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Government of India

Why I Pushed For The Passing of the Anti-Trafficking Bill 2018

B-A7Z8BM_400x400 Maneka Gandhi Union Minister for Women and Child Development

On 26th July 2018, the Lok Sabha successfully passed the landmark Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018. There was an intensive debate on a wide range of issues around the subject of trafficking took place. I welcomed the debate wholeheartedly since it is representative of the priority we as Members of Parliament have placed on the issue of protection of vulnerable persons, especially the women and children of our country.

Every day, women and children are bought and sold in our villages and cities, as part of what is now the largest organised crime in the world- the trafficking of persons. They are mercilessly exploited for sex work, bonded labour, forced marriage, begging and other severe forms of violence. As per the National Crime Records Bureau, in 2016, a total of 15379 victims were trafficked for exploitative purposes, out of which 10150 were women and 6345 were children. And 63407 children went missing during the year. These numbers will be much higher in reality as many many cases go unreported.


With eight children going missing every hour, and one woman being trafficked every hour, we are morally and constitutionally bound to act with utmost urgency. For the first time, the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 responds to this urgent need with a comprehensive and structured solution through a robust, responsive and accountable institutional framework of prevention, protection and rehabilitation. The Bill seeks to combat trafficking at all levels through-

  1. A centralized body to oversee issues of inter-state and international trafficking of persons including matters of intelligence, investigation, capacity building and convergence.
  2. A survivor-centric protection mechanism that ensures the rescue of victims from places of exploitation and their immediate relief; while extending the choice of long-term rehabilitation to adults that is not contingent upon the status of prosecution.

iii. A guarantee to the right to statutory rehabilitation in the form of a dedicated rehabilitation fund, protection and rehabilitation homes along with psychological, social, and economic rehabilitation as well as education, skill development and infrastructure for social reintegration.


Economic deterrence that targets the trafficking as an organised crime by attachment and forfeiture of property and freezing of bank account that are used for the purpose of trafficking. Any funds recovered hereunder, will be transferred to the rehabilitation fund to ultimately benefit survivors.

  1. Aggravated forms of trafficking that are more severe, complex and long-term in nature including trafficking for begging or by administering any chemical substance or hormones on a person for the purpose of early sexual maturity, by causing or exposing the person to a life-threatening illness including acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or human immunodeficiency virus or by causing serious injury resulting in grievous hurt or death of any person, amongst others. Additional offences include online trafficking, the disclosure of identity, abetment and offences by the media. Importantly, the Bill also establishes accountability of officers under the Act by criminalising an omission of duty of their behalf.
  2. It strengthens prosecution of offenders through designated courts, and special public prosecutors for speedy trial while protecting the identity and confidentiality of victims and witnesses through-camera trial, video conferencing and victim and witness protection.

These provisions have been carefully harmonized and synchronized with all existing and linked provisions of law and structures created thereunder. The Bill has been drafted after in-depth study and research and after extensive consultation with a range of stakeholders over a period of three years. We received hundreds of from civil society, representatives of sex workers as well as victims of trafficking, police organizations, state governments, labour unions. We also received valuable guidance from Members of Parliament and all this was incorporated to strengthen to provisions of the Bill.

The Bill was thus formulated with care, after thorough research, consultation and due diligence. I would like to clear the air around some of the concerns that are being expressed, which are primarily arising from the absence of a clear understanding of the provisions of the Bill. Firstly, there is an apprehension that the Bill will criminalise voluntary sex work. This is completely false. On the contrary, the Bill provides safeguards to voluntary sex workers against persecution and prosecution, while giving them the option to approach the Magistrate for long-term institutional, psychological, social and economic support if she wishes to discontinue. I urge those representing the rights of sex workers to recognize the value of this choice in the lives of the people they work so hard to defend.

Secondly, there are concerns that the Bill will raise a conflict with an existing set of legislation further confusing and complicating the delivery of justice. I would like to reiterate here, that the Bill clearly states that it is in addition to and not in derogation of any existing laws for the time being in force. The Bill will tie together various legislations through a single system of institutional framework dedicated to addressing trafficking of persons and related crimes. This will bring accountability and convergence within the overall trafficking response mechanism.

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Thirdly, many valuable suggestions regarding the strengthening of the enforcement of the law have been provided. These suggestions are wholeheartedly welcomed and I will ensure that each of the suggestion will be suitably incorporated in the Rules. Rules are the instruments through which the objectives and provisions of the Act get implemented. We have already started the process of drafting these rules and will again be taking inputs and guidance from stakeholders.

I am sure there will be many more lessons we will learn together as we roll out this law to protect the last woman, child, man and transgender from the most horrific forms of exploitation. And as we have arrived here today, we will continue to push the boundaries of justice to collaboratively protect and empower the most vulnerable persons of our society. But today, a child in sexual exploitation and a woman in slavery are looking up to us and questioning us on what we are doing as a civilized society and a welfare State. We need to take this step together because our children and women cannot wait.





The Impact of the Government Policies on Direct Tax Collections

1.PNG  Union Minister Arun Jaitley

The first sixty-seven years after Independence from 1947 to 2014 saw a total number of 3.82 crores assesses filing tax returns.  Obviously, in comparison to a total population of almost 1.3 billion, this figure appears highly inadequate.  The total direct tax collection (income tax) in 2013-14 was Rs.6.38 lakh crore.

