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NITI Aayog propose vax price between Rs 300-500


The NITI Aayog has promulgated a price range of Rs 300-500 for two Covid vaccines that would be available for the priority group at private facilities in the third phase of vaccination set to begin from March 1, sources privy to the development told IANS, adding that the Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin would cost a bit higher.

However, the union health ministry would take a final call on the proposition.

The proposed price has been floated after a five-hour long meeting held between the Dr VK Paul, member (health), NITI Aayog and officials from Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech on Friday evening, which was concluded around 11 p.m., sources added.

“This would be the price end-user would pay for a dose. It includes the service charge the private facilities can take from the beneficiaries,” a top official said.

IANS had reported earlier that private facilities will be able to collect a “service charge” of up to Rs 100 from the beneficiaries to meet the operational expenses they will be incurring during the vaccination drive against Covid-19. This will be in addition to the cost of the vaccines.

As per reports, the government has been procuring SII’s Covishield for around Rs 210 per dose while the cost of Covaxin is around Rs 290 for a shot.

The third phase of vaccination will begin from March 1 and will cover 27 crore people above 60 years of age and those above 45 years of age with comorbidities at 10,000 government and over 20,000 private vaccination centres.

The government has decided that the people will be vaccinated free of cost at the government hospitals, while those taking the shots at private hospitals will have to pay.

The vaccines will be stored at public health facilities having cold chain points. The private facilities will be able to receive the desired doses from public hospitals in their vicinity.

Akin to the previous priority groups, healthcare and frontline workers, the general public as well will not be given a choice among the two vaccines. However, the people can make a choice between the centres where they are willing to take the jab, officials told IANS.

“One would not be allowed to choose among the two vaccines. However, they can indirectly go for their preference by selecting the centre they wish to be inoculated since the information of centres along with the vaccines they use will be available to the public,” the official informed.

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Jagan plea for special status at Niti Ayog

AP CM Jaganmohan Reddy on Saturday made a fervent plea for special status to AP at the Niti Ayog meeting chaired by PM Modi at Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi. He distribued an 8-page letter and a detailed report to the dignitaries and officials on the poor financial conditions in the state.

Jagan said that AP’s debts have gone up from Rs 97,000 Cr in 2014 to Rs 2.58 lakh Cr in 2019. Every year, Rs 20,000 Cr is to be paid for interest and another Rs 20,000 Cr for principal payment. There’s no industrial development in the last five years. There is no revenue earning capital city like Hyderabad.

Citing these reasons, Jagan said that special status only can make a difference to the state at this juncture. AP CM also drew comparisons to show how his state is lagging behind Telangana in per capita income, revenue generation, etc because of unjust bifurcation.

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Jagan to attend NITI Aayog meet in Delhi

The Prime Minister’s Office invited AP CM YS Jaganmohan Reddy to take part in the NITI Aayog national level meeting in Delhi on June 15. The meeting will discuss various issues like Centre-State relations. Jagan is expected to take up the issue of Special Status promise to AP at this meeting. The venue of meeting will be Rashtrapati Bhavan.

As per reports, participating Chief Ministers can raise any issue at this meeting with the permission of NITI Aayog Chairman. Its CEO Amitabh Kant says that the meeting will primarily focus on agriculture, drought conditions, irrigation and other related issues.

However, Andhra Pradesh is facing serious crisis in resources because of non-fulfillment of bifurcation promises. CM Jagan is expected to bring forward this issue and insist on the special status promise. AP is right no facing scarcity of financial resources. Jagan’s priority would be to get the Central funds under different programmes. He has asked his secretaries and senior IAS officers to look for ways to get maximum support from the Centre.

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Higher than IMF-WB prediction, Indian economy will grow over 7.5% this year: Rajiv Kumar


Click here for part NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar Interview Part 1

Even as most global rating agencies have kept India’s growth forecast between 7.3 and 7.4 per cent, NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar has said the economy would grow at least 7.5 per cent in the current fiscal and may even go as high as 7.8 per cent.

“My prediction is that you will get above 7.5 per cent. It is higher than what the IMF and the World Bank are saying. But I am being conservative… My gut feeling is that it might even be higher,” Kumar told IANS in an interview.

