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Budget 2018: States may get more say in farm pricing

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Mumbai : The Union Budget for 2018-19 is likely to emphasise quickening the market intervention scheme to give states more freedom to stabilise prices of agricultural commodities at the time of slump.

Besides, the Budget may focus on market linkages for farm products and strengthen the livelihood mission to address rural distress in the wake of electoral wounds suffered by the Bharatiya Janata Party in rural Gujarat, particularly Saurashtra.

As the prices of crops such as chana, tur, and oilseeds decline below the minimum support price, the Budget may directly allocate funds to states to intervene to stabilise prices through a programme.

 

This would help states to address fast the issue of distress sales by farmers.

The programme, the contours of which are being worked out, could be in addition to existing initiatives such as the Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) for horticulture and agriculture crops, the Price Support Scheme (PSS) for oilseeds and pulses, and also the Price Stabilisation Fund (PSF), or a replacement of any of these.

Currently, in many of these schemes, states have to depend on the Centre for approval because a portion of the funds is borne by the Union government.

This, officials say, delays procurement and storage and also prevents an efficient distribution of procured items.
The Budget is also likely to focus on market linkage schemes to improve the infrastructure and give a big thrust to procurement by Farmer Producer Companies (FPOs), according to senior officials.

Farm credit is also likely to be strengthened with not only the target for farm loans going up from the budgeted Rs 10,00,000 crore in 2017-18, but the interest subvention on timely repayment of short-term credit could also be increased to ensure cheap advances to farmers.

For rural development, the mid-term expenditure framework (MTEF) pegged the outlay at Rs 1,12,000 crore in 2018-19 compared to Rs 1,05,000 crore budgeted for the current financial year.

Officials said the outlay in the Budget, according to preliminary discussions, could be substantially more than the amount estimated by the MTEF.

The MTEF pegged the allocation for 2018-19 at around seven per cent more than the budgetary estimate (BE) of 2017-18.

For the flagship, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the Budget could allocate more than Rs 60,000 crore, almost Rs 12,000 crore more than the BE of 2017-18.

The expenditure on the programme after the supplementary demand for grants (passed by the Lok Sabha) will exceed Rs 53,000 crore in 2017-18 itself.

That apart, the Budget is expected to increase the allocation for the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) from the existing Rs 9,500 crore because the Centre is planning to raise its share of pension distributed to old citizens and widows from the existing Rs 200 and Rs 300, respectively.

States top up this amount with their share in the NSAP.

Officials said apart from the allocation increase, a big thrust of this Budget could be on creating livelihood through the Mission Antodaya initiative, which was announced in the previous Budget.

Under the Mission Antodaya around 50,000 gram panchayats are targeted to be made poverty-free in three years.

“The ranking of all the gram panchayats has been done and in the next stage we are arranging for the linkages with institutions and bodies, based on their deprivations,” a senior official remarked.

The budgetary allocation under the Livelihood Mission could also be enhanced significantly because it translates into increased access to bank credit for self-help groups (SHGs).

The number of FPOs could also be increased to 2,000-2,500 which would also provide them better access to markets.


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After demonetisation, 50 lakh lost jobs over 2 years: report

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Mumbai: As per a report released by the Centre for Sustainable Employment, Azim Premji University, almost 50 lakh people lost their employment between 2018 and 2019 after November 8, 2016, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes would not be considered as legal tender.

As per the report, the beginning of the decline in employment rate coincides with the government’s note ban in 2016 but no “causal link” can be built up based on the information, says the report titled ‘State of Working India 2019’.

The employment losses are higher when women are taken under consideration. The women workforce participation has also lowered, the report said.

 

According to the report, “Whether or not this decline was caused by demonetisation, it is definitely a cause for concern and calls for urgent policy intervention,”

A government report which was leaked in January this year also recorded that the unemployment rate in India rose to a 45-year high in 2017-2018.

The overall unemployment rate was pegged at around 6 per cent in 2017-2018, according to the National Sample Survey Office’s (NSSO) Periodic Labour Force Survey, held between 2017 and 2018.

But NITI Aayog vice chairman Rajiv Kumar said the report was “not verified” and the “veracity of the data was not known”.

