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Maharashtra plans cloud seeding to combat monsoon blues
Worried by the revised monsoon forecast of lower than normal rainfall, the Maharashtra government has set in motion a contingency plan for cloud seeding to combat the looming water crises in the state, an official said here.
 
The revenue, relief and rehabilitation ministry issued tenders last month inviting bids for cloud seeding operations in different parts of the state.
 
The issue was also discussed at Tuesday's cabinet meeting presided over by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and an amount of Rs.10 crore has been set aside for the venture.
 
"We plan to undertake cloud seeding in Vidarbha, Marathwada and north Maharashtra on a pilot basis," Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse later told media.
 
In the past few years, the state has experienced spells of droughts or semi-droughts, with bouts of unseasonal rains and hailstorms which have resulted in huge crop damage and large numbers of farmers committing suicide.
 
Way back in 1992, cloud seeding was attempted by the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) over a couple of lakes supplying drinking water to the city, but the results were not very encouraging.
 
The process involved a furnace in which coal is burnt at 1,350 degrees Celsius in which powdered Silver Iodide is sprinkled.
 
These particles rise in the air to cloud level in 10 - 12 minutes. 
 
There are various natural parameters contributing to its success, including the height of the clouds which must be between 8,000-10,000 metres, wind speed of between 15-20 kmph and at least 70 percent humidity levels.
 
After these particles travel upwards, they crystallize at minus-five degrees and since clouds have both ice and water crystals, the particles attract the water, its weight increases and they fall down in the form of rain within a couple of hours.
 
The proposed exercise may be taken up only after studying the current monsoon patterns and would be largely experimental in nature, but if it succeeds, it would be taken up on regular basis in the state, officials said.

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Financial literacy: Lessons from the ground level
During a financial literacy seminar, one attendee asked why there is no government social security, insurance or pension scheme for people over 70 years. Hope those in power are listening
 
As part of spreading financial literacy under Moneylife Foundation, last week I conducted a seminar at BDD Chawl in Worli for a group of about 125 people, mostly senior citizens. Since it was a mixed crowd, we had decided to conduct the seminar in Hindi. Some attendees, however, turned out to be more fluent in Marathi since they have been living in Worli, the central place in Mumbai, since past several decades. The financial literacy seminar was organised by Dignity Foundation.
 
Also, since the people were from the lower middle income group, we tried to keep the contents at basic level, like identifying fake currency notes (incidentally, people from the lower income group and below poverty line are more susceptible for 'real' looking fake notes), the Pradhanmantri Jan Dhan Yojana, newly launched Suraksha Bima Yojana, Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, how to use the RuPay card (provided by the bank after opening Jan Dhan account), how to use it, how to transfer money using mobile phone. 
 
When I informed them about fake notes and how one can easily identify one, many have a simple question, what next? This means, what to do when they find the note in their hand is fake and what about the financial loss. As per the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) guidelines, since the note is fake, it has no value as such. However, the citizens are expected to deposit the fake note in the bank and obtain a receipt for it. 
 
While nobody was willing to accept that they indeed had received fake notes in the past, several attendees told me that either their friend or relative was turned away from the bank while trying to deposit the note. Despite clear directions from the RBI, several of the branch officials in banks, simply turn away such customers or demand another note. If insisted, then, the officials simply take the fake note, put a stamp across it as 'fake' and return to customer or tear it into pieces, which they simply are not allowed to do. Few attendees even told me that bank officials threaten to hand them over to police if they insist on depositing the fake note. 
 
RBI had directed all banks to collect and deposit all such fake currency notes into the chest only and never allow the note to get back into circulation. Banks are even paid 25% of the value as incentive for collecting and depositing fake note in the chest. However, the customers are deprived the value of the currency note that they may have received without checking.
 
Next part was how to take care of one’s wealth and how to manage need-based expenses. I told the attendees how not to go to private moneylenders and instead they should use a bank for their loan requirements. I also explained them about the benefits of Jan Dhan Yojana bank accounts and how they can avail the overdraft facility of Rs5,000 after successfully operating their bank accounts. In addition, I told them to swipe or use their RuPay card at least once in 45 days so that they can get the additional Rs1 lakh accidental insurance coverage. Using some short films, I explained the attendees on money transfer using mobile phone. 
 
Several people from this income group fall prey to get-rich-quick schemes as well as multi-level marketing (MLM) and money circulation schemes. Citing several examples, I explained them why there is nothing called as get money doubled within a short span and why they should stay away from such luring offers.
 
In the absence of access to formal banking channels, many people often go to moneylenders or take loan against their gold and gold jewellery. When I mentioned about few TV advertisement that claims to give loan against gold within two minutes, many of them laughed. They agreed that it was not possible and the moneylender first checks the quality of the gold and then only gives loan up to 75% of its value. Some even said the moneylender deducts the interest component and handover balance to them as new loan. 
 
Talking about insurance, I explained to the attendees the benefits of two new and very cost effective schemes launched by the Prime Minister — the  Pradhanmantri Suraksha Bima Yojana and Pradhanmantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana. The Suraksha Bima Yojana is applicable for anyone between the ages of 18 to 70 years while for Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana the age limit is 18-50 years. Main advantage of both the schemes is low premium of Rs12 and Rs330, respectively, per year.
 
One of the attendees pointed out that since he is over 70 years, there is no insurance or pension scheme for people like him. This we agree is a weakness. He also told me that in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, senior citizens, widows, weavers and toddy tappers receive a monthly pension of Rs1,000 and asked why the same is not available in Maharashtra. He requested Moneylife Foundation to take up both the issues with relevant authorities in the government. It is an interesting learning and shows a high level of awareness. 
 
In the end, I informed people about the Rajiv Gandhi Jeevandayee Arogya Yojana (RGJDAY) that is available in Maharashtra. Under this scheme, people having yellow or orange ration cards can avail benefits Rs1.5 lakh per year. The Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), a government-run health insurance scheme for poor covers only up to Rs30,000. On the other hand, RGJDAY from Maharashtra state government gives free health insurance up to Rs1.5 lakh on a floater basis.
 
The feedback that I have received also creates an opportunity for further refinement, especially when it comes to younger people. We want to tell them about the power of compounding and benefits of systematic savings, including building a good credit record. 
   
My effort was to use existing literacy tools and audio visuals to spread the message. NGOs and organisations who want to join Moneylife Foundation in spreading this message to groups (of a minimum of 75 to 100) that they are connected with, including microfinance companies, may contact us at [email protected] .
 

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