Prime Minister Modi led NDA Government had a multi-pronged strategy to increase the tax base.  A campaign involving various steps to flush out black-money, including black-money outside the country, was initiated.  The demonetisation led to a lot of people in possession of undeclared cash depositing the same in the banking system.  The source of the money was now questioned.  Almost 18 lakh people were identified who had made deposits disproportionate to their returned incomes.  The use of technology helped the tax department significantly.  Most of the functioning of the Income-tax Department is now online, returns are filed online, queries are addressed online, assessment orders are handled online and refunds are also made online.  Technology is also used for reconciliation purposes in order to detect those who should be filing returns but are non-filers.

GST English (33x20cm)

The implementation of the Goods and Services Tax as a single consolidated tax has had a significant impact even on direct taxes.   Those who have disclosed a business turnover for the GST now find it difficult not to disclose their net income for the purposes of income tax.

What would be the combined impact of all these measures on India’s direct taxation base? We had targeted to optimise the base increase without any increase on the tax liability.  India’s tax to GDP ratio in four years increased by almost 1.5%.  On the contrary, a large number of taxpayers in each of the four Budgets of the present Government has benefitted from relief given.  Today a medium-term assessment of the impact of these steps can be made.  In four years, the number of assesses has increased by 64.6%.  The total number of returns filed was 6.86 crores in FY 2017-18.  The number of new assesses who filed returns in FY 2017-18 were 1.06 crore. I hope that the percentage increase when the Government completes its first five years would be significantly higher.  The total income tax collection for the year 2017-18 is Rs.10.02 lakh crore, a four year increase of 57%.  Last year, despite formidable economic challenges, the income tax collection managed to grow by over 18 percent.


Last year, the impact of the GST on direct tax collection was not visible.  Since GST had been imposed in the middle of the year, it will be more apparent this year.  The first big news for this year is that the advance tax deposit during the first quarter of this year has seen a gross increase of 44% in the personal income tax category and 17% in the corporate tax category.  After repayment of refunds due to some excess tax paid in earlier years, which are usually paid back in the first quarter, the net amount would be somewhat lesser.  But if the same trend continues in the next three quarters, one expects a significant increase in the direct tax collection this year.  The first indication is that the spending is higher, consumption is higher and corporates are seeing increased sales and a greater prospect of profitability.  But increase in the amount of collections in category of personal income tax is also due to more people coming within the tax net.  There is also the impact of the GST visible this year.  This unprecedented taxation growth is a result of the anti-black money measures, use of technology, demonetisation and the GST.  Most of these measures were severely criticized by the Congress Party.  This is just the medium-term impact of some of these measures.  The long-term impact would be significantly higher.  Higher tax collection would enable us to continue with the developmental programmes in the country, not to impose any extra burden on the taxpayers and yet maintain the targeted fiscal deficit.

Money in Swiss-Banks

A news item has appeared today indicating an increase of money by ‘Indians’ in the Swiss banking system.  This has led to misinformed reaction in certain circles raising a query whether the Government’s anti-black money steps have yielded results.


Switzerland in financial disclosures was always a reluctant state.  Of late it was subjected to a lot of international pressures which favoured disclosures and Switzerland ran the risk of being a ‘non-compliant’ State by the FATF.  It has, therefore, entered into several bilateral treaties for making disclosures to requesting States.  It has amended its domestic laws involving all disclosures and entered into a treaty even with India and real time flow of information with regard to Indians will be made.  The flow of information is starting in January, 2019.  Any illegal depositor knows that it is a matter of months before his name becomes public and he will be subjected to the harsh penal provisions of the Black money law in India.  Assuming this information to be correct, what does past experience show?  When disclosures have been made with regard to ‘Indians’, including in the Panama Papers, certainly some of them have held illegal accounts.  ‘Indian’ money outside the country is of various categories.  Past investigation by CBDT have shown that this includes many held by persons of Indian origin who now hold foreign passport, monies belonging to Non-Resident Indians, as also monies belonging to resident Indians who have made legitimate investments abroad, including transfer of money under the liberalised remittance schemes.  It is only monies kept by resident Indian outside these categories which become actionable.  The first two categories are within the jurisdiction of those countries where these persons are residents and the third category can easily be checked up in India.  If the deposit does not fall in any of these categories, it is per se illegal for which investigations are undertaken, arrests are made and criminal prosecutions are launched.  Switzerland has taken significant efforts to get out of the image of being a tax haven and a non-compliant State.  It is on the verge of making disclosures in real time and, therefore, is no longer an ideal destination for tax evaders.  Those who participate in a public discourse must understand these basic facts before expressing an opinion which may be ill-informed.  To assume that all the deposits are per se tax evaded money or that Switzerland in the matter of illegal deposits is what it was decades ago, is to start on a shaky presumption.






Happy and Healthy Pregnancy through Yoga

Smt. Maneka Sanjay Gandhi  mgandhui

Union Minister for Women and Child Development 

Pregnancy is an odd time for the mother. On the one hand one is filled with joy and anticipation, on the other there are worries about whether the baby will be normal and healthy.  As the mother’s body changes, there are mood swings, fatigue, cramps, difficult breathing.


Being physically fit and emotionally strong directly affects the baby’s physical, neurological & psychological development. Practicing Prenatal Yoga during pregnancy gives you the ability to stay calm and eases most physical problems during these nine months.


Prenatal yoga experts and medical professionals emphasise that prenatal yoga paired with cardiovascular exercises (such as walking) can ease the discomforts of pregnancy and help you prepare for the rigors of labour.


Pranayama, or the group of several breathing exercises, have been found to have exceptional benefits during pregnancy. It must be incorporated in the daily regime all through the three trimesters as it helps release negative emotions.

