Bring in structural changes to make agriculture resilient, sustainable and profitable: VP

The Vice President of India, Shri M Venkaiah Naidu has called for the introduction of structural changes through policy interventions to bring in a positive bias towards agriculture and make it resilient, sustainable and profitable.

Indian Agriculture

  • Agriculture sector accounts for 18 percent of India’s GDP and provides employment to 50 percent of the workforce of the country.
  • The Gross Value Added by agriculture, forestry, and fishing is estimated at Rs 17.67 trillion (US$ 274.23 billion) in FY18.
  • During the 2017-18 crop year, food grain production is estimated at a record of 284.83 million tonnes.
  • The introduction of high yielding varieties, irrigation facilities, increased input flow through fertilizers and pesticides, farm mechanization, credit facilities, price support, and other rural infrastructure facilities ushered the green revolution over the past few decades.
  • The growth of Agricultural sector is important for inclusive growth and poverty alleviation.
  • Need for concerted efforts from all stakeholders to find long term solution to various challenges faced by the Agricultural sector, Loan waiver is only a temporary relief but proves futile in long run in addressing Farmers concerns
  • India today is not only self-sufficient in respect of demand for food but is also a net exporter of agri-products occupying seventh position globally. It is one of the top producers of cereals (wheat & rice), pulses, fruits, vegetables, milk, meat, and marine fish. However, we are still facing a deficit of pulses and oilseeds. Although the availability of fruits, vegetables, milk, meat, and fish has increased, the most important aspect is to ensure access and affordability to a vast majority of Indians, including farmers.

Food processing industry

  • Plays a critical role in improving the agrarian economy, raising farm incomes, reducing wastages, ensuring value addition, promoting crop diversification and generating employment opportunities as well as export earnings.
  • The vital link between agriculture and industry.
  • The Indian food and grocery market is the world’s sixth largest.
  • The Indian food processing industry accounts for 32 percent of the country’s total food market, one of the largest industries in India.

Organic Farming

  • India holds a unique position among 172 countries practicing organic agriculture.
  • India is home to 30 percent of the total organic producers in the world but accounts for just 2.59 percent (1.5 million hectares) of the total organic cultivation area of 57.8 million hectares.

Horticulture

  • leading horticultural country of the world with a total annual fruits and vegetable production of 306.82 million tonnes during 2017-18
  • India is the second largest fruit producer in the world.

Livestock

  • Has been growing faster than the crop sector.
  • The contribution of livestock output to the total output of the agriculture sector has significantly increased from 15 percent in 1981-82 to 29 percent in 2015-16
  • Acts as cushion and engine for agricultural growth.

Dairy industry

  • India is also the world’s second largest milk producer and is emerging as a major exporter now.
  • It is contributing around 26 percent to total agriculture GDP.

Challenges

  • Climate change, fragmented land holding, increase in demand for food, stagnating farm incomes, declining productivity, diminishing and declining natural resources etc.
  • Lack of favorable terms of trade, vagaries of monsoon, technology not reaching farmers in time, the absence of proper marketing strategies etc.
  • 85 percent of farmers are small and marginal with land holding of fewer than 2 hectares.
  • Linking these small farmers with the market is another major challenge in our system.
  • To enhance the farmers’ income, it is necessary to link them with marketers, traders, and exporters.
  • Challenges for food security in the 21st century is not only improving productivity but also yield stability through the development of crops which are disease-resistant, pest-resistant and adaptable to climate change.

