• Farmer delegations meet Sonia Gandhi

    Seeking relief: UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi listens to the grievances of farmers from Haryana, Rajasthan and Maharashtra at her residence in New Delhi on Thursday. Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday assured delegations of farmers from Haryana, Rajasthan and Maharashtra that she would convey their budgetary demands to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram. The delegations sought waiver of farmers' debts, reduction in interest rates on loans, remunerative prices for farm produce, health insurance for farm families and crop insurance. They highlighted the high costs of inputs, crop losses on account of calamities (Rajasthan delegation spoke about the heavy damage to mustard crop from frost), lack of adequate power and poor quality of seeds. Among those who formed part of the delegations were S.S. Surjewala, Ashok Gehlot and Mukul Wasnik. On Friday, farmers' representatives have convened an emergency meeting of the National Council of the organisation of farmers and farm labour to discuss the financial and social problems of farmers. They will finalise a charter of demands to be sent to the Prime Minister.

  • BoA clears 14 new SEZs

    The Board of Approval (BoA) of the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) on Monday cleared 14 new proposals, including ten formal approvals. While two SEZs each have been cleared in Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan, one each will come up in Maharashtra, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. The BoA granted formal approvals to two SEZs of the State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu Ltd. (SIPCOT), one for transport engineering goods at Tirunelveli and another of automobile and auto ancillary at Thiruvannamalai. Similarly, two SEZs of Mahindra Worldcity (Jaipur) Ltd. of handicrafts and light engineering at Jaipur were given formal approvals. Other SEZs cleared include an information technology SEZ by Videocon Realtors and Infrastructure Ltd. at Jalpaiguri in West Bengal, IT SEZ by Devbhumi Realtors Pvt. Ltd. at Ranga Reddy District in Andhra Pradesh, pharmaceuticals SEZ by JB SEZ Pvt. Ltd. at Panoli in Gujarat and Power SEZ by Wardha Power Company at Chandrapur in Maharashtra. According to Commerce Secretary G. K. Pillai, who also heads the Board of Approval, so far formal approvals have been granted for setting up of 439 SEZs out of which 201 have been notified as on date. The Commerce Secretary said that over Rs. 67,347 crore had been invested in these notified SEZs, giving direct employment to 97,478 persons, which is in addition to the employment provided to 1.83 lakh persons by the seven Central Government established SEZs.

  • Plots for 51 Haryana units

    A high-level allotment committee of the Haryana Government on Wednesday cleared allotment of industrial plots to 51 units in various industrial estates developed by The Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation. The committee is headed by P.K. Chaudhery, Principal Secretary and Financial Commissioner for Industries and Commerce. Mr. Chaudhery said that these projects when implemented would catalyse an investment of Rs.2,300 crore besides providing direct employment to more than 5,000 people. These plots have been allotted in Growth Centre Bawal Phase II and industrial estates at Barhi and Saha in Sonepat district and Ambala respectively. HSIIDC Managing Director Rajeev Arora disclosed that the allotments had been made in diverse fields .

  • Outgoing chief secy to head eco authority

    Haryana's outgoing chief secretary Promilla Issar will shortly be appointed chairman of the recently constituted Haryana Environmental Impact Assessment Authority after she retires on Feb 29. The authority, constituted by the central government in consultation with the state government, will give clearance to construction projects on the basis of their processes and pollution levels up to a certain level. The clearance for highly polluting units and projects, however, still continues to be with the Government of India. This authority is different from the Pollution Control Board which checks projects only for pollution levels. The job of the authority is to study the impact of any project on the surroundings and suggest a pollution management plan for least impact on the environment. Though the notification of the constitution of the authority was made in 2006, a number of states are still in the process of constituting these as per the directions of the ministry of forests and environment while the authorities in other states like Punjab have already begun work. Meanwhile, addressing her last press conference as chief secretary, Issar said she was looking forward to writing on social issues post-retirement and had a "satisfying stint' as the CS where she had the opportunity to be instrumental in getting a number of projects, pending at the level of the Government of India, cleared for various departments. Speaking to mediapersons, she said Haryana had also raced ahead of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh in the preparation of Commonwealth Games scheduled in 2010. The preparations were on the right track for making availability of 10,000 rooms during this prestigious international event. To a question, she said if "accommodating' a retired bureaucrat was possible for the government, it could not be wrong though she chose to keep mum on the new assignment that awaited her on retirement. Maintaining that she was never subjected to any pressure to do what she did not want to do, Issar added that whatever happened to an individual at his workplace had a lot to do with the person's attitude.

