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October 2023

Prof. B K Misra proposes establishment of CAI to increase demand for ayush medicines globally

Establishment of a ‘Consumer-centric Ayush Initiative’ (CAI) by the Union Ayush Ministry will support for increasing the demand for ayush medicines and therapies across India as well as in global countries, says a proposal submitted to the Ayush Ministry by Prof. Bejon Kumar Misra, founder director of the ‘Patient Safety and Access Initiative of India Foundation’, a Delhi headquartered patient organisation working on universal health coverage (UHC). Prof. Misra, who has been recently appointed as the chairman of the expert committee constituted to look into matters related to insurance coverage for ayush treatments, has observed that an institution like CAI can engage with national and international consumer/patients’ organisations for promotion of ayush remedies and dissemination of knowledge about traditional medicines and treatments among people worldwide. The government can make the institution (CAI) as a member of the International Alliance of Patients’ Organisations (IAPO), the London based organisation associated with WHO. This consumer-centric ayush initiative can engage in network with UN bodies like WHO, UNDP, UNICEF and others to bring ayush patients’ perspectives in various forums and healthcare related activities, especially in the UHC, and connect them with innovative insurance products as a tool to improve accessibility. Further, this initiative can conduct research studies on the outcomes of ayush treatments from the patients’ or consumers’ point of view and use the data in a transparent manner to convince the world community on the benefits of ayush remedies. This is well sufficient to provide an assured insurance cover for accessing quality healthcare under ayush system in an affordable manner as part of the UHC. Talking to Pharmabiz, Prof. Misra said there is need for a dedicated institution like CAI supported by the ayush ministry to attract people from every part of India and abroad towards the ayush system. To realize this idea, we have to work out on developing a communication and marketing strategy by engaging experts who will design awareness campaigns aimed to make citizens of all countries demand ayush medicines. It is necessary to educate and empower the consumers as end-users of ayush and educate them to make an informed-choice based on credible and science based evidence. This should be disseminated in a simple and easy way of language understandable to them. This will be one of the missions of the CAI, he said. Misra said the aim of the Patient Safety and Access Initiative of India Foundation is to improve accessibility to safe and quality healthcare for all under Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and tackling the menace of spurious and not-of-standard medicines in the supply chain globally. He said the Foundation has got one more office in Hyderabad and two more will be opened shortly, one in Kolkata and another one in Mumbai. Pointing to the growth of the ayush sector in the last one decade, Misra who is an expert in international consumer policies, said the Indian ayush sector is growing rapidly to reach USD 23 billion this fiscal. The growth was less than USD 3 billion in 2014, but it crossed 18 billion USD in the beginning of this financial year. He said the ayush sector is envisaging a target of making 1.4 billion consumers in the next two years to access ayush care as a viable choice in the healthcare domain. Oct 10,2023 Source: Pharmabiz

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Ayush Ministry constitutes expert panel to look into insurance related matters

For allaying all concerns of the stakeholders of ayush systems with regard to insurance coverage, the Union Ministry of Ayush has constituted a core committee of experts under the leadership of the international consumer policy expert, Prof. Bejon Kumar Misra, to look into the issues related to insurance coverage for Ayush Systems. The government was persuaded to formulate a panel of experts to inquire about the patients’ access to insurance coverage to avoid discrimination against ayush treatments by insurance companies. It is learnt that the companies are willing to pay the benefits of insurance coverage for allopathic treatments, but unwilling to reimburse the bills for ayurveda, siddha and homeopathy treatments.This expert panel will ensure that all the eligible patients are getting benefited out of the insurance coverage for treatments they avail from ayush hospitals, and no one is denied. According to sources, the panel of experts is a form of permanent system to advise the government about insurance related matters and to streamline the insurance coverage for all eligible ayush treatments. The committee has come into force from this month onwards and it will function without any specific tenure.     “The committee will look into the matter seriously whether those patients who are eligible for coverage of insurance get benefited or not.  Although the government of India and the insurance regulator IRDA have strictly instructed the insurance companies to provide the benefits as soon as possible as many of the insurance companies are reluctant to reimburse the amount of treatments, so several eligible patients are neglected of the benefits. This expert committee under my chairmanship will look into the matter and ensure the eligibility of insurance coverage and speedy release of the benefits’, said Prof. Misra to Pharmabiz. He said today a lot of anomalies are happening with regard to insurance coverage as a lot of ayurveda, siddha and homeopathy hospitals are treating patients, but they are not getting benefited under insurance coverage. The government of India wants to make the coverage of benefits to all those who get treated in ayush hospitals. The expert committee will ensure that there should not be any discrimination between ayush treatments and allopathic treatments. Apart from Prof. B K Misra, the other panelists are Dr. Kousthubha Upadhyaya, Adviser to the Ministry of Ayush as Member Secretary, Dr. Mukul Patel, Vice Chairman of Gujarat Ayurvedic University, Prof. Dr. Narayan Gangadhar Shahane, Consulting Ayurvedic Surgeon and Urologist, Medical Director at Brahma Ayurveda, Rajiv Vasudevan, Chairman, CII Ayurveda group, a member from IRDAI by nomination, a member from General Insurance Public Sector Association (GIPSA) a member from  Insurance Information Bureau and Dr. Saket Ram, Officer on Special Duty at the Ministry of Ayush. The responsibilities of the committee include advising the government on issues related to insurance matters and conducting awareness programs about insurance coverage involving all stakeholders. The committee should also study the current status of the ayush systems under health insurance and should bring out a white paper. Oct 06,2023 Source: Pharmabiz

