'Defence exports have risen in past 6 to 8 months'
The Make in India campaign would have increased India's defence exports over the past six to eight months, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Monday.
 
Parrikar was speaking to reporters here during a two-day visit to the state.
 
"Actual export figures will come after some time," Parrikar said, when asked if measures taken by his ministry to boost defence-related export had worked.
 
"Many of the items from defence ministry list have been de-listed, export has been opened...During last six-eight months the export NOCs are being granted online. There is no complaint...Earlier NOCs used to take months to be given; now we give them within specified time frame. I have been intimated by the industry itself that they have been getting the export NOC within the time, in fact, faster than they expect," Parrikar said.
 
Parrikar also said that the Make In India policy was the highlight of the defence procurement procedure, under which 49 percent foreign direct investment was permitted in the defence sector and on a case to case basis, the FDI could go up even up to 100 per cent.
 
He also said that currently the global component in defence procurement was a small one, and the majority of the items were made in India.
 
Parrikar also said that de-listing of nearly two-thirds of the items from the defence ministry list had encouraged manufacture and free trade in the sector.
 
"When we deleted some items, they became free-to-export, and freely tradable...So the restrictions of requirement of Defence NOC were automatically withdrawn. Almost two-third items have been removed from the list, so now you have more items which you can freely manufacture and export," Parrikar said.
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    Export subsidy for raw sugar is small relief, but what about arrears and ethanol blending?

    It is time that some major relief provisions are made in the ensuing Budget for the sugar industry, which is in the doldrums for long

     

    At long last, after months of delay, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved the extension of subsidy for raw sugar export to Rs4,000 per tonne, for the sugar crop year, ending in September 2015, for export of 1.4 million tonnes (mt), against last year's subsidy of Rs3,371, which ended in September 2014. Why should the Indian government take four months to decide this issue when they already knew the plight of farmers and the huge stocks on hand? This needs to be investigated.
     
    Abhinash Verma, the Director General of Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) is reported to have said that this revision has been long awaited and expects out the huge stocks, at least 1.4 million tonnes would go for export, and bring a small relief to the mills. The current season may bring about some 26 million tonnes of sugar, as against the demand pattern of about 24 to 25 million, leaving an excess to add to our overflowing stocks.  Last year's carry forward of 2.5 million tonnes needs to be cleared too.
     
    As against this, the farmers arrears, estimated at Rs12,300 crore will increase to Rs13,000 crore, if exports are not done quickly. The industry was able to export only 700,000 tones and tend to produce raw sugar only after finalising the export contract. It is reported in the press that as at the end of January this year, the raw sugar production has been estimated at 64,000 tonnes due to the inordinate delay, of nearly five months, in deciding the export subsidy of Rs4,000 per tonne, and there is doubt if they can manage to increase it to effect shipment of 1.4 mt now allowed.  
     
    In fact, in order to bring relief and to ensure that farmers' dues are settled, overdrafts with bankers are reduced by millers, it would be prudent of the government to open up the raw sugar export, instead of limiting it to 1.4 mt, as the first step. 
     
    Second, this the time for the government to take a serious look at this industry, which has too many issues to tackle. The major issue would be to completely abolish the SAP (State Advisory Price) that has been in vogue in Uttar Pradesh (UP), which is fixed at Rs2,800 and which is higher than the Centrally administered FRP (Fair and Remunerative Price) of Rs2,660 per quintal.  UP has also a low recovery rate of 9.26%, as against, for example, Maharashtra, where the cane prices are around Rs2,550 per quintal with a recovery of 11.4%.
     
    Thirdly, as mentioned, reportedly by Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, several state governments were imposing a levy on molasses and they were also regulating the movement of non-levy molasses, while some others were imposing import-export duty on ethanol arrival and departures from their states!  On the top of this, some state governments apply octroi on ethanol entry into their municipal limits! To compound the misery, inter-state movement of ethanol needs no objection certificates from State Excise Authorities! 
     
