Work on underpasses to create long-term assets

The UPA government's flagship social sector programme — the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) — will now be able to create permanent infrastructure assets, giving the seven-year-old scheme providing livelihood to almost 5 crore families annually an altogether new direction. The rural development ministry has decided to include building railway underpasses under the ambit of NREGS. An official announcement is expected shortly.

The parliamentary panel reviewing the National Food Security Bill, 2011, is understood have recommended that states should be allowed to prescribe guidelines for identification of 'priority' and 'general' households for subsidised foodgrains.

The panel chaired by Lok Sabha MP Vilas Muttemwar has also asked the government to devise a clearly defined criteria in consultation with the states to identify those outside the ambit of the scheme, seeking to expand the scope of existing public distribution system.

Cabinet may clear proposal today to boost agri exports

In a major fillip to India’s processed food exports, the Cabinet is set to clear a policy under which processed foods from agricultural commodities such as wheat, rice, onion and milk would not be subject to any export ban or restrictions. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) is set to clear the proposal on Thursday to exempt 14 types of processed food from the purview of export restrictions including oats, milk products, dehydrated onions, wheat and rice products.

Notwithstanding ‘serious differences’ among its members, a parliamentary panel reviewing the National Food Security Bill, 2011, will submit its report to the Lok Sabha Speaker on Wednesday. The government aims to introduce the Bill in the forthcoming Budget session of Parliament.

FE had reported last month that the panel would submit its report by mid-January. The 31-member panel, chaired by Lok Sabha MP Vilas Muttemwar, had been examining the Bill since October last year. Flooded with around 1.5 lakh petitions as well as comments from state governments, experts and civil society groups, the panel had to hold daily meetings to finalise its report.

In a first of its kind experiment to identify specific trait from country's huge genetic resources, National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) has characterised more than 5000 varieties of wheat germplasms for development of better seed varieties which could withstand climate change issues.

The national seed bank which operates under NBPGR, has more than four lakh accessions out of which around 1.2 lakh belongs to only rice and wheat varieties.

The new Land Bill — cleared by the Union Cabinet last week — gives the government an ‘option’ to return the acquired land to its original owners if it remains unutilised for 60 months.

Land owners can then transfer such land acquired by the government for its own use or PPP projects involving public purpose to any private entity/individuals. At its earlier deliberations, the rural development ministry, the nodal body for the land Bill, had rejected the suggestions of a Parliamentary panel for returning the unutilised land to original owners.

New Delhi Differences have cropped up between the Planning Commission and food ministry on the issue of creation of two million tonne capacity silos through the public- private partnership (PPP) mode.

Sources say while Food Corporation of India (FCI), the nodal agency to implement the project, has been insisting on making 'railway siding' mandatory for silos, the Planning Commission believes that the construction of railways siding would increase the cost of project which would be unattractive to the private players.

New Delhi A week ahead of the next meeting of the WHO framework convention on tobacco control (FCTC), the tobacco farmers world over have sought representation in the meeting scheduled for discussing the issue of shifting to alternative crop because of health hazards due to rising tobacco consumption.

Articles 17 and 18 of FCTC, which India is a signatory, deal with provisions related to taking up of alternative crop by tobacco growers and environmental impact of tobacco crop.

New Delhi By defining “public purpose” very broadly in the relevant legislation, the government will ensure private investors in state-controlled infrastructure projects almost always receive its help in mobilising the land required.

The land Bill vetted by a group of ministers earlier and set to to taken up by the Union Cabinet after Diwali will contain an exhaustive list of 29 infrastructure areas as involving public purpose. This means that the government can acquire land for public-private partnership (PPP) projects in these areas, provided the projects are majority-owned by the government and two-thirds of the land owners give their consent. Such public-purpose PPP projects are also eligible for some concessions from state governments, which could reduce the cost of acquisition.

New Delhi In a bid to check diversion of foodgrains to the open market, the food ministry is planning to launch a cash transfer system for poor families. The plan, a first, will be done under the public distribution system (PDS) in six union territories in the next three months.

Officials sources told FE the cash transfer plan under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) would be launched for the first time in Chandigarh, Puducherry, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.