinformation posted on its platform.On its part, Twitter has hired an interim chief compliance officer and shared the details with the government, according to a person in the know, who added that the company continues to engage with the government despite the standoff.Twitter declined comment for this story.ET reported on Thursday that trade bodies and companies have argued that criminal liability for employees of an intermediary is against modern corporate criminal liability jurisprudence and is bad for India’s image as a business-friendly nation.Industry groupings such as the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), along with the US-India Business Council (USIBC) and the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) have petitioned the government to drop the contentions provisions of the law.Legal ChallengeWhatsApp is the only company that has so far challenged the IT Rules in a court of law, taking on the mandate that requires it to trace the first originator of a message. The messaging app has argued that such a move would break its end-to-end encryption and thus curtail the freedom of speech and expression of its Indian users, of which there are more than 400 million.Google, on the other hand, filed a petition in the Delhi High Court arguing that its Search Engine was wrongly categorised as a significant social media intermediary and related provisions of the IT rules applied on it in a previous case. It has asked for the previous ruling to be overturned.
Categories: Business News

Indians' funds: Govt dials Swiss authorities

June 19, 2021 - 11:46am
The finance ministry on Saturday asserted that Indian customer deposits in Swiss banks have fallen since 2019, but said it is seeking details from Swiss authorities on the relevant facts along with their view on possible reasons for changes in the funds parked by individuals and entities in 2020.In a statement, the ministry said the deposits have halved but did not give numbers.Quoting data from Switzerland's central bank, PTI had reported on June 17 that funds parked by Indian individuals and firms in Swiss banks, including through India-based branches and other financial institutions, jumped to a 13-year high of 2.55 billion Swiss francs (over Rs 20,700 crore) in 2020 on a sharp surge in holdings via securities and similar instruments, though customer deposits fell.In its statement, the ministry said the figures "do not indicate the quantum of much debated alleged black money held by Indians in Switzerland. Further, these statistics do not include the money that Indians, NRIs or others might have in Swiss banks in the names of third-country entities."The ministry noted that customer deposits have actually fallen from the end of 2019. The funds held through fiduciaries have also more than halved from 2019-end."The biggest increase is in 'Other amounts due from customers'. These are in form of bonds, securities and various other financial instruments," the ministry added.It also listed out the reasons that could have led to the increase in deposits, including rising business transactions by Indian companies, rise in deposits owing to the business of Swiss bank branches located in India and increase in inter-bank transactions between Swiss and Indian banks.Besides, capital increase for a subsidiary of a Swiss company in India and increase in the liabilities connected with the outstanding derivative financial instruments could be the other potential reasons for this jump in deposits, the ministry explained."The Swiss Authorities have been requested to provide the relevant facts along with their view on possible reasons for increase/decrease....," the ministry added.An automatic exchange of information in tax matters between Switzerland and India has been in force since 2018.Under this framework, detailed financial information on all Indian residents having accounts with Swiss financial institutions since 2018 was provided for the first time to Indian tax authorities in September 2019 and this is to be followed every year.The ministry said exchanges of financial account information in respect of residents of each country have taken place between both countries in 2019 as well as 2020."In view of the existing legal arrangement for exchange of information of financial accounts (which has a significant deterrent effect on tax evasion through undisclosed assets abroad), there does not appear to be any significant possibility of the increase of deposits in the Swiss banks which is out of undeclared incomes of Indian residents," it added.As per Swiss National Bank data (SNB), the aggregate funds of Indian clients with Swiss banks stood at 899 million Swiss francs (Rs 6,625 crore) at the end of 2019, and the increase in 2020 reverses a two-year declining trend.The total amount of CHF 2,554.7 million (Rs 20,706 crore), described by the SNB as 'total liabilities' of Swiss banks or 'amounts due to' their Indian clients at the end of 2020, included CHF 503.9 million (over Rs 4,000 crore) in customer deposits, CHF 383 million (over Rs 3,100 crore) held via other banks, CHF 2 million (Rs 16.5 crore) through fiduciaries or trusts and the highest component of CHF 1,664.8 million (nearly Rs 13,500 crore) as 'other amounts due to customers' in form of bonds, securities and various other financial instruments.While the funds classified as 'customer account deposits' have actually declined from CHF 550 million at the end of 2019 and those through fiduciaries also more than halved from CHF 7.4 million, the money held via other banks rose sharply from CHF 88 million in this period.
Categories: Business News

