World Bank-funded fruit project underway in Himachal

Jul 17, 2016 0

Shimla– A World Bank-funded Himachal Pradesh Horticulture Development Project is being implemented in the state with an outlay of Rs 1,115 crore, mainly to protect apple cultivation, a government spokesperson said on Sunday.

The project spread over seven years would focus on providing new technologies to horticulturists for increasing crop productivity and capacities.

Apples-HimanchalTo protect the fruit crop, mainly from the hailstorms, the state government has increased subsidy on anti-hail nets to 80 per cent.

The spokesperson said for strengthening marketing facilities, 10 fruit yards and collection centres have been made operational in the state in the past three and a half years with an expenditure of Rs 27.45 crore.

Himachal Pradesh is one of India’s major apple producing states, with more than 90 per cent of the produce consumed in the domestic market.

Himachal Pradesh’s fruit economy is worth around Rs 3,500 crore a year, with apple alone contributing 89 per cent to this figure, mostly in Shimla, Kullu, Mandi, Lahaul and Spiti, Kinnaur and Chamba districts.

A Horticulture Department official said growers are taking to apple plantation on a large scale even in the remote district of Lahaul-Spiti.

Overall area under apple cultivation has increased to 1,09,553 hectares in 2014-15, he said.

He said the government has started weather-based crop insurance scheme to protect growers’ interests.

Initially, the scheme was launched in six blocks for apple crop and four blocks for mango crop. The coverage under the scheme has since been extended in view of the scheme’s popularity.

In the last fiscal, the scheme was implemented in 36 blocks for growing apple, 41 blocks for mango, 15 blocks for kinnow, 13 blocks for plum and five blocks for peach crops.

In addition, 17 blocks have been covered under add-on cover scheme to protect the apple fruit crop from hailstorms.

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Who Moved My Interest Rate?: Book Review

Jul 15, 2016 0

By Meghna Mittal

Title: Who Moved My Interest Rate?; Author: Duvvuri Subbarao; Publisher: Penguin Random House India; Pages: 308; Price: Rs 525

It’s no secret that the equation between the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the government of the day has often been ticklish. But seldom has that been reflected openly — and certainly not in a book where the actors have been identified and their stands spelt out.

Book-who moved myBut Duvvuri Subbarao’s book “Who Moved My Interest Rate” gives a candid, lively account of his interactions with the government, ministers, bankers and the media when he was the RBI Governor during the turbulent years for the global economy between 2008 and 2013.

So much so, he does not shy away from naming some people like P. Chidambaram and Pranab Mukherjee when they were finance ministers, or even Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister during Subbarao’s tenure. Their comments and Subbarao’s take — and misgivings — make for interesting reading.

It also somewhat reflects the unease one sees today with Raghuram Rajan in the governor’s seat.

“I have been asked several times if there was pressure from the government on setting interest rates. There certainly was, although the precise psychological mechanics of pressure would vary depending on the context, setting and personalities,” says Subbarao — a fact presumed earlier.

“Both Chidambaram and Pranab Mukherjee were piqued by the Reserve Bank’s tight interest rate policy on the ground that high interest rates were inhibiting investment and hurting growth,” he adds, while reflecting how this resulted his recommendations on his deputies being overturned.

He also refutes Chidambaram claim that the government and the RBI agreed on eight out of 10 policy actions. “I found that all through my tenure, the government was distinctly uncomfortable with the RBI raising interest rates and seemed convinced that monetary policy was choking growth.”

Subbarao also reflects on how he found some statements by Chidambaram, upset over the central bank’s refusal to cut rates, unusual and uncharacteristic – specifically over the minister’s statement: “If the government has to walk alone to face the challenge, we will walk alone.”

Then he faults the finance minister’s decision on a money supply panel without consumting him.

“Chidambaram clearly overstepped into the Reserve Bank turf as liquidity management is a quintessential central bank function. Not only did he not consult me, but he had not even informed me of this before the notification was issued.”