He added that since the economy clocked a growth rate of 7.7 per cent in the last quarter of FY18, he doesn’t see it going below that in subsequent quarters. “It should remain 7.7 per cent or higher in the coming quarters,” the noted economist said.

Kumar added that since it was even lower in the first second and third quarters of the last fiscal — as low as 5.7 per cent in Q1 — there will be a favorable base effect as well.

“But overall, 7.5 per cent conservatively. I’d say 7.5 to 7.8 per cent,” he added.

Kumar’s remarks hold significance since he was the first to predict last September that the slowdown in the Indian economy had bottomed out and that it was set to rise. It eventually played out at 6.3 per cent, 7 per cent and 7.7 per cent, respectively, in subsequent quarters up from around 5.6 per cent in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, the World Bank has projected the Indian economy to grow at 7.3 per cent in 2018-19 and the International Monetary Fund pegged it at 7.4 per cent. Earlier this month, Fitch Ratings raised the growth forecast to 7.4 percent up from 7.3 per cent.

Even the Indian apex bank, RBI, retained the growth projection for the current fiscal at 7.4 per cent, towards the top end of 7 to 7.5 per cent projected in the Economic Survey.

However, most of these agencies have cited higher crude oil prices as a risk, a factor also emphasised by outgoing Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian in the Economic Survey.

However, the NITI Aayog Vice Chairman expressed confidence in the robustness of the Indian economy and downplayed the oil factor.

“The domestic market has borne oil prices going from $40 to $77 per barrel, and still the growth was 7.7 per cent in the last quarter. And now going forward, I am sure the world oil prices are going to soften. There is a declining trend in oil futures. Given that moderation, future price of oil would come down,” Kumar said.

He added the oil price had not changed much in the domestic market anyway.

“In the domestic market, oil prices pretty much remained constant; going up a little bit and now they are coming down… When international (crude oil prices) was going down, we were imposing taxes on it. It was not as if in the previous years the growth was because of lower oil prices and now that it will suffer,” Kumar added.

“With that and with the exports hopefully picking up and private investment now finally on the rise, I expect economic activity to improve… and normal monsoon — all of this put together, I think we will achieve 7.5 per cent in 2018-19 for the whole year. I think economy is now on the rise and the upturn is gathering strength,” he said.

Kumar also said the economy had overcome the effects of Goods and Services Tax and demonetisation while acknowledging the two moves had led to “some casualties”.

He dismissed reports that over five lakh people lost their jobs owing to demonetisation and GST in Tamil Nadu alone as claimed by a report tabled in the Tamil Nadu assembly.

“I don’t see that phenomenon on the streets. After all, if those five lakh workers got unemployed, it’s not a small amount. It would have been visible on some streets of Tamil Nadu in districts and towns and so forth. I think it’s exaggerated,” Kumar said.

Responding to criticism that the government had not delivered the promised ‘achhe din’ (good days) in its current term which ends next year, and was now promising a “New India” in 2022, he said: “People’s skepticism is justifiable. Public memory is short. People don’t remember what we inherited in 2014. The expectations from this government were always very high.”

He said epectations were “running far ahead” of outcomes. “But when I say the New India will arrive in 2022, I think a big reason for that is for the first time through schemes like Swachh Bharat or Skill India or Digital India or Pradhan Mantri Swaasth Yojana, we are succeeding in making development a mass movement in the country,” he said.

“Everyone now feels involved in this movement. In this country, once people decide that there is something they want to be involved in, then nothing can stop them. And that is why I feel that point has now come and we are at the cusp of a big change,” he said

He was of the opinion that because the economy was “now cleaned up”, it was much more transparent and much more sustainable. “The whole game has changed and it’s not a hyperbole or an exaggeration to say that by 2022, you will find a big shift in the economy,” Kumar noted.

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With 90% tax on petrol & diesel, bringing them under GST impractical: NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Interview


Petroleum is the taxation milch cow for the central and the state governments and it is unlikely to be brought under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) any time soon.

That’s also the view of the Vice Chairman of Niti Aayog, Rajiv Kumar. Several senior ministers have demanded that petroleum products — basically petrol and diesel — be brought under the the new taxation regime.