Cipla to tap foreign cos for large-scale vax play

June 19, 2021 - 11:46am
Cipla, one of India’s top 3 drug firms, is readying a larger play in the Covid therapies space, buoyed by the growth it has witnessed in this segment. Moving beyond a wide portfolio of Covid drugs and diagnostic kits, the Mumbai-based company — with revenues of nearly Rs 20,000 crore — now plans to partner foreign companies for large-scale fill-and-finish services for coronavirus vaccines.Cipla, which witnessed robust year-on-year (YoY) growth of nearly 74% in May on the back of Covid drugs (Tocilizumab, Remdesivir & Azithromycin) has sought clarity from the government on the vaccine ecosystem, even as it weighs options. “We are open to partnerships for fill-finish, and would have the capability in terms of logistics to administer the vaccine, to sell the vaccine. It will be done through our network hospitals. We have adequate cold storage. We do fill-finish for several other products,” Cipla MD and global CEO Umang Vohra told TOI in an exclusive interview.Vohra added that the company has no immediate plans to develop a Covid jab. There has been speculation that Cipla has sought fast-track regulatory approvals to launch US firm Moderna’s vaccine to bolster the country’s vaccine supply.There are marketing, distribution and certain manufacturing tie-ups with MNCs including Roche, Gilead Sciences and Lilly for key Covid drugs (Tocilizumab, Remdesivir and Baricitinib). Additionally, the company entered the diagnostics space with Covid kits in October last year. Now it plans to deepen its Covid portfolio, which roughly contributed about 5% (full-year basis) beyond drugs and diagnostics.The fill-finish process requires a set of specialised capabilities and equipment, and typically drug companies with an injectables’ facility can handle it. It involves aseptically filling the active ingredient in any form — such as sterile liquid, powder, and suspension — into vials, ampoules and then packaging it. Vohra did not disclose details of the foreign company, or the nature of the tie-up under discussion.“Even to fill-finish, you have to understand the vaccine you are importing. We can only go forward to that step if we understand what is permissible and what is not. To put a general overview, for most companies who have imported vaccines, the fill-finish is not a problem. It is usually the first-step to localise it, and then it depends on what is the nature of the partnership,” he added.Vohra said the company was seeking guidance and direction “on applicable laws”, and how the vaccine environment could operate.
Categories: Business News

Top government officials, leaders from industry, academicians to take part in India-US Biopharma and Healthcare Summit