As ragards Mukherjee, Subbarao says he met him only twice on a one-to-one basis. But there was one incident in which he feels the current President, was, perhaps naive and wanted to claim some credit for what is otherwise in the domain of the central bank.

This was when, just ahead of a monetary policy review, Mukherjee told a group of industrialists that the Reserve Bank governor will have some good news for them. “This was most inappropriate and indiscreet,” says Subbarao.

Then, on Manmohan Singh, he says the rigid stand on interest rates and concerns over high fiscal deficit did irk him. But this, he adds, was conveyed to him not directly, but via C. Rangarajan, a former governor himself and chair of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council.

Nonetheless, Subbarao alludes, it was Manmohan Singh who ignored others for giving him a two-year extension.

The book is not about controversies alone. It is written in a simple format to give a peek into the life of a central bank governor, while also giving a ground-level account of how this coveted job is not about glamour alone.

The fact is Subbarao’s term from 2008-13 was marked by continuous firefighting and dealing with global financial crisis, inflation and rupee depreciation, among other concerns. The book gives a candid account of how governments and the central banks want to deal with such concerns. (IANS)

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Netherlands-UP to set up skill development center for farmers

Jul 14, 2016 0

Lucknow– The Netherlands and Uttar Pradesh on Thursday signed an MoU to set up a skill development centre to help farmers.

Akhilesh Yadav

Akhilesh Yadav

The agreement, signed by Dutch Ambassador Alphonsus Stoelinga and UP Chief Secretary Deepak Singhal in presence of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, would ensure that farmers would get information of not only food processing but also of how modern techniques can be also used for better produce of sugarcane, potato, dairy development and flowers.

Other than this, the Dutch government would also help in cleaning the Yamuna in Agra and in sewage treatment, said officials.

According to the MoU, Netherlands would assist Uttar Pradesh in solid waste management, urban development and infrastructure, water management, water supply, cleanliness of water resources, sewage treatment, transport management and revival of water bodies.

Other than this, it would also help in land reclamation of 1,500 acres in the Ganga basin in Kanpur and development of cultural heritage.

The chief minister said that by works undertaken under the MoU, income of farmers would increase and that agriculture production would increase, dairy industry would be modernised and modern technology would be introduced in the food-processing industry.

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Transport Minister Tells US Investors that it is a Golden Opportunity to Invest in India

Jul 14, 2016 0

Washington, DC – The U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC) this week hosted a luncheon discussion with Indian Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways & Shipping Nitin Gadkari. The roundtable was attended by senior executives of U.S. and Indian companies that included TransAsia Infrastructure, Uber, Bentley Systems, Tata, Caterpillar, Moody’s, DLZ Corporation and Texas Instruments.

Washington, DC, USA - July 11, 2016: The U.S.-India Business Council hosts Minister of Road Transport and Highways & Shipping Nitin Gadkari . Photo by Ian Wagreich / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce

July 11, 2016: The U.S.-India Business Council hosts Minister of Road Transport and Highways & Shipping Nitin Gadkari . Photo by Ian Wagreich / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The discussion was focused around Minister Gadkari’s plans and vision to strengthen India’s infrastructure, investment opportunities in road construction and port-led industrialization, and how U.S. industry can collaborate with the Government of India.

Speaking to investors, Minister Gadkari said, “Prime Minister Modi has made the country’s infrastructure development the top-most priority of the government. We are committed to improving the country’s road, highways, and port connectivity in a time-bound, result oriented, corruption-free and transparent manner that includes e-governance and fast-tracking decision-making. The pace of road construction has accelerated to an all-time high of 20 kilometers per day and next year we plan to increase it to 41 km per day. This is a golden opportunity to invest in India.”

The Minister also spoke on the new highways under construction in the country, financing mechanisms under PPP models, framing policies for logistics parks, modernization of roads, building intelligent traffic systems for road safety and further innovation and technology to India’s logistics sector Minister Gadkari’s team also outlined the progress that has already been made in the roads, highways, and shipping sectors.

