Prices of vegetables and other agricultural produce.

21/12/2009

The prices of sugar, pulses and vegetables have gone up in recent days/months in India. There is a lot of talk and criticism of the government on the poor handling of price situation. 

 Sugar prices have gone up world wide. The price of sugar in world market is US$620 a tonne or Rs.29 per kilo. In Vietnam it is Rs.48 a kilo and in India it is only Rs.30-Rs.35.

Similarly prices of vegetables have also gone up in many countries for reasons like flood, heavy rains, lower production etc. For example in Vietnam, cabbage costs now Rs.37.50 (VND15000) against Rs.12.50(VND 5000) earlier. Tomato costs Rs.32.50(VND13000) against Rs.10(VND 4000) earlier. In Tamilnadu for example, tomato costs about Rs.20  against about Rs.10 (VND 4000) earlier(all in retail market) The price of pumpkins went up in Vietnam from around Rs.12.50 (VND 5000)  per kg to Rs.35.(VND 14000)

In general in Vietnam prices have gone up by about 3 times while in India prices of  vegetables have gone up in recent times by about  2 times.

In Bangladesh the prices are reported to have  surprisingly fallen down, but they are still as high as or higher than in India. Brinjal used to sell at Rs.27(Taka 40) has come down to Rs.20,(Taka 20) which is the price in India, ladies finger from Rs.27(Taka 40) to Rs.23 (Taka 35) (In Tamilnadu it is Rs.20) and green chilli from Rs.33(taka 50) to Rs.20 (Taka 30). In Tamilnadu, green chilli is selling at Rs.20 a kg for several months.

In Vietnam and Bangladesh, the wage rates/salary levels  are much lower than in India.

The wages of unskilled agricultural and other laborers have gone up from Rs.35 per day to Rs.100 per day in the last three years for women and from Rs.70 per day to Rs.150- Rs.200 per day for men

 The prices of vegetables were very low in India for a long time and these need to be corrected. If prices stabilize at the present level, it would mean that the necessary correction in prices has taken place and the people need to accept this correction and learn to live with the present level of prices of vegetables. The prices may fall down but low prices may not last for long.


Bus accidents and the ways to minimize the same

18/12/2009

Early in December 2009, 9 school children and a teacher, traveling in a school bus were drowned to death, when their bus skid and fell into the roadside pond which was water full to the brim. The driver was reported to have been talking on mobile phone which could be the reason for the fall of bus into the water. Some of the reasons for the accidents are:.

 i.. The driver’s careless, drunken, rash driving or driving while talking on phone or with passengers

ii. The bad condition of the bus, particularly the brakes and the tyres as well as lights.

 iii. The dismally poor condition of the roads- having deep potholes, slippery particularly during rainy season, being very narrow.

 iv. Ponds, lakes, wells on the roadside

v. people, cattle, dogs, cats etc .using or coming on to the middle of the road

The Government usually takes deterrent action in the case of accidents due to the first two reasons. The Government does not seem to have thought of taking action to avoid the causes iii to v.

The government should ensure that the roads are fit to be used by vehicles; that the roads are completely tarred/cemented, there are no potholes or ditches, sufficiently wide etc.

The roadways or public works department should undertake on an immediate basis  construction of walls along the riverside lakes, ponds and wells or the roads are moved away from these water reservoirs

Heavy fines should be imposed on people and owners of cattle etc which stray into the roads.

These measures would certainly go a long way to reduce the accidents and as well as the seriousness of the accidents.


Strike by employees and officers of the banks.

16/12/2009

Members of the All India Bank Employees’ Association and All India Bank Officers’ Association went on a one day nation wide strike on 16th Dec 2009 against the proposal to merge State Bank of Indore with State Bank of India and against the banking sector reforms like privatization of public sector banks. Banking operations were affected, but more than this, what is important to note is that:

It is not the business of the members of the associations to decide whether there should be merger of banks or not and whether there should be privatization or not. It is the business of the managements of the banks and the Government. The associations can demand that in the event of mergers/privatization, the terms and conditions of their service should be altered to their disadvantage-there should be no retrenchment, no reduction in salaries, promotion chances should not be reduced, retirement benefits should not be cut, etc. Of course if they have strong views against the proposals, they are free to give memorandum to concerned authorities, but they should not resort to strike. It is for  political parties, NGOs etc. to protest against the policies.

The Labour Department arranged talks between the associations and the managements of banks. This was also perhaps unnecessary. Conciliatory talks could have been arranged on issues like bonus, promotion chances, increase in salaries, quantum of leave etc but not on policy issues like mergers, privatization etc.


Copenhagen Meeting on Climate Change

15/12/2009

By 2025, India will be the largest country in the world ahead of China. Every fifth person in the world will be an Indian. More than 4 out of 5 persons in the world will be from the present developing countries. This should be kept in mind in the negotiations between the developed and developing countries.

