Bharti Wal-Mart to rope in 35,000 farmers by 2015

New Delhi: Looking to scale up sourcing of agricultural products from India, the world's largest retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc today said its joint venture (JV) with the Bharti Group here will rope in 35,000 farmers by 2015 to its supply chain, reports PTI.

"We are already making a contribution to India's agricultural sector by working with a large number of farmers in Punjab. I am pleased to announce that Bharti Wal-Mart would be directly sourcing from 35,000 small and medium farmers by 2015," Wal-Mart Stores Inc president and CEO Mike T Duke said here at a function organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci).

At present, the 50:50 cash and carry joint venture, Bharti Wal-Mart, works with 550 farmers in the country.
Elaborating on how the company aims to help the farmers, Mr Duke said: "We will help them by providing skills and technology for crop management...By doing all these we hope that the farmers will see at least a 20% increase in their income levels."
He said the company will also be training the farmers on how to utilise usage of water and fertilisers optimally.
"This will benefit one million farmer and farm workers," Mr Duke added.
Commenting on the need for skill upgradation in the retail sector, Mr Duke said the JV will add a third skills training centre in Bangalore in a couple of months.
Bharti Enterprises vice chairman and managing director Rajan Bharti Mittal said, after the Bangalore centre, another skill centre would be set up at Mohali but did not give a timeline for it.
The Bharti Wal-Mart association currently has two training centres located in Amritsar and Delhi in partnership with the respective state governments.
"The target is to train 40,000 students in the next five years and place at least 15,000 students in the next five years," Mr Duke said.
Already 3,400 students have already been certified and 1,100 people have been place in jobs, he added.
Commenting on the need for further opening up of India's retail sector to FDI, Mr Duke said: "We want to open more and more stores here and contribute in the training and we do stand ready to contribute much more than what we are doing right now if FDI is opened in retail."
He said Wal-Mart has been encouraged by the government's positive approach, specially the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) paper that came out in June this year.
An inter-ministerial committee is currently evaluating the comments of stakeholders on the paper on opening up the politically-sensitive multi-brand retail sector to foreign direct investment (FDI).


No regulator for MFIs as of now, they should develop code: FM

New Delhi: The government today said it is not mulling a regulator for microfinance institutions (MFIs), but wanted them to evolve a code for themselves, even as these lenders draw criticism over their exorbitant interest rates and coercive recovery methods, reports PTI.

At the Economic Editors' Conference here, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said he has suggested to the Andhra Pradesh government to address some stringent provisions in its recently promulgated ordinance to rein in MFIs.

"I am not currently thinking of appointing any regulator right now... As we expect there should be a code evolved by the institutions themselves where rates of interest are not abnormally high and there should not be a coercive mechanism to recover the money," Mr Mukherjee said.

There have been speculations that the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) could be appointed as regulator for MFIs, as they do not come under separate regulation as of now.

Industry chamber Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham) has asked the government to set up an effective regulating body and put a cap on the interest rates charged by MFIs.

"The confidence of the people in microfinance model of development has shaken by the practices of unscrupulous microfinance institutions functioning in the rural areas of the country," Assocham said.

The Andhra Pradesh government recently promulgated an ordinance to check MFIs, after a number of suicides were reported in the state, allegedly due to strong-arm tactics of MFIs for recovery of loans.

The ordinance makes it mandatory for all MFIs in Andhra Pradesh to register with the district registering authority, the project director (PD) of the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) for rural areas and PD of MEMPA for urban areas.

Now, MFIs will have to specify the area and system of their operations, the rate of interest and recovery mechanism while registering with the registering authority.

The registering authority may at any time either suo moto or upon receipt of complaints by Self-Help Groups (SHGs) or the general public can cancel the registration of the MFI after assigning sufficient reasons.

The finance minister said, "In respect of the ordinance which the Andhra Pradesh government has issued...I had a talk with the chief minister over the phone and suggested certain corrections in the see that the harsh provisions are taken care of."

He said MFIs should ensure that the borrower is in a position to pay back the money and as such lending should be mainly directed towards the productive borrowing not so much towards consumption.

The RBI has also constituted a sub-committee to look into the functioning of MFIs.


SC cancels bail for Raju in Satyam case

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today cancelled the bail granted to Satyam Computer Services founder B Ramalinga Raju, his brother B Rama Raju and four others, by the Andhra Pradesh High Court, in the biggest corporate fraud case in the country. Hearing the plea of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), a Supreme Court bench of Justice Dalveer Bhandari and Justice Deepak Verma cancelled the bail and asked all the six persons to surrender by 8th November.

The judges observed that the case was the biggest scam in the history of the country and had affected a large number of shareholders, banks and financial institutions; therefore, the High Court order granting bail could not be sustained. The Court also directed the Special Court in Hyderabad, which is conducting the Satyam trial, to conclude its proceedings by July 2011. Earlier this month, the bench had issued a notice to Raju, directing him to file his reply on the CBI’s plea.

Raju was granted bail by the High Court on 18th August this year. He had been in custody since January 2009 when he wrote a letter to the board explaining financial irregularities. The admission that he had overstated company assets by more than $1 billion, triggered a stock slump and a government takeover that led to the sale of the Hyderabad-based software-services exporter to Tech Mahindra.

Today, the Supreme Court observed that the trial was pending in a Special Court and detailed reasons for granting bail were not given by the High Court. “Normally, the apex court does not interfere in such cases where bail has been granted by the High Court, but the facts of the case demand that we should interfere,” the judges said.

In its petition for cancellation of the bail, the CBI said that Satyam’s founder and former chief “misused” the bail by meeting one of the witnesses in the case and tried to “influence” him. The CBI has filed a chargesheet running into over 10,000 pages, naming more than 250 witnesses. Such a huge volume was criticised by the court in its hearing on 19th October.

The High Court had granted bail to the Raju brothers as well as to four employees of Satyam—Srinivas, Ramakrishna, Venkatapathi and Srisailam. The CBI had approached the Supreme Court on 13th September, saying that Raju might influence the witnesses, a majority of who were his former employees. The High Court allowed Raju bail on the grounds that all the other accused in the case had already been granted bail.

Raju, who was arrested on 9th January 2009, is undergoing treatment for a liver infection at the state-run Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences. The Supreme Court ordered that he should appear before the trial court after he is discharged. The Special Court was set up by the Andhra Pradesh government in November 2009 and a judge was appointed on 25th February this year.


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