Solution to address the challenges

  • Some ways to address the issues – accord top priority to farmer-oriented marketing, providing adequate cold storage facilities and refrigerator vans, focusing on food processing through value addition, extending timely and affordable credit to farmers and ensuring that innovations and technologies reach the farmers, researchers and farm experts to come out with solutions to the multi-dimensional problems faced by the farming sector.
  • United efforts by governments, the scientific community, Krishi Vigyana Kendras, and farmers to realize the ambitious goal of doubling farmers’ income by 2022.
  • Students pursuing agri courses must spend at least six months with farmers to have a first-hand understanding of the problems faced by the latter.
  • Adopt the latest technologies from seeds to post-harvest management to marketing and to improve productivity on par with the other leading nations.
  • The use of Information Technology, Space Technology, Geo-Informatics, Internet of Things (IoT), Block Chain Technology, Artificial Intelligence, and Big Data Analytics and their first-mile connectivity to farmers is vital for enhancing farm incomes. Digital technologies can also help in countering vagaries in farming and optimizing the resources.

Government initiatives

  • Improve soil fertility on a sustainable basis through the soil health card scheme.
  • Provide improved access to irrigation and enhanced water efficiency through Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY).
  • Support organic farming through Paramparagat KrishiVikasYojana (PKVY).
  • Creation of a unified national agriculture market to boost the income of farmers.
  • To mitigate risk in the agriculture sector, “Pradhan Mantri Fasal BimaYojana (PMFBY) has been launched for implementation from Kharif 2016.
  • Focusing on irrigation with schemes like “Per Drop More Crop”, provision of quality seeds and nutrients based on soil health, setting up warehouses and cold chains to prevent post-harvest crop losses, promoting value addition through food processing, creating a National Farm Market, removing distortions and e-platform across 585 Stations.
  • To achieve the target of doubling farmer income by 2022 increasing investments in agricultural R&D and rolling out efficient institutional reforms are vital to tackle the emerging challenges in agriculture, including food and nutrition security both at national and regional levels.

 

 

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Reprieve for HUL as Delhi High Court stays Rs. 462-cr demand by anti-profiteering body

The Delhi High Court has stayed the demand of ₹462 crore, made on Hindustan Unilever (HUL) by the National Anti-profiteering Authority (NAA).

The High Court has, however, asked HUL to deposit ₹90 crore in two installments (₹50 crore by March 15 and ₹40 crore by May 15) in the Consumer Welfare Fund by May 15.

The NAA had held HUL guilty of profiteering, for failing to pass on the benefit of lowered Goods and Services Tax on certain FMCG products. The core of the issue is the reduction of GST on 178 items to 18 percent from 28 percent, which came into effect from November 15, 2017. The reduction covered items such as detergents, washing and cleaning preparations, liquids and creams for washing the skin, shampoos, shaving cream, and beauty or make-up preparations.

Soon after the order, an anonymous complaint was filed before the Director-General, Anti-Profiteering, alleging that the FMCG major had not passed on the benefit of lower taxes to its customers.

After a probe, the authority held that the company profiteered to the extent of ₹455.92 crore by not passing on the benefit to its customers. It was also held guilty of wrongly availing itself of the benefit of TRAN-2 credit (credit on tax paid under the pre-GST regime) to the tune of ₹78.97 crore. The total profit arising out of the alleged infractions was calculated to be ₹534.89 crore.

However, the authority allowed the company’s claim of ₹68.77 crore, which the latter said was the value of benefit passed on to the consumers by way of higher grammage. It also allowed ₹3.80 crore for the supplies made to the armed forces. Adjusting for these amounts and the amount already paid, the company will have to deposit ₹383.25 crore with the Consumer Welfare Funds at Central and States levels.

HUL, on the other hand, maintained that in the absence of set rules and guidelines on profiteering, it has gone by the spirit of the law, and passed on the entire benefit received under GST to consumers — either through the reduction in prices or through an increase in grammage. In addition, HUL suo moto offered to pay to the Government the benefits which accrued to the company but could not be passed on to the consumers. This amount aggregating to ₹160 crore (including ₹36 crore on behalf of redistribution stockists), has since been deposited with the Consumer Welfare Fund.

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PM to release a Commemorative Coin to mark the birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh ji

Prime Minister Narendra Modi released a commemorative coin on Guru Gobind Singh Ji, on January 13, 2019, at 7 Lok Kalyan Marg, New Delhi. The event marks the birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. The Prime Minister will also address a select gathering on this occasion.