While the developed countries should be requested to transfer technologies to reduce carbon and other harmful emissions into the atmosphere by the developing countries, the developing countries should not make their commitments to reduce emissions on the developed countries making financial and technological contributions. There is no doubt that the lifestyle of people in developed countries contribute to large scale emissions. But sadly developing countries, imitate the life style in developed countries. India for example could do with much less than the present number of vehicles, two wheelers as well as four wheelers. India could introduce two wheeler taxis as in Vietnam and Thailand which would save huge quantity of petroleum products. India should find ways for avoiding feeding of the chicken and cows with grains as in developed countries

India however, is contributing to the cleaner atmosphere, by not consuming as much meat as in developed and other developing countries. It is estimated that if people give up non-vegetarian food, the arable land required in the world would be just one third of the present area. Of course, it is not suggested that non-vegetarians should become vegetarians. Instead, people should invent technologies to increase the yield of food grains.

There is a lot of talk on planting trees. There should also be emphasis on deepening existing lakes and digging new lakes- water reservoirs-to conserve water. Trees need water to grow.


India – Land Acquisition by the Government

12/12/2009

The Land Acquisition Act provides for acquisition of privately owned land by the Central and State Governments for public purposes. However, Governments acquire land for private companies, calling it public purpose. They acquire more than required area of land for current use and also for future use. The compensation being paid is much less than current market value. In order to induce landowners to come forward to sell land the price has to be what it would be 5 or 10 years later in the market. In Malaysia, the government used to pay large compensation and people used to compete to sell their land and become “instant millionaires”. In fact, the Malaysian government asks companies to procure land themselves.

Government has recently acquired/ is acquiring land for widening national highways. They are acquiring land not only for the present use for 4 lanes but for future use of  6-8 lanes which may be after 20 or 25 years later. Till then surplus land will remain fallow.

Even for welfare measures like free or subsidized housing for low income people, some governments are using as much as 10 acres of land for 100 small houses whereas 3-4 acres will be sufficient. Government can do with about 2 acres if double storey houses are built in stead of single story houses

The land acquisition has shrunk agricultural land considerably and the country would have to depend on imports for consumption. Not only this. The farmers are agitating against land acquisitions even for genuine purposes for government’s direct use. In order to avoid problems for acquisition in future, it would be better, if governments acquire land only for government’s current use at an estimated value 10 years later.


Telangana

12/12/2009

According to the Constitution of India, the Parliament has the power to create Telangana by law. However, the Bill to be introduced in the Parliament has to be referred to the Legislature of Andhra Pradesh (AP) for expressing its views thereon, as the area and boundaries of the state of AP are proposed to be altered. It is not necessary that the Bill should be passed by the Legislature of AP. The Members of the AP Legislature lose the chance to express their views or objection by resigning from the Legislature.

It is for the people of Telangana to decide whether to remain as part of AP or have a separate state. It is not for the people of rest of AP to decide whether unwilling Telangana people should be allowed to have a separate state or not. Of course they have right to voice their objections like how they would be economically affected, how the divided AP would lose its revenue, how they would lose the important institutions that are available in Telangana area, how they would lose their importance by not having Hyderabad as its capital etc. They can seek assistance from Telangana or/and from the Central Government due compensation for their expected loss. They can also seek full access (as at present) to the educational and other facilities available in Telangana area for a specified time- i.e. till such facilities are created in AP.

The Central Govt/Telangana should safeguard the interests of divided AP to the maximum extent possible. But the Central Government should not feel it obligatory to obtain “no objection” from AP Legislature. What the Central Govt should consider now, is not “whether or not” to accede to the demand for separate Telangana state but how to safeguard the interests of divided AP.


India’s interests differ from those of several developing countries

10/12/2009

It will take a long time for India to become a developed country, in spite of the fact that it is now the fourth largest economy (in PPP terms) in the world behind USA, China and Japan. Of late India has become an industrialized country – though in terms of per capita income, it is among the low income countries. Out of 181 countries for which IMF compiled data, India is placed at #130, much below several developing countries to whom India extends technical and economic assistance.

In terms of infrastructure, industrial & agricultural development, scientific research and development, particularly in hi-tech areas of atomic energy, space science, pharmaceutical industry, ocean science, information technology, India is far ahead of most of the developing countries. In many cases, India’s interests are different from those of several of developing countries. Some of the areas where India’s interests coincide with those of developed countries are:

  • Indian banks like those of developed countries’ banks have established their branches in foreign countries. Sooner or later, there will be large scale expansion of Indian bank branches abroad.
  • Indian companies have set up factories in many countries and these may increase in the coming years
  • India is exploring natural resources in several countries as do the developed countries (of course there are foreign companies in India also) and in the days to come, these activities will expand.
  • Indian companies have invested in several foreign countries and these investments will keep increasing.
  • Indian medical treatment is well developed and patients from many developing countries(as also developed countries) take treatment in Indian hospitals.
  • An increasing number of foreign students come to India for studies (though many Indian students also go to other countries for higher studies).
  • India provides economic and technical assistance to over 125 countries.

In any case, India should aspire to become a developed country as early as possible. It would be in its interest, if India could look after its interests in international forums rather than being a spokesperson of the developing countries.