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Cabinet approves extension of EPF contributions by the government until August

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The Union Cabinet on July 8 approved, among many other things, the proposal to extend the scheme for payment of the employer and employee's provident fund (PF) contribution for three months until August. Under this, the government will make the entire 24 percent contribution towards Employees' Provident Fund (EPF).

The move will offer huge relief to around 3.67 lakh employers and 72.22 lakh employees.

The proposal for extension of this scheme had been announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in May. She had, at the time, announced that the scheme under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMKGY) would be extended for another three months till August.

Addressing media persons following a Cabinet meeting earlier on July 8, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said the decision has been taken in order to facilitate a higher take-home salary for employees and to provide them a breather in payment of PF dues.

Under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan package, the payment of 12 percent of employer and 12 percent employee contribution was made into EPF accounts by the Centre. The benefit was earlier available for the months of March, April and May.

For the salary months of June, July and August, the scheme will cover all the establishments having up to 100 employees, with 90 percent of such employees earning a monthly wage less than Rs 15,000.

The idea behind the move, according to the government, is to offer support to workers and businesses who continue to face financial hardships in light of the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown that followed.

Govt to push domestic companies to make cranes for cargo handling; to replace imports worth Rs 1,000 crore

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The shipping ministry will push domestic companies to manufacture cranes used for cargo handling at ports to replace annual imports worth Rs 1,000 crore of such equipment as well as work towards increasing the country's share in global shipping recycling business to 60 percent, according to Union Minister Mansukh L Mandaviya.

The efforts are aimed at boosting ports-led industries and make India as a key destination for recycling warships and other ships under 'Aatma Nirbhar Bharat', the Shipping Minister said.

Under the 'Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan' or 'Self-reliant India Mission', global tenders up to Rs 200 crore were recently disallowed.

"We will aggressively work towards 'Aatma Nirbhar Bharat' by promoting port-led industries and industrialisation. We will boost ship repair and recycling facilities.

"And among many such initiatives, we have decided to procure 'Made in India' cranes for cargo handling at ports. So far, India used to buy cranes worth abut Rs 1,000 crore annually," Mandaviya told PTI in an interview.

He also said that so far there is no crane manufacturer here but Indian companies can very well build these under 'Make in India' either independently or through the joint venture route.

India has a 7,500-kilometre coastline and the cargo handled by the country's top 12 major ports had risen marginally to nearly 705 million tonnes (MT) over the 699.10MT cargo handled in 2018-19.

Besides, procuring cranes locally, importance will be given to attaining self-reliance in port infrastructure development, jetty, terminal construction and cruise terminal, he added.

This will also boost employment by creating demand for the skilled manpower, he said, adding that plans are afoot to double the ship repair business in the next two years.

"About 30,000 vessels come to Indian ports with cargo per annum. Their maintenance is compulsory in 3-5 years. We are working towards boosting ship repair facility set up. We are aggressively working towards this. At present India repairs only about 1,200 ships per annum," he said.

The country will strive for about 60 percent of the global ship recycling business share. Within two years, the share would reach 50 percent, he added.

India's share in global ship recycling business at present is 40 percent.

"European Union and Japan have started sending their ships for recycling to India. At present a total of 300 to 400 ships come to India for recycling. The trend has been encouraging but COVID-19 has impacted it but still we expect about 350 ships for recycling including from EU and Japan," the Minister said.

According to him, Gujarat's Alang, the world's biggest shipyard, is ready to cater to projected increase in the number of ships for recycling.

Currently, India recycles around about 400 of the 1,000 ships which are demolished per annum globally. However, countries like Japan, Europe and the US were not sending their ships for recycling to the country in the absence of ratification of a global convention. The scenario changed with the Recycling of Ships Act, 2019, the Minister said.

The Act ratifies the Hong Kong convention and facilitating environment friendly recycling process of ships and adequate safety of the yard workers.

"The US and other countries do not send their ships to India for recycling but now that we have ratified the Hong Kong conventions, we expect the numbers to swell," the Minister said.

India, Bangladesh, China and Pakistan account for recycling about 90 percent of the global ships.

India's share at present stands around 40 percent or about 70 lakh gross tonnage of ships per annum which is bound to go to at least 60 percent given 95 of the 131 plots at Alang (are) developing these as per Hong Kong conventions, paving way for ships from Europe, Japan, US and other countries to be recycled here, he said.

The Act is expected to raise the brand value of ship recycling yards located at Alang in Gujarat, Mumbai Port, Kolkata Port and Azhikkal in Kerela and will also enhance availability of steel.

Another area of focus will be increasing the number of seafarers as India with 12 percent of the world's population has just about 7 percent of the seafarers market.

On the other hand, countries like Philippines with just 2 percent of the world's population has grabbed 20 percent global share.

"The number of seafarers in 2014 was 94,000 which has reached 2.4 lakh now. We want to take it to 5 lakh in five years," he said.

India has 12 major ports -- Deendayal (erstwhile Kandla), Mumbai, JNPT, Mormugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Kamarajar (earlier Ennore), V O Chidambaranar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia) under the control of the Centre. These major ports handle about 60 percent of the country's total cargo traffic.

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