Rohit Kumar Singh, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, highlighted specific investment opportunities in the highways sector; whereas Alok Srivastava, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping, shared details on the Sagarmala Program – the Ministry’s flagship port-led development initiative to bring down logistics cost and boost investment, exports, and jobs.

USIBC President Dr. Mukesh Aghi said, “With an upsurge in India’s e-commerce markets and the unprecedented growth in Indian cities, there is a critical need for advanced logistical services and better transportation infrastructure. India needs $1 trillion for developing new roads, ports, rail lines, and airports over the next few years and U.S. companies can provide the necessary expertise as well as capital to enable the robust growth of this sector. We are excited to witness the rapid growth of this sector— under Minister Gadkari’s leadership, road construction rates have gone up, infrastructure spending has received a boost and India has jumped ranks in the Logisitics Performance Index. It is timely and urgent to explore the full potential of U.S.-India collaboration in this sector.”

Dr. Ravindra Verma, Managing Director of TransAsia Infrastructure Group, a confederation that manages and executes multi-modal integrated transport and logistics infrastructure in Asia provided an industry perspective during the discussion.

Dr. Verma said, “Under Minister Gadkari’s leadership, the Indian highways sector is now at a critical turning point. More than $100 billion in capital is now needed over the next several years to expand existing corridors and build new ones to keep up with the growth in traffic. This presents an opportunity for all players in North America to mobilize resources on a major scale. We are now actively gathering over $1 billion in global capital towards a dedicated multi-modal surface transport platform RoadStar, with major focus on India.”

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Income Declaration Scheme is not a seasonal sale: Jaitley

Jul 14, 2016 0
Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley

Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley

New Delhi–Refusing demands to make the Income Declaration Scheme 2016 more attractive, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday said the IDS is “not a seasonal sale”.

“There are many in the business community who are asking to make it more attractive. But this is not a seasonal sale,” Jaitley said at the IDS workshop here organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci).

The violator cannot be given better facilities than the honest assessee who regularly pays his taxes, he said.

In fact, there is a legitimate analysis in the Central Board Of Direct Taxes (CBDT) that some of the earlier schemes could have been considered discriminatory against the honest tax payer, he added.

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India issues new requirements for refund of cancelled air tickets

Jul 13, 2016 0

New Delhi– The government has issued regulatory norms with regard to the minimum requirements for refund of airline tickets.

According to the Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) issued by Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Tuesday, these will come into effect from August 1.

Etihad AirwaysThe CAR document elaborated that while the government is committed to “no interference” in the commercial practices of airlines, however, the volume of the complaints have necessitated some affirmative action to safeguard the interest of passengers.

“The matter has been discussed in several meetings with the airlines with no significant improvement in the system adopted by airlines for refund of tickets,” the aviation regulator said in the CAR document.

“It is, therefore, now considered necessary by government to fix some minimum bench marks, as far as the refund policy is concerned in order to stem the growing dissatisfaction among the passengers regarding the refund procedures adopted by some airlines.”

The prescribed minimum requirements directs airlines to indicate the refund amount admissible on ticket cancellation.

“For this purpose, the amount and its break-up may be indicated on the ticket
itself or through separate form used for the purpose, and the policy and amount of refund shall also be displayed by the airlines on their respective websites,” the CAR document said.

Further, the regulations instructs the airlines not to levy cancellation charge of more than the basic fare plus fuel surcharge, and also no additional charge to process the refund.

The regulations also states that in case of credit card payments, refund shall be made by the airlines within seven days of the cancellation to the account of credit card holder.

“In case of cash transactions, refund shall be made immediately by the airlines office from where the ticket was purchased,” the document said.

“In case of purchase of ticket through travel agent, portal, onus of refund shall lie with the airlines as agents are their appointed representatives. The airlines shall ensure that the refund process is completed within 30 working days.”

Besides, the airlines are required to refund all statutory taxes and user development fee (UDF), airport development fee (ADF), passenger service fee (PSF) to the passengers in case of cancellation, non-utilisation of tickets or no show by the traveller.

“This provision shall also be applicable for all types of fares offered including promos, special fares and where the basic fare is non-refundable,” the document pointed out.