June 19, 2021 - 11:46am
Top government officials, leaders from the industry and academicians from India and the US would take part in the annual India-US Biopharma and Healthcare Summit virtually next week that would bring together stakeholders from the two countries. NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, Pfizer CEO Dr Alberta Bourla, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr Francis Collins and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Acting Commissioner Dr Janet Woodcock are scheduled to address the summit. Being held in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, that badly hit the United States last year and has had a devastating impact on India this year, the 15th edition of the annual summit on June 22 is being organised by Boston-based USA India Chambers of Commerce (USAIC). Leaders from the industry, academicians and top government officials from India and the US are expected to discuss areas of cooperation and emerging trends in drug discovery and development, the organisers said on Friday. "The pandemic has demonstrated the need for global collaboration and partnership in drug and vaccine development, clinical research and trials, health data analytics to provide solutions at a faster pace," Kant said. In a statement, Kant congratulated USAIC for bringing global BioPharma leaders together to discuss emerging trends in drug development, research and innovation and initiating the dialogue on potential use of data science to boost the sector. "With a focus on moonshot sectors in pharma such as vaccines, orphan drugs, biosimilars and complex generics, India is looking at ways to incentivise research, encourage industry academia collaboration and attract global scientific talent to strengthen its R&D ecosystem," he said. Looking forward to hearing from global leaders during the USAIC Summit on ways to enhance international collaboration to conduct high-quality and breakthrough research and place pharmaceutical industry amongst the top industries in the world, Kant said currently contributing to 3.6 per cent of global pharma market, India aims to increase its share to seven per cent in the coming decade by creating global champions. For the second consecutive year, the annual conference is being held virtually. "During the USAIC's 15th Annual BioPharma & Healthcare Summit, we will have the opportunity to hear many different perspectives and engage with leaders across the healthcare ecosystem," said Andrew Plump, president of R&D, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited and chair USAIC Biopharma & Healthcare Summit and USAIC Advisory Board member. "There is increased recognition that we must develop new ways of innovating that will require partnership and collaboration models for industry, academia, the investment community, non-profit and government sectors to work together earlier in the R&D process and in more meaningful ways to accelerate our collective efforts for patients... and we must be proactive and make the necessary investments now," he said. Congratulating USAIC for bringing leaders of the Pharma and Biotech industry from India and abroad, K. Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser, Government of India and Advisory Board member USAIC said that today, more than ever, there is need to bring access and equity of discoveries that are cutting edge and save lives. "This can happen only if we enhance collaboration, maintain standards and find ways to ensure that costs to the beneficiary are reasonable and ensure maximal access. "It is this combination of developing and using the best interventions and ensure that they are available that is India's focus," he said. "In doing so, India expects to contribute to global access of quality biotech and pharma, even more than it does now," he said. According to Karun Rishi, President USAIC, several thousand have registered from across the world for this annual summit. "As a service to the global BioPharma community in these unprecedented times, USAIC is offering free registration for its annual summit," he said. Observing that human suffering has been unprecedented and heartbreaking due to COVID-19, he said India has suffered disproportionately during the second wave. "Global BioPharma industry marshalled resources never seen before to assist India deal with this crises. This summit gives us the opportunity to thank industry leaders for their timely help to India most notably Pfizer, Merck & Co, Amgen, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi, Takeda, Biogen and several others," Rishi said. "Upside of COVID-19 pandemic is that it will bring India closer to an innovation driven economy. Future of vibrant and healthy India relies on moving its BioPharma industry towards research and innovation. We believe top leadership in India understands this and is committed to work in this direction," he said. Rishi said USAIC's efforts over the last 15 years have helped India's policy framework congenial for research and development in biopharma & healthcare. Clinical trials policy is one such example, he noted. "After years of stagnation, India's robust and transparent clinical trials policy is once again attracting global companies to do ethical clinical trials in India. With numerous global BioPharma leaders participating with annual R&D spend over USD60 billion, the USAIC summit will accelerate and give boost to India's ambition to be a strategic part of global BioPharma innovation ecosystem," Rishi said. The summit brings a strong participation from the US government. Prominent among them include Francis Collins, Director, NIH and Janet Woodcock, Acting Commissioner, US FDA. Participation of Pfizer's Chairman & CEO Albert Bourla, Amgen's Chairman & CEO Robert Bradway and Biogen's Chairman Stelios Papadopoulos along with global R&D heads of Janssen, Takeda, Sanofi, Amgen, Biogen, UCB and several other companies demonstrates the keenness of global innovative biopharma companies to work with India, he said. "We are eager to hear directly from Pfizer's Chairman Albert Bourla about India's COVID-19 battle and steps Pfizer is taking to support India," Rishi said, adding that Indian government and industry leaders participating are: Amitabh Kant, K. Vijay Raghavan, Hari Bhartia, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Naresh Trehan, and Dilip Shanghvi. Shanghvi, MD Sun Pharma and Advisory Board member USAIC said that he strongly believes that collaboration between pharmaceutical companies, academic and research institutes and the government is the way forward. "This will help in creating innovation hubs across the world that will provide solutions for a safer and healthier tomorrow," he said.
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Commodities bulls nurse their wounds but fight’s not over yet

