New Delhi: The central trade unions have refused to call off their countrywide strike on September 2 against labor reforms after a fresh meeting on Thursday with the group of ministers headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley remained inconclusive. All India Trade Union Congress secretary D. L. Sachdev said after the meeting that there was no consensus and “the call for the strike still stands”. “Today’s meeting was inconclusive…We will meet tomorrow (Friday) to decide our future course of action,” Sachdev said.
The central trade unions had given a call of strike on September 2 to press for their demands, including increasing minimum wage to Rs.15,000, trade unions’ representation in the process of labour reforms and equivalent wage to contract workers with their regular counterparts. “We don’t think government has offered us anything on which we can consider to call off our strike,” Sachdev said. Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who is also member of the GoM, however, however, said the talks were “positive” and appealed the unions to call off their strike in the interest of the country. The GoM had a meeting with the representatives of 11 central trade unions on Wednesday to discuss their 12-charter of demands. However, the meeting failed to make any headway. Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh president Baij Nath Rai said the workers would go on the strike until the government agrees on their demands.
New Delhi: The entire Indian agriculture value chain is set to change drastically and food processing is going to be one of the main industries of the country in the future, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Friday.
“The farm to kitchen chain is going to change in India, like elsewhere, with increased agricultural production, better storage facilities, more food processing and changing consumer food preference,” Jaitley said at the inaugural session of the World Food India 2017 here.
“Food processing is going to be one of the principal industries of India in future, and an entrepreneur in 2017 should think of the industry from the perspective of where it will be in 2040, 2050,” he said.
In terms of market size, the Indian food market was worth $193 billion in 2016 and is expected to cross $540 billion in 2020, officials said here. The sector has been growing at the rate of 12 per cent annually.
“There is a silent revolution ongoing in India. There is an expanding middle class and below that there is a growing aspirational class, which is building up reasonable purchasing power,” the Finance Minister said, noting that this provided an enormous potential market for food products in the country.
About the potential, Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said that only about 10 per cent of agricultural produce is processed in the country, leading to a lot of wastage.
The industry enjoys many fiscal incentives, including preferential credit under priority sector lending, she said.
“There is 100 per cent FDI (foreign direct investment) allowed into the sector through the automatic route and we have seen inflows increase 40 per cent over the last year,” she said.
“The proposal for a Food Processing Bank is also under active consideration.”
In the presence of delegates from many countries, the event was inaugurated earlier by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who pointed out that India is the biggest producer of milk in the world and the second in rice, wheat, fish and vegetable output.(IANS)
New Delhi, Oct 9: India is looking to upgrade its relationship with producing countries to a strategic one, instead of mere buyer-seller, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said on Monday.
This was the message of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his three-hour long meeting here with chief executives of top global and Indian companies, including British major BP, Russia’s Rosneft, Saudi Aramco and Reliance Industries, on ways to revive investment in oil and gas exploration and production.
“The Prime Minister laid out to leading companies like BP, Shell, Rosneft, Exxon Mobil as to what should be the energy economy of India,” Pradhan told reporters here on the sidelines of the CERAWEEK India Energy Forum organised by IHS Markit.
“The Prime Minister emphasised the need to move the engagement to a strategic partnership, going beyond the buyer-seller relationship,” he said, adding that “all major producers, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the US, all have recognised the massive scale of India’s energy engagement”.
According to a statement, from the Prime Minister’s Office, Modi said there is a need to develop energy infrastructure and provide access to energy in eastern India as the status of the energy sector in India was highly uneven.
CEOs and top officials from Rosneft, BP, Reliance, Saudi Aramco, Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Vedanta, Wood MacKenzie, IHS Markit, Schlumberger, Halliburton, Xcoal, ONGC, IndianOil, GAIL, Petronet LNG, Oil India, HPCL, Delonex Energy, NIPFP, International Gas Union, World Bank, and International Energy Agency were present at the meeting.
Pradhan, Power Minister R.K. Singh, and senior officials from NITI Aayog and Prime Minister’s Office, as well as the Petroleum and Finance Ministries were also present in the meeting.
Addressing the conference, Pradhan said that with India now being well integrated into the global oil economy, she was naturally impacted by geopolitical developments.
“Recently, when retail fuel prices went up in India, there was a hue and cry in the street,” he said of the time last month when petrol prices in Mumbai went over Rs 79 a litre due to a rise in international rates.
