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Meet the 13-year-old boy selected for National Bravery Award

Dishant said that he would ask all the children to be brave, and not get bogged down by fear.


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India, US to keep talking about visa, double taxation issues

Washington: India and the US have agreed to continue their engagement on the vexed issue of a totalization agreement for the purpose of avoiding double taxation of income with respect to social security taxes.

“There is steady progress on the issue,” Minister of State for Commerce & Industry, Nirmala Sitharaman told Indian media Thursday even as she called the US insistence on a “comparable social security cover in India” as “unfair.” She was speaking after a meeting of the US-India Trade Policy Forum (TPF), co-chaired by her and the US Trade Representative, Michael Froman.

Indian workers have contributed over $6 billion towards social security and the figure keeps growing by about $1.5 billion annually. But in the absence of a totalisation agreement they don’t get the money back once they return to India.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Sitharaman said she had told her interlocutors in Washington that social security cover in India need not be comparable for the purposes of a totalisation agreement as in the Indian system it was the family which provided security to the jobless and the elderly.

India and the US have also agreed to continue their engagement on another issue of concern to India – the limitations on mobility of skilled professionals and issues concerning H1B and L1 visas, including the spike in rejection rates of L-1 visas.

Sitharaman said the US response to Indian concerns on the visa issue was positive. It had also assured India that the hike in visa fee was not discriminatory.

Sitharaman underlined the openness of India to understand the recently concluded Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement and its implications for bilateral and regional trade. At the request of India, USTR provided a detailed presentation on the TPP.

A Joint Statement on the Trade Policy Forum said the two sides reviewed substantive progress achieved in deepening bilateral trade and investment goals in 2015 and discussed plans to promote economic growth and job creation in both India and the US.

Sitharaman and Froman also discussed the status of US and Indian trade agreements with other countries and ways to ensure that bilateral trade and investment between the US and India can continue to grow.

TPF discussions focused on four broad work streams including Agriculture, Trade in Goods and Services, Investment in Manufacturing and Intellectual Property, according to an Indian Embassy release.

In the area of Agriculture, both sides noted forward movement in discussing plant and animal health issues and resolution of labelling and packaging requirements.

In addition, they agreed to work on enhanced market access for identified agricultural products, including Indian rice, mangoes, grapes, pomegranates, honey, marine products, etc.

Noting India’s concerns on the new Food Safety and Modernization Act implemented by the USFDA that mandates new compliance standards for food imports into the US both sides agreed to continue discussions on this.

In the area of Trade in Goods, India discussed issues affecting market access for pharmaceutical products and Indian Traditional Medicines (AYUSH).

India also raised concerns over the listing of Indian products by the US Department of Labour and its impact on Indian handicraft industry and exports from small and medium enterprises.

The US appreciated India’s liberalisation of FDI caps in the insurance, defence and railways sectors. Both acknowledged the importance of promoting a business friendly environment for attracting investment in manufacturing.

The US also welcomed India’s efforts to improve the ease of doing business through simplification of procedures, ordinance to establish commercial courts, single window clearance and other reforms.

Both sides noted the enhanced engagement in the area of intellectual property and discussions on patents, copyright, trade secrets, traditional knowledge, and standard essential patents.

The US welcomed the establishment of an IPR think tank to draft a National IPR Policy.

In the area of copyrights, both sides recognized the shared interests of their entertainment industries and agreed to schedule a workshop on promoting copyrights awareness and capacity building in the first quarter of 2016.

Both sides also noted their commitment to protecting trade secrets.

The tenth round of the TPF will be held in India in 2016.


Maggi may not be back on shelves yet but Twitter is celebrating HC order with a bang

Phew. Maggi is outs of the woods and it’s a bigger relief for the ‘2-minute’ noddle lovers than it is for Nestle. Bombay High Court on Thursday quashed the FSSAI order banning Maggi, setting aside the 5 June order by the FSSAI.

Nestle Maggi. AFP

Nestle Maggi. AFP

But just because the ban has been lifted, it doesn’t mean that the noodles will be available in the market immediately.

The High Court has directed FSSAI to conduct fresh tests on five Maggi samples at three accredited labs and if the people’s favourite instant noodle gets a clean chit, it will be back on shelves and consequently on your plates. The court said that tests must be conducted within six weeks and if no excess lead or MSG is found in the samples, Nestle can resume manufacturing.

The average Indian has been craving for Maggi since it was banned. The Maggi saga has been stretched out beyond its limit, both on India media and on Indian minds. Since the ban, Nestle stocks have plummeted, Maggi has gone off shelves, and people have lost their ever-present and friendly neighbourhood snack. Quality tests on maggi samples too have given out mixed signals. Recently USFDA gave Maggi a go-ahead for US markets. On 5 August FSSAI approved labs in Goa and mysore had found maggi safe for consumption, but FSSAI dismissed those reports.

Sure, if Maggi is found safe, it will make a comeback to store-shelves. But the question remains whether the Indian consumer will buy Maggi? Will their faith be restored in the product? Going by the Twitter reaction to Maggi being back, one can safely say that Maggi will be back with a bang.

USFDA clears Maggi, says lead within acceptable levels

New Delhi: As a ban continues in India on Nestle’s Maggi noodles, the US health regulator USFDA has said its tests have found the lead level in the popular instant food within acceptable levels for US consumers.

A USFDA spokesperson, in an e-mailed statement, said: “Following news reports about alleged lead levels in Maggi noodles made by Nestle and sold in the US, FDA tested a limited number of samples for lead contamination. FDA testing did not find any levels that present a public health concern for US consumers.”

Representative image. AFP

Representative image. AFP

Meanwhile, a day after the government filed a class action suit against the company seeking Rs 640 crore in damages for alleged unfair trade practices, false labelling and misleading advertisements, Nestle India denied receiving an official notice.

“We are yet to receive an official notice about the complaint filed before the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC). Our current knowledge on this issue is only media reports. We shall be able to provide substantive response after we receive the official papers,” Nestle said in a BSE filing.

On FDA clearance, a Nestle India spokesperson said: “We have learnt from our official importer in the United States, House of Spices, that USFDA has tested several shipments of Maggi noodles from India for lead content. Finding no unsafe lead levels, FDA released the noodles for sale in the United States.”

Similarly, health regulators in the UK, Singapore, Canada, Australia and Vietnam have also cleared India-made Maggi as safe for human consumption.

In June, food safety regulator FSSAI had banned Maggi noodles in India, terming it as “unsafe and hazardous” for consumption due to presence of lead beyond permissible limits. Nestle India too withdrew the product from the market.

FSSAI had also said Nestle India had violated labelling regulations on taste enhancer ‘MSG’ and ordered the company to submit a compliance report on the same.

The ban on Maggi showed up in Nestle India earnings earlier as it reported a standalone loss of Rs 64.40 crore for the June quarter — its first quarterly loss in over three decades. It had posted a net profit of Rs 287.86 crore in April-June of 2014-15.


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