    It is time therefore some major relief provisions are made in the ensuing Budget.  It would be prudent if the following steps are considered seriously for implementation:
     
    a) Application of a linkage formula, as recommended by the Rangarajan committee, with modifications, if necessary
     
    b) There should be only one FRP applicable and abolishing the SAP as practiced in UP 
     
    c) The Oil Marketing Companies will have to blend 5% ethanol to petrol effectively from April otherwise, they will not get government subsidy at all
     
    d) Sugar mills should be permitted to sell 25% of their stocks in the free market
     
    e) Export subsidy should be open to a higher limit. The quota for export should be increased to 2.5 mt
     
    f)  No State government should impose any levy/octroi or impose any restriction on ethanol or movement of molasses from one state to another
     
    g) farmers’ arrears will have to be paid directly by the Millers' bankers against submission of delivery documents, received at the gate, after weighing-in of the cane supplied
     
    h) the excise inspectors at the millers’ gates should give the inflow details to the bankers directly under advice to the millers, who will sign the documents, thus automatically permitting the payment to the farmers (or similar process of documentation) 
     
    i)  bankers should be advised to help restructure the loan needs of millers by mutual discussions
     
    Stringent steps are needed to bring complete relief to this industry which has been in the doldrums for long.
     
    (AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also 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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    Sri Lankan President Sirisena’s India visit would help boost trade, relations
    Apart from regular trade and industry, one area that businessmen from both nations can actively take part covers the gem and jewellery trade.  Sri Lanka is known for its gems while India is already an established leader in manufacture and export of gold jewellery
     
    In his first overseas visit, after becoming President Maithripala Sirisena of Sri Lanka and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have reaffirmed their mutual trust and respect and by extending support for each other.  In this short visit, and in their presence, both the nations witnessed the signing of three agreements: one on agricultural cooperation, memorandum of understanding on Nalanda University and on cultural cooperation.
     
    And the icing of the cake has come in the form of Indo-Sri Lankan Civil Nuclear Co-operation Agreement, the first nuclear partnership for Sri Lanka with any country, and has brought both the countries closer together, as never before!  This Nuclear agreement, at the moment, covers the cooperation in transfer of exchange of knowledge, expertise, training in peaceful uses of nuclear energy including use of radio-isotopes, nuclear safety, radiation safety, security, disposal of radioactive waste, nuclear and radiological disaster mitigation and environmental protection.
     
    This has strengthened the mutual trust and respect for each other, and both leaders have agreed to expand the defence and strategic cooperation to include Maldives, so as to bring about a "trilateral format" effect.  Prime Minister Modi is planning a reciprocal visit, sometimes in March, which is likely to include Maldives, but the dates have not yet been announced.
     
    Apart from close trade relations that have increased in the recent years, India has also begun its involvement in the reconstruction activities envisaged in northern Sri Lanka.  The project, involving the construction of some 50,000 houses for Tamils, who got displaced during the unfortunate civil war that lasted over 30 years, and this will naturally include all other related infrastructural activities in the region.
     
    President Sirisena, accompanied by his wife, will also plan to stop over at Tirupathi to visit the Balaji temple before returning back to Colombo.  He is also scheduled to visit China to meet President Xi Jinping, but the dates have not been announced.
     
    There are couple of issues that would need the attention of both the leaders. The first major issue relates to the 100,000 odd Sri Lankan Tamil refugees who are presently in India, and mostly in Tamil Nadu.  They have to be repatriated back to Sri Lanka to start their lives afresh and actively get involved in the reconstruction activity in the north.  The second covers the frequent conflict of interests, by fishermen, on both sides.  Fortunately, both the leaders have felt that this problem needs to be solved by a constructive and humanitarian approach by mutual consent of the fishermen themselves, as it involves their day to day livelihood.
     
    Apart from regular trade and industry, one area that businessmen from both nations can actively take part covers the Gem and Jewellery trade.  Sri Lanka is known for its gems; India is already an established leader in manufacture and export of gold jewellery.
     
    A workable combination of both would bring wonders to the hard working people involved in this trade.  Another area that may be interest to both is the ship building and repair industry where the opportunities are large.
     
    Both nations offer good opportunities for tourism industry involving historical sites, religious centres for pilgrimage and proximity to each other. 
     
    (AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also 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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