The regulations were released a month after the Civil Aviation Ministry had proposed a number of steps to rein-in the indiscriminate policies of some domestic airlines on flight cancellations and refunds.

At that time, Civil Aviation Minister P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju said that proposals, which will be finalised soon, also call for airlines to ensure that refunds on cancelled tickets are made within 15 days, even if the bookings were made through agents or portals.

“The proposal will be put up on the ministry’s website for 15 days during which stakeholders are free to give their suggestions and comments. After this, the ministry will finalse the proposed amendments and implement them very soon,” a ministry statement had said that time. (IANS)

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Andhra signs MoU with Russia’s marine tech university

Jul 13, 2016 0
N. Chandrababu Naidu

N. Chandrababu Naidu

Vijayawada– Andhra Pradesh has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Russia’s State Marine Technical University to promote marine education and technology.

The agreement was signed at the port city of St. Petersburg on the first day of Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu’s visit to Russia on Wednesday.

The university works in close connection with United Shipbuilding Corporation and Rosoboronexport.

Companies involved in the marine segment in India and Andhra Pradesh will benefit from this collaboration, said a government statement here on Wednesday.

Rakhmanov Alexey, President of United Shipbuilding Corporation said that the university is considering to make Andhra Pradesh the headquarters of the company in India as the state has unique marine activity.

Highlighting the opportunities available, Naidu said that Andhra is set to become a logistics hub in India.

“We want to promote inland navigation and also the commercial usage of water transport. Water-based transport is cheaper when compared to other forms of transport,” the Chief Minister said.

Naidu said the state would soon set up maritime university.

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Human right violations at Coal India mines

Jul 13, 2016 0

New Delhi– Abusive laws and poor enforcement of safeguards in Indian state-run coal mines is provoking local tribal communities into opposing expansion of these blocks, human rights group Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

Aakar Patel

Aakar Patel

“Abusive laws, poor enforcement of existing safeguards and corporate neglect of human rights are now leading Adivasi communities to oppose the expansion of the very mines they once thought would bring employment and prosperity, until they receive remedy for violations,” Amnesty International executive director Aakar Patel said in a report.

The report on coal mining in India and violations of tribal rights, said the Centre and the states “don’t seem to care to speak or listen to the vulnerable Adivasi communities whose lands are acquired and forest is destroyed for coal mining”.

State miner Coal India Ltd (CIL), which has near-monopoly of the fuel production in India, has targeted an annual output of one billion tonnes by 2020.

The report speaks of a “pattern of human rights violations” in three mines run by CIL subsidiaries examined by it — Kusmunda mine in Chhattisgarh, Tetariakhar mine in Jharkhand and Basundhara- West mine in Odisha.

The report claimed that in these mines the Centre acquired land without directly informing the affected families, or consulting them about their rehabilitation and resettlement.

“Frequently, the only official notice given was a declaration of the government’s intention to acquire’ land in an official government gazette, which is virtually impossible to access for affected communities,” it said.

The report is based interviews with 124 affected tribals, village, district and state officials of the states concerned, forest and pollution control boards, journalists, activists, as well as with CIL representatives.

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Ramdev aiming to test waters in dairy, baby-care products

Jul 13, 2016 0

By Vishal Gulati

Haridwar–Yoga guru Ramdev is now aiming to test waters in dairy and baby-care products to expand Patanjali’s ‘swadeshi’ consumer products portfolio that is expected to clock a turnover to Rs 10,000 crore this fiscal.

In research and development (R&D), he’s investing Rs 150 crore in an upcoming institute near here.

Baba Ramdev

Baba Ramdev

“We will invest Rs 1,000 crore to set up six processing facilities across the country. Besides, we will invest Rs 150 crore in research and development,” Ramdev told IANS.

He said the new product lines would include animal husbandry and feed, hand-woven ‘khadi’ (cotton) clothes and baby-care products, besides dairy products like milk, cheese and paneer.

