Citizens' Issues
Crop burning: Habits die hard in Punjab, Haryana

The main concern of the authorities, especially the pollution control boards in both the states, is the harm that the crop burning - wheat stubble and paddy straw - causes to the environment


They have been warned, threatened with prosecution and even offered inducements. But a number of farmers in Punjab and Haryana seem disinclined to stop their environment-unfriendly bi-annual exercise of burning crop residue, cited by environmentalists as one of the prinicipal causes of dust haze and air pollution in Delhi and northern India.
With the wheat harvest in both the states nearly over, authorities are attempting in whatever they can to discourage farmers from burning the crop residue in their fields. The main concern of the authorities, especially the pollution control boards in both the states, is the harm that the crop burning - wheat stubble and paddy straw - causes to the environment.
While authorities in Haryana have warned farmers and even pointed out that proceedings will be initiated against them for violating the ban on burning stubble, the Punjab government had recently announced cash rewards to districts and villages which curb the unhealthy practice.
"Many farmers want to save time of uprooting the crop residue and resort to burning. This may give them short-term results but is harming the fertility of the soil and the environment in the long run," Kultar Singh, a young, educated farmer and an environmentalist, told IANS.
Haryana's environment department has issued a notification under the Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act of 1981 that bans the burning of agriculture waste in open fields.
"The Haryana government has issued an advisory to the farmers not to burn wheat stubble as it leads to manifold increase in the air pollution level during the harvesting season. They should try to recover it with the help of machines for use as fodder or convert it into manure," an official of the Haryana State Pollution Control Board told IANS, requesting anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
Board officials have been asked to keep a strict vigil and file cases against the defaulting farmers.
In recent years, the board has filed cases against 32 farmers in the special environment courts at Kurukshetra and Faridabad.
"The board has so far approved nine cases in 2015-16," the official added.
The Punjab government recently announced a financial grant of Rs.1 crore ($157,000) and Rs.100,000 for each district and village rid of the malaise.
"Resorting to punitive measures to end this menace does not yield results; hence it was decided to reward the districts and villages which curbed the practice of straw burning," a Punjab government spokesman told IANS.
Punjab contributes over 50 percent of foodgrain - wheat and paddy - to the national kitty despite having just 1.54 percent of the country's geographical area.
Haryana's agriculture department is promoting the use of various machines and techniques to discourage farmers from burning crop residue.
"Farmers are being given subsidy for purchase of machines like happy-seeder, turbo-seeder, shredder, bailing machine and zero-seed-cum-fertilizer drill to facilitate in-situ management of crop residue," agriculture department official Ashok Kumar told IANS.
"The burning leads to manifold increase in air pollution levels during the harvesting season. The soil fertility is also lost due to the burning of essential nutrients," scientist Ranbir Dahiya told IANS.
It is estimated that burning of one tonne of rice straw accounts for loss of 5.5 kg of nitrogen, 2.3 kg of phosphorus, 25 kg of potassium and 1.2 kg of sulphur. The heat generated elevates the soil temperature, killing fungi, pests, reptiles and the like that are otherwise beneficial for the crops.
"If the crop residue is incorporated or retained in the soil itself, it gets enriched, particularly with organic carbon and nitrogen," Dahiya said.
Other hazards of crop burning include the fire spreading to habitations or forests, accidents due to poor visibility caused by the smoke and breathing problems for people. In recent years, both Green Revolution states have seen bumper crops of wheat and paddy, leading to increased burning of crop residue.


Modi's visit to China: How long can policy of accommodation continue?

Nehru's answer was to seek an accommodation with China and play for time till India was able to fully develop economically and militarily to meet the emerging challenge. That he failed is another question