Two most useful forms of pranayama or breathing exercises are: Ujjayi, a long, strong, deep breath that helps women redirect their concentration to the present moment and maintain calm; and Nadi Shodhana, (alternate nostril breathing), which helps to balance the body’s energy flows. However, avoid any kind of breath retention or hyperventilation that could limit the baby’s oxygen supply.  The postures and exercises differ for each of the three trimesters of pregnancy.

First Trimester (0 to 13 weeks)

The first trimester brings nausea and fatigue. Severe biological and musculoskeletal alterations take place in the body. Yoga experts advise that one must be extremely cautious while practicing yoga in this trimester as a wrong posture can obstruct the implantation of the fetus and placenta.

The following asanas are ideal for this trimester:

  • Marjariasana(cat stretch): Stretches the neck and shoulders, lessening body stiffness and keeps the spine flexible because the back has to support more body weight as the pregnancy advances.
  • Konasana(standing sideways bending arm): Keeps the spine flexible and helps alleviate constipation, a common symptom of pregnancy.
  • Badhakonasana(butterfly pose): Improves flexibility in the hip and groin region, stretches the thighs and knees, relieving pain, alleviates fatigue and helps facilitate smooth delivery when practiced until late pregnancy.
  • Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep): Reduces tension and anxiety, helps regulate blood pressure and relaxes every cell in the body.

Second Trimester (14 to 28 weeks)

During the second trimester, the volume of blood in the body expands 50-60% to support the fetus and placenta, the blood circulates faster, the rate of metabolism increases and heart rate rises. The body’s sugar gets used up faster and important reserves are used to support the placenta and fetus.

The following asanas are beneficial during this trimester:

  • Vajrasana(diamond pose) –Enhances digestion and can be done directly after meal.It also helps strengthen the pelvic muscles and assist women in labour too.
  • Kati Chakrasana(spinal twist pose) – Relieves physical and mental tension and tones waist, hip and back.
  • Tadasana (mountain pose)– Helps stretch and loosen the entire spine and also helps in developing mental and physical balance.
  • Uthanasana(standing forward fold)– Strengthens muscles of uterus, thighs, back and ankles.

Third Trimester (29 to 40 weeks)

By the third trimester, the body has already undergone drastic physical and biological changes and also the movement of the baby is strong now. The protruding belly and additional weight are likely to challenge one’s balance. Simple balancing postures can make women feel lighter and more aligned. It is advisable to practice yoga with a prenatal teacher at this stage. If you ever feel uncomfortable doing any posture, stop.

Basic balancing postures like Utthita Trikonasana (extended triangle pose), Utthita Parsvakonasana (extended side angle pose), Virabhadrasana (hero pose) and Vrksasana (tree pose) are ideal for building strength in the legs, for proper alignment in the spine and for easing blood circulation.

According to a review of recent research studies, prenatal yoga drastically lowers the chances of pregnancy complications, stress levels and pain, and possibly even the risk of the baby being small for her gestational age.

As we mark the 4th International Day of Yoga, I urge all expecting mothers to join prenatal yoga classes. Not only will you feel better but you will probably make friends with other soon-to–be mothers and your children can become friends!

Cherish this time.

Celebration of International Yoga Day 2018

Glimpses of  4th International Day of Yoga at FRI, Dehradun

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Development Trajectories and Wasted Plastics

Author: J R Bhatt and Ashish Chaturvedi

A cursory look at the history of development shows that economic growth invariably comes at the cost of environmental degradation. Beginning from the Industrial Revolution in England to the present day, most countries around the world have gained economic prosperity by putting an excessive burden on natural resources or ecosystems. These natural resources and ecosystems, either located in-country or abroad, served as a source of raw materials and sink for all kinds of environmentally burdensome effluents generated in pursuit of rapid growth.

The global experience also shows another trend – grow first and then manage the environmental degradation. For instance, the air quality in the already developed countries such as England and Germany suffered immensely in the pursuit of economic development. With sustained growth, there was enhanced economic space for investing in environmental policies and infrastructure to tackle degradation. Of course, citizens who had achieved the economic prosperity were also desirous of a better quality of life and put pressure on the policymakers to clean up the damages due to a single-minded pursuit of economic growth.

However, the experience of the already developed countries does not have to serve as the blueprint for countries that are still developing and trying to enhance the quality of life for their citizens. In fact, growth first and then clean-up later would be catastrophic for least-developed and developing countries for three reasons.

First, a majority of their citizens are dependent on natural resources for livelihoods and the opportunities in the manufacturing and service sector are still at a nascent stage. The costs of following models of growth of the already developed countries would be disproportionately borne by the most vulnerable and marginalized communities.

Second, the very idea of generating waste is antithetical to progress. It makes economic and ecological sense to not create waste. While this idea of not creating waste is currently gaining currency around the world under the broad rubric of “circular economy/ zero waste/ resource efficiency”, it has been a way of life for several generations in rural India.

Third, the experiences of the already developed countries are already before us. The same path does not have to be followed by the developing countries. Thus, sharing of experiences, institutional learning and technologies would be in the global best interest.

A case in point is the management of plastics in our life and environment. Plastics are symptomatic of a modern life. It is impossible to imagine life in any part of the world without plastics.


We eat in plastics, drink in plastics, wear plastics and to a certain extent live in (or with) plastics. Part of the reason for the ubiquity of plastics is the versatility of the material – it can be molded into any shape, can be as thin as cling film or as sturdy as the bumper of a car. It is lightweight and above all, it is available in abundance because our economies are still fossil fuel dependent and plastics are an innocent by-product.