The Tenth Guru of Sikhs- Guru Gobind Singh has been a source of inspiration for many through his teachings and ideals. Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended 350th birth anniversary celebrations of Shri Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj in Patna on January 5, 2017. He released a commemorative postage stamp to mark the occasion. In his address, the Prime Minister underlined how Guru Gobind Singh made a unique attempt to unite the country through the Khalsa sect and the five PanchPyaras belonged to different parts of India. He said that Guru Gobind Singh Ji put knowledge at the core of his teaching.

Recalling Guru Gobind Singh’s fight for the weaker sections, the Prime Minister in his Mann Ki Baat radio program broadcast on 30th December 2018 said that Guru Gobind Singh ji believed that the biggest service is to alleviate human sufferings. He lauded Guru Gobind Singh Ji for his heroism, sacrifice, and devotion.

At the Ludhiana National MSME Awards ceremony on 18h October 2016, the Prime Minister recalled how Guru Gobind Singh’s message that people should consider entire mankind as one- no one is superior or inferior, no one is touchable or untouchable is still relevant. In his Independence Day Address on 15th August 2016, Prime Minister once again brought to the fore the saga of sacrifice for the country which has been the tradition of Sikh Gurus.

Death of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru.

On 7 October 1708, Guru Gobind Singh died of wounds inflicted when he was stabbed by an assassin. He was the last Sikh Guru.

Born Gobind Rai, Guru Gobind Singh was installed as the Sikh Guru aged nine when his father and the ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded on the orders of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb for refusing to embrace Islam.

His notable contribution to Sikhism is the establishment of the Khalsa in 1699.

The only son of Guru Tegh Bahadur, Guru Gobind Singh was born in Patna in December 1666.

He was educated in reading, writing, and also martial arts, archery, and horse riding.

Not only was he a brave warrior, but he was also a great poet and philosopher.

His literary contributions include the Jaap Sahib, Benti Chaupai, Amrit Savaiye, etc.

He took part in many battles, particularly against the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb.

In the Battle of Anandpur (1704), the Guru lost his mother and two minor sons who were executed. His eldest sons also died in battle.

The Khalsa: Guru Gobind Singh’s most significant contribution was the institutionalising of the Khalsa, which was basically a warrior community. An initiation ceremony called Amrit Pehul was created and rules were formulated for the Khalsas. A male Khalsa was given the title ‘Singh’ and a female was given the title ‘Kaur’. This code solidified the martial spirit of the Sikh community.

Guru Gobind Singh started the tradition of the Five K’s for the Khalsa. The Five K’s are kesh (uncut hair), kanga (wooden comb), kara (iron or steel bracelet), kirpan (dagger) and kacchera (short breeches). These were the five articles of faith that a khalsa must always adorn. The tradition is still followed.

The Guru also laid down many other rules for the khalsa warriors to follow like abstaining from tobacco, alcohol, halal meat, etc. The khalsa warrior was also duty-bound to protect innocent people from persecution. Everyone was treated equally and caste was abolished.

The Khalsa tradition was responsible for converting the Sikhs into a strong and disciplined fighting group. This also paved the way for the establishment of the Sikh Empire under Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1799.

Another significant contribution of Guru Gobind Singh was the enshrining the Sikh scripture Granth Sahib as the eternal Guru of Sikhism. Thus, after his death, there were no more Gurus in human form.

Guru Gobind Singh also wrote the Zafarnama which was a letter to the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb is believed to have agreed to a meeting with the Guru but died before that.

The Guru along with his troops was stationed in the Deccan when two Afghan assassins commissioned by Wazir Khan gained access to the camp. One of the assassins stabbed the Guru at Nanded. The assassin was killed by the Guru while his accomplice was killed by Sikh guards. Guru Gobind Singh died of wounds a few days later on 7 October 1708 aged 42.