The rise of China as a great power is no longer a matter of speculation; it is a given fact. Most nations today seriously consider the Chinese factor when determining policy. The question uppermost in the minds of Indian policy makers is: should we contain or oppose the rise of China, singly or in tandem with others, or should we seek an accommodation? There are no easy answers. No doubt Modi's closest advisors would be grappling with this question on the eve of his first official visit to China as the prime minister of India.
Just as India became independent, a vast strategic shift in the power matrix of Asia took place. Japanese power lay completely shattered at the end of the Second World War. The British withdrew from India leaving India politically divided into two states and its armed forces split - and soon in serious conflict over Kashmir. On the other hand, China wracked by civil war in the last century, with warlords holding sway, not only became politically united, but a new invigorated and a determined government assumed office. The strategic fulcrum of power had shifted in Asia from south to the north of the Himalayas.
The question therefore that faced India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru was how to deal with Chinese power on our northern borders. In short, Nehru's answer was to seek an accommodation with China and play for time till India was able to fully develop economically and militarily to meet the emerging challenge. That he failed is another question.
Unfortunately, for present-day policy planners, the power equation with China has worsened since Nehru's time to the detriment of India. China's economy is five times larger than that of India; its military budget three times larger; and its foreign exchange reserves are ten times larger than ours. The Chinese have developed first-rate communications infrastructure right up to our borders; we are still struggling. But we still retain one great strategic advantage - the Indian Ocean where the Indian Navy dominates.
The Indian Ocean is the third largest ocean in the world covering about 20 percent of water on the earth's surface. The Indian peninsula, which stretches about 1,600 km straight into the heart of the ocean, dominates its geographical space. The importance of the Indian Ocean region also lies in the fact that nearly 100,000 ships traverse it on an annual basis carrying 700 million tonnes of cargo, but most important of all there are four transit 'choke-points' of which the Straits of Malacca dominate. The Malacca Straits are a shallow, narrow waterway that connects the Indian Ocean with the South China Sea. At some points it is only 23 metres deep.
China relies heavily on imported oil, gas and other natural resource commodities to feed its growing economy and it is estimated that its crude oil imports may exceed 300 million tonnes shortly. Nearly 18 percent of China's total energy consumption is based on imported oil and at current trends, nearly 80 percent of oil imports pass through this route. In case the Straits of Malacca were ever to be blockaded, it would mean a detour of at least three to four days extra through unsafe waters.
Since Nehru and the 1962 conflict, successive Indian prime ministers have sought neither strategic accommodation nor confrontation with China. While serious attempts were made to settle the boundary question, it was realized that a settlement was not imminent. Therefore it made better policy to first stabilize the border areas to minimize incidents. From denying that a dispute existed under Nehru, to stating that till the issue was settled, there would be no normalization, to Rajiv Gandhi's assertion that relations may develop side by side with the boundary negotiations, the Indian position has moved quite significantly.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee went even further and agreed that a boundary settlement be explored "afresh from a political perspective", thus abandoning Nehru's stance that the Sino-Indian boundary was established by "treaty, custom and usage".
Finally, in Article III of the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles Agreement signed in April 2005, Manmohan Singh accepted a "package settlement" and "adjustment of its position" on the boundary issue. So with India having moved so far, why then does China not agree?
Suffice it to say that China senses no pressure from India, be it military, political or economic. In fact, if gestures be read as harbingers of policy change, we seem to be signalling a move towards the old policy of accommodation. The Rafale deal has been reduced from 126 fighters to a more financially viable 36 fighters; the strength of the Mountain Strike Corps reduced from 90,000 to 35,000 soldiers and politically there has not even been a pro-forma protest when President Xi Jinping announced the building of railway lines, oil and gas pipelines and the China-Pakistan economic corridor through Pakistani-occupied Kashmir. The Chinese remain protectionist on facilitating Indian exports in the key pharma and IT sectors, thus ensuring a continued massive trade deficit.
The task before Modi is daunting as no easy solutions are obvious. He would need the unstinting support of all, for whichever policy option he adopts it will have momentous repercussions.
One thought: Modi should announce the upgrading of the Andaman and Nicobar base to a full-fledged naval command before departure. It would be a signal of intent that the Chinese will not miss.


