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Possible to revive Vizag Steel Plant, PM will take decision: Kumaraswamy

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Possible to revive Vizag Steel Plant, PM will take decision: Kumaraswamy

Visakhapatnam, July 11 (IANS) Ruling out the privatisation of the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, Union Heavy Industries and Steel Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy on Thursday said that there is a possibility of reviving the plant and a final decision would be taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

He told media persons after a visit to the plant that there is a possibility of reviving the public sector undertaking.

“Who told you we are going to privatise? Why did I come here? There is no question of privatisation. Before I announce, the PM’s permission is required. I have to convince him,” said Kumaraswamy, who along with Union Minister of State for Steel B. Srinivasa Verma, visited Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd (RINL), the corporate entity of VSP.

He held talks with the management, the leaders of trade unions, and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Stating that they had held threadbare discussions, the Union Minister said several suggestions were made.

“Ultimately we are going to take some decision with the higher authority,” he said.

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Kumaraswamy said he was preparing a note to revive the plant and this would be presented to the Prime Minister.

“There is a possibility of reviving it. We can do it. For that we are working out,” he said.

TDP state President P. Srinivas Rao, who met Kumaraswamy, said he gave the assurance that the project would be revived and protected. He requested that the VSP’s land, which is with the Centre, be transferred to the RINL so that the company can get loans from the banks.

Allocation of iron ore mines, financial assistance of Rs 20,000 crore, and a merger with Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) were other options mooted by them.

BJP leader Vishnu Kumar Raju said Kumaraswamy sought two months for a decision on reviving the plant.

Earlier, Kumaraswamy said nobody should have fears that the steel plant will be shut down. He stated that with the support of Prime Minister Modi, the plant is operating at 100 per cent capacity.

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The minister, who penned his thoughts in the visitors’ book, affirmed VSP’s contribution to the nation’s development. He noted that many people are dependent on the plant for their livelihood.

He, along with officials, went around the factory and interacted with workers to review the production activities. The ministers were accompanied by Visakhapatnam MP M. Bharat, BJP leader G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, local MLA Palla Srinivas, VSP Chairman and Managing Director Atul Bhatt and Joint Secretary, Ministry of Steel, Sanjay Roy and senior officials.

The Union Minister visited the plant amid the demand by the unions for its merger with the SAIL. Leaders of various employees’ unions of VSP, who have been fighting for more than 1,000 days against the proposal to privatise the steel plant, are likely to meet Kumaraswamy to seek the merger of RINL-VSP with SAIL, as apart from this, there is no other alternative.

The BJP MPs from Andhra Pradesh are also pushing for the VSP’s merger with SAIL. Last month, a delegation of BJP MPs led by the party’s state chief and former Union Minister D. Purandeswari had met Kumaraswamy and submitted a representation, requesting him to consider a takeover of RINL Vizag and Nagarnar Steel, Chhattisgarh by SAIL.

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The delegation of MPs included Minister of State for Steel Srinivasa Varma.

After a report in an English daily that the NDA government had taken a U-turn on the privatisation of VSP, Purandeswari posted on X that she had hand-delivered a letter to Kumaraswamy and had been diligently monitoring the situation. “This takeover will not only expedite the national steel policy 2017 targets but also integrate and optimise resources, resulting in increased profitability and market expansion for SAIL. Additionally, the merger will yield considerable cost savings in interest rates and raw materials, contributing to the faster profitability of the RINL Vizag plant,” she said in the letter, posted on X.

–IANS

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Union Budget 2024: Govt to exempt three more cancer drugs from customs duty

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Union Budget 2024: Govt to exempt three more cancer drugs from
 customs duty

Union Budget 2024: Govt to exempt three more cancer drugs from
 customs duty

New Delhi, July 23 (IANS) In a big relief to cancer patients, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, while presenting the Union Budget 2024, exempted customs duty on three cancer drugs.

The three drugs are Trastuzumab deruxtecan, Osimertinib and Durvalumab. The reduction in customs duty may help reduce the financial burden on those battling the deadly disease.

In her seventh budget speech, the Union Minister also called for exemptions in custom duties on X-ray tubes and flat panel detectors.

“I also propose changes in the BCD (Basic Customs Duty), X-ray tubes, and flat panel detectors for use in medical X-ray machines under the phased manufacturing programme to synchronise them with domestic capacity addition,” said FM Sitharaman.