However, there are significant challenges due to the widespread use of plastics. Our land, water, and even air are getting significantly polluted. Plastic waste is disposed of indiscriminately on land and water and often burnt in the uncontrolled environment leading to emissions of greenhouse gases as well as persistent organic pollutants. As the National Geographic points out, nearly 700 marine species, including endangered ones are affected by plastics in our oceans. Marine species of all sizes, from zooplankton to whales, now eat microplastics.

Global per capita consumption of plastics annually is 28kg. The Europeans consume more than double (65 kg) while the Indian consume less than half (11 kg) of the world average. One possibility would be to wait till the Indian consumption reaches the European levels before we start worrying about the challenges of plastic waste. The other would be to join hands with the global community to tackle the challenge of plastic waste management while consumption levels are low.

The latter is precisely the spirit with which India is hosting the World Environment Day. This year’s theme, Beat Plastic Pollution, gives a clarion call for collaboration amongst countries all over the globe to come together to arrive at solutions for plastic waste management.


As we embark on this global challenge, we recommend following forms of cooperation at the global level. First, we must work together to regulate international flows of plastic waste. It is clear that significant flows of plastics happen from the global north to global south. Some of it is warranted by the relocation of plastic industry and the needs of raw materials. But at the same time, the flows of waste plastics also happen in the direction of least costs incurred – environment, social and economic.

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Second, we must create an international exchange platform for sharing of global experiences on policies, business models as well as citizen initiatives. A lot of action is already happening. Initiatives that have been successful in different parts of the world need to be upscaled rather than reinventing the wheel. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is documenting some of the best practices in India. Similar initiatives need to be documented and shared widely – there is no better incentive or nudge for good behavior.


Third, we must establish global partnerships with the private sector which is also working across national boundaries. The innovations for recycling and disposing of plastics, finding substitutes for packaging material as well as developing innovative communication drives would necessarily require the skills of the private sector. For instance, a recent report by FICCI and Accenture points out that approximately 40% of India’s plastic waste goes uncollected (ending up in landfills). Diverting this to recyclers has the potential to create 1.4 million additional jobs in India’s recycling industry.

If we manage to do that successfully, we would be able to leave a planet worth living not only for our children but also for any form of life on our planet. Such resolve is crucial every day, not only on the World Environment Day.

At the national level, we must foster partnerships amongst actors that have hitherto not engaged closely together. That would be the only way for a transformative agenda for managing plastics. Further, we should celebrate successes and individual achievements, and there are already quite a few. From Afroz Shah cleaning the Versova Beach mobilising citizen participation, to Aditya Mukarji replacing 50,000 plastic straws, to Ukhrul in Manipur becoming a plastic-free district, to Vengurla taluka banning plastic bags and using plastics to make roads, to the start-up Banyan Nation helping global brands using more recycled plastic, to more than 5 million Bharat Scouts and Guides (BSG) pledging to give up their plastic woggles, a signature element of the BSG uniform, replacing it with more sustainable and eco-friendly options – the list is growing and rapidly. We need to celebrate these initiatives and spread the Good News from India.


**J R Bhatt is Advisor in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. Ashish Chaturvedi is Director, Climate Change at the German Development Agency, GIZ. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not reflect those of their organizations.

Putting More Life Into The Lifeline

Author: Ashwani Lohani (Chairman Railway Board)  untitled-13.jpg

The preceding four years have indeed been an eventful period for the railways. A rapid move forward in consolidating existing operations and energizing various growth-oriented projects is being witnessed. The realization that railways needs to restructure, reform and revitalize has indeed dawned on the national carrier. The need to enhance infrastructure at a pace that blends with the rapidly growing national expectations in so far as passenger and freight traffic is concerned has also started getting addressed. With the tremendous emphasis being laid on safety, an effort that has already started giving results, the impetus is also being given to expediting the much-needed reforms – cultural, process and structural reforms becoming the order of the day. Perhaps for the first time ever in history, very major strides are being made in the process of bringing reforms in the railway system. Delivery is indeed the primary focus of the organization.


With 73  train accidents, the year 2017-18 has indeed been the best year in the history of the railways in so far as its safety record is concerned. It is also the first year ever to log double-digit figure of accidents and it is definitely not a freak achievement, but an achievement that the entire organization has worked for. Renewal of overaged unsafe rail-track has touched an all-time record of 4405 km, sharply up from 2597 kms in 2016-17. The last four years also witnessed an unprecedented high removal of 5469 unmanned level crossings, that are inimical to safety. The Government has also recently and wisely decided to fill up a huge backlog of almost one lakh safety related posts besides creating a fund (RRSK) with a corpus of one lakh crores to be spent on safety items.



The sharp focus of the Government towards capacity enhancement, primarily narrowing the huge backlog of infrastructure deficit has also started paying dividends. The average annual capital expenditure during the last four years at over 98,000 crores is more than double of the spending achieved in the previous five. Our achievements in commissioning 9528 kms of new broad gauge line in the last four years as against 7600 kms during the previous five is indicative of our commitment to enhance the pace of building of infrastructure. And electrification, easily the most widely recognized symbol of development has also witnessed a spike of 4300 kms during 2017-18, a pace that we indeed intend to accelerate further. Manufacture of coaches and locomotives at railway production units has also touched new highs in 2017-18 with ICF manufacturing 2397 coaches, CLW manufacturing 350 electric locomotives and DLW 321 locomotives.