Students learn how to protect their money and invest smartly

Moneylife Foundation conducted another financial literacy seminar, this time, especially for students


Moneylife Foundation conducted a special programme for college students –“Be Safe and Smart with Your Money” in Mumbai, sponsored by Lila K. Jagtiani Trust. The event, which witnessed a packed audience, was held at the Monyelife Foundation seminar hall. The first session was conducted by Sucheta Dalal, managing editor of Moneylife and founder trustee of Moneylife Foundation. She pointed out to the students as to how one can avoid financial mistakes.
Yogesh Sapkale, deputy editor of Moneylife, highlighted how one can create robust passwords for internet and secure PIN for ATMs, debit and credit cards. The last session was addressed by Debashis Basu, editor and founder trustee of Moneylife Foundation. He articulated the simple steps for investing smartly. 
Ms Dalal started her session with a brief introduction about scams in India. A person's knowledge or smartness does not guarantee that he/she cannot fall prey to the confidence tricksters. There are different types of scams – lottery scam, job scam, conference scam and interest waiver scam out to get us. The numbers of scams reported are infinite. Furthermore, Ms Dalal explained about the “Eight Security Features” of an Indian Bank note. 
In her session, she also discussed that one should keep one’s financial life simple and one should invest in just a few products—products that are safe and well regulated. Ms Dalal spoke about the dubious schemes like QNET, Pearls, City Limouzine, Japan Life, which could be clubbed to category called Pyramid scheme or chain money schemes. These schemes claim to provide extremely high returns luring the unsuspecting savers and then vanish into thin air. 
“There is no guarantee that you will not lose money, but it is safer to invest in products that have regulatory oversight”, Ms Dalal informed the audience. One should be extra cautious, while dealing with your banker as well. She narrated to the packed audience incidents where “relationship managers” have taken genuine and educated customers for a ride. She also explained how usurious are the rates charged on credit card outstanding. Ms Dalal talked at length about the new phenomena like Phishing and Vishing on the internet that traps the gullible public and robs them of their hard-earned money.
Mr Sapkale in his presentation highlighted that nearly 50% of the users have the same password for all the sites. And worse still, almost 90% of them don’t change their password periodically. A majority choose a readable word as base for password and just add a numeral or symbol to make it more secure. However, he said such passwords are very easy for hackers to crack within minutes. At the same time, “No password is 100% crack proof. It means, any password can be cracked sooner or later,” Mr Sapkale explained. Nevertheless, strong passwords of more than 13 characters, created using a combination of words, digits and special characters takes more time or even days to crack. 
Complicated passwords are necessary to protect sensitive information and to prevent unauthorised use of your account. Online banking, emails and even social media sites should be protected with strong passwords. For general sites, which do not affect you personally or financially, use simple phrases to create passwords, explained Mr Sapkale.

Mr Basu in his session highlighted the simple steps for investing smartly. To start with, he suggested "saving at least 25% of your income". While Indians save a lot, they keep their money safe in bank deposits. Unfortunately, this is just the wrong thing to do because the money does not grow enough. The most important issue related to savings is 'Smart Spending'. It's imperative for the youth to understand that our small savings today can meet bigger expenses later. 
Everybody can make financial decisions, he said if they stick to some simple principles. He explained the principles of compounding under different scenarios. The effect of compounding is slow in the initial periods, but as time passes on, the power of compounding takes over and the wealth created is huge. 

After knowing the power of compounding, where should one invest? From just a handful of products a few decades ago, the number of financial products has grown to hundreds today. Do we need all of them? Given the complexities of financial products, it requires dedicated effort, lots of time and a keen interest to know all aspects of financial products. 
Mr Basu explained that one does not need most of them. Just chose a few financial products such as bank fixed deposits and equity mutual funds and avoid the rest, he advised. He emphasised that one should avoid 'hot' stocks, stock tips, "expert advice" and all investment products that are complicated and promise attractive returns.
Mr Basu showed the audience various routes that one can use to invest safely and smartly. To a younger audience still new to investing, he suggested putting 40% of their regular savings in bank FDs and 60% in equity mutual funds regularly. One should hold equity mutual funds, at least, for a period of 10-15 years for wealth to grow. 



Agyat Vyakti

1 year ago

Off the topic. This is just for awareness.. Qnet and MLM are using friends and relatives to dupe you... You may like to read Qnet modus operandi with screen shots and facts and how to avoid them here ... Please share for public interest.. Qnet Scam in delhi by Ashwin Baluja and Prithvi Raj Grover

Kaveri Inamke

2 years ago

Very Knowledgeable session. Thanks to MoneyLife Foundation.

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