After the Guru’s death, there ensued a long and bitter war between the Sikhs and the Mughals.

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AMRUT Scheme : Only 20% of Projects completed

The Central Government’s Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), launched for developing urban infrastructure.

The project has completed just 20 per cent of the total projects utilising 3 per cent of the total funds approved.

Tamil Nadu is the only State that has completed more than 300 projects.

West Bengal is No 2 in the list with 194 projects completed. Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala are the States that have completed more than 50 projects.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs informed the Lok Sabha this week that under AMRUT, detailed project reports (DPRs) have been approved for 5,421 projects worth ₹78,856 crore.

So far, 1,099 projects (20 per cent of DPR approved projects) have been completed, utilising just ₹2,626 crore (3 per cent of the amount).

Work in progress

Contracts have been awarded for 3,222 projects (59 per cent of total approved projects) at a cost of ₹53,319 crore and work is ‘under progress’, according to the Ministry.

The government launched AMRUT in 2015 in 500 mission cities with a focus on water supply, sewerage and septage management, stormwater drainage, non-motorised urban transport and development of green space and parks.

The mission period is up to March 2020. The total mission outlay is ₹1 lakh crore, including Central assistance of ₹50,000 crore.

Projects under AMRUT are selected, appraised, approved and implemented by States/Union Territories. The Centre only approves the State Annual Action Plans (SAAPs) submitted by States/UTs and releases assistance as per mission guidelines.

The Ministry has approved all the SAAPs for all States/UTs for the entire mission period for ₹77,640 crore, including Central assistance of ₹35,990 crore.

Under the approved SAAPs, ₹39,011 crore is allocated for water supply projects, ₹32,455 crore for sewerage and septage management projects, ₹2,969 crore for stormwater drainage, ₹1,436 crore for non-motorised urban transport and ₹1,769 crore for parks/green spaces in 500 cities.

AMRUT Scheme

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the AMRUT scheme in June 2015. The scheme’s focus is on urban renewal projects that would establish infrastructure which facilitates sufficient and efficient sewerage networks and water supply. This is to enable an urban transformation. The first state in India to submit the State Annual Action Plan under this scheme was Rajasthan. The scheme’s launch also saw the launch of the Housing for All by 2022 as part of the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT). The scheme operates on a PPP model (Public Private Partnership).

Under this scheme, five states were shortlisted for implementation. They are Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Kerala, Telangana, and West Bengal. The initial funds were earmarked for use in enhancing water supply, sewerage network and availability of public spaces. A total of 102 cities were shortlisted from the five selected states.

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RBI tweaks Gold Monetisation Scheme to onboard more institutions

The country’s central bank has tweaked changes with the Gold Monetisation Scheme (GMS). The modifications now allow charitable institutions, central government and other entities to deposit under GMS. “Persons eligible to make a deposit – Resident Indians [Individuals, HUFs, Proprietorship & Partnership firms, Trusts including Mutual Funds/Exchange Traded Funds registered under SEBI (Mutual Fund) Regulations, Companies, charitable institutions, Central Government, State Government or any other entity owned by Central Government or State Government] can make deposits under the scheme,” read the Reserve Bank’s notification.

Gold has always been a medium of investment and savings in our country. But gold was part of personal savings and did not play role in the development process of the country. Gold imports come at the second number after crude oil in balance sheets of India, so it is one of the major causes for large Current Account Deficit (CAD) in our country. In the last financial year, India spent almost 1.7% of its GDP on gold imports of approximately 1000 tonnes. Getting out 20000 tonnes stock of gold from within four walls of households and from several walls of temples is the need of the hour to reduce dependence on imports and saving foreign exchange.

Hence government has launched Gold Monetization Scheme to make gold not only part of household savings and security but give earnings to individual and become a part of nation-building.