According to the recent 4th edition of Apollo Hospitals’ Health of Nation Report, cancer cases are skyrocketing across the country.

The report dubbed India the “cancer capital of the world”.

In 2019, India registered about 12 lakh new cancer cases and 9.3 lakh deaths in 2019, becoming the second highest contributor to the disease burden in Asia, as per a Lancet study.

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The number increased to 13.9 lakh in 2020, which then rose to 14.2 lakh and 14.6 lakh in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

–IANS

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Union Budget gives major push to job creation with focus on youth, women & farmers

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Union Budget gives major push to job creation with focus on youth, women & farmers

Union Budget gives major push to job creation with focus on youth, women & farmers

New Delhi, July 23 (IANS) Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday presented the Union Budget 2024 in Parliament on Saturday aimed at giving a major push to job creation with a focus on the country’s youth, empowering women and improving the incomes of farmers.

The Finance Minister announced a Prime Minister’s package of five schemes aimed at facilitating employment and skilling, with an allocation of Rs 2 lakh crore.

The budget has allocated as much as Rs 3 lakh crore in programmes that will enable more women to enter the workforce and contribute to the country’s inclusive development aligned with the Viksit Bharat goal, the Finance Minister said.

Similarly, a robust allocation of Rs 5.2 lakh crore has been made for the agriculture and allied sectors to enhance the earnings of farmers. The Finance Minister said that the government will undertake a comprehensive review of the agricultural research setup to increase productivity and develop climate-resilient varieties. Domain experts will oversee the conduct of this research to ensure its effectiveness and relevance.

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“We need to focus on the garib, mahilaye, yuva, and annadata. For annadata, we announced higher MSP a month ago for all major crops, delivering on our promise. The PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana was extended for five years, benefiting more than 80 crore people. Administrative actions for the approval and implementation of various schemes announced in the interim budget are well underway,” FM Sitharaman observed.

She said that job creation in the manufacturing sector will be incentivised through a scheme linked to the employment of first-time employees. The government will reimburse employers up to Rs 3,000 per month for two years towards EPFO contributions for each additional employee. This initiative aims to incentivise the additional employment of 50 lakh people.

The Finance Minister announced employment-linked skilling through schemes as part of the PM’s package.

“First-timers will receive one month’s wage upon entering the workforce in all formal sectors. A direct benefit transfer (DBT) of one month’s salary, up to Rs 15,000, will be provided in three instalments. The eligibility limit for this benefit will be a salary of Rs 1 lakh per month, and it is expected to benefit 2.1 lakh youths.”

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The budget has also accorded high priority to micro small and medium enterprises as they have the capacity to create a large number of jobs.

“To facilitate term loans for MSMEs for the purchase of machinery and equipment without collateral and guarantee, a new scheme will be introduced. This guarantee fund will provide guarantees of up to Rs 100 crore,” the Finance Minister said.

She also said that the government will endeavour to maintain strong fiscal support for infrastructure as the sector has a multiplier effect on job creation and pushes up the growth rate. This year, Rs 11.11 lakh crore has been allocated for capital expenditure, which amounts to 3.4 per cent of India’s GDP.

The Finance Minister further stated that under PM Awas Yojana, Urban 2.0, the housing needs of the urban poor and middle class will be addressed with an investment of Rs 10 lakh crore.

She also announced the setting up of new power projects including setting up of a new 2400 MW power plant at Pirpainti in Bihar will be taken up at the cost of Rs 21,400 crores. New airports, medical colleges and sports infrastructure in Bihar will be constructed. The requests of the Bihar government for external assistance from multilateral development banks will be expedited.

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The Finance Minister also said that the govt has made efforts to fulfil the commitments in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act.

“Recognising the state’s need for capital, we will facilitate special financial support through multilateral agencies. In the current FY, Rs 15,000 crore will be arranged with additional amounts in future years. Our govt is fully committed to the early completion and financing of the Polavaram irrigation project which is the lifeline for Andhra Pradesh and its farmers,” she added.

–IANS

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Union Budget: Vishnupad, Mahabodhi Temple corridors to boost spiritual tourism in Bihar

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Union Budget: Vishnupad, Mahabodhi Temple corridors to boost spiritual tourism in Bihar

Union Budget: Vishnupad, Mahabodhi Temple corridors to boost spiritual tourism in Bihar

New Delhi, July 23 (IANS) Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, presenting the Union Budget in Parliament on Tuesday, proposed supporting the development of temple corridors in Gaya and Bodh Gaya for harnessing Bihar’s tourism potential.