The 14th of September 2017 will go down in the annals of history as a giant leap for the railways in our country, for it is on this day this year that the nation took a major step forward towards displaying its intent of moving away from the era of slow speed trains to real high speed ones. As a citizen of this nation and more so as a railwaymen, I indeed feel more proud than ever. The very thought that the journey from the heart of Ahmedabad in Gujarat to the heart of Mumbai in Maharashtra would be covered in a time frame much shorter than what air travel would entail, and that this is just the beginning, is indeed extremely exciting. Prime Ministers Modi and Shinzo Abe on this day laid the foundation stone of the Mumbai – Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (MAHSR) project, popularly known as the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train in Ahmedabad. And the next five years shall witness frentic activity in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat to complete this project and position India and also its railway system in the illustrious list of nations that run high speed trains. This first route marks the beginning of a new journey for the railways as well as for the nation. This first route that shall be fully commissioned in 2023 will be the front runner of many more such routes. This project apart from triggering a paradigm shift in how people travel within India and therefore facilitate travel and tourism, would also have a significant impact on the nation’s economy as it scores high on the “Make in India” front. “Make in India” and “transfer of technology” rightly figure in the project agreement between India and Japan, thereby enabling India to make the bullet train a pivotal part of connecting our remotest corners to the epicentres of urbanisation. Called in Japan as ‘Shinkansen’ which means ‘new trunk line’, the bullet train is almost a wonder that will script the most memorable milestone in our journey towards a ‘New India’.


Construction of dedicated freight corridors has also picked up speed. With many administrative, managerial, contractual and legal hurdles having been resolved, this project is going to see the light of the day in March 2020, when both the eastern and western corridors would stand fully commissioned. This would also be a giant leap forward for the railways as from a mixed traffic configuration on our tracks, we would start moving to lines dedicated for freight with its attendant benefits.


Major strides have also been made in one of the most fundamental missions launched in recent times – mission cleanliness. While a lot yet needs to be done, considerable improvements have been achieved in cleanliness of stations and trains. Other passenger interface areas like catering, passenger information regarding delayed trains, e-ticketing and introduction of PoS machines are also being aggressively handled and taken forward. A variety of new designs of coaches and trains in the form of products like the Tejas, Antyodaya, Deendayalu, Humsafar, Anubhuti have also been launched to enhance passenger satisfaction levels. Our sensitivity towards the commuters experiencing dense loads in the suburban systems at Bangalore and Mumbai is also reflected in the sanction of projects for upgradation of Mumbai and Bangalore suburban systems at an overall cost of 51000 and 17000 crores respectively thereby benefitting millions of our passengers.

And our commitment and role in integrating the nation can never be underestimated. With 970 kms of gauge conversion done in the last four years, the North East is now fully integrated with the broad gauge network that covers the entire nation. Rail connectivity has now been established with the states of Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram and direct train connectivity has been made between Itanagar and Silchar to Delhi.

Indian Railways indeed provides the wheels on which the nation moves. It is also aptly called the economic lifeline of the nation and the primary and the most economical mode of transport for the masses. The onset of the new government in 2014 has indeed led to the beginning of the unleashing of this gigantic monolith and a lot of action has indeed begun in the right direction with reforms being at the core of them. Yet the fact remains that internal contradictions within the organization due to it being a business enterprise and also a ministry leads to inadequate exploitation of its true potential. A gigantic leap forward within the realm of possibility would entail a major structural reform at some point in time, the sooner the better.

Change is always painful, yet it is the only constant an organization must have, if it is to progress by leaps and bounds and for a long-term gain, paying a price in the short term is inevitable. While the progress made in the recent past is indeed noteworthy, the fact remains that we run short of the national expectations and would continue to do so with the gap increasing at a rapid pace, unless major structural reforms are undertaken to ultimately run the organization truly on professional lines. Yet the pace of improvement witnessed in recent times and the commitment to the reform process makes one confident that the railways would always be the key player in the economic development of the country in times to come.





Translating Basic Research towards the Development of Novel Malaria Vaccines & Drugs

Deepak Gaur*  deepak.jpg

Malaria remains one of the top killer diseases across the world accounting for around 200 million cases and half a million deaths primarily among young children, infants and pregnant women residing in some of the most impoverished countries of the world. Unfortunately, India is still endemic to this deadly disease that has plagued the human race for many centuries. The war against malaria has been fought on several fronts and while there have been some significant advancement in terms of developing novel malaria intervention strategies, it is crucial to continue these efforts with great vigor in order to counteract the different species of the highly complex malaria pathogen, Plasmodium.

Malaria control strategies have primarily involved the use of insecticide treated bed nets (ITNs), indoor residual spraying and therapy with anti-malarials such as chloroquine, artemisinin, which have led to a steady decline in malaria mortality during the past decade.

The discovery of Artemisinin was recognized in the award of the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2015 to the Chinese chemist Youyou Tu. However, the continuous development of drug resistance by the parasite and insecticide resistance by the mosquito vector has proved to be a major challenge in achieving malaria elimination. It has been widely believed that an efficacious vaccine against malaria will be a major public health tool in combating the disease. However, the process of developing an efficacious malaria vaccine has been hindered by several obstacles that have thwarted its development. In fact, there is no successful vaccine available against any parasitic pathogen substantiating the complexity of these organisms and their ability to modulate human immunity. While, a successful malaria vaccine remains a big challenge, there have been several highly promising advancements in the recent past that provide hope for the development of a successful malaria vaccine.

