1 million tonne of sugar export allowed; stock limit removed

The EGoM felt that it would be safer to allow exports of one million tonnes, though the demand was for three million tonnes, the minister added. The stockholding limit is valid till the end of this month

New Delhi: The government on Tuesday allowed one million tonnes of sugar export and removed curbs on traders to hold stocks of the sweetener—a decision the industry said would help improve their cash flow and enable them to make timely payment to cane growers, reports PTI.

An Empowered Group of Ministers on Food (EGoM), headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, approved exports as the country’s sugar production is expected to exceed the domestic demand by 3-4 million tonnes in the 2011-12 marketing year.

“The EGoM has approved one million tonnes of sugar export under the Open General License (OGL) scheme. In case of stock holding limits, it has been lifted on sugar,” food minister KV Thomas told reporters after the meeting here.

The EGoM felt that it would be safer to allow exports of one million tonnes, though the demand was for three million tonnes, the minister added. The stockholding limit is valid till the end of this month.

Asked if permitting exports could affect retail prices, Mr Thomas said: “Farmers want export. We have to balance the request of farmers as well as consumers.”

In the 2010-11 marketing year (October-September), the government had allowed 2.6 million tonnes of exports, out of which 1.5 million tonnes was through OGL in three tranches.

Sugar production in India—the world’s second largest producer and biggest consumer—is estimated at 25-26 million tonnes in this marketing year.

Although the industry has been demanding sugar export from the start of this marketing year, the food ministry was reluctant to give permission as it was fearing price rise during the festival season, when generally demand is higher.

Reacting to the decision, Indian Sugar Mills Association director general Abinash Verma said, “The exports will help in improving our cash flow. We will be able to make timely payment to farmers in this crushing season.”

Mr Verma said the mills would be able to earn a premium of Rs2 per kg on export of sugar at the current global rates.

Sugar mills are facing cash crunch as the Uttar Pradesh government has recently hiked the cane price by up to Rs40 to Rs250/quintal for this year. In Maharashtra, the factories would have to pay Rs220-Rs245 per quintal including harvesting and transportation charges.

The ex-factory price stands at Rs300-Rd310 per quintal in UP, which is almost equal to the cost of production.

Mr Verma noted that the lifting of stockholding limits makes sense as the country is all set to produce surplus sugar.

Besides sugar, the EGoM decided to remove stock holding limit on rice, though certain states like Tamil Nadu have requested to continue.

“We had decided two months back that we will lift the stock holding limit on sugar and rice once the festival season is over. Those states who want to continue with stock holding limit on rice, they can continue,” Mr Thomas said.

The panel of ministers has decided to allow 10,000 tonnes of non-basmati rice export to Horn of Africa—Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti—on diplomatic consideration, he said.

The minister said the EGoM approved exports of 21,200 tonnes of rice, 24,000 tonnes of wheat, 2,400 tonnes of edible oil, 12,00 tonnes of pulses and 1,600 tonne milk powder to Bhutan on an annual basis.

The EGoM ratified a proposal to allocate additional food grains of 23.68 lakh tonnes to 174 poorest and backward districts as per the orders of the Supreme Court and recommendation of the Wadhwa Committee.

The panel also approved to continue distribution of 35 kg of foodgrain at Rs2 per kg of wheat and Rs3 per kg of rice to 17,118 families affected by communal violence in Kandhamal district of Orissa.


3G: Telcos seek PM intervention, threaten to surrender spectrum

In a letter, jointly signed by Sunil Mittal of Bharti Airtel, Kumar Manglam Birla of Idea and Vodafone Group CEO Vittorio Colao, they said the move to bar 3G Intra-Circle Roaming would be a clear breach of the contract and the pre-auction confirmation given by the government. The operators have asked the government to refund the spectrum auction payments with interest

New Delhi: Chiefs of three leading telecom firms—Bharti, Idea and Vodafone—have sought prime minister Manmohan Singh’s intervention to resolve the dispute of third generation (3G) roaming pact or else they threatened to surrender spectrum, reports PTI.

