Govt considering ban on sale of TB drugs in open market
The health ministry is proposing changes in view of irregularity in administration of these drugs to patients and lack of proper monitoring which is hindering efforts to check the disease

Sale of tuberculosis (TB) drugs could be prohibited in the open market as part of efforts to ensure calibrated and monitored administration of these medicines which would then only be given on a daily basis free of cost by government-registered outlets to patients.  
The health ministry is proposing changes in view of irregularity in administration of these drugs to patients and lack of proper monitoring which is hindering efforts to check the disease. 
 
According to a WHO estimate, India is home to the largest number of TB patients—2.2 million of the world's 8.7 million. 
 
Patients are administered TB medicines either through government-run hospitals and clinics free of cost or by private practitioners. 
 
According to the health ministry, about 65% of the TB patients avail these drugs under the government’s DOT (Daily Observed Therapy) System while the rest opt for treatment by private practitioners and buy drugs from the chemists based on their prescription. 
 
The latter results in irregularity of treatment which leads to relapse of the ailment as there is lack of proper monitoring, the sources said citing experts. 
 
To address this, the government is planning to prohibit sale of drugs in open market. 
 
Under the new initiative, patients going to private practitioners for treatment will get medicines free of cost from chemists but only after the doctor informs them through a dedicated call centre to be set up by the government. 
 
The changes are being brought to ensure that all TB patients are administered the drugs on daily basis instead of intermittently as at present. 
 
Recently, health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had expressed concern on the issue saying that the irregular regime is leading to growing resistance to anti-TB drugs. 
 
The health ministry officials recently had held a meeting with WHO and other experts who had emphasised on changing intermittent dosage system to daily regime. 
 
During the meeting, it was informed that many other countries including Brazil, China, which were following the intermittent dosage system, have now turned to the daily regime.
 

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“US payroll data to determine further direction in gold”

Gold could come under severe selling pressure if Friday’s US job reports point at further improvement in the labour sector, said Anand Rathi in its report

Monthly payrolls data from the US offer good insight into the health of the world’s largest economy. As such, they are closely monitored by bullion traders and investors. Gold has been very sensitive to the outcome of these reports. This has been the case in the past few months, ever since the Fed stated that the continuation of its asset purchases would depend on the progress in the labour market, according to Anand Rathi Commodity Research in its report “Gold-Caution Ahead”. One of the key reasons that have kept gold under pressure this year has been signs of improvement in the labour sector. [Since the introduction of QE3 last September, the jobless rate in the US has declined from around 8% to a four-and-half -year low, while the payrolls data releases have indicated a steady pace of hiring by employers.]

 

If the labour report on Friday points to further improvement, speculation will intensify that the Fed could start tapering its QE from after the September meeting. This would benefit the dollar and lift Treasury yields to fresh multi-week highs. This combination would reduce the appeal for gold and push prices back the year-to-date low ($1,180), and possibly further lower in the coming sessions.

 

However, if the data hints that progress in the labour market might be slowing down, speculation of an imminent tapering off of QE is likely to abate. This would benefit gold and lift it towards $1,300, said the Anand Rathi report.

 

 

From the above table, it may be observed that most of the national employment reports which have come out from the US (for June) have indicated further progress in the labour sector. The ISM manufacturing employment index was the only dark spot, as it unexpectedly contracted in June for the first time since September 2009. However, the effect of this is likely to be restricted as the ISM non-manufacturing employment index last month rose handsomely to a four-month high. (In the US, the non-manufacturing sector constitutes nearly 90% of the economy). Considering all this, there is a good possibility that the non-farm payrolls report for June, due later on Friday, could top market estimates of 165,000.

 

The outcome of the payrolls data would be very crucial to gauge the further direction in gold, as it would offer clues surrounding the timing of the tapering off of the QE. Recent labour reports from the US have shown a steady pace of jobs addition in the world’s largest economy. “If the latest labour data are supportive while the unemployment rate slides, speculation that the Fed at the September meeting would decide to roll back its stimulus would gain further momentum. This would reduce the appetite for gold.

 

“However, if the data falls short of market expectations and prints below 150,000, speculation about a decision at the September meet regarding the QE being tapered down would certainly ease”, said the Anand Rathi report. This could lead to considerable short covering in gold and boost prices.

 

“Meanwhile, we expect gold to be modestly squeezed even if the data prints in line with market expectations as this would indicate the steady progress being made in the labour sector” Anand Rathi concluded.

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Coal blocks allocated to public sector power companies. What is in store?

Based on the past experience and performances, with respect to new coal block allocations, it is said that at least three years would be the time-frame required before one can start the mining operation

The coal ministry’s announcement allocating 14 coal blocks, estimated to hold some 8,311 million tonnes (MT) of coal and capable of yielding 159 MT per year, if mined successfully, to 19 public sector power companies is a welcome step in the right direction.

 

It may recalled that after the report of Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in August 2012, after the government realized that the allottees had failed to develop the coal blocks, these blocks were cancelled, and the bank guarantees were encashed. Unfortunately, the country lost time and opportunity because the allottees failed to perform.

 

The major grievance of these unsuccessful allottees was that they were unable to make any progress due to various impediments in form of land acquisitions, state and environmental clearances, etc. Most had hardly started any work on the given mines.

 

The country’s biggest power producer, NTPC, has received four blocks whose potential reserves are estimated at 1,995 MT and in the case of coal blocks in West Bengal, for example, these have been allocated to power companies from six different states.

 

What is important and urgent is the actual state of affairs of each of these blocks. Though, in the next few weeks, hopefully not months, each of the allottee will have to draw up an action plan in order to get the best benefit.

 

We take this issue as whole and make a few suggestions that may become part of the individual check-list for the allottee, many of which may already be in their own list:

 

a) What are the clearances and approvals that are basics and essential before any work can commence?

 

b) What was the last known, recorded status of the block, as advised by the erstwhile allottee; whether the approvals and clearances that are on record, are they still valid, or do they need to be done all over again?  If so, why, and whether any of these, or all of these can be waived in order to expedite work?

 

c)  Is the land acquisition complete?  Or not started at all? Were there any organized political moves locally that had derailed the process?

 

d)  What is the status of the geological report? What are the types of coal that has been found in the area in terms of caloric values?

 

e)  Which is the nearest railway connection to the mining site? Do the soil conditions permit private sidelines to be laid to connect the main line, without difficulty?

 

f)  Condition of labour supply; relocation and rehabilitation issues involving those whose lands may have to be acquired to facilitate the work?

 

g)  Is the allottee willing to or seriously considering importing equipment and senior personnel from a joint venture partner to mine the area?

 

h)  Both state and environmental ministries must give the present status of the mines, in terms of clearances/approvals to be given; and what needs to be done where there are discrepancies or short-comings and how long will these take to be given?

 

Based on the past experience and performances, it is said that at least three years would be the time-frame required before one can start the mining operation. Each of the allottees must make a comprehensive study and announce the time frame for each of the jobs on hand to be completed, so that the public get to know when this allotment will help bring power to the country.

 

 (AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)

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