Gold Monetization Scheme (GMS) will replace the Gold Deposit Scheme, 1999 but deposit outstanding under gold deposit scheme will be allowed to run till the maturity.

Major Features of GMS     

The minimum limit to deposit gold in the bank is set at 30 grams to attract gold deposit even from households which were 500 grams in the previous scheme.

To avail benefits first, a person has to verify gold purity at Collection & Purity Testing Centers (CPTC) certified by Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) which will determine the value of gold and interest to be gained in a particular time period.

The individuals or trust or companies have to open a gold deposit account with banks to deposit the gold and earn interest on them. The Interest shall be payable in form of gold or money as opted by the depositor at time of opening the account.

The interest earnings are exempted from capital gains tax, wealth tax, and income tax to attract the depositors.

The minimum tenure is one year to get benefits of the scheme and bank will design short term (1-3 years), Medium (5-7 years) and long term (12-15 years) gold deposit schemes.

The banks may sell or lend gold accepted under GMS to Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation of India (MMTC) to issue gold coins and to jewelers or further sell it to other banks that are engaged in GMS.

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Modi Government Launches National Clean Air Programme With Focus on 102 Cities

The Narendra Modi government has launched a five-year action plan to tackle pollution across the country. According to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) will tackle “one of the biggest global environmental challenges” in a time-bound manner.

“Overall objective of the NCAP is comprehensive mitigation actions for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution besides augmenting the air quality monitoring network across the country and strengthening the awareness and capacity building activities,”

Based on safe PM2.5 and PM10 levels as set out by national and international studies, the NCAP will attempt to reduce these levels in the country by 20-30%.

The plan is focusing on 102 “non-attainment” cities in India, including 42 cities that come under the Smart Cities programme. These 102 cities were identified by the Central Pollution Control Board based on their air pollution levels between 2011 and 2015, as they consistently showed pollution levels below the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

The government will also increase the number of air quality monitoring centers across the country, according to the plan.

The draft NCAP was released in April 2018. At the time, it was criticized for not laying down any tangible goals. Through the year, experts argued that the plan document was being diluted further.

Air pollution in India is now widely discussed, usually with reference to the capital city, New Delhi. However, as The Wire has reported earlier, the problem is far more widespread. According to a report released by the World Health Organisation in May 2018, in the list of the 15 most polluted cities in the world, 14 are in India.

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PM Modi Launches Gangajal Project for Better and Assured Water Supply in Agra

Giving a major push to develop and enhance Tourism infrastructure in Agra, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi launched a series of development projects worth Rs. 2900 Crores for the Agra city and the adjoining areas.

About Gangajal Project:

It aims to bring 140 cusecs of Ganga Water to Agra which will help meet the drinking water demands in the city.

It will provide Agra with better and more assured water supply, at an estimated cost of Rs. 2880 crores.

The project was launched in 2005 in collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency and was scheduled to be completed by March 2012 but the project has missed several deadlines.

Under the Gangajal project, Agra will get 140 cusec water supply per day from Palra headworks in Bulandshahr’s Upper Ganga canal.

 

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Sikkim To Become First State To Roll Out Universal Basic Income? Ruling SDF Promises Implementation By 2022

The Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), the ruling party of the state, has declared that it would include the Universal Basic Income (UBI) scheme in its manifesto ahead of the Assembly election in 2019 with an aim to implement it by 2022, reports India Today.

According to the report, if everything goes according to the plan, Sikkim will be the first state to implement UBI in India.

UBI is a model for providing all citizens of a country or other geographic area with a given sum of money, regardless of their income, resources or employment status. The main idea behind UBI is to prevent or reduce poverty and increase equality among citizens.

Sikkim has set up examples in the country in different areas in the past also, some of them being:

Sikkim is the best state for women in the workplace, thanks to its high rates of female workforce participation, there’s less crime against women.

Sikkim’s literacy rate increased to 82.2% from 68.8% in 2001, among the country’s highest.

