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Highlights of Nirmala Sitharaman’s briefing on economic stimulus package

Vikash Aiyappa

New Delhi, May 16: Nirmala Sitharaman in her fourth briefing today said that the focus would be on the structural reforms.

The focus on today's tranche was on coal, minerals, defence production, airports, airspace management, maintenance/repair/overhaul, power distribution companies in UTs, space and atomic energy.

In the last couple of months, an empowered group of secretaries was formed to look into project development. Ranking of states on investment attractiveness to compete for new reforms. Incentive schemes for promotion of new champion sectors will be launched in sectors such as solar PV manufacturing, said Nirmala Sitharaman.

Schemes will be implemented in states through challenge mode for industrial cluster upgradation of common infrastructure facilities and connectivity. 3,376 industrial parks/estates/SEZs in 5 lakh hectares mapped on industrial information system. All industrial parks will be ranked in 2020-12, she also said.

Coal:

The Finance Minister also said that the government would bring into the coal sector.

Commercial mining of coal on a revenue sharing basis will make it more efficient. In the coal sector, entry norms will be liberalised. Nearly 50 blocks will be offered immediately.

Earlier, only captive consumers with end use ownership can bid. Now any party can bid for a coal block and sell in the open market, the Finance Minister also announced. Rs 50,000 crore will be created for evacuation infrastructure, Sitharaman also said.

For the mineral sector, a seamless composite exploration cum mining production regime is being introduced. 500 mining blocks would be offered through this transparent mechanism.

Joint auction:

Further a joint auction of bauxite and coal mineral blocks to enhance aluminium industry competitiveness will be introduced. This will help aluminium industry reduce electricity costs, the Finance Minister also said.

We would also look to remove captive and non captive mines. This will allow transfer of mining leases and sale of surplus unused minerals leading to better efficiency in mining and production. The government is in the process of developing a mineral index for different minerals, the Finance Minister also said.

Defence production:

With regard to defence production, Sitharaman said the government would notify a list of weapons/platforms for the ban on import with year wise timelines. There would be indigenisation of imported spares. There would be a separate budget provisioning for domestic capital procurement. This will help reduce huge defence import bill. This will improve autonomy, accountability and efficiency in ordnance supplies by the corporatisation of the ordnance factory board, the FM also said.

The FDI limit in defence manufacturing will be raised from 49 per cent to 74 per cent. There would be time bound defence procurement process and faster decision making will be ushered in by setting up of a project management unit to support contract management. There would be realistic setting of general staff qualitative requirements of weapons/platforms. There would also be overhauling trial and testing procedures, the Finance Minister said.

Air space and power:

Only 60 per cent of the Indian airspace is freely available. Restriction on utilisation of the Indian air space will eased, so that civilian flying becomes more efficient, the Finance Minister said. We will bring a total benefit of Rs 1,000 crore per year for the aviation sector.

There are six more airports up for auction, Sitharaman said. The bid process shall commence immediately, the Finance Minister said. We will also make India an MRO hub. If an MRO ecosystem is created in India, maintenance cost for airlines comes down as they do not have to go abroad for repairs. This would also help the defence aircraft the Finance Minister also said.

The power distribution companies in Union Territories will be privatised. The tariff policy laying out reforms will be released. This would take into consideration consumer rights.

This would promote industry and there would be sustainability of the sector, Nirmala Sitharaman also said.

The government will boost private sector investment in social infrastructure through revamped viability gap funding scheme of Rs 81,00 crore.

Space sector:

Indian private sector will be a co-traveller in India's space journey. We provide level playing field for private companies in satellite launches and space based services.

Private sectors will be allowed to use ISRO facilities and other relevant assets to improve their capacities, the FM announced.

There will be a research reactor in PPP mode of production of medical isotopes. This will promote welfare of humanity through affordable treatment for cancer and other diseases.

We will establish facilities in PPP modes to use irradiation technology for food preservation to compliment agricultural reforms and assist farmers, the Finance Minister also said.

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