The report said unemployment has largely been driven by higher-educated men in both urban and rural areas, those in the age group of 20 to 24.

“Clearly, there is a large differential impact by level of education. This is consistent with the idea that the informal sector, where we can expect the share of less educated men to be higher, was hit hardest by demonetisation as well as the introduction of GST,” the report noted.

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Mallya laments ‘airline karma’ in message for cash-strapped Jet Airways

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London: Embattled liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya on Wednesday took to social media once again, this time to express his solidarity with Jet Airways founder Naresh Goyal and repeat his own offer to repay all the money he owes to India’s public sector banks.

The 63-year-old, fighting his extradition to India on charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to an alleged Rs 9,000 crores, claims private airlines were discriminated against by the Indian government, which bailed out state-owned Air India but did not assist his own Kingfisher Airlines and now Jet Airways.

“Even though Jet was a major competitor to Kingfisher at the time I feel sorry to see such a large private airline on the brink of failure when government used 35K crores (Rs 35,000 crores) of public funds to bail out Air India. Just being a PSU is no excuse for discrimination,” Mallya wrote on Twitter. He added: “I invested hugely into Kingfisher which rapidly grew to become India’s largest and most awarded airline. True, Kingfisher borrowed from PSU Banks as well. I have offered to pay back 100 per cent but am being criminally charged instead. Airline Karma?”

 

The former Kingfisher Airlines boss took yet another swipe at the media as well, claiming every offer he makes to pay back funds owed by his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines to PSU banks resulted in reports that claim he is “spooked, terrified etc” of being extradited from the UK back to India. “I am willing to pay either way whether I am in London or in an Indian Jail. Why don’t Banks take the money I offered first,” he questioned.

On a more personal note directed at Jet Airways founder Goyal and his wife Neeta, the UB Group chief expressed his sympathy for the troubles being faced by the cash-strapped private airline, which has been forced to cancel a string of flights amid a mounting crisis. “Even though we were fierce competitors, my sympathies go out to Naresh and Neeta Goyal who built Jet Airways that India should be extremely proud of. Fine Airline providing vital connectivity and class service. Sad that so many Airlines have bitten the dust in India. Why,” Mallya questioned.

Mallya remains on bail as he awaits an oral hearing to be listed by the UK High Court for his appeal against his extradition ordered by Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London last December and then signed off by UK home secretary Sajid Javid in February. A first level of that written appeal has already been rejected by the High Court, where it will now be considered during a brief hearing to determine any grounds to grant permission for Mallya’s appeal to proceed to appeal substantive hearing.

The businessman faces a series of unrelated legal battles in the UK courts, including a USD 40-million claim brought by drinks giant Diageo and an attempt by Swiss bank UBS to repossess his posh London home overlooking Regent’s Park. Meanwhile, a State Bank of India (SBI) led consortium of 13 Indian banks continue their attempt to enforce a worldwide freezing order upheld by the UK High Court in May last year through a number of follow up court orders to try and recoup some of the GBP 1.145 billion owed to them.

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BMW to recall 360,000 China cars over Takata airbags

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Shanghai: Germany’s BMW will recall 360,000 vehicles in China as part of the worldwide effort to root out defective airbags made by now-defunct Japanese supplier Takata, regulators in Beijing said.

Around 20 people have died in accidents linked to defects in Takata airbags since 2013, prompting a massive worldwide recall of at least 100 million cars from a wide range of manufacturers.

The recall will affect nearly 273,000 models built by BMW’s joint venture with Chinese manufacturer Brilliance Automotive and more than 87,000 imported BMW cars, China’s State Administration for Market Regulation said.

 

The agency said in statement posted on its website late on Tuesday that a defect could cause the airbags to eject debris at passengers if deployed. It did not mention any specific incidents caused by the BMW-installed airbags.

The China recall affects more than two dozen different BMW models built between 2000 and 2018, including several each in the i, X and M series, along with other models.

The suspect parts will be replaced for free, the notice said. Founded in 1933, Takata went out of business in 2017 because of the airbag crisis.

The BMW announcement came as global carmakers were gathered for the Shanghai Auto Show amid a rare sales slump in the world’s largest vehicle market.

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