“We therefore need to know and keep abreast of what is happening in the industry worldwide… about OPEC and output cuts, about Russia, shale in the US, trends in LNG market,” he added.
As proof of the upgraded energy relationship with Saudi Arabia, Pradhan noted the opening of Saudi state-run oil giant Aramco’s India office in Gurugram on Sunday that was jointly inaugurated by him and Aramco CEO Amin Nasser.
“Aramco investment in India will increase..they are in talks with possible partners here,” Pradhan said.
Saudi Aramco, which established its business presence in India last year, has formed an Indian subsidiry that will engage in crude oil and LPG marketing, engineering and technical services, and other business development activities.
“Aramco India intends to partner with Indian companies and set up integrated business ventures in the hydrocarbon value chain in India,” the Petroleum Ministry said.
According to the PMO, Modi thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Rosneft, for their commitments and support to the energy sector in India. He also appreciated the 2030 vision document of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.(IANS)
New Delhi, September 18, 2017 : Indian and International media is full of articles regarding large number of farmers in India committing suicide due to debt pressure.
Instead of going to the root of the problem and analyzing the reasons for this phenomenon, Indian politicians have come up with an absurd idea of farm loan waivers.
Majority of Indian farmers under debt trap own very little land. Farming on such small piece of land is not economically feasible. This sector is highly unorganized. Most of the time, no planning is involved in cultivation, irrigation and harvesting.
Middlemen exploit farmers by buying their produce at a very low price and then selling it at a premium to the end consumers.
The irony is that a large number of Indian politicians claim huge incomes from agriculture while farmers starve.
In the province of Madhya Pradesh 24 farmers committed suicide this year over crop loss and failure to repay loans but 18 of the 20 cabinet ministers of the state have shown ‘agriculture’ as their main source of huge incomes.
How come politicians are earning in Billions through farming while the real farmers are struggling to make both ends meet?
Let’s examine the issue in-depth.
The income earned from agricultural land is exempt from income tax under section 10 (1) of the Income Tax Act 1961. Politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen in India launder their money misusing the above income tax clause.
Normally, one cannot own agricultural land in India unless their forefathers have been agriculturists. Rich and influential people in the country obtain agriculturist certificates by ‘greasing the palms’ of the local land officials.
Farmers are not required to maintain detailed records in India. This provides an excellent loophole to pass off unaccounted and undeclared cash as agricultural income. It is done by showing fake sales cash receipts of agricultural produce, which like other certificates can be purchased in India through bribes.
Approximately 800,000 tax declarants in India state exorbitant amounts as agricultural incomes while filing their annual income tax returns.
This income, a whopping INR. 874 Lakh Crores was eight times more than the cumulative GDP of India for the financial years 2011 and 2012.
The average annual income declared by these assesses comes out to be anywhere between Rs. 30-80 Crores, on which they don’t pay any taxes.
It’s obvious that the aforesaid is not agricultural earning instead it’s declared as agricultural income by these assesses just to avoid paying taxes.
According to National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) Delhi, with hardly any farming land has more farmers indulging in agriculture than Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and West Bengal provinces.
Delhi’s so called ‘farmers’ received Rs. 22,077 Crores in agricultural loans during 2009. In reality, these ‘self proclaimed farmers’ are the owners of big farm houses on the outskirts of the capital.
The authorities are well aware of this malpractice. The Tax Administration Reform Committee in its report in November 2014 said, “Agricultural income of non-agriculturists is being increasingly used as a conduit to avoid tax and for laundering funds, resulting in leakage to the tune of Crores in revenue annually”
The Finance Minister of India, Arun Jaitley on 26th April said that the government of India does not plan to tax the farm income.
It reveals that Indian politicians cutting across party lines indulge in this malpractice, 27% of the winning Lok Sabha M.P’s in 2014 elections have declared wealth of over Rs. 1 Crore, majority of which has been mentioned as agricultural income.
Indian opposition politicians blackmail the political party in power by indulging in spurious farmer agitations.
If there is a bumper crop then the opposition parties start shouting that prices have crashed due to over-supply in the market. When farming cultivation fails due to the vagaries of nature, then they start throwing statistics about farmers suicide.