  • Eight lakh farmers to benefit in Haryana

    A historic Budget for the

  • World Bank aid for Haryana forests

    The Haryana Minister for Forests, Tourism and Environment, Kiran Choudhry, said on Saturday that the World Bank and the Japan Bank of International Cooperation would provide financial assistance to Haryana worth about Rs.380 crore for different forest-related projects. Addressing a press conference here, Ms. Choudhry said a World Bank team would visit the State on March 10 for finalisation of a grant of Rs.230 crore. Team coming And a team of the Japan Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC) would be visiting Haryana shortly for a re-appraisal of the ongoing projects of forestation and poverty alleviation in 800 villages. She expressed hope that a grant of Rs.150 crore would be forthcoming from the Bank. About 500 officials of the Haryana Forests Department would be able to continue their jobs after this re-appraisal, she added. She disclosed that she had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh requesting him to notify the natural and reserved forest areas of the State as eco-zones.

  • Haryana spends 175 cr. on BPL families

    6,630 houses constructed for homeless families The Haryana Rural Development Department has spent Rs.175.14 crore so far for the welfare of Below Poverty line (BPL) families and creation of community assets and infrastructure in the villages, Financial Commissioner and Principal Secretary (Rural Development) Urvashi Gulati said on Saturday. In a video-conference with the Additional Deputy Commissioners of the districts, she directed them to ensure full use of the funds and to achieve the set targets. She disclosed that 6,630 houses had been constructed for homeless families while 801 houses were under construction under the Indira Awaas Yojna. Income generating assets had been provided to 9,746 BPL families to ensure self-employment. To implement the Haryana Government's decision to provide 100 square yard plots to all eligible families, all the Deputy Commissioners had issued directions to identify the land by this coming March 15 and to invite applications for allotment by March 31. Ms. Gulati said 1,237 development works had been undertaken to achieve soil conservation, land development and plantation under the Watershed Development Programme. Reviewing rural development schemes with the Additional Deputy Commissioners, she advised them to claim additional funds from the Central Government under Central Sector schemes.

  • Waiver not enough

    Raise farm productivity THE Rs 60,000-crore agricultural loan waiver and one-time settlement announced in the budget for 2008-09, welcome as it is, will not be enough to mitigate distress among farmers. According to the C. Rangarajan Committee, only 27 per cent of the farm households take loans from formal sources. Most others borrow from private moneylenders, who charge heavy interest rates and also force the borrowers to sell their crops to or through them at lower-than-market prices. Haryana has passed the Rural Indebtedness Act to check exploitation of small farmers by moneylenders. Punjab only toyed with the idea and then dropped it. Debt is only one part of the problem that has got highlighted due to suicides by farmers. Irrigation is another. There are farmers, particularly in arid and other areas where irrigation facilities are absent or inadequate, who own more than two hectares but are poor because of low productivity or frequent crop failures. They will not benefit from the loan waiver. Though the budget provides more funds for irrigation, it is the states that have to take steps to conserve water resources and meet the irrigation needs of farmers. Farm productivity in India is below global standards. There is need to use biotechnology to improve the quality of seeds as has been done in the case of cotton and strengthen extension services to provide expert advice to farmers on what to grow and how. If farmers are to be rescued from relapsing into a debt trap and agriculture has to be made remunerative, the practice of artificially suppressing farm prices will have to be given up. While the government must ensure payment of the minimum support prices, if global prices are higher the growers must not be denied the added benefit. Last year the government paid much more for imported wheat than what was paid to local farmers. The government burden can be contained if the food, power and fertiliser subsidies are limited to the needy. The M.S. Swaminathan panel has laid the road map for rejuvenating agriculture and this merits closer attention.

  • Osram to distribute cheaper CFLs in three states

    For promoting usage of energy saving compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) in the country, leading lamp manufacturer Osram will distribute more than 2 million CFL units to poor families in Mahrashtra, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh. A unit of CFL will cost around Rs 10- 15 while actual cost of the unit is around Rs 300. Osram has already carried out the ground works for the project, which is expected launched over the next few weeks. "We have signed MoUs with respective state electricity boards and the project would be financed through carbon credit generated through the clean development mechanism (CDM) under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC),' Gagan Mehra, managing director of Osram India told FE. However the company is yet to decide volume of carbon credit needed for the implementation of the project. Osram model for CDM is an arrangement under the Kyoto protocol for reducing CO2 emission in the lighting industry. The company in collaboration with state electricity boards will distribute special CFL bulbs with a longevity of 15 thousands hours amongst the poorer section of the population. "We have identified as present districts such as Visakhapatanam in Andhra Pradesh, Sonepat and Yamuna Nagar in Haryana and Pune in Maharashtra for distribution of CFL units and gradually the programme would include other districts in the state,' Mehra said. Osram would be importing most of the components of the CFLs to be distributed in the three states and it would be assembled at the Sonepat plant of the company. "As the project would be in operation for seven to 10 years in three states, after two years of implementation, we plan to manufacturer the CFLs at our plant,' Mehra said. Mehra admitting that despite the low energy consumption by CFLs, the disposal of these bulbs has been a key issue. "All the manufacturers of CFLs are working out a strategy for proper disposals of these bulbs with the Electricity Lamp and Components Manufacturers Association of India (ELCOMA),' he said.

  • Prime Minister urged to resolve water dispute

    Terming "ridiculous' the assurance of the Delhi Government vis-

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