Indiaâ€™s response to Zika
The Union Health Ministry has sounded an alert for Zika and appointed the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) as the nodal agency for investigation of any outbreak of the viral infection in India.
This comes in the backdrop of the World Health Organization (WHO) designating the virus and its suspected complications in newborns as a public health emergency of international concern.
What is the National Centre for Disease Control? – National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) (previously known as National Institute of Communicable Diseases) is an institute under the Indian Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. It was established in July 1963 for research in epidemiology and control of communicable diseases. It has eight divisions under it.
The institute was established to function as a national centre of excellence for control of communicable diseases. The function of the institute also included various areas of training and research using multi-disciplinary integrated approach. The institute was, in addition, expected to provide expertise to the States and Union Territories (UTs) on rapid health assessment and laboratory based diagnostic services. Surveillance of communicable diseases and outbreak investigation also formed an indispensable part of its activities.
Why is Zika a potential health hazard? – India is known for its rampant vector borne diseases like dengue, malaria, chikungunya. Zika is transmitted through the aedes mosquito which are available in India round the year. This makes India a very sensitive zone for the spread of Zika. Coupled with the high infant mortality rate and child malnutrition Zika could potentially be a big health hazard for India.
New rule for US Pharmaceutical Industry
The US government has made it mandatory for Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients(API) to be manufactured locally. At present, nearly 80 per cent of drug raw material requirement is met by India or China.
Before the new norms came into effect, U.S.-based companies were allowed to procure APIs from countries like India and China, make the fixed formulations (final product) in the U.S. and sell the drugs to the U.S. government.
Pharmexcil â€” Indiaâ€™s pharmaceutical Export Promotion Council â€” has approached the Commerce Ministry, requesting authorities to intervene and resolve the issue. The issue comes at a time when Indian API exports have been slowing down.
Sources said the government would first try to resolve this issue bilaterally, failing which it would consider approaching the World Trade Organisationâ€™s dispute settlement panel.
What is Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient(API)? – Any drug is composed of two components or aspects. The first is the actual API or Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients, which is the central ingredient. The second is known as an excipient. This refers to the substance inside the drug or tablet. If it is in syrup form, then the excipient will be the liquid that has been used. Thus, excipients are the inactive or inert substances present inside a drug while the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients is the chemically active substance, which is meant to produce the desired effect in the body.
How will it affect Indian Exports? – Indian companies are not allowed to quote for government contracts in the U.S. since India is not a signatory to the WTOâ€™s government procurement agreement. But this change will affect companies which have subsidiaries in the U.S. that procure APIs from their Indian counterparts and make the finished product in the U.S. Manufacturing Â APIs in the U.S. will be a difficult requirement to meet for many of the Indian generic drug manufacturers.
This would seriously impact availability and prices of medicines in the United States. As things stand, nearly 80 per cent of the U.S. requirement for APIs is imported and due to these norms, the U.S. government procurement prices will go up significantly.
India-Brunei discuss South China Sea dispute
Brunei held discussion with an Indian delegation led by Vice-President Hamid Ansari on 2nd Feb(Tuesday) regarding Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea which has the potential to affect free maritime traffic in Southeast Asia.
Brunei briefed India on the negotiation under way for the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea. India supports a negotiated settlement of Bruneiâ€™s maritime dispute with China. India also concluded a bilateral defence agreement aimed at ensuring uninterrupted energy lanes between India and South East Asia.
An Indian military source in Brunei said the defence cooperation will provide both sides the institutional foundation for more collaborative work on maritime security and secure Indiaâ€™s energy lanes to Brunei.
Bruneiâ€™s main port, Muara â€” one of the main ports in Southeast Asia through which the bulk of the countryâ€™s oil and gas exports to India take place â€” is in the South China Sea region and will become a major component of Indiaâ€™s growing maritime partnership with Brunei.
In the South China Sea dispute, the claimants are squabbling first and foremost over sovereignty over the Seaâ€™s territorial features. At its most basic, the claimants disagree over who owns each of the features. Some claimantsâ€”like Brunei and Malaysiaâ€”have advanced relatively modest territorial claims. Othersâ€”like the Philippines and especially Vietnamâ€”have asserted ownership over a much larger proportion of the Seaâ€™s features. Finally, China (and Taiwan) have laid claim to every piece of territory in the entire Sea. (See picture above for a map of these overlapping claims.)
Source: TheHindu, Lawfareblog
RBI relaxes norms for start-ups
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Tuesday Â 2nd February, relaxed several rules including foreign direct investment norms to boost start-up activity in the country. Announcing the plans, RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan said the aim is to simplify movement of capital and do away with regulatory impediments hampering their growth, to create more â€˜unicornsâ€™ or companies with billion-dollar valuations.
Start-ups are allowed to receive foreign venture capital investment irrespective of the sector in which they operate. The new norms will enable transfer of shares from foreign venture capital investors to other residents or non-residents.
RBI will also look at the issuance of innovative FDI instruments like convertible notes by start-ups and streamlining their overseas investment operations. The central bank simplified the process of dealing with delayed reporting of foreign direct investment (FDI)-related transaction by building a penalty structure into the regulations itself.
RBI also said certain proposals are been considered and consulted with the government.
These proposals include, permitting start-up enterprises to access rupee loans under External Commercial Borrowing (ECB) framework with relaxations in respect of eligible lenders, issuance of innovative FDI instruments like convertible notes by start-up enterprises and streamlining of overseas investment operations for start-up enterprises.
There have been sustained efforts to encourage the start-up ecosystem in the country in the recent past. This will help in boosting innovation and creation of jobs.
Capital markets regulator Sebi has come up with norms for listing of start-ups after a series of meetings with stakeholders.
The governmentâ€™s â€˜Start Up Indiaâ€™ programme also includes a slew of incentives to boost start-up businesses, offering them a tax holiday and inspector raj-free regime for three years, capital gains tax exemption and Rs 10,000-crore corpus to fund them.
The government has also announced a self-certification scheme in respect of nine labour and environment laws, while there will be no inspection during the first three years of launch of the venture.
Also, a liberalised patent regime is being brought to help start-up businesses register patents, for which the fee will be slashed by 80 per cent.
India, which has the third-highest number of start-ups globally, will also support the ventures by removing the criteria of experience and turnover for bagging government procurement contracts.
Profits earned by start-ups will be exempt from payment of income tax during the first three years of business.
To boost financing, a 20 per cent tax on capital gains made on investments by entrepreneurs after selling of assets as well as government-recognised venture capitalists will also be exempt.
Source: TheHindu, Financial Express
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