Sikkim is the least populated state in India, has its per capita GDP growth in double digits since 2004-05.

Sikkim also decreased its poverty ratio by 22% to 51,000 (8.2%) in 2011-12 from 1.7 lakh (30.9%) in 2004-05.

Sikkim also became the first fully organic state.

What is Universal Basic Income?

Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a programme for providing all citizens of a country or other geographic area/state with a given sum of money, regardless of their income, resources or employment status.

The main idea behind UBI is to prevent or reduce poverty and increase equality among citizens. The essential principle behind Universal basic income is the idea that all citizens are entitled to a livable income, irrespective of the circumstances they’re born in.

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Job Fairs

The Ministry is implementing the National Career Service (NCS) Project to provide a variety of employment-related services like job matching, career counseling, vocational guidance, information on skill development courses, etc.  The project includes the establishment of Model Career Centers by the State Government/Institutions of repute to provide a variety of employment-related services using technology.

Highlights of NCS Project:

It includes the establishment of Model Career Centers by the State Government/Institutions of repute to provide a variety of employment-related services using technology.

The NCS project has also been enhanced to interlink the Employment Exchanges with NCS portal and organizing job fairs.

Employment Exchanges/Model Career Centers – functions under the administrative control of the State Governments/Institutions and they are organizing job fairs locally for the benefit of the job seekers from time to time.

A National ICT based portal is developed primarily to connect the opportunities with the aspirations of youth. The portal facilitates registration of job seekers, job providers, skill providers, career counselors, etc.

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Transport Subsidy Scheme

In order to facilitate the process of industrialization in hilly, remote and inaccessible areas, transport incentive is provided to the states of North Eastern Region (including Sikkim) under North Eastern Industrial Development Scheme (NEIDS) – 2017, Jammu & Kashmir under Industrial Development Scheme – 2017 and Lakshadweep and A&N Islands under Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar Island Development Scheme – 2018. Under these schemes, all eligible industrial units can avail incentive on transportation of only finished goods through Railways or the Railway Public Sector Undertakings, Inland Waterways or scheduled airline (shipping for Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands also) for a period of five years from the date of commencement of commercial production/operation.

Industrial Units can avail Incentives:

Under the above-mentioned schemes, all eligible industrial units can avail incentive on transportation of only finished goods through Railways or the Railway Public Sector Undertakings, Inland Waterways or scheduled airline (shipping for Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands also) for five years from the date of commencement of commercial production/operation.

Freight Subsidy Scheme (FSS):

  • The FSS (2013) replaced the Transport Subsidy Scheme, 1971.
  • It was in operation in all 8 North Eastern States, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, J&K, Darjeeling District of West Bengal, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep islands.
  • The FSS has been discontinued since 22.11.2016. But, the industrial units under these schemes during their currency are eligible for the benefits of the scheme.
  • While the inland transport incentive is available for certain landlocked states, there is no proposal to provide the same to the state of Chhattisgarh.

About Transport Subsidy Scheme –

The government of India had introduced Transport Subsidy Scheme (TSS) on 23.7.1971 to develop industrialization in the remote, hilly and inaccessible areas.

Scheme Objectives:

The objective is to develop industrialization in the remote, hilly and inaccessible areas in 8 North Eastern Region.

Implementing Agency:

DIPP (Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion) is the implementing agency of TSS/FSS.

Monitoring and Review Mechanism:

  • In order to check any misuse, Directorates of Industries in each beneficiary State/UT are required to:
  • Carry out periodical checks to ensure that the raw materials/finished goods for which transport subsidy is given in actually used for the intended purpose,
  • To draw up procedures and arrangements for scrutinizing the claims and for promoting payment of the claims,
  • To lay down a system of pre-registration and to fix and indicate the capacity of the units during registration,
  • To lay down the procedure to ensure regular inflow of information regarding the movement of raw material and finished goods,
  • To lay down that statistics of production and utilization or raw material should be maintained and kept open for inspection.
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