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RBI Policy: MPC hits pause button for 4th time, repo rate unchanged at 6.5%

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Shaktikanta Das on Friday announced that the monetary policy committee (MPC) has decided unanimously to keep the policy repo rate unchanged at 6.50 per cent. While announcing the policy, Das said, “After a detailed assessment of the evolving macroeconomic and financial developments and the outlook, RBI’s Monetary Policy Committee decided unanimously to keep the Policy Repo Rate unchanged at 6.5 per cent.” “Macroeconomic stability and inclusive growth are the fundamental principles underlying our country’s progress. The policy mix that we have pursued during recent years of multiple and unparalleled shocks has fostered macroeconomic and financial stability,” Das said. He added, “The twin balance sheet stress that was encountered a decade ago has now been replaced by a twin balance sheet advantage with healthier balance sheets of both banks and corporates.” This is the fourth time that the MPC has decided to keep the benchmark repo rate unchanged. Before this, the committee has raised the repo rate by 250 basis points since May last year till April 2023. Das said that the central bank’s committee, with a majority of 5:1, has decided to retain its withdrawal of accommodation stance to ensure that the retail inflation remains within the target of 4 per cent. The RBI has been mandated by the central government to ensure the consumer price index (CPI)-based inflation remains at 4 per cent, with a margin of 2 per cent on either side. India’s retail inflation in August eased to 6.83 per cent from a 15-month high of 7.44 per cent in July. However, the consumer price index continues to remain above the upper limit of RBI’s tolerance band, the fourth time this calendar year, and the seventh such instance since August 2022. Oct 10,2023 Source: The Indian Express

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A West Bengal Consumer Panel Pulls Up BYJU’S For Unfair Trade Practices

A petitioner has alleged that his multiple requests for a refund fell on the company’s deaf ears, putting him through ‘mental harassment.’ BYJU’S has been directed to refund the course amount of INR 65,000, the cancellation charge of INR 9,498 and an additional INR 5,000 as compensation for harassment and mental agony The troubled edtech major is looking to turn profitable by March 2024, even as it continues to deal with a potential debt crisis, delayed financials, mounting losses and mass layoffs A West Bengal consumer protection panel has pulled up BYJU’S for allegedly engaging in unfair trade practices in yet another case related to refunds.  According to The Print, the Hooghly District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission termed the edtech major’s actions as indicative of unfair trade practices while hearing a complaint filed by a local resident. The petitioner alleged that his multiple requests for a refund fell on the company’s deaf ears, putting him through ‘mental harassment.’ In its order passed on September 27, the consumer panel, comprising members Debasish Bhandyopadhyay and Debasis Bhattacharya, noted that the edtech major ‘deliberately tried to be indifferent’ in entertaining the refund request and tried to mislead the complainant.  Subsequently, the panel directed BYJU’S to refund the course amount of INR 65,000, the cancellation charge of INR 9,498 and an additional INR 5,000 as compensation for harassment and mental agony.  “… this commission is of the view that the BYJU’S, in spite of giving specific assurances about the refund of the entire amount in case of dissatisfaction after the 15 days trial, deliberately tried to be indifferent towards the said refund and misled the complainant in one way or the other,” the commission noted. BYJU’S declined to comment on the matter.  Oct 05,2023 Source: Inc42

