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NEW DELHI: As the race for Covid-19 vaccine picks up with governments across the world readying plans for its procurement and distribution, syringe manufacturers in India are ramping up capacities by over 30% to meet the expected rise in demand globally.

Currently, there are three major Indian medical device companies – Hindustan Syringes & Medical Device (HMD), ISCON and Becton Dickinson – that manufacture 0.5 ml auto-disable (AD) syringes that will be required to administer a Covid-19 vaccine when it is ready. The three companies together plan to expand capacity to manufacture 1.4 billion pieces per annum of AD syringes by June next year, up from 1.1 billion pieces a year at present.

While a few other companies are also likely to foray into manufacturing AD syringes, there is an additional capacity of 400-500 million pieces that is currently used for making insulin syringes.

In a recent meeting with the government, firms indicated that they can dedicate 50% of the planned 1.4 billion capacity for local consumption, while rest will be used to meet export commitments.

While initial projections show at least 900 million syringes will be required locally for Covid vaccine delivery in the first phase, this is expected to increase exponentially once vaccine supply starts fully.

“The government should be well equipped with secured stock of syringes in advance to administer a vaccine as soon as it is approved and ready,” says Rajiv Nath, managing director of HMD, the largest syringe manufacturer in India.

‘60-70% of 1.3bn Indians will need syringes for Covid shots’

Nath adds that at least 60-70% of 1.3 billion people in India and 7.8 billion people worldwide will need syringes for Covid vaccination.

Under the government’s National Vaccine Administration Committee, headed by NITI Aayog member Dr VK Paul, a sub-committee, headed by secretary in the department of pharmaceuticals, has been formed to look at preparedness and procurement issues related to vaccine delivery and administration. Members of the sub-committee have also started consultations with the medical devices industry.

“We have drawn up estimates and have also held a few rounds of discussions with syringe manufacturers. There is adequate capacity and companies have also started expansion given the projections of high demand once the vaccine is ready. There will be enough for local consumption and in fact, India can also be a major supplier of syringes to the world,” an official told TOI.

However, the industry has also raised concerns about procurement of cheap syringes from China which leads to spare capacities in the country. It has asked the government for procurement assurance, along with target prices to ensure their investment and capacities are not wasted.

“The government is yet to make an order. At present, we have an inventory and we can supply 100 million AD syringes to the government by end of this year but in the absence of any commitments, we run the risk of creating spare capacities,” Nath said.

Indian syringe manufacturers have been exporting over 60% of their production to other countries through Unicef while India has been meeting 50% of its local demand through cheaper imports from China.

The Times of India is an Indian English-language daily newspaper owned by The Times Group. It is the third-largest newspaper in India by circulation and largest selling English-language daily in the world. according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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INDIA

2+2 talks: India, US clinch defence pact on satellite data

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NEW DELHI: India is set to sign a military agreement with the United States for sharing of sensitive satellite data, the defence ministry said on Monday, as New Delhi tries to narrow the gap with the powerful Chinese military.

The deal will be signed during the top-level 2+2 dialogue between the defence and foreign ministers of the two countries.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and defence secretary Mark Esper arrived in New Delhi earlier today for talks with external affairs minister S Jaishankar and defence minister Rajnath Singh.

Live updates: India-US 2+2 dialogue

The high-level visit comes at a time when India is locked in a serious military standoff with China along the LAC in eastern Ladakh.

The landmark defence pact, known as Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement on Geospatial Cooperation, or BECA, will allow India access to topographical, nautical and aeronautical data for better accuracy of weapons like missiles and drones.

It would also allow the United States to provide advanced navigational aids and avionics on US-supplied aircraft to India, an Indian defence source said.

US companies have sold India more than $21 billion of weapons since 2007 and Washington has been urging the Indian government to sign agreements allowing for sharing of sensitive information and encrypted communications for better use of the high-end military equipment.

“The two ministers expressed satisfaction that agreement of BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement) will be signed during the visit,” the defence ministry said in a statement.

