Economic Times

  • Nicholas Piramal & DBT to jointly scout for biomolecules

    THE public-private partnership model is now catching up in the drug R&D as well. In a first-ofits-kind partnership, the Rs 3,000-crore Nicholas Piramal Group on Friday signed an agreement with department of biotechnology (DBT) to jointly screen for biomolecules from microbes. The project cost is Rs 25 crore, of which Rs 17.98 crore will be contributed by DBT and Rs 6.88 crore by Nicholas Piramal. About 7,000 isolates per month will be collected and sent to Nicholas for screening, which will amount to 2 lakh molecules in three years. Joint collection will be done by nine institutes under DST such as National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, National Centre for Cell Science, Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, National Institute of Oceanography, etc. This is the first project in which industry and academia will work together to screen such a large number of bacterial isolates. The screening will be done for anti-cancer, anti-infective, anti-diabetes and anti-inflammation properties. In addition to culture-dependent method, culture-independent approach will be adopted for a few samples. "The global antibiotic market is worth $25 billion and there's an immense opportunity to increase the share of patents through the discovery of newer molecules. The partnership will eventually help us develop cheaper drugs,' said Union minister for science & technology Kapil Sibal.

  • Mineral industry wants iron ore export duty abolished...

    THE battle for controlling iron ore resources in the country is far from over. After the steel industry's demand for further curbs on iron ore exports, the mining industry has come up to rebut claims that ore exports would diminish country's resources which are required for value addition within the country. The industry under the aegis of Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI) has written to prime minister Manmohan Singh and finance minister P Chidambaram seeking removal of export duty on iron ore that had affected their plans for expansion, exploration and value addition. "The imposition of export duty had affected the plans to start value-addition of iron ore into pellet, sponge iron, pig iron as well as integrated steel mills,' FIMI secretary general R K Sharma told ET. "We have sought audience with both the prime minister and the finance minister to apprise them of the negative impact of the recently imposed duty on the industry,' Mr Sharma explained. The latest move of the mining industry comes after an onslaught of sorts by the steel industry which has succeeded in getting the steel ministry to suggest shifting the present fixed rate export duty on ore to an ad valorem system with 10-15% duty for inclusion in this year's budget. According to FIMI, the claims of steel industry that resources would vanish in no time if export curbs are not introduced are far fetched. "The current iron ore resources of about 25 billion tonne will last for 75-85 years as steel production touches 200 million tonne (MT) by 2020. With more exploration, introduction of technology to treat lower grade ore and increased use of scrap, the resource cycle could be increased by another 125-150 years. Moreover, the vast magnetite iron ore in the country can be beneficiated for use by the steel sector as is being done in Australia, Brazil, China and even USA,' FIMI has said in its note on vibrant iron ore industry. The mining industry has also said that India could only increase its resource by 50% in last 25 years, but countries like Brazil have increased its production ten times in the same period. "If India also increases spending on exploration from a mere $ 5 million annually to a level of $ 500 million in Australia or even to $ 150 million in Brazil, we could add another 20 to 25 billion tonne of resource," the FIMI note has said . The mining industry has also said it is largely exporting ore that is not used by the steel industry. "Let me clear one thing that steel sector is not interested in lowgrade iron ore

  • Cotton sector sees dramatic rise in Bt output

    THE country's best known secret on genetically modified (GM) crop has finally tumbled out of the closet. The government has been mute witness to the fact that two-thirds of the cotton produced in the country, the world's second largest raw cotton producer

