The Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers is the administrative unit of the three departments of Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals, Department of Fertilisers, and the Department of Pharmaceuticals. The Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals is assigned with the responsibility of planning, development and regulations of the chemicals, petrochemicals and pharmaceutical industry sector. The Department of Fertilisers covers planning, promotion and development of the fertiliser industry. It also entails planning and monitoring of production, import and distribution of fertilisers and management of financial assistance for indigenous and imported fertilisers. All the drugs and pharmaceuticals would come under the Department of Pharmaceuticals, unless specifically allotted to any other department.
Mansukh L. Mandavaiya, the Minister of State for Road Transport & Highways, Shipping and Chemical & Fertilisers in Government of India, talks to BE’s Madhu Raina on the current developments in this sector and his Ministry’s vision.
Q. Is the government taking any steps to promote the use of generic drugs in rural areas of the country and are steps taken to spread awareness regarding the use of generic drugs in the country?
A. In order to promote the use of generic drugs in the country including its rural areas and with the objective of making available quality generic drugs at affordable prices, a countrywide campaign in the name of ‘Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana’ (PMBJP) has been started. This provides more than 600 medicines and 154 surgicals and consumables at affordable prices in all therapeutic categories such as anti-infectives, anti-diabetics, cardiovasculars, anti-cancers, gastro-intestinal medicines, etc. For impeccable quality assurance, each batch of drug supply to PMBJP Kendras is tested at National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) accredited laboratories empanelled by the Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI). As on April 5, 2017, 1110 PMBJP Kendras are functional in the country. However, to ensure larger coverage various steps have been taken. The scheme guidelines have been amended to enable opening of PMBJP Kendras in various government owned buildings. We are looking to incentivize the scheme keeping in mind the weaker sections of society. Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) has been signed with various state governments / organisations / NGOs to promote opening of PMBJP Kendras across the country. BPPI had released advertisements in various newspapers in the country in December 2016 inviting applications from private individuals. The response has been overwhelmingly encouraging and as on April 5, 2017, around 28,301 applications have been received out of which in-principle approval has been given to 24,049 applications.
In order to spread awareness about the use of generic drugs in the country, BPPI has initiated publicity campaigns around PMBJP Kendras through hoardings, bulk SMS campaigns, and mobile exhibitions. Also, a 15 day LONG Radio/FM campaign was also launched in various states.
Q. India imports around 60% of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) from China for manufacturing of drugs in the country. Is there any plan to reduce our dependence on Chinese imports?
A. The country is dependent for imports of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) on China for producing certain essential medicines. As India is a signatory to the World Trade Organisation and the TRIPS ( Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) agreement, the import restrictions have been removed and imports made on economic considerations have slowly resulted in the present dependence. Most of the imports of APIs being done in the country are because of economic considerations. India is a manufacturer and exporter of several APIs.
The government is still taking various policy initiatives in order to discourage imports. Recently, the government has withdrawn exemption of customs duty on certain categories of APIs to provide a level playing field to the domestic manufacturers. The government is also clearing bottlenecks like environment clearance and others which hamper the manufacturers.
Q. Are the farmers able to avail benefits of fertiliser subsidy?
A. Every farmer who is buying Urea and P&K fertiliser bags is availing the benefit of the fertiliser subsidy. Urea is provided to the farmers at a statutorily fixed MRP by the Government of India, which at present is ` 5360/- per MT (exclusive of the Central/State Taxes). An extra MRP of 5% (of ` 5360/- per MT) is charged by fertiliser manufacturing entities on neem-coated urea. The difference between the delivered cost of urea at farm gate and MRP payable by the farmers is given as subsidy to the fertiliser manufacturers by the government. In the case of P&K fertilisers, the NBS Policy is being implemented w.e.f. April 1, 2010, under which a fixed amount of subsidy decided on an annual basis is provided on each grade of subsidised P&K fertilisers based on their nutrient content. The P&K fertilisers are available in the market at less than the delivered price, to the extent of subsidy. We had launched a Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme in fertilisers, in 19 districts on pilot basis. Under this scheme, 100% subsidy on various fertiliser grades will be released to the fertiliser companies instead of the beneficiaries, on the basis of actual sales made by the retailers to the beneficiaries. Sale of all subsidised fertilisers to farmers will be made through Point of Sale (PoS) devices installed at each retailer shop and the beneficiaries will be identified through Aadhaar Card, KCC, and Voter Identity Card etc.
Q. What are the benefits of using neem-coated urea?
A. Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare (DAC&FW) was entrusted to conduct a study to determine the impact of neem coated urea. The interim report prepared by Agricultural Development and Rural Transformation Centre (ADRTC), Bengaluru has been submitted by Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare (DACFW). The brief findings of the study indicate that neem coated urea ensures improvement in soil health, reduction in costs with respect to plant protection chemicals, reduction in pest and disease attack, An increase in yield of paddy, sugarcane, maize, soybean and tur/red gram to an extent of 5.79%, 17.5%, 7.14%, 7.4% and 16.88% respectively and diversion of highly subsidised urea towards non-agricultural purposes negligible among farmers after the introduction of the mandatory policy of production and distribution of only neem coated urea. Moreover, the availability of Urea during 2015-16 and in the current year is more than the requirement and sales. Further, some state governments have reduced their requirement which was initially projected. There is no report of shortages received from any of the state governments. It is, therefore, perceived that neem coating of urea has helped in curbing the diversion.
Q. Are there any steps taken by the government to increase the production of fertilisers by government agencies?
A. To increase the production of fertilizers by Government agencies, the government has decided to revive closed units of Fertiliser Corporation of India Limited (FCIL) in Gorakhpur, Sindri, Talcher and Ramagundam and the Barauni unit of Hindustan Fertiliser Corporation Limited (HFCL) through ‘Nomination Route’ by nominating Central Public Sector Undertakings (CPSU). Each of these units is being revived by installing new urea plant having production capacity of 1.27 million metric tonne of urea per annum. In addition, the government has also decided to install a new urea plant of 8.646 lakh metric tonne (LMT) per annum in the existing premises of Brahmaputra Valley Fertiliser Corporation Limited (BVFCL) which will subsequently replace the existing urea plants Namrup II (capacity 2.20 LMT) and Namrup III (capacity 2.70 LMT per annum).