Earlier, Rajnath Singh and his US counterpart Mark Esper held talks on various defence and security issues ahead of 2+2 dialogue between both the countries scheduled on Tuesday.

The India-US talks on military issues here on Monday were “fruitful” and aimed at further deepening defence cooperation between two largest democracies in the world, Rajnath said after his meeting.

In its statement, the defence ministry said Singh and Esper reviewed bilateral defence cooperation spanning military-to-military cooperation, secure communication systems and information sharing and defence trade.

The ministry said the two ministers also called for continuation of existing defence dialogue mechanisms during the pandemic, at all levels, particularly the Military Cooperation Group (MCG).

They also discussed requirements of expanding deployments of liaison officers in each other’s facilities.

Apart from strengthening military-to-military cooperation and boosting partnership in the Indo-Pacific region, the issue of expeditious supply of contracted weapon systems by the US to India figured prominently in the deliberations.

The sources said, while deliberating on regional security challenges, the two sides briefly touched upon India’s border row with China in eastern Ladakh.

The India-US defence ties have been on an upswing in the last few years. In June 2016, the US had designated India a “Major Defence Partner” intending to elevate defence trade and technology sharing to a level commensurate with that of its closest allies and partners.

The two countries inked the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016 that allows their militaries use each other’s bases for repair and replenishment of supplies as well as provide for deeper cooperation.

The two countries signed another pact called COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) in 2018 that provides for interoperability between the two militaries and provides for sale of high end technology from the US to India.

According to the US government, India maintains the largest fleet of C-17 and P-8 aircraft outside of the US, and as of 2020, Washington has authorised more than $20 billion in defence sales to India.

(With inputs from agencies)

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INDIA

Availability of graveyards, cremation grounds should be as per community population: Sakshi Maharaj

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UNNAO(UP): In yet another statement that may stoke a controversy, BJP‘s Unnao MP Sakshi Maharaj has said the availability of graveyards and cremation grounds should be in proportion to the population of communities living in an area.

Addressing a nukkad meeting for his party‘s candidate for the Bagarmau assembly bypolls, Sakshi Maharaj said, “If there is only one Muslim in a village, the graveyard is very big. You people, on the other hand, cremate your dead on the side of a farm or Gangaji. Is this not unfair?”

“Graveyards and cremation grounds should be as per population,” The Unnao MP said.

There should not be any test of “our patience and decency”, he added.

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INDIA

Hathras case: SC to deliver verdict on Tuesday on pleas seeking court-monitored probe

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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court is scheduled to pronounce its judgment on Tuesday on a batch of pleas which have sought a court-monitored probe into the Hathras case, in which a Dalit girl was allegedly brutally raped and died of injuries, and transfer of trial to Delhi.

A bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde, Justice A S Bopanna and Justice V Ramasubramanian had on October 15 reserved its verdict on a public interest litigation (PIL) and several intervention pleas of activists and lawyers who have argued that a fair trial was not possible in Uttar Pradesh as the probe has allegedly been botched up.

The lawyer, appearing for the victim’s family, had told the apex court that trial in the case be shifted out of Uttar Pradesh to a court in the national capital after completion of investigation.

A 19-year-old Dalit woman was allegedly raped by four upper-caste men in Hathras on September 14. She died on September 29 at Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital during treatment.

The victim was cremated in the dead of the night near her home on September 30. Her family alleged they were forced by the local police to hurriedly conduct her last rites. Local police officers, however, said the cremation was carried out “as per the wishes of the family”

During the hearing in the apex court, activist-lawyer Indira Jaising had also raised apprehension of not having a fair trial in the case in Uttar Pradesh.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had referred to the affidavit filed in the apex court by the Uttar Pradesh government which gave details about the security and protection provided to the victim’s family and witnesses in the case.

The state government, which has already transferred the case to the CBI and has given consent to monitoring by the apex court, had filed the affidavit after the top court sought details on witness protection and on whether the victim’s family has chosen a lawyer.

Referring to the compliance affidavit, Mehta said that victim’s family has informed that they have engaged lawyer and they have also requested that government advocate should also pursue the case on their behalf.

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