June 19, 2021 - 11:46am
By Nicholas Larkin and Mark BurtonThe commodities boom has taken a knock this month, and while there are many reasons to still bet on a so-called supercycle, it’s unlikely to be plain sailing.Vast amounts of stimulus, economies reopening from the pandemic and strong Chinese demand have driven a surge in raw-material prices this year, some to record highs. Yet they’ve slumped in the past two weeks -- with some wiping out gains for the year -- on a more hawkish U.S. monetary policy tone, China’s bid to cool inflation pressures and better weather for crops.While that’s blown away some of the speculative froth from the market, the big question is whether the latest commodities bull run has passed its peak or is just taking a breather.Either way, the direction may not be broad based, with each market having its own individual levers pushing and pulling. Copper traders need to balance a short-term cooling in China with long-term green-energy prospects. Oil’s dip could be limited by falling stockpiles and supply concerns, iron ore is being whipsawed by Chinese policies, while gold will largely be at the mercy of when Federal Reserve tapering starts.“I can still see a lot of inflationary pressures in the supply chain, and the reality is that it’s going up,” said Michael Widmer, head of metals research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in London. “From a commodity-price perspective, I can see the structural argument still for prices to stay elevated or go higher going forward.” 83658940CopperThe year-long rally to a record in May was sparked by surging Chinese demand, but there are signs orders from manufacturers are starting to wane. 83658946Bulls are confident that the rest of the world will pick up the slack as renewable energy and electric-vehicle investment creates a step-change in demand in Europe and North America. Still, it could be a while before that spending makes its way to factory order books, and softer demand in the meantime could embolden bears who say current high prices aren’t justified by fundamentals.Iron OreIt might be particularly hard to predict the trajectory for iron ore, the most volatile commodity right now. It surged to a record, collapsed into a bear market and then rebounded back into a bull market within a matter of weeks traders grappled with the murky outlook for demand in top consumer China. 83658952Both bulls and bears are keeping a close eye on China’s simultaneous goals to contain the inflationary pressures stemming from high commodity prices and to make its vast steel sector greener. The country’s steel output is still on track to smash another record this year, which might prompt further actions from authorities to restrict production and whipsaw iron ore yet again.AgricultureShowers across the U.S. corn belt and uncertainty over biofuel policy have helped send crop markets tumbling lately, but much more rain will be needed to ensure bumper harvests in one of the world’s top suppliers. More than a third of America’s corn and soybean area is suffering from drought, after record-breaking heatwaves.It’s a China story on the demand side, with the nation’s huge imports sending crop and hog futures soaring in the past year. Major traders like Cargill Inc. and Viterra say crop markets are in a “mini-supercycle” that could last half a decade, driven by increased biofuel demand and continued Chinese buying.OilFocus is already turning to how sharply demand will recover over the summer. While there are signs the U.S. is leading the way as western economies reopen, the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus, first identified in India, is raising renewed concern about the path for consumption in parts of Asia.For now, it looks as though the market is going to need extra supply in the second half of the year. The OPEC+ group is yet to confirm plans for production beyond July, while U.S. shale producers continue to preach discipline as they’re making money again. All the more reason then, that the focus is so intense on when the market will see Iranian supply return as talks with the U.S. continue.GoldBullion is more susceptible to Federal Reserve actions than perhaps any other commodity. It tumbled to the lowest since early May after the U.S. central bank signaled monetary policy tightening could start earlier than expected and the dollar jumped. 83658985Although the precious metal is often bought as a hedge against inflation, the Fed signaled this week that higher-than-expected inflation would not be allowed to persist, opening up the door for faster stimulus tapering. That weighs on the appeal of non-interest bearing gold. UBS Group AG forecasts prices at $1,600 an ounce by year-end, compared with about $1,780 now.--With assistance from Annie Lee, Alex Longley, Megan Durisin and Eddie Spence.
Categories: Business News