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As Oil Prices Rise Amid Israel-Gaza War, India Says “Watching Closely”

NEW DELHI:  India, the world’s third-biggest oil importer, is watching the ongoing conflict in the Middle East closely, the country’s oil minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Monday. Oil prices rose over $3 a barrel on Monday as military clashes between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas deepened political uncertainty across the Middle East and raised concerns about supplies.  “The place where action is taking place is in many respects the centre of global energy… as we go along we will navigate through this,” Mr Puri told reporters at an industry event in New Delhi. Global uncertainties of such nature encourage people to use sustainable, cleaner fuels, Mr Puri said, adding that $100 per barrel crude oil prices was unsustainable. Higher oil prices typically lead to surge in inflation and hurts growth in large-scale importer like India. Last week, India had urged oil producers to show “sensitivity” towards consuming countries, hit by prices largely trading above $90 a barrel since Saudi Arabia and Russia decided to extend voluntary cuts to year-end. Oct 09,2023 Source: NDTV

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Insurance companies ‘disregarding’ guidelines issued by regulator: AHPI

The Association of Healthcare Providers India (AHPI) has accused insurance companies of “unfairly” rejecting claims by patients and blatantly disregarding guidelines laid down by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India. The AHPI , which is a collective of hospitals and other healthcare providers, contended that private insurance companies have formed an “alarming cartel”. These companies are collectively discontinuing cashless facilities provided to hospitals, depriving patients of their right to choose treatment and healthcare providers in an arbitrary manner, the AHPI charged in a statement. The real victims in this situation, the AHPI said, are the insured patients. As claims are denied, individuals find themselves in urgent need of funds to cover mounting medical expenses, especially those seeking emergency care while private hospitals find themselves grappling with escalating costs and mounting losses due to the conduct of these insurance companies, the association contended. Director General of AHPI, said, “The AHPI’s efforts to rectify this situation have been met with resistance. Multiple complaints have been filed with IRDAI, but no tangible action has been taken yet. Several members from across the nation have also reported similar harassment by insurance companies, prompting us to take these concerns seriously.” “Consequently, we are now considering legal action and approaching the Competition Commission of India to draw attention to these concerning practices. One particularly distressing case that I came across involved the sudden de-empanelment of one of our member hospitals in Delhi by a well-known insurance company. Shockingly, the insurer insisted on substantial discounts from the previously agreed-upon rates, resulting in the de-empanelment without providing a satisfactory justification,” Dr Gyani stated. The AHPI has demanded action against such private insurance companies. Oct 09,2023 Source: The Economic Times

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5% GST On Millet-Based Flour If Sold In Pre-Packaged, Labelled Form

New Delhi:  The GST Council on Saturday decided to levy a lower 5 per cent tax on millet-based flour when sold in pre-packaged and labelled form, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said. Flour, containing at least 70 per cent millets, will attract zero per cent GST if sold loose, and 5 per cent if sold pre-packaged and labelled. The 52nd GST Council meeting, chaired by Union finance minister and comprising state counterparts, also decided to cap the maximum age of President and members of the GST Appellate Tribunal (GSTAT). This is a change from the earlier age limit of 67 and 65 years, respectively, for the President and members of GSTAT. The Council also decided to reduce GST on molasses to 5 per cent, from 28 per cent, and exempt alcohol for human consumption from the levy. Oct 07,2023 Source: NDTV

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Consumers raise a stink over quality of Aavin milk