This is expected to give a strong fillip to enhancing spiritual tourism in Bihar.

“Vishnupad Temple corridor and Mahabodhi Temple corridor will be supported to transform Vishnupad Temple at Gaya and Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya into world-class pilgrim and tourism destinations,” said the Finance Minister in her Budget speech.

She also said that Rajgir will be comprehensively developed.

Underscoring the potential of tourism in Bihar, the Finance Minister said that Nalanda will be developed as a tourist centre while Nalanda University will also be revived to its glorious stature.

“Nalanda will be supported as a tourist centre, accompanied by efforts to revamp the historic Nalanda University,” she said.

According to reports, the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya is likely to be developed on the lines of the illustrious Kashi Vishwanath temple corridor.

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The Finance Minister, earlier in her speech, announced a Rs 26,000 crore bonanza for the state, unveiling the government’s plans to develop Gaya city as an industrial hub.

“Development of an industrial node at Gaya will be a good model for developing ancient centres of learning. This model shall showcase ‘vikas’ with ‘virasat’,” she said, while dedicating two mega expressways in Bihar for enhancing road connectivity in the state.

–IANS

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Union Budget: Boost to youth empowerment, women in workforce

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Union Budget: Boost to youth empowerment, women in workforce

Union Budget: Boost to youth empowerment, women in workforce

New Delhi, July 23 (IANS) As Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented her seventh Budget on Tuesday, among several things, she put forth the government’s vision for the empowerment of youth.

One of the highlights of this budget is grant of one month’s wage for first-time employees, which will be provided to them as a Provident Fund contribution.

There will also be provision for internships in 500 established companies, which will be encouraged among youth.

Additionally, an internship allowance of Rs 5000 and a one-time assistance of Rs 6,000 are to be provided under the internship scheme, the Finance Minister said.

“The scheme is meant for all persons entering the workforce in all sectors. It will benefit 210 lakh youths,” Nirmala Sitharaman said.

This announcement is seen as coming in response to the pervading discontent among youth over dearth of job opportunities.

Further, in a bid to boost the participation of women in the workforce, the Finance Minister announced to set up working women hostels across the country.

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–IANS

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IAS academy has ‘no info’ on trainee Puja Khedkar as deadline ends

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IAS academy has ‘no info’ on trainee Puja Khedkar as deadline ends

IAS academy has ‘no info’ on trainee Puja Khedkar as deadline ends

Mumbai, July 23 (IANS) On the final day of a notice by the elite Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) to Maharashtra 2023 cadre IAS Probationary Officer Puja Khedkar, the Mussoorie-based institution had no information on her whereabouts, on Tuesday.

On July 16, the LBSNAA had directed the Maharashtra government to immediately relieve the controversial IAS-PO of her field assignment as ‘Super Numerary Assistant Collector’, Washim Collectorate and ordered Puja Khedkar to report back to the Academy by July 23 “for further necessary action.”

Official sources at the LBSNAA told IANS that as of July 23 morning, they had “no information” on Puja Khedkar, and declined to elaborate whether she was likely to report back there later in the day or not.

Puja Khedkar, 32, had left Washim around last Friday, purportedly to go to the Pune Police to record her statement on the allegations of harassment she hurled against Pune Collector Suhas Diwase, who had ordered her transfer from Pune Collectorate to Washim in the second week of July.

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The IAS-PO had reported to Washim Collectorate and took charge as Assistant Collector on July 11, even as a storm erupted behind Puja Khedkar over a series of allegations and irregularities perpetrated by her in the last few months, shaking the administration.

Later, the state and Centre launched separate probes against her, the Pune Police started its own investigations and the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) initiated criminal proceedings against her, hinting at cancelling Puja Khedkar’s IAS 2022 candidature on July 19.

As per the LBSNAA Deputy Director Shelesh Nawal’s orders, Puja Khedkar was expected to reach and report there today, but her whereabouts remain a mystery in Mumbai, Pune, Washim, New Delhi and Mussoorie.

After the serial exposures on the alleged frauds/irregularities masterminded by Puja Khedkar, even her parents – father Dilip Khedkar who is an ex-state government employee and mother Manorama Khedkar who is an ex-Sarpanch – have come under a cloud in different cases.

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While Manorama Khedkar was arrested and is currently in judicial custody, Dilip Khedkar has secured an interim pre-arrest bail till July 25.

–IANS

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