Govt approves Rs2,600 crore package for leather industry

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New Delhi: The Union cabinet on Friday approved a set of proposals aimed at creating new jobs, improving ease of doing business and spurring development in the North-East.

A Rs2,600 crore special package was announced for the leather and footwear industry, which, law and information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, had the potential to generate over 300,000 new jobs in the next three years and assist in the formalization of 200,000 jobs.

While China is currently ahead in the leather sector, rising wages and other domestic factors in that country offer India a chance to corner a greater chunk of the international market, said Prasad. “The government’s scheme will give a fillip to leather clusters,” he said.

The cabinet also approved the continuation of the National AYUSH Mission till 31 March 2020 with an allocation of Rs2,400 crore to establish new hospitals, upgrade clinics, and strengthen existing drug labs.

At the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the cabinet gave its nod to a bill that will end the existing system of regulation of medical education through the Medical Council of India (MCI) with the setting up of a National Medical Commission (NMC).

The proposed NMC Bill calls for creating a new body to regulate medical education with four autonomous boards that will deal with undergraduate and postgraduate education, registration of medical practitioners and enforcement of medical ethics.

The health ministry worked with the NITI Aayog on MCI’s restructuring—at the prompting of Modi, who suggested that a new commission as a policymaking body for medical education be formed. This followed the recommendation made by a parliamentary standing committee on health and family welfare, given the perception of corruption in MCI.

The proposed bill has already been cleared by a Group of Ministers headed by finance minister Arun Jaitley. The bill will now be tabled in Parliament.

In another decision, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), besides extending the non-lapsable central pool of resources meant for spurring development in the North-East till March 2020, also approved the North-East Special Infrastructure Development Scheme to boost spending on health, education and creation of physical infrastructure in order to spur development in the region.

CCEA also approved capital investment subsidy amounting to Rs265 crore for four industrial units located in the North-East.

A set of amendments to the Specific Relief Act 1963 were also cleared for tabling in Parliament. They are expected to improve ease of doing business by removing contract-related bottlenecks in the execution of public projects.

Once the law is amended, it will ensure that public works contracts happen without unnecessary delays. This will translate into reduced uncertainty in infrastructure projects or those involving huge public investments. The amendments are based on a report submitted in June 2016 by a government-appointed expert panel.

To strengthen Metro safety, the cabinet cleared the creation of a circle office of Commissioner of Metro Railway Safety, along with required supporting officers and staff, for carrying out the functions of the commission as per provisions of the Metro Railways (Operations and Maintenance) Act, 2002.

It also approved the second financial restructuring of Konkan Railway Corp. Ltd, allowing non-cumulative redeemable preference shares worth Rs4,079.51 crore held by the President of India to be converted into compulsory convertible non-cumulative preference shares.

A go-ahead was given for an agreement with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or Unesco, for the establishment of an International Training Centre for Operational Oceanography in Hyderabad.

A decision was also made by the cabinet to extend existing exemptions granted to illegal constructions in the National Capital Territory until 31 December 2020.