  • Govt decides to introduce RTE Bill in Budget session

    WITH the current year dotted with elections, the UPA government has decided to introduce the Right to Education (RTE) Bill in the Budget session of Parliament. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who overrode the reservations expressed by a high-level group about the need for a Central legislation, would like the Bill to be introduced now. The ministry of human resource development (HRD) is in the process of preparing a Cabinet note, which is due to be taken up for consideration in the next two weeks. The Bill may find a mention in finance minister P Chidambaram's Budget speech too. A working committee headed by A K Rath, secretary, school education and literacy, HRD ministry, is finalising the draft of the legislation. The RTE will provide the blueprint for making systemic changes in the elementary education sector. The ministry is clear that the RTE is not another way to garner more funds for elementary education, but an opportunity to reform and rationalise the system. The promise of systemic reforms will also help to counter the growing lobby for the privatisation of school education. The private school lobby has consistently called for the opening up of the education sector, allowing "for-profit' organisations to play a role on the grounds that government schools can't provide quality education. A legislation geared to providing quality and norms for it would counter this move. Both issues of increased fiscal outlay and legal responsibility are being addressed. Many of the expenses of operationalising the RTE are being taken care of by the funding for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and teacher's education. A more realistic and lower expenditure bill is being arrived at by dovetailing the expenses of the Right to Education Bill, and the SSA and teachers' education. The fear of increased volume of public interest litigations (PIL) mandating the Centre to sanction and fund infrastructure far beyond its financial capability is being addressed by setting realistic targets for states to roll out the implementation of the Bill. For the enabling right to education, it has been a long and arduous journey. More than five years have gone since Parliament passed the 86th Constitutional Amendment giving every child between the age of 6 and 14 years the right to free and compulsory education (Article 21 A). However, Article 21 A could not be notified as the enabling legislation had not been enacted. Work on the RTE was started by the NDA government soon after Parliament passed the Constitutional Amendment Bill in December 2002. The first delay came when the NDA was voted out of power in May 2004. Work on the RTE was then taken up by the Kapil Sibal committee of the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE). The financial implications for the Sibal draft was worked out by the then National Institute of Education Planning and Administration (NIEPA). As per these estimates, the government would require to spend a minimum of Rs 3,21,196 crore over six years to implement the legislation

  • No more diesel, petrol vehicles in Khajuraho

    People visiting the famed Khajuraho temples, known for their erotic sculptures, can now travel to the site in special battery-powered vehicles

  • Nano trial production at Singur to start by July

    IT'S official now. Tata Motors will kick off trial production of Nano at its Singur factory by June-July. The much-awaited Rs 1-lakh car will be commercially available nationally by September-October. This was announced on Wednesday by Tata Motors MD Ravi Kant. Mr Kant, who had dropped into the Singur factory to review the progress, said: "Trial production of Nano would kick off by June-July and commercial production would start in Singur by September-October.' Tata Motors MD, however, stopped short of revealing the details of the upcoming commercial rollout of Nano. Talking to newsmen here Mr Kant said: "We are happy with the progress. There are huge challenges but the Shapoorji Pallonji Group, Tata Motors and the West Bengal government are working together to ensure that the commencement of Nano production is not hampered.' The Shapoorji Pallonji Group is engaged in construction of the Singur factory. Mr Kant, along with members of his management team comprising MB Kulkarni, GM (CPED); AS Puri, senior GM (government affairs & collaborations); E Balasubramaniam, head (vendor development); and Girish Wagh, Tata Motors head (Nano project) flew down from Mumbai to get a sense of the pace of the Singur factory rollout. They spent nearly three hours in the factory premises where work had earlier this year been delayed by nearly two months due heavy flooding. Mr Kant added: "Trial production will take place in June-July, following which, equipment will be tested. It may be a month or two later that we will start regular production.'

  • FM's options for achieving 9% growth

    AFTER putting up a rather robust macroeconomic performance over the past five years, the Indian economy is now facing some challenges. One expects that the finance minister will address these challenges in a manner that the economy is able to sustain the 9% plus growth trajectory uninterrupted.

  • Halve tobacco cultivation in 10 yrs?

    Director, Tobacco Institute of India It provides livelihood to 27 million people

  • Bull-bear Street fight spills over to carbon credits

    POLITICS and jittery equity indices are making the global carbon credit markets nervous. Carbon credit prices have plunged in the last few weeks. This could be troubling for major supplier India, which sold 20 million carbon credits in 2007, and has a larger number in the pipeline. The bad news is there is little likelihood of things settling down any time soon.

  • Quality norms may help check tea glut

    INDIA'S tea production has gone up, and so has its consumption in the country. However China still beats India in tea consumption. However, India can take advantage of its increase in tea output and bridge the gap as a result of lower production in Kenya which is affected by political problems. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), minimum quality standards and improved strategies would help countries like India, Vietnam, etc which have overproduction.

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