He said the profits earned from baby-care business would be used for the betterment of the poor children. From the ‘khadi’ wear, the earnings will be used to strengthen ‘khadi’ weavers.

Patanjali Ayurved Ltd, a company co-founded by Ramdev along with his aide Acharya Bal Krishna in 2006, has sold fast moving consumer goods products worth Rs 5,000 crore in 2015-16, a 150 per cent growth from the previous year.

“In one year we are going to take its turnover to Rs 10,000 crore,” he said.

Supporting Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s advocacy of cow protection, the yoga guru said the company is coming up in a bigger way for improving and conserving indigenous cow breeds.

“We are investing Rs 500 crore in two-three years to multiply locally-bred cows through cow embryo transplantation technique. Our aim is basically to multiply the indigenous cows that will automatically increase the milk output and strengthen the dairy industry,” said Ramdev.

A cow normally gives three to five litres of milk a day, whereas the indigenous cow produces 25 to 50 litres, he said.

Patanjali, which has 15,000 offline stores and is focusing on exports and improving online trading, is also launching cattle feed and supplements this year to boost the milk production.

“Now we are setting up our facilities where the land is either purchased at market price or gifted by an individual. We don’t believe in getting land on lease from any government,” he said.

The consumer products giant, which has a vast market among Ramdev’s spiritual followers numbering millions in the country and overseas, is also aiming to launch bio-fertilisers, bio-pesticides and indigenous seeds, besides natural medicine and natural cosmetics.

Patanjali’s food park in Padartha near Haridwar spreads over 170 acres. It caters to food, cosmetic, beverage and medicine segments. This has generated employment for over 10,000 locals.

Its second mega food processing facility, spread over 600 acres, is coming up at Nagpur in Maharashtra. Each Patanjali product has ‘Made in Bharat’ inscription on it.

Ramdev, whose mantra for success seems to be low-pricing of products ranging from eight to 10 per cent profit margin, said setting up the country’s first Vedic Education Board is also one of his top priorities.

As per the plan, Vedic Education Research Institute, run by Patanjali Yogapeeth, aims to allow its affiliated schools to offer a blend of the traditional ‘gurukul’ education along with modern syllabus.

“But there are too many hurdles to get clearances from the central government for the Vedic board approval,” he said.

The success of Ramdev, the face of the company, has also attracted global attention.

Barack Obama’s Kenyan relative and entrepreneur Jerry Okoko of Babford & Company, Inc. of Pittsburgh recently visited his food and herbal parks in Padartha.

He was accompanied by David Odiwuor Okeyo, the Homa Bay County executive of agriculture, livestock and fisheries.

“Okoko is planning to set up a food processing plant in Kenya with US assistance,” Patanjali spokesperson K.K. Mishra said. (IANS)

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Airtel launches special ‘Kabali’ products and services

Jul 12, 2016 0

Chennai– Bharti Airtel on Tuesday announced the launch of “Kabali” exclusive products and services.

These include special “Kabali” recharge packs with unlimited 2G internet, “Kabali” Hello Tunes and new “Kabali” branded SIM packs.

Mr. Paranthaman, CEO, V Creations, Producer of Kabali (3rd from L) along with Mr. George Mathen, HUB CEO, KTN Circle, Airtel (4th from L)

Mr. Paranthaman, CEO, V Creations, Producer of Kabali (3rd from L) along with Mr. George Mathen, HUB CEO, KTN Circle, Airtel (4th from L)

Via an exclusive SMS channel, Airtel users can also wish the superstar ahead of the film’s release on July 22. Special messages received from customers (names included) will be compiled into a coffee table book and presented to the superstar himself, as a memorabilia.

“We are happy to announce our association with ‘Kabali’, the most anticipated movie of the year. With our new ‘Kabali’ exclusive products and services, we look forward to delivering an exciting and up close experience for all the Rajini fans across Tamil Nadu,” George Mathen, Hub CEO – Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Bharti Airtel, said in a statement.

The ‘Wish Rajini’ campaign will be widely promoted through large format “Kabali” hoardings across the state and radio spots. (IANS)

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