The most advanced malaria vaccine, RTSS that targets the liver stage of the parasite life cycle has been developed through a three decade old association between the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR, US military) and Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK). The recent Phase III results have shown that the vaccine elicits a maximum protective efficacy of 50% against clinical malaria in young children (RTS,SClinical Trials Partnership 2015 Lancet). While, this is clearly not sufficient, the RTSS vaccine still does have the potential to save lives in Africa which carries most of the burden of global malaria mortality. The Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) adopted a positive scientific opinion for RTS,S (July 2015).

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a position paper for RTS,S (also knownmosquirix.PNG as MosquirixTM)in which it recommends large-scale pilot implementations of RTS,S. Importantly, recent clinical trials with fractionalization of RTSS dosage has increased its efficacy to 80%, which is highly encouraging (Regules, JID 2016).RTS,S does serve as a significant platform to further build upon and produce a vaccine with the higher optimal efficacy.

The fact that individuals residing in malaria endemic regions develop natural immunity against the disease does suggest that it should be possible to develop malaria vaccines that mimic natural immunity. However, the challenge remains for us to advance our understanding of malaria immunity and identify the correlates of protective immunity. In parallel to RTSS, there have several efforts to characterize novel target antigens at all three stages (liver, blood and mosquito) of the parasite’s complex life cycle and evaluate their vaccine potential in human clinical trials. Recently, a whole organism approach based vaccine, PfSpz, comprising of sporozoites attenuated by irradiation have shown remarkable efficacy in naïve human volunteers and is being taken forward for field efficacy trials (Hoffman 2015 Am. J. Prev. Med.).

India has been at the centre of malaria research as the landmark discovery of Sir Ronald Ross in 1897 describing the whole sexual cycle of Plasmodium through the Culex mosquito was made during his posting in India. Malaria research in India has been funded primarily by the Indian government agencies, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). ICMR has developed a network of malaria field stations across the countries to study malaria epidemiology and vector biology. DBT has provided special attention to basic R&D that has improved our understanding of the parasite biology as well as on translational research aiming to develop novel anti-malarials and vaccines.

One of the biggest success stories has been DBT funded efforts of the ICGEB Malaria group to develop recombinant blood-stage experimental vaccine (JAIVAC-1) and conduct a Phase I human clinical trial. JAIVAC-1 was the first ever malaria vaccine trial against Plasmodium falciparum in India with recombinant molecules produced in an Indian laboratory (Chitnis 2015 PLOS One). It was funded jointly by DBT and the European Vaccine Initiative. JAIVAC-1 was the culmination a strong public-private partnership between ICGEB and Bharat Biotech, a Hyderabad based Biotech Company that has developed vaccines against several disease including the recent Rotavac that has come through the support of DBT. Another vaccine formaulation against P. falciparum, JAIVAC-2 has been developed by ICGEB along with Zydus Cadlia that is being taken forward for a Phase I trial. Human malaria is caused by both P. falciparum and P. vivax, and ICGEB has also developed a sub-unit recombinant vaccine (PvDBPII) against P. vivax malaria that has also been clinically evaluated in a Phase I trial.

Importantly, DBT was quick to recognize that vaccine development steps beyond the bench requires an expertise that is lacking in academically oriented scientists and thus DBT in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation created a separate entity with translational expertise known as the Malaria Vaccine Development Program (MVDP). ICGEB and MVDP have partnered in conducting the JAIVAC-1 and PvDBPII trials.

In a recent highly noted effort supported by DBT, scientists at the School of Biotechnology (SBT), JNU and ICGEB have discovered a novel multi-protein adhesion complex which is essential for the malaria parasite P. falciparum to invade human erythrocytes (Reddy 2015 PNAS; Du Toit 2015 Nature Reviews Microbiology). This complex comprises of three proteins (RH5, CyRPA, and Ripr) and facilitates the interaction between the essential PfRH5 parasite ligand to its red cell receptor, Basigin. Abrogation of this key protein complex has been demonstrated to neutralize the parasite, which provides a paradigm shift in the mechanism of action of parasite neutralizing antibodies that instead of inhibiting ligand-receptor interactions are impeding key protein-protein interactions between parasite molecules (Reddy 2015 PNAS). This discovery has laid the foundation for the development of a new generation blood-stage candidate vaccine, JAIVAC-3 targeting PfRH5 and CyRPA, which is being spearheaded by SBT, JNU with DBT support through their vaccine Grand Challenge Program.

DBT initiated a strong collaborative program between basic and clinical researchers known as GLUE through which JNU, ICGEB and an ICMR institute, NIRTH Jabalpur undertook a partnership aimed at studying Plasmodium vivax malaria in Central India. The collaboration identified the functional domains of P. vivax RBP proteins involved in specific host cell (reticulocyte) invasion and demonstrated that naturally acquired human antibodies against the PvRBP proteins were functionally binding-inhibitory, thus substantiating their promise as key vaccine candidates against P. vivax (Gupta 2017 JID).

Another translational malaria project being supported by DBT is the development of curcumin as an antimalarial. Studies in the Indian Institute of Science have shown that curcumin synergizes with ART as an antimalarial to potently kill the parasite as well as primes the immune system to protect against parasite recrudescence (Padmanaban 2012 Curr. Science). Further, nanocurcumin has been shown to be superior to native curcumin in preventing degenerative changes in experimental cerebral malaria (Dende 2017 Sci Rep). The results indicate a potential for the novel use of ART–curcumin combination against recrudescence/relapse in falciparum and vivax malaria. In addition, studies have also suggested the use of curcumin, as an adjunct therapy against cerebral malaria. Steps for the further clinical evaluation of the ART-curcumin combinations with DBT support are being undertaken.