A group of ‘self proclaimed’ farmers from Tamil Nadu province camped at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, the Indian capital city during March this year and indulged in cheap theatrics to draw attention to their protests.
The leader of this group, P. Ayyakannu is demanding that all farmers should be given loan waivers from banks and quoted highly inflated figures of farmers suicides in Tamil Nadu.
The Tamil Nadu government on 28th April, 2017 conveyed to the Supreme Court of India that no famers committed suicide in the state and clarified that a few, who took this extreme measure did it due to personal reasons.
Many farmers died due to old age and other medical issues. Ayyakannu clubbed all of them together to gather national as well as international attention.
Ayyakannu called off this whole play in Delhi on 23rd April after 40 days, when the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu came to meet these protestors. He said that their group is giving a one month’s time-frame to the government in order to fulfill their demands otherwise, they would resume their protests in the national capital from May 25 on a bigger scale.
This impostor farmer leader Ayyakannu again came back to Delhi again on 16th July with his gang of ruffians to continue their drama.
Ayakannu as per media reports is not even a farmer, but a lawyer, who makes huge amounts of money through out of court settlements and personally owns hundreds of acres of land.
He and his bunch of hooligans all look quite healthy and well-fed. They don’t appear like destitute farmers as claimed by them.
Fake farmers like the aforementioned Ayyakannu are just the front faces of this façade in the name of farmers.
The remote controls of such characters remain in the hands of politicians, who use them for their narrow, selfish, corrupt agendas depending on the political situation at the state and national level.
The governments of Punjab, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan & U.P. provinces have waived off agricultural loans worth Billions. This has set up a very bad precedent for the rest of the country.
There are no ‘free lunches’ in this world. These half baked measures like loan waivers just make people lazy parasites.
The following steps would go a long way in helping the real distressed farmers;
Scientific soil and climate testing should be done across all farming regions in India. Farmers can then be educated about which crops to grow profitably, in how many cycles; depending on the soil conditions and climate of the region.
Implement agricultural reforms like farming co-operatives, where farmers having small agricultural land holdings can be encouraged to come together and pool their land plus resources together.
Crop storage infrastructure should be built and maintained in every village so, that farmer can store their surplus produce rather than sell it desperately at a low price.
Crop insurance must be compulsorily introduced all over the country wherein, farmers by paying a nominal amount need not bother about their crops getting destroyed through excessive rain or drought.
Organic farming needs to be encouraged instead of over-reliance on chemical fertilizers. The food waste produced by an entire village can be easily turned into biodegradable compost, through innovative schemes like Vermicomposting.
Vermicast can replace fertilizers in the agriculture fields. This would save money for the farmer and provide high quality chemical free crops.
The APMC’s (Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees) have created a coterie of middlemen, who along with the complicity of these committees, form a virtual barrier between the farmer and the consumer, paying the former a pittance for his produce and charging the latter exorbitant amounts for fruits and vegetables. Vegetables are purchased at Rs. 2 or 3 a kg from farmers and then sold at 30 to 40 rupees per kg to urban consumers. This setup has been going on for decades in every town and city of India. Millions of urban Indians pay artificially higher prices and majority of farmers are underpaid due to this flawed system. The profits are made by middlemen, who do not pay taxes on these huge earnings. It is a common practice for them to store money in cash and not in banks.
These APMC’s must therefore be abolished immediately. Farmers should get direct access to the end consumer through the elimination of middlemen. This would ensure a better monetary return for farmers.
Private moneylenders in and around the villages charge a very high rate of interest from farmers. This unscrupulous sector should be bought under government regulation by bringing down the rate of interest to a rational level.
Government schools in villages are in shambles. They need to be upgraded so, that quality education at an affordable price is available to every child in the village. This would uplift farmers children through educational empowerment. It will enable them to make a transition to non-agricultural professions in future and enhance their family earnings considerably.
The aforementioned steps would cost the government far less than what it is losing in the absurd loan waiver schemes, which anyways don’t help the poor marginal farmer at all. As regard dealing with the fake farmers of India.
The solution entails; no farm loan waivers and bringing the agricultural income above a certain threshold under the tax bracket.
The aforesaid measures would prevent the fake farmers façade spreading rapidly all over the country, while resolving the agrarian crisis of India by assisting needy farmers of the country.
The author is a Master Degree holder in International Tourism & Leisure Studies from Netherlands and is based in China.
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