But says Kumar: “It (oil) can’t be brought under GST. That’s because the total state and central taxes on petrol put together are around 90 per cent right now.”

He told IANS in an interview here: “I can’t see how any state will take a cut so huge as the highest rate under the GST is 28 per cent. A new GST band will have to be opened up — and that will be an enormous exercise.”

While supporting “in principle” the idea of bringing all items under the new indirect tax system, he said those talking about doing it now have not thought this through.

“The better way to do this is to first start reducing taxes (on petroleum products) as I have said many times in public. States impose ad-valorem tax on oil and so they all had a windfall gain (when prices rose). There is a need to rationalise it,” he said, adding “states should especially cut taxes.”

Kumar said that both the central and the state governments should start the process of weaning themselves away from their dependence on oil taxation.

According to him, the Central government collects Rs 2.5 lakh crore as tax on oil while almost Rs 2 lakh crore is collected by the states. “From where will they compensate it?” he asks adding that if the taxes are reduced gradually, the burden on the economy will get reduced.

“Higher oil prices are like a tax on the economy. If oil prices are brought down, economic activity will also improve,” Kumar said.

“Once that is achieved, once the revenues have gone up from other sources and the economy has picked up, then you can think of bringing oil under GST. It’s not that easy,” he added.

Ever since the new tax legislation was rolled out on July 1 last year, there had been talk of bringing it under the GST with top government officials and ministers supporting the need for such a move. The Opposition parties, of course, have been clamouring for it.

In December last year, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had told the Rajya Sabha that the Central government was in favour of bringing petroleum products under the ambit of GST after building a consensus with states.

More recently, in April, when the international crude oil prices were going up sharply, pushing the domestic petrol prices to record levels, BJP President Amit Shah told a rally in Mumbai that efforts were on to bring petrol and diesel under the GST.

From Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari to Petroleum and Naural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, almost every senior BJP minister has favoured bringing petroleum products under the GST.

Among states, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has also expressed willingness to bring petrol and diesel under GST in his state if a consensus was brought about on it.

Kumar says he was in favour of such a change, but it has to be thought through in practical terms.

“I am just simply saying that let’s not try to hurry it because you would only run into problems as there is a huge dependence on oil,” he said.

“Even electricity should be brought under GST. Everything should be under GST. But I am not sure whether it is worked out yet. Let’s agree to bring it under GST but over a period of time as is practical,” he said.

Click here for part NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar Interview Part 2

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Naidu to go hard on Modi at NITI Aayog meeting


Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu is planning to go hard against Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the NITI Aayog meeting scheduled for Sunday in Delhi. Chandrababu Naidu had already reached the national capital on Saturday evening.

Chandrababu Naidu is said to have prepared a detailed statement on the benefits that the Central government had given to the State in the last four years. He is likely to highlight the failures of the NDA government and Prime Minister Modi in helping the State after bifurcation, which had forced him to pull out from the NDA.

The special category status, railway zone in Visakhapatnam, steel plant in Kadapa, sea port in Dugarajapatnam are the major issues that Chandrababu Naidu is planning to hit at the Prime Minister. He is also upset with the Central government in releasing funds to the State for the educational and other institutions given to the State in the last four years, the funds promised for the four Rayalaseema and three Uttarandhra districts under the backward areas development fund, the low release of funds to the capital city Amaravati and Polavaram Projects are also to be highlighted at the meeting.

Interestingly, Chandrababu Naidu and Narendra Modi are sharing the dais for the first time on Sunday at the NITI Aayog meeting after they broke the alliance. Though Chandrababu Naidu had visited the Parliament and met several leaders after breaking up the alliance, he did not have the chance to meet Narendra Modi. It is for the first time the leaders are coming together and Chandrababu Naidu is set to be hard in his speech, which was well drafted by the senior bureaucrats.

Chandrababu Naidu is not happy with the flow of funds for the Central government institutions established in the last four years. While the private institutions for which the State government had allocated lands have completed construction of their campuses and started classes in Amaravati, the institutions established by the Central government are yet to start the construction of campuses and the Chief Minister is not happy with the meagre allocation of funds, which he is set to highlight.