In a letter, jointly signed by Sunil Mittal of Bharti Airtel, Kumar Manglam Birla of Idea and Vodafone Group CEO Vittorio Colao, they said, “...in the event that 3G Intra-Circle Roaming (ICR) is now deemed impermissible, then, it would be a clear breach of our contract and the pre-auction confirmation given by the government.” 

The three CEOs further said, “In that eventuality, we request that our spectrum auction payments be refunded to us with interest (as) compensation for all the capital investment made by us.” 

The telecom ministry and sector regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) have termed the roaming pact among these players as illegal saying this tantamount to spectrum sharing which is not allowed as per the policy.

In the auction for 3G spectrum, held last year which had fetched over Rs68,000 crore for the government, the operators had won certain circles. Later, they entered into roaming pacts with each other for circles in which they could not win the bid.

“We seek your most urgent intervention to ensure that contract and promises are honoured, otherwise the reputation of an acclaimed, transparent auction, will be harmed irreparably,” the trio said.

Besides these players, others like Tatas and Aircel have also entered into similar agreements for various circles.


Much needed move to empower people?

Has the time come for an effective Citizens Right to Grievance Redress Bill? Will the government enact a legislation that will truly empower ordinary people? Civil society needs to debate the provisions of the draft bill that is released for public discussion and feedback

The Citizens Right to Grievance Redress Bill, 2011 seeks to “lay down an obligation upon every public authority to publish citizens charter stating therein the time within which specified goods shall be supplied and services be rendered and provide for a grievance redressal mechanism for non compliance of citizens charter and matter connected therewith or incidental thereto.”

The bill, drafted by the Department of Training and Personnel was placed in the public domain on 3rd November as part of the pre-legislative consultation process. Although it was expected that the Bill would be introduced in the winter session of Parliament that began today, it does not figure in the  reported agenda for the session.

This may help by giving civil society and advocacy groups the time to gather public opinion on the provisions of the draft and give their suggestions to the government. Moneylife Foundation is holding a workshop on 24th November to discuss the draft Bill. Aruna Roy, member National Advisory Council, and her colleague Nikhil Dey from the National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI), who have pointed out some important lacunae in the Bill will address the workshop.

The demand for an effective mechanism to handle citizen grievances is as old as the hills. Forty years ago, in my PhD dissertation on Administration and the Citizen (Bombay University), I had reviewed the many administrative attempts that had already been made in India until the mid-1960s. Every administrative reforms committee or commission set up by the government until then had suggested ways to deal with expectations of people – and their complaints. Many of these recommendations had been accepted by the governments of the day – at the Central as well as state. And it might be interesting to note that several of these mechanisms had been ‘wound up’ due to lack of resources and as measures to cut down government expenditure.

There is one major difference between then and now. Until the 1970s, when India was still on the course of ‘planned development’ pursuing a ‘Welfare State’ vision and the objective was to seek citizen participation in development processes. Today, as we pursue the goals of a market economy when the State is no longer providing ‘welfare’ but ‘goods & services’ for which it levies user charges, the demand for such mechanisms has become more vociferous, and urgent, because we the citizens want to get our money’s worth; no longer is it doles from a maa-baap sarkar. Government officials – of every kind – the lawmakers, bureaucracy, and judiciary – have to understand that no longer is the citizenry going to treat them as ‘those in power’; they are ‘public servants’ providing services to the citizens; their salaries and perks are paid by citizens – from the taxes they pay. And those who pay the piper are going to call the tune. The sooner this is accepted at every level of government, the less stressful will it be for them to adjust to the new reality.

It is commendable that the government wants to embody the need for grievance redress in legislation and give it to us as a ‘Right’. But if legislation alone could yield good governance, it would have been a different India. Only a vigilant and articulate citizenry can ensure that the laws that are enacted have responsive provisions built into them so the bureaucracy does not hijack the spirit of the law through subordinate legislation. It is to this end that advocacy groups should take the citizen’s voice to the government and the parliamentary committee debating the Bill.

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