In yet another significant project funded by DBT through their nanobiotechnology program, scientists at Jawaharlal Nehru University (Special Centre for Molecular Medicine and School of Biotechnology) and National Institute of Immunology (NII) are working on producing nanoparticle based formulations of the drug acriflavin and targeting it to the parasite through specific antibodies. JNU has a US patent for the antiparasitic activity of Acriflavine (Dana et al. ACS Chem Biol. 2014), which it wishes to harness in the development of a novel and highly efficacious antimalarial drug.

DBT’s support has produced a critical mass of Indian scientists involved in malaria research and some significant contributions in our basic understanding of parasite biology that have been undertaken by leading institutions and universities across India.

In spite of this optimism, we need to take bigger strides towards understanding the complexity of the Plasmodium pathogen and finally producing tools for successful intervention of the disease. The war against Malaria is a long drawn one comprising of several battles that have still yet to be won. In this regard, the support of DBT in this endeavor is highly appreciated and remains essential for our country to overcome this debilitating disease.

Rapid fire:

  • DBT funded efforts of the ICGEB Malaria group to develop recombinant blood-stage experimental vaccine (JAIVAC-1) and conduct a Phase I human clinical trial.
  • JAIVAC-1 was the first ever malaria vaccine trial against Plasmodium falciparum in India
  • Another vaccine formulation against P. falciparum, JAIVAC-2 has been developed by ICGEB along with Zydus Cadlia
  • Through DBT support, SBT, JNU and ICGEB have discovered a novel multi-protein adhesion complex, which is essential for the malaria parasite P. falciparum to invade human erythrocytes
  • This complex comprises of three proteins (RH5, CyRPA, Ripr), which form the basis of the new generation candidate vaccine , JAIVAC-3
  • Development of curcumin as an antimalarial supported by DBT.
  • In another DBT project. JNU & NII are working on producing nanoparticle based formulations of the drug acriflavin and targeting it to the parasite through specific antibodies.
  • DBT’s support has produced a critical mass of Indian scientists involved in malaria research.

* Author is Professor at School of Biotechnology, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.


Saras is about to connect India on its own wings – linking smaller towns for an aviation market set to boom

Approval of Central Sector Scheme “Integrated Scheme for Development of Silk Industry” of the Ministry of Textiles for Sericulture Sector

secy    Author: Anant Kumar Singh (Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, Government of India)

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved a Rs.2161.68 crore Scheme called “Integrated Scheme for Development of Silk Industry” for three years from 2017-18 to 2019-20. The Scheme has four major components viz. (i) Research & Development (R&D), Training, Transfer of Technology and I.T. Initiatives (ii) Seed Organizations and farmers extension centres (iii) Coordination and Market Development for seed, yarn and silk products and (iv) Quality Certification System (QCS) by creating a chain of Silk Testing facilities, Farm based & post-cocoon Technology Up-gradation, and Export Brand Promotion. The scheme will be implemented by the Ministry through the Central Silk Board (CSB).

The scheme is expected to increase the silk production from the level of 30348 MTs during 2016-17 to 38500 MTs by end of 2019-20. Production of mulberry (multivoltine and bivoltine) silk will increase from 20478 MTs to 27000 MTs, including increase in bivoltine silk from 5266 MTs to 8500 MTs. The production of Vanya (Muga, Eri and Tasar) silk will increase from 9075 MTs to 11500 MTs.  Mulberry silk produced in India is predominantly multivoltine of 2A grade and the share of high grade bivoltine silk (i.e. 4A grade) is only 15%.  This scheme envisages increasing the production of 4A grade mulberry (bivoltine) silk to 25%.  In these three years, the productivity of raw silk will increase from 100 kg/ha to 111 kg/ha. The silk sector currently provides employment to 85.10 lakh persons which is expected to rise to 100 lakh by 2019-20.

The scheme proposes to set up Kissan nursery covering 453 acres of land for raising saplings of improved varieties of mulberry having better survival rate besides taking up of 5800 acres plantation with improved mulberry varieties at farmers’ level. 131 new Chawki Rearing Centres (CRCs) will be established for scientific handling of silkworm eggs and rearing of young age silkworm larvae under controlled conditions for enhancing the quality of cocoon and their harvest.  81 units will be installed to provide cocoon drying facility in scientific manner for improved reeling. 162 motorized charkha & 4-6 basin reeling machines and 130 multi-end reeling machines will replace traditional reeling machinery for efficient and quality silk production and improving the working conditions in the reeling segment of the silk industry.  In order to give more thrust on production of bivoltine silk, 29 units of Automatic Reeling Machine, which was being imported earlier and is now developed indigenously by the CSB, will be distributed to the reelers at subsidised cost.

Under the R&D component of the scheme, race improvement will be done through the development of improved host plant varieties and improved disease resistant silk worm breeds by having collaborative research with national and international research institutes. The CSB has already taken steps to enrich existing genetic pool with imported genetic material from countries such as Bulgaria, China and Japan and this effort will continue with more vigour during the scheme period. Use of silkworm by-products (pupa) for poultry feed, sericin for cosmetic applications and product diversification into non-woven fabrics, silk denim, silk knit etc. will be given thrust for additional revenue generation.

Seed Production Units will be equipped and strengthened to bring in quality standards in production network, besides increasing the production capacity to cater to the increased demand of silk in future. Financial and technical support would be provided to private graineurs, adopted silk worm seed rearers and CRCs to produce quality seed, cocoon and chawki silkworms respectiviely. 19 Basic Seed Farms and 20 silkworm seed production centres will be set up to take the silkworm seed production from 500 lakh disease free layings (dfls) in 2016-17 to  595 lakh dfls by 2020.