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NITI Aayog to create cell for women entrepreneurs


Buoyed by the success of Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) which concluded here Thursday, NITI Aayog announced setting up of women’s cell to help women entrepreneurs.

The Telangana government also announced three initiatives including setting up of an incubator to encourage women start-ups.

NITI Ayog, a policy think-tank of the Central government, will create a women’s cell to do the handholding for women entrepreneurs.

NITI Ayog ACEO Amitabh Kant told reporters after the end of the GES that the cell will act as a facilitator and catalyst to provide all help including legal and intellectual property help.

The women entrepreneurs will get financing support from Mudra Fund and financial institutions. “We are here to help women entrepreneurs as long as the projects are viable and bankable,” he added.

He said one of the issues discussed at GES was inadequate funding for women. He, however, claimed that under Mudra Loan Scheme, 74 percent funding was given to women.

Kant announced that women’s schools will get priority in selecting schools for tinkering labs under the Atal Innovation Mission. The selected schools will be provided robots and 3D printers.

He also said the incubator under Atal Innovation Mission will also support startups set up by women or designed for women.

Telangana’s Information Technology Minister K. T. Rama Rao announced that WE-Hub would be modelled on the lines of T-Hub, the country’s largest technology incubator which earned appreciation from both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump at the summit.

As the summit was focused on women entrepreneurs, the state government decided to set up the facility to help women startups.

Kant announced that the Atal Innovation Mission would partner with the state government for the WE-Hub.

Rao also announced setting up a Technology Fund (T-Fund) with a corpus of Rs 15 crore exclusively for women entrepreneurs. The women entrepreneurs can get Rs 25 lakh to RS.1 crore under this Fund.

Announcing the third initiative, the minister said women entrepreneurs will get one-fourth share in 20 percent of total procurements made by government from the private sector, mostly SMEs.

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Niti Aayog ranks Andhra Pradesh best in three segments


Andhra Pradesh is topped the charts in ease of doing business and providing electricity to rural households. It is second after Himachal Pradesh in Uday, trimming transmission and distribution losses. Telangana on the other hand has secured second position in ease of doing business followed by Gujarat in the third position.

NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant during a national conference of Chief Secretaries earlier this week displayed the rankings across the states and union territories based on key developments and social indicators.

Andhra Pradesh along with Goa, Kerala, Punjab and Tamil Nadu have achieved 100% penetration in making electricity available in rural households.

Tamil Nadu which tops in reading comprehension and understanding class-V level Arithmetic is among the worst performing states in ease of doing

Kerala which secured top position in Nutrition and reading comprehension is among the bottom three in ease of doing business.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked states to give highest priority to ‘ease of doing business’ to attract more investments especially when the world is seeking to partner with India. Modi asked officials competition between districts and cities must commence on similar grounds

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Telangana urges Centre to link MGNREGA to agriculture

With the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) creating shortage of farm labourers, Telangana on Friday urged the Centre to link the scheme to agriculture.

A resolution to this effect was passed at the plenary of ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) at Kompally on the outskirts of Hyderabad.

Chief Minister and TRS President K. Chandrasekhar Rao moved the resolution during his inaugural address and it was passed unanimously.

He said he would raise the demand during a meeting of NITI Aayog in New Delhi on Sunday.

Rao said the MGNREGA was creating shortage of farm workers during the crop season, causing problems for farmers.

He said while the central scheme proved beneficial and many works were undertaken, it also led to problems for farmers as they were not getting workers to work in fields during the crop season.

If the MGNREGA was linked to agriculture, the labourers under the scheme can be used for farming.

A Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI)-KMPG report in 2015 said that schemes like MGNREGA have affected farm labour adversely in the country and can have a negative impact on productivity and prices.

According to the report, rural wages grew on average by 17 per cent since 2006-07 and outstripped urban wages while productivity has not increased.

It found that between 2004-05 and 2011-12, farm labour declined by around 30.57 million while the total size of the workforce kept rising.

The share of agri workforce during the same period declined from 56.7 per cent to 48.8 per cent.

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