Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Finance Minister and MoS Anurag Singh Thakur held a press conference on Saturday to announce the fourth set of reforms being introduced by the government of India to make India self-dependent.

These reforms have also been advertised as a means to revive the Indian economy and invite foreign investment as the world climbs out of the economic turmoil caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak.

“Many sectors need policy simplification,” were Nirmala Sitharman’s opening remarks. She also said that there is a need to decongest sectors. The Finance Minister went on to recall the Union government’s previous reforms such as DBT, GST, and IBC among others. Steps will be taken to reboot investment such as fast-tracking of clearances, setting up special cells for approvals, upgradation of industrial infrastructure and provision of land solutions, she added.

During the press conference on Saturday, FM Sitharaman announced reforms for eight sectors, namely coal, minerals, defence production, airspace/airport management, aircraft MRO (maintenance-repair-overall), power distribution in union territories, space, and atomic energy.

Coal

The Finance Minister said that an allocation of Rs 50,000 crore will be made for creation of infrastructure needed for the evacuation of coal. In addition, the monopoly of states on the production of coal will be done away with by inviting private players to take part in the bidding process.

“Rules and regulations will be liberalised and nearly 50 blocks will be put up for auction,” Nirmala Sitharaman said. She further added that there will be no eligibility conditions except upfront payment with a ceiling

Minerals

A minerals-index will be made and focus will be shifted to seamless mining and exploration. The FM said that 500 mining blocks will be offered and bids for coal blocks and bauxite will be taken at joint-auctions. The Centre has also removed the distinction between captive and non-captive mines apart from rationalisation of stamp duty.

DISCOMs

All DISCOMs (power distribution companies) in union territories are to be privatised to ensure consumers do not suffer inefficiencies owing to service disruptions synonymous with DISCOMs. The FM also added that load shedding will attract penal action and DISCOM functions will be streamlined to improve accountability.

Space

In a massive opening for private companies and start-ups to enter the space sector, the centre has now permitted them to play an active role in the creation of satellites, launches and other space-based services. A predictable policy and regulatory environment will be provided to private players.

The FM also said that private entities will now be allowed to use ISRO facilities and other government assets for testing purposes to improve their own capabilities. Liberal geospatial data policy for remote-sensing data will also be made available to tech entrepreneurs, added Nirmala Sitharaman.

Atomic Energy

Research reactors will be set up in PPP formats for the production of medical isotopes to promote affordable treatment for cancer and other diseases. The Centre will also establish facilities in PPP mode to use irradiation of technology for food preservation.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told media persons that India’s start-up ecosystem will be linked with to nuclear sector and technology development cum incubation centres will be set up for fostering synergy between research facilities and tech-entrepreneurs.

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