Several Aavin consumers have complained about milk in sachets not being reconstituted properly and having milk solids, the shelf life getting shorter and below-par quality of curd made using the milk. An official of the dairy major, however, said it could be because of inadequate cold storage facilities at the retailer’s end. Indira Lakshman, a resident of Triplicane, said she buys Aavin milk in blue sachets and curds using this milk are not as good as they used to be. “When I scoop out the curd, it is gooey. It just doesn’t taste right. Someone said I should try making curd using some other samples, which I have tried but to no avail,” she said. S. Vishwanathan, a resident of Pattabiram and an Aavin customer for 15 years, said his family consumed full cream milk. These days the milk is diluted. According to Seethalakshmi, a home-maker of Thoraipakkam, her family has been long-time consumer of Aavin products. “But now curdling of milk is giving us a headache. As and when milk curdles, we need extra milk leading to additional expenses and more trips to the shop,” she said. Consumer activist T. Sadagopan alleged that the number of complaints about Aavin milk getting spoiled had been increasing over the past few months. “People are complaining that the milk is not thick enough, meaning the fat and non-fat content are not properly balanced. In some places, people are getting milk with milk-powder solids in it.” S. A. Ponnusamy of the Tamil Nadu Milk Dealers’ Employees’ Welfare Association said as a consumer even he faced issues due to quality of the milk. “The milk powder settles down in the utensil when I boil it. Unless Aavin increases procurement, these issues will continue. They are struggling with procurement of 30 lakh litres a day while sale of milk stands at a little over 29 lakh litres a day. The State government should step in and ensure that the milk major gets a fresh lease of life,” he said. However, an official in Aavin said there were no issues with the reconstitution of the milk where butter and milk powder were mixed to ensure the correct fat and solids-not-fat content in each variant. Most complaints attributed to sachet milk (curdling, spoilage) were due to lack of cold storage facility at the retailer’s end, an issue faced by all dairy brands, the official said. Oct 10,2023 Source: The Hindu

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LPG Subsidy For Ujjwala Beneficiaries Hiked To ₹ 300

New Delhi:  The government on Wednesday raised the subsidy provided to poor women, who got free cooking gas connections under the Ujjwala Yojana, to ₹ 300 per cylinder as it looked to blunt opposition criticism of high fuel prices. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs raised the subsidy from ₹ 200 per 14.2-kg cylinders for up to 12 refils per year to ₹ 300 per bottle, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur told reporters here. Ahead of assembly elections in five states, including Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the government had in late August cut cooking gas price by ₹ 200 per cylinder. After this, LPG cylinder price came down to ₹ 903. For Ujjwala beneficiaries, the price was ₹ 703 after considering the ₹ 200 per cylinder subsidy, which is directly paid into the bank accounts of connection holders. After the increase in subsidy, a 14.2-kg LPG cylinder will now cost ₹ 603 for Ujjwala beneficiaries. The move follows criticism by opposition parties of high LPG price. Parties like Congress are promising LPG cylinder at ₹ 500 if voted to power. The hike in subsidy is being seen as an attempt to blunt that criticism. Mr Thakur did not say how much additional subsidy outgo the move would entail. For 2022-23, ₹ 6,100 crore was provided for the Ujjwala subsidy, which increased to ₹ 7,680 crore in the current 2023-24 fiscal (April 2023 to March 2024). The subsidy is credited directly to the bank accounts of eligible beneficiaries. The targeted support to Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) consumers encourages them for continuous use of LPG. The average LPG consumption of PMUY consumers increased 20 per cent from 3.01 refills in 2019-20 to 3.68 in 2021-22. All PMUY beneficiaries are eligible for the targeted subsidy. To make Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG), a clean cooking fuel, available to rural and deprived poor households, the government launched Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana in May 2016, to provide deposit-free LPG connections to adult women of poor households. Oct 05,2023 Source: NDTV

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Hyderabad: Consumer forum slaps Rs 20,000 penalty on postal department for tampering with parcel

HYDERABAD: A district consumer forum here has directed India Post to pay 20,000 as compensation to a retired IPS officer whose parcel was tampered with and articles missing. In the complaint, VK Singh submitted that he had sent articles in four packets via India Post at GPO , Hyderabad through a person named Rawoof. He further claimed that a person overlooking the delivery had deliberately advised to unpack the parcels. The complainant said saris and bed sheets were placed in one packet, while the other packet comprised shirts, pants, medical books and plastic containers, among others. He further alleged that when the articles reached the destination in Haridwar, ten saris worth 20,000 were missing. Singh said that video recordings of the packets taken during the dispatch and after arrival at the destination clearly shows the difference. It was also found that the packets were tampered with intentionally. Singh added that such cases have been reported earlier as well. Left with no other option, Singh approached the commission for redressal. Meanwhile, India Post, in its written version, submitted that after receiving the complaint from Singh, they enquired and it was revealed that articles were received at the post office in good condition and the same were delivered to the addressee on June 13, 2022. They claimed that the complaint had not declared the value of articles and pointed out that if the customer was sending valuable items through registered parcels, he could have insured the parcel to its intrinsic value. The bench said the postal department officials concerned are accountable for the loss. Along with compensation, the consumer forum also awarded 5,000 towards costs of the complaint. Oct 01,2023 Source: The Economic Times

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