Budget Byte: Public health & wellness centres saw huge turnout in 2020


& wellness centres saw huge turnout in 2020 compared to a year ago

In 2020, health and wellness centres (HWCs) saw an unprecedented turnout — over three times that in 2018-2019. In some states such as Rajasthan and Maharashtra, footfall went up four to six times. The HWC Budget for FY21 is merely Rs 1,600 crore. The government may need to allocate more this year towards the primary health service.

Government-funded health insurance penetration uneven

After the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY), health insurance coverage has improved in many states. But gaps remain and these may cut into the public’s out-of-pocket spending on health. Only a few states — Goa, Maharashtra and Assam are some examples — have been able to bridge the gap. Others that fall behind in coverage need to complement AB-PMJAY, which makes coordination between central and state schemes vital.

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Battery storage cheaper than new coal power plants in TN: Analysis finds


A new economic viability analysis on Friday revealed that renewable energy along with battery storage in is cost competitive with new coal power plants.

The report finds the levelized cost of energy for a hypothetical hybrid, solar, wind and li-ion battery storage system for the state to be Rs 4.97/kWh in 2021, which falls to Rs 3.4/kWh by 2030.

In comparison, cost of electricity produced from new coal power plants in is between Rs 4.5-6/kWh.

The hybrid system is designed to cater to 1GW of solar and wind capacity in 2021 with two hours of battery backup, which increases step wise to a four-hour backup by 2030.

The research further highlighted that lithium-based battery storage systems could also help reduce curtailment of renewable energy. Close to 50 per cent of solar power in was curtailed since the lockdown in March 2020.

Similarly, its curtailment of wind power in 2019 went up to 3.52hours per day from 1.87 hours per day in 2018.

“Our analysis found that the cost of hybrid RE with battery storage system is at

India’s tech industry hails Joe Biden’s stand on immigration, H-1B rules


The Indian tech industry has welcomed the US President Joseph Biden’s stand on immigration and H-1B visa.

“President Biden has pledged a new approach on Trade and Immigration, as well as a renewed and revitalised interest in science and technology. We appreciate President Biden’s commitment to review and make necessary changes to harmful regulatory policies put in place by the previous administration,” said National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) in a statement on Thursday.

The previous Donlad Trump administration had placed several curbs and made unfavourable changes to the H-1B visa rules, that is most commonly used by Indian software engineers to travel to the US for work.

Dexpite many representations from various quarters, the Trump administration had brought in harsh rules such as requiring selection of H-1B workers based upon highest salary, paying foreign workers significantly higher wages, redefined the employer-employee relationships and so on.

In a memo on Wednesday, the Biden administration either withdrew or froze some of these provisions.

ALSO READ: Biden’s immigration bill proposes to scrap country cap, to help IT in India

“A modern US immigration system drives innovation,” said Jason Oxman, Information Technology Industry (ITI) President and CEO.

Fiscal deficit of states to hit peak of Rs 8.7 trn as tax collections slide


The Covid pandemic-induced lockdown and consequent slump in economic activity will hit tax collections of states and result in a near four-fold expansion in their revenue deficits this fiscal, year-on-year, ratings agency Crisil said in a report.

With this, the states’ aggregate gross (GFD) will not only get expanded to an all-time high of Rs 8.7 trillion, or 4.7 per cent of GSDP, but also skew its composition towards revenue deficit which is relatively less value-accretive towards future tax potential, the report said.

Though tax collections are expected to improve slowly with improving economic outlook, higher interest burden because of high debt funding of this year’s GFD, coupled with sticky revenue expenditures, may keep revenue deficits high for states and GFD composition skewed over the next 2-3 years. This will, in turn, increase the credit risk for states.

It may be noted that the Centre had already given extra leeway to states this year to borrow to meet all expenditure requirements. An additional borrowing limit of 2 per cent over and above 3 per cent of gross state domestic product (GSDP) already allowed had been provided to

NBFCs, fintech companies urge FM Sitharaman to enhance lending facilities


Non-banking finance companies (NBFCs) and fintech players have urged Finance Minister to enhance the lending facilities by three to four years which were announced and extended by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) during Covid-19 lockdown.

“As expressed by the Prime Minister, there is a need to revive economic growth. This requires great effort for financial inclusion, including increased lending,” said Harsh Kumar Bhanwala, Executive Chairman of Capital India.

Banks and capital markets play a big role but NBFCs — be it micro-finance or otherwise — also play a significant role in lending for small and medium enterprises. They serve in areas where banks are not accessible, said Bhanwala.

“Secondly, we request a separate window from refinancing entities for these small and medium NBFCs so there is assured line available to them for all type of accounts.”

Bhanwala said the Income Tax Act section 194 provides exemptions to banks for tax deduction at source. Such facility should be also extended to NBFCs because they are also regulated by the RBI.

Yogendra Kashyap, Managing Director and CEO of Rapipay Fintech, said the government should

Power engineers to protest on Feb 3 against privatisation of discoms


Power sector engineers would go for token work boycott across the country on February 3 to protest against the move to privatise distribution companies by the central government, the All India Power Engineers’ Federation (AIPEF) said on Monday.

“Power engineers across the country shall resort to token work boycott and hold protest meetings on 3rd February against privatization policies of the Government of India,” AIPEF spokesperson V K Gupta said in a statement.

Shailendra Dubey, the Chairman of AIPEF, in a letter to the Prime Minister, stated that power engineers and engineers are grieved over the central government’s move towards the power sector through Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020, & Standard Bidding Document for total of distribution of electricity.

Power engineers are opposing conversion of public monopoly to private monopoly, he said, adding that the policy of was slowly destroying the public sector across the country while giving huge benefits to selected corporates.

Privatisation and targeted benefits to chosen corporates is the root cause of the ongoing farmers’ agitation, he pointed out.

The AIPEF expressed solidarity to struggling organisations of peasants whose one

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