Kurseong, March 23: Some residents of Ambootia Tea Estate, 6km from here, have formed a farmers' club and tied up with Nabard in a bid to solve the unemployment problem that is plaguing the hills.

Unemployment is a common global economic malady, the level of which distinctly varies between developed and underdeveloped nations with Keynesian involuntary and frictional type in respect of develope

This paper attempts to define the common people of India in terms of levels of consumption and examines their socio-economic profile in different periods of time since the early 1990s with a view to a

It will provide only short-term relief THERE arefour crore small and marginal farmers who are unable to repay their crop loans to the banks. The Rs 60,000-crore budgetary allocation for waiving their loans will now enable a farmer to go back to the same bank, apply for another loan and await either of these two outcomes: a good crop or another loan waiver. While the gesture provides farmers relief in the short term, it would be harmful for the economy, especially the farm economy, in the long run. If we take the risk versus reward incentive out of an economic activity such as agribusiness, the enterprise quotient diminishes and hinders both growth and innovation.These key attributes, along with structural reforms and investment in agri-infrastructure, are needed to raise agricultural productivity and maintain the growth trajectory of the economy. The question we need to ask ourselves is why these farmers have not been able to repay their crop loans. Can Rs 15,000-per-farmer reward help them produce a better crop in the next season? The answer sadly is No. Small farmers face two main challenges: meeting their input needs (seeds, pesticides) and dealing with the weather risks to their crops. Issuance of input coupons for purchase of quality inputs for the next season would have been more beneficial. Bad weather plays havoc with agriculture. Dealing with weather risk calls for appropriate risk management tools such as weather insurance. This requires a network of weather stations at the block level for timely collation of data, a basic requirement for weather insurance products. Establishing a network of weather stations would have required only a fraction of the Rs 60,000 crore outlay. The budget will definitely encourage the creation of rural enterprises such as nurseries and cold chain establishment. The one-time budgetary assistance of Rs 75 crore for setting up mobile soil testing facilities is also a good step. However, the provision of Rs 60,000 crore for loan waiver which can at best provide short-term relief to farmers has robbed them of possible agri-infrastructure projects such as roads, marketing and storage facilities, and irrigation which could have yielded better returns on a sustainable basis. (*Country Head, Food & Agribusiness Strategic Advisory & Research) RAKESH TIKAIT Spokesman, Bhartiya Kissan Union It will not solve the deepening agri crisis THE Union budget 2008-09 is prima facie a pro-farmer budget, with the primary emphasis on writing off the loans of small and marginal farmers. It is a good step to provide instant relief to farmers who are heavily indebted, although it covers only 40% of total farmers. However, the debt relief will not solve the deepening agrarian distress. Nevertheless, we see the announcement of debt waiver as a victory of farmers' union, activists and pro-farmer media. It was a great battle and we are grateful that the finance minister took this step despite corporate pressure. We believe that this measure alone is not enough to address the farmers' problems. It is well known that the basic problem faced by farmers is their inability to get fair price for their produce. The policy makers have said nothing on this count. Nothing has also been said about ensuring better farm gate price for agriculture commodities or making available a price stabilisation fund to help farmers increase their income. The price offered for the commodities produced by them must not only fully cover their cost of production but also ensure livelihood security. Subsidy is another area of concern. Traders and producers are currently getting all the benefits while farmers have to suffer due to scarcity of fertiliser. The budget has also not made any announcement to strengthen the extension services of the ministry of agriculture to make it more relevant for the farmers. As a result, farmers are forced to depend on agents of pesticide and seed companies for technical advice. It seems that the government has made up its mind to hand over this system to the corporate sector. In this context, we are closely watching the Indo-US knowledge agreement and the multinational companies in seed business. In conclusion, although the budget is pro-farmer, the actual need of the Indian farmer is not just the removal of debt and interest. Many other important issues need to be addressed. These include access to market, fair price for produce, timely availability of fertilisers and seeds, direct subsidy and the public sector investment in agriculture business. We hope the government will consider all this in future. And the main need is to keep corporates far from farming business. K CHAKRAVARTHY Country Head* YES BANK

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.

The Agribusiness Support Fund's (ASF) appraisal committee has approved 96 grants worth Rs 22.2 million for different private sector agribusiness enterprises focusing on reducing poverty in rural areas. According to a message received here on Saturday the committee meeting, held in Lahore early this week. Particularly considered NWFP, FANA and Balochistan for these grants for enterprises ranging from farmer groups to SMEs, from all over Pakistan for different business development services (BDS). Grants to farmers enterprises groups (FEGs) were provided for establishment of grass-roots level income-generating activities, with a focus on value-addition. These groups have 1200 farmers all over Pakistan. The major initiative was supporting clusters of FEGs--approximately five FEG in every cluster--in establishment of milk chilling centres to preserve milk and ensuring its supply to ultimate consumer in pure and fresh condition and increasing income by eliminating the role of middlemen, walk-in tunnels for off-season farming of different vegetables, flower growing and marketing and pickles production and sales: ASF also supported enterprises in setting up nurseries and introducing new varieties of fruits and vegetables. Funding support to SMEs included grant support for setting up of mega cold storage facility in Karachi aimed at reducing spoilage. This facility will play an important role in the promotion of exports of horticultural produce from Pakistan to international markets. ASF also supported an association of fruit and vegetables exporters, importers and merchants in the establishment of 'Business Resource Centre'. The purpose of this centre will be to provide business opportunities, marketing services, training and linkages development etc. In addition, another association in the floriculture sector was provided support in creation of a strategy document for their operations. ASF also continued its support to agribusiness enterprises in gaining different certifications aimed at enhancing exports of fruits and vegetables. The Agribusiness Development and Diversification Project (ADDP) of Ministry of Food and Agriculture (Minfal) with the support from Asian Development Bank had created ASF with a grant of Rs 4.1 billion. ASF has been established to develop the agribusiness sector in Pakistan to support economic growth and for employment generation. It has further been tasked to promote private sector agribusiness enterprises by providing matching grants for purchase of BDS and also providing capacity building support to BDS providers. Copyright Business Recorder, 2008

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