Financial Express

  • Governance reform key to NREGA success

    The same implementation structure that has failed rural development over decades cannot be deployed for the radically new programme promised by NREGA.

  • Tata Chemicals to foray into ethanol

    Tata Chemicals, India's leading manufacturer of inorganic chemicals, has firmed up an investment of Rs 750 crore in next three to four years to pursue its foray into ethanol.

  • Going local is flavour of the season for fast food giants

    Localisation seems to be the flavour of the season for fast food retail giants in India.

  • Maharashtra attracts big funds with mega project policy

    Maharashtra governor SC Jamir on Monday asserted that despite suicides by farmers and burgeoning power deficit, the state continues to attract investments of Rs 1,14,000 crore by steamlining the proce

  • Inflation globalised

    The provisional Wholesale Price Index numbers for the week ending February 23 exceeded 5%, confirming what millions of households across India already knew

  • Polio eradication

    The first reported case of a deadly polio strain in a girl from a Delhi slum underscores how the challenge of health has become similar to a war in more ways than one. The public policy response needed is much more complex than that to the danger posed by an outbreak of bird flu in the country's poultry population. The polio problem requires an ongoing effort that cannot be divorced from the state of health delivery in the country. The virus has escaped eradication in those states which have some of the worst health indicators, rickety delivery systems and huge numbers of the desperately poor who form the bulk of the country's job migrants. It is hard for the health administration to track a poor and mobile population with a high likelihood of being carriers of communicable diseases like polio. Until now, the government machinery in the states or at the Centre has shown precious little awareness of this facet of the problem. True, the Union Budget for 2008-09 has allocated as much as Rs 1,042 crore to the cause of polio eradication. The finance ministry has not been stingy. Saving the tiger has got only a fraction of that sum. But will the money be used effectively? The polio problem offers a striking parallel with the Naxalite menace in large parts of India. Just as the police posts charged with the task of law-and-order across hundreds of sq km of Indian forests have little idea where the next militia attack will come from, the country's sad-looking primary medical centres have very little knowledge of how polio is spreading among population groups in geographical areas left unmonitored. It is a very large country. Despite heavier spending and more national taskforces, efforts to tackle polio would have limited success unless the entire health delivery system is padded up in the country, just as policing methods have been spruced up for new challenges. The difficulty here is not the funds, but the lack of any clear political dividend from the adoption of such steps. More jobs mean more votes, but what about better health? Also, health problems require active cooperation from the afflicted population groups, and thus outreach plans and persuasion methods are important. So long as nobody seems to have a direct stake in the success of these efforts, their quality will remain indifferent.

  • Budget to prop up agriculture sector

    The performance of agriculture sector during the year 2007-08, despite its record production of food grains, is still a cause for concern due its low rate of growth (2.6%) affecting the well being of farmers in various parts of the country. This calls for bold measures for bringing about a turn around of the agriculture sector and the announcements made by the finance minister are a pointer to such measures. The loan waiver for marginal and small farmers and the one-time settlement (OTS) of loans for other farmers and their entitlement for fresh loans with a target of Rs 2,80,000 crore during 2008-09 is expected to take care of the issues relating to the accessibility of credit from institutional sources and reduce the dependence of the resource poor farmers on money lender. The implementation of the Vaidyanathan Committee recommendations for revitalising the long-term co-operative credit structure ensures availability of increased credit for private investments in agriculture by farmers. The contribution of Rs 5,000 crore to the NRC(ST) Funds of Nabard helps in ensuring that the demands of the farmers for their production needs are met. Financial inclusion of the disadvantaged sections is facilitated through opening of additional bank branches in districts with predominant minority population, enhancing the income limits to Rs 18,000 in rural areas under the DRI scheme and access to Janashree insurance product of LIC for all women SHGs credit linked to banks. The increase in the corpus of RIDF by Rs 2,000 crore, coupled with the increased allocation under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme, the Rainfed Area Development rainfed farming and the setting up of the Irrigation and Water Resources Finance Corporation will facilitate in bringing more area under irrigation as well as in conserving land and water resources, critical to the performance of the sector. These investments will also help in stepping up investments in the private sector also. Various other measures announced for improving the performance of the sector include stepping up funds under the National Horticulture Mission, creation of special funds for plantation crops like cardamom, coffee and rubber, introduction of insurance scheme for select plantation and horticulture crops, etc. The overall thrust in the Budget is not only in boosting the performance of the agriculture sector but in ensuring that there is overall rural development through providing infrastructure- both physical and social, social security, human resource capacity development, off-season employment under NREGA, etc. These should help in achieving the goals of full employment, abolition of poverty and elimination of inequality in the medium term. The writer is Nabard chairman

  • Panel formed to woo investment into fertiliser sector

    A group of ministers (GoM) headed by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has formed a committee to look into issues involved in the formulation of a new policy to attract investments into the fertiliser sector. The new panel, comprising secretaries of expenditure, fertilisers and agriculture & cooperation, will be headed by Planning Commission member (agriculture) Abhijit Sen. It is expected to submit its recommendations to the GoM within the next two months. Government sources told FE, "The committee's formation has taken place at a time when the finance ministry has rejected the demand by the department of fertilisers (DoF) for an exemption on customs duty on imported goods, and an exemption on excise duty for greenfield/ brown field/ expansion/ revamp projects. The committee's formation is also important in view of the fact that the fertiliser sector has not attracted any major investment for about a decade, while other industrial sectors are flooded with funds, including FDI. Recent policies with excessive regulations and controls have stifled the industry.' Industry sources emphasised the need for a new investment policy, as it has been sandwitched between rising prices of inputs and relatively insignificant increases in minimum retail prices of fertilisers. The industry has observed that a rise in subsidy, which is estimated to be a record Rs 70,000 crore for 2008-09, is not due to inefficiency but short-term government policies. The industry has sought sops for hassle-free investments in the sector. According to sources, the industry must be allowed to recover its cost with reasonable margins. Sources said the new investment policy should be a part of the overall economic policy, particularly agriculture policy, and it should not be finalised in isolation. Sources said the new policy to attract investment was the need of the hour, as by the end of the 11th Plan, the gap between consumption and domestic production will widen to 16 million tones, excluding an import requirement of raw materials and intermediates.

  • Climate change to adversely impact global fish production

    Climate change could adversely impact the fish production globally, a latest report by United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP) said. The report tilted

  • China's Xinxing Group in JV to set up steel plant in K'taka

    Chinese conglomerate Xinxing Group, along with its partners, will invest Rs 8,735 crore to set up a pellet and steel manufacturing facilities in Karnataka in two phases. The $11 billion group along with Chinese and Indian partners has forged a joint venture, XINDIA Steels Ltd, to set up a steel plant in Koppal district of Karnataka. In the first phase, XINDIA Steels will invest Rs 400 crore to set up a 2 million tonne per annum (MTPA) iron ore pellet plant in 300 acres. XINDIA has acquired a steel manufacturing company, Humpi Steels, where it will set up the plant. XINDIA is a joint venture among Xinxing Group, China Minmetals Corporation, Manasara Investments, Kelachandra Group and Sigma Minmet Ltd with Chinese firms

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