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Current Events 29 March 2016



 29 MARCH 2016

Defence policy to give a push to ‘Make in India’

The Defence Ministry unveiled the new Defence Procurement Policy, intended primarily to improve indigenous procurement, but left out the most significant reform it had been promising.

The DPP-2016, made public to coincide with the latest edition of DefExpo in Goa, was expected to herald a new era in the way India’s private sector participates in defence procurement, but that is not to be.

Speaking at the inauguration of DefExpo, an exhibition of land and naval systems, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said the new policy would give top priority to speedy procurement, focus on indigenous design and development and lay emphasis on Make in India.

The expo, being held in Goa for the first time, has the participation of 1,055 companies from 47 countries and 224 delegations from 48 countries.

The Minister said the policy had taken care of some of the issues raised by foreign companies and in another two or three months, the Ministry would take care of a few more issues that were pending. The new DPP can push the agenda of Make in India in a big way, he said.

While the FDI limit remains 49 per cent through the automatic route, a higher percentage can be considered on special cases, he said. The DPP recognises the role of small and medium enterprises in the sector, and a further boost will be given to it.

Pointing out that self-reliance is “a major corner-stone on which the military capability of any nation must rest,” the DPP says it is of “utmost importance that the concept of ‘Make in India’ remains the focal point of the defence acquisition policy/procedure.”

New category

Under the new DPP, the government has introduced a newly incorporated procurement class called “Buy (Indian-IDDM)”, where IDDM stands for Indigenous Designed Developed and Manufactured. This would be the first preference in all acquisitions starting April, when the DPP will go into effect.

The category refers to the procurement from an Indian vendor of either products that have been indigenously designed, developed and manufactured with a minimum of 40 per cent indigenous content or products having 60 per cent of it on a cost basis but not designed and developed indigenously. The policy has also significantly liberalised the offset liability for foreign vendors, which makes it compulsory for companies to invest, or source, at least 30 per cent of the contract value in India.

While offset was compulsory for all contracts more than Rs. 300 crore earlier, the minimum contract value has now been increased to Rs. 2,000 crore. For that expert groups had drawn up a recommendation on nominating ‘strategic partners’ from among private companies for major defence projects.

However, the DPP has omitted the seventh chapter titled ‘Strategic Partners and Partnerships’, which would have details of the government strategy to give preferential treatment to major private sector players in significantly large projects.


India’s tuberculosis challenge

India has a large and heterogeneous tribal population of approximately 104 million. This accounts for 8.6 per cent of the total population and it is spread over a vast area. Apart from the States of the northeastern region, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkand, Maharashtra, Orissa and Gujarat have large tribal populations. Physical remoteness, high rates of malnutrition and poor living conditions contribute to the vulnerability of tribal people to TB and other infectious diseases. Ignorance, misconceptions and variable access to quality healthcare make them vulnerable to exploitation by quacks, leading to poor health outcomes. In a way, the health problems of tribal groups are similar to those of the urban poor, though solutions will have to be differently designed.

A systematic review of Indian studies estimated that pulmonary TB prevalence among tribal people was 703 per 100,000, which is almost three times that in the general population (256 per 100,000). There was a lot of variability among the tribal groups, with the Saharia tribe in Madhya Pradesh showing the highest rates of up to 3,000 per 100,000. Further, a social assessment study commissioned by the Central Tuberculosis Division of the Union Ministry of Health, and conducted in 2005 and repeated in 2011, identified various gaps in service delivery to tribal populations. The first study led to the development of the tribal action plan: it outlined differential strategies and packages for the tribal population under the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP). However, the follow-up in 2011 revealed limited improvement in terms of two key parameters: access to services and awareness among the community. Insufficient community engagement, non-involvement of traditional healers, distance of the tribal populations from government health centres, and lack of appropriate awareness-building measures were some of the other issues identified. These resulted in significant delays and under-utilisation of programmatic services by the tribal population.

Clearly, these vulnerable populations need special attention, and bold initiatives are needed to reach out to them. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), in collaboration with the Central Tuberculosis Division of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, is planning an innovative project in certain hard-to-reach tribal areas in central and western India. It will be implemented initially in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh (19 districts and 17,000 villages) covering a population of approximately 18 million. A clearly defined implementation plan and strategies to engage the community to improve their awareness about TB and other diseases that affect them, and involve traditional healers in aiding early detection and referral, have been designed.

A mobile diagnostic van equipped with digital X-ray and sputum microscopy services will go to identified villages at regular intervals and offer services at the doorstep. Sputum will be collected from those with symptoms and brought to the nearest testing centre and the results conveyed the next day. Where possible, the latest diagnostic techniques such as Gene Xpert will be used. Individuals identified to have TB will be linked with the nearest treatment centre and treatment initiated quickly.

Through the involvement of local community members and traditional healers (in terms of sensitising and training them and providing incentives), levels of community awareness will be increased and their participation in health programmes strengthened. These efforts should lead to people seeking care early, reduction in delays in diagnosis and treatment initiation and lower out-of- pocket expenditure.

Patients need emotional and social support during treatment to ensure regular and complete therapy.

It is to be hoped that corporates and others will come forward to provide nutritional and other kinds of support, as patients need good nutrition to recover rapidly. This kind of implementation research will provide the needed evidence to scale up such strategies in other areas.

India having committed to the “End TB strategy” that calls for a 75 per cent reduction in deaths and 50 per cent reduction in incidence by 2025, it must take on tuberculosis in mission mode.


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