Registration process under Seed Act and reporting by seed production centres, basic seed farms and extension centres will be automated by developing web based software. All the beneficiaries under the scheme i.e. silk farmers, seed producers and chawki rearers will be brought on a DBT mode with Aadhaar linkage. A Helpline will be set up for timely redress of grievances and all outreach programmes.

Convergence with the agriculture and rural development programmes of other Ministries like MGNREGS, Mahila Kissan Sashaktikaran Pariyojna (MKSP), National Livelihood Rural Mission (NLRM), National Afforestation Programme (NAP) etc. and State Governments will be pursued to tap resources for sericulture activities.

Silk products are costly products. Therefore, there is an increasing demand from the consumers for quality assurance. Keeping this in view, 21 Cocoon Testing Centres and 8 Silk Testing Centres are proposed to be set up, under the scheme. Silk Mark Organisation of India (SMOI) will undertake brand promotion of Indian Silk Mark through Exhibitions, Expos and other publicity avenues with the vision that over the period only silk products conforming to prescribed standards are sold in the market. A Design Development Bank will also be developed in collaboration with NIFT, NID and other reputed Institutes for support on design, product development and diversification.

Under the scheme, full cost will be borne by Govt. of India for infrastructure development. As regards the individual benefits, 25% of the cost will be borne by the individual beneficiary, 50% by the Central Government and 25% by the State Govt. If the beneficiaries belong to SC or ST category, they will bear only 10% and the Centre will bear 65% of the cost. In case of beneficiaries belonging to NE States, J&K, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand & Chattisgarh, the Centre will bear 80% of the cost while the individual and the State Govt. will bear 10% each.

At present, there are total 27 silk producing states, of which, only 17 have a separate Department or Directorate of Sericulture. Even those States are understaffed. The scheme emphasizes on more active engagement with the States. As suitability of the silkworm breeds and host plant varieties to local geographical and climatic conditions is key to the success of the sericulture activities, the States have an important role to play in increasing the silk production of the country. This scheme creates the appropriate eco-system for greater participation of States in implementing the Scheme.

Bureau of Outreach Communication

ttt.jpg Author: Narendra Kumar Sinha (Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India)

Our Prime Minister believes in the mantra of “Reform, Perform and Transform”, in bringing about good governance in the country. The vision is about transforming existing institutions into strong ones, capable of performing and delivering its mandate, thereby taking government to doorsteps of citizens. It is along the lines of this vision; Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has taken the reformative step of transforming its media units into modern day institutions. First important step in this transformation exercise is the integration of three media units of Ministry of I&B into one structure called as Bureau of Outreach Communication. This integration effort has been supplemented with simultaneous decentralization of administrative structure of the Ministry, by posting officers of various levels for manning the new positions created. A strong online system for designing the optimised media outreach, giving maximum value for money for a campaign focussed on target population has been developed to aid this transformation process. The online system takes into account cost of reaching per person, impact of communication strategy and strategy for inculcating behavioural change in target population.

BOC comprises three erstwhile media units of Ministry of I&B, viz namely Directorate of Advertising & Visual Publicity (DAVP), Directorate of Field Publicity (DFP) and Song & Drama Division(S&DD), all involved in interpersonal communication. The integration has brought down the number of offices from 36 Regional Units and 251 Field Units (all working in silos) into 24 Regional and 148 Field Units, working in unison across the country, leading to better and rational human resource utilization. The Regional Units will henceforth be known as Regional Outreach Bureau (ROB) and the field Units as Field Outreach Bureau (FOB). BOC will be headed by a Director General level officer from the Indian Information Service and assisted by Additional Director General in every Regional Outreach Bureau. The DG (BOC) will also be assisted in his functions by DGs in the zones.

From now on, communication strategies will no longer be Delhi Centric, but will be in the Regions where such information has to be disseminated. This integrated structure will create synergy between various wings of Government and will help in preparing integrated communication strategy to ensure mass reach and informed citizenry. This will  also ensure that our engagement will now not be limited to the capital but reach every district in every State. This reformative step will ensure that campaigns will be prepared in the language, form and as per the requirements of the region, and to connect with the local population.

The online system of integrated Media campaign relies heavily on the inputs provided by client Ministries regarding their target audience and the information about reach and readership/viewership. The system impartially suggests the media mix for carrying out the desired campaign for the intended beneficiary. The online system would later graduate into an automated system of payment to news/TV agencies carrying advertisements, thereby reducing backlogs and ensuring timely payments.

The topic of Bureau of Outreach Communication was discussed in the Parliamentary Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting in its meeting on 13th  March 2018.  In its previous meetings, the members had pointed out the need to have an integrated communication approach, especially to deliver information about Government activities to rural hinterlands of India. These suggestions have been incorporated while BOC was formulated.  The concept of Bureau of Outreach Communication and its Regional Outreach Bureaus were well appreciated by the members (Members of Parliament) of the Consultative Committee for Ministry of I&B, in its meeting held on 13th March 2018. The members also congratulated the proactive approach of the Ministry in reforming its media units, thereby enabling it to cater to the needs of the present generation and in keeping with the times.

The BOC is a much needed administrative reform, so as to ensure credible, consistent and clear communication across media platforms, providing a 360 degree approach. This integrated approach will enable the Ministry to address the different target audiences and their communication needs, thereby taking government to the door steps of the citizens. It is an important step towards modernizing and effectively utilizing the resources under Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to meet the communication needs of the country.


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