Wipro to hike pay of 80% eligible staff in September

June 19, 2021 - 11:46am
BENGALURU: IT services provider Wipro will increase salaries of 80% eligible employees in September.This is the second such exercise this year as the company looks to retain staff amid a battle for talent in the country’s tech sector.“On average, the increments will be in the high single-digits for offshore employees, while it will be in the mid-single digits for onsite employees. The company will reward top performers with substantially higher increases,” Wipro said in a statement on Friday.The company said it will offer hikes to all eligible employees below the level of assistant manager.The company announced a similar salary increase for employees in this band in January. For managers and above, the company said pay hikes would be effective June 1.Wipro’s attrition rates jumped to 12% in the quarter to March, prompting it to offer skill-based bonuses, salary hikes for senior leaders and promotions.Bengaluru-based Wipro closed the year with 197,712 professionals, adding over 7,700 people in the March quarter. The company expects to hire over 18,000 freshers during the year. Larger rival Tata Consultancy Services rolled out salary increments in April, the second in six months to its 489,000 workers.Cross-town rival Infosys will begin its second employee performance review from July 1, after it added to employee salaries in January.HCL increased salaries in October, while Tech Mahindra did so in January.The top five companies combined employ over 1.24 million people, more than a fourth of India’s 4.6 million technology workforce.
Categories: Business News

Delhiites put vaccination on backburner

June 19, 2021 - 8:45am
The demand for Covid-19 vaccination at leading private hospitals has plummeted across the Delhi and NCR regions, hospital executives told ET. According to executives at leading hospitals in Delhi and NCR, between 6th and 12th June, approximately 40% of available slots were booked. But in the next week, from June 13th to 18th, only 25% of available slots were booked. “With the reduction in Covid-19 cases, people seem to have lost interest in getting inoculated,” said a senior executive with a leading hospital chain. He added that people might also be waiting until June 21st, when the government will start offering free vaccinations to all those aged 18 and above. “Instead of paying for vaccines, those who have not got themselves vaccinated may be thinking of getting it free in the government centres,” said another executive with a leading private hospital. 83649426The health bulletin by the Delhi government shows that if the number of beneficiaries getting vaccinated in the last 24 hours on June 6 were 58,091, the number decreased to 48,022 on June 10, further to 14,456 on June 14. However, on June 17 the number rose to 54,912. Private hospitals have reduced off site camps, and some like Max healthcare and Indraprastha Apollo have even shut jumbo sites where they were conducting mass vaccinations. Navneet Bali, regional director, Narayana Health said that there could be several reasons for the drop in bookings at private hospitals. “A significant segment could be waiting for the availability of Sputnik,” he said, adding that fear of side-effects might also be factors, as well as the belief that the pandemic has ended with the second wave of cases. Currently, Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and Serum Institute of India’s Covishield are the only two vaccines being administered. Multiple private hospitals confirmed that they have sufficient stock to inoculate people against Covid-19, though none specified for how long these stocks could last. Max Healthcare has even released print ads, urging people to get vaccinated. It said that over 1 lakh slots are available at its various centres, it said in the advertisements. The hospitals had expected to discontinue off-site vaccination camps and tie-ups after the new vaccination guidelines issued by the government capped the service charge they could bill customers at ₹150 per dose. “However, things have changed even before we anticipated,” added an executive. "We have reduced off site camps because of lack of information on new supplies. Too early to say if the demand is coming down with reduction in cases," said Fortis spokesperson.The situation in Mumbai and other metros is different, they said. “The trend of vaccination numbers going down is largely seen in Delhi and NCR region. Mumbai on the other hand is faring much better.”
Categories: Business News

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