Experts welcome decision to set up expert body on poverty

NAC member Harsh Mander said, “I welcome the assurance that in future, BPL poverty line criteria will be delinked while providing welfare schemes and government incentives.” He, however, added that there should be proper acceptance on adequate requirement of poor people

New Delhi: Welcoming the government’s decision to set up an expert committee to look into poverty estimates, former Union minister and noted economist YK Alagh said the new definition should take into account aspirations of the people, reports PTI.

“New poverty line must talk about aspirations of people.

Today, for the first time they (the government) have given up the Tendulkar Committee’s poverty line. I congratulate both the Planning Commission and the rural development ministry,” Mr Alagh told PTI.

The government, he hoped, would soon develop new concepts keeping in view the requirements of the ‘Aam Admi’.

Some members of Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council (NAC) also welcomed the government's announcement to set up a committee

Sources close to Aruna Roy, an NAC member, said, “We are happy that the government has given up the Tendulkar poverty line. That is a positive development.”

Another NAC member Harsh Mander said, “I welcome the assurance that in future, BPL poverty line criteria will be delinked while providing welfare schemes and government incentives.”

He, however, added that there should be proper acceptance on adequate requirement of poor people.

Meanwhile, NAC member NC Saxena said the government has taken no any new policy decision.

“Montek Singh issued his clarification today. No new policy decision was taken,” he said.

Highlighting the importance of poverty line, Mr Ahluwalia said the purpose of this is to give an absolute level of living that is able to trace over time whether development was taking people above this level.

“We always historically have the poverty line. We use it to measure whether growth is reaching below the poverty line or not and that monitoring would be done on the basis of poverty line,” he said.

Issue of benefits have never been exclusively linked to the poverty line because there are many benefits that are universal even in the case of Public Distribution System (PDS) at one time PDS was not linked to the poverty line, he added.

It is worth noting that the many benefits under various schemes are not linked to the poverty line. Some benefits at present are universal, e.g., free school education, mid day meals, ICDS and the employment guarantee under the MGNREGA, he said.

The proposed Food Security Bill is not universal but it extends the benefit of highly subsidised food grains to a much larger category than the below poverty line (BPL), that is, 41% instead of around 32%, and further to a general category which goes up to 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population.

The government has therefore responded to the need to protect more than the BPL, he said.

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No need now for TRAI to fix telecom tariff: TDSAT

The tribunal’s remarks came on two petitions filed by Telecom Users Group of India and an individual requesting the tribunal to direct TRAI to fix the tariff and to regulate the pre-paid services. According to them, there were several complex tariff structures floated by the service providers and TRAI should rationalise it to a few plans only

New Delhi: With telecom tariff ruling as low as Re1 due to competition in the market, the Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) on Monday said there was no need at present for regulator TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) to fix tariffs and it should leave this to market forces, reports PTI.

“The consumer groups contend that TRAI should frame tariff. This tribunal is, however, of the opinion that TRAI having prescribed forbearance (operators are free to fix tariffs), no direction at this stage should be issued,” said a TDSAT bench headed by its chairman justice SB Sinha.

TDSAT, however, said that the regulator must take steps to make consumers aware of their rights.

The tribunal also said, “In the event the TRAI determines that there would be only one (tariff) plan, the scope of multiplicity of plans would become non-existent.”

It further said, “We have noticed that the consultative process is over. It is expected that the TRAI would take a decision one way or the other at an early date and possibly within a month or so. Only in the event, certain deficiencies are found out, the question of examining the same by this tribunal would arise,” it added.

The issues raised by consumer groups by and large are covered by the consultation papers and draft regulations circulated by the TRAI and, thus, require no further consideration at this stage.

The tribunal’s remarks came on two petitions filed by Telecom Users Group of India and an individual.

They have requested the tribunal to direct TRAI to fix the tariff and to regulate the pre-paid services. According to them, there were several complex tariff structures floated by the service providers and TRAI should rationalise it to a few plans only.

According to the organisations, TRAI permits 25 tariff plans for each of the operators. VAS (Internet Data) was not regulated by the TRAI and electronic recharge does not have any transparency as the consumers are not informed as to the bill given by them while recharging, they said.

However, it was opposed by TRAI by saying that it was incorrect that it had not been performing its duties in terms of the tariff orders. So far, as latest increase of 20% hike, it has already sought for justifications from the operators, said TRAI.

“So far as a complex tariffs issue is concerned, the numbers of plans are only 27 for GSM operators and 12 for CDMA operators and, thus, it is incorrect to contend that as many as 125 plans are in circulation," TRAI had said.

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PMO wants fertiliser ministry to expedite urea decontrol policy

The decontrol proposal is being pushed by the finance ministry and the Planning Commission, as they are concerned over big subsidy bill on fertiliser, which was estimated at Rs52,840 crore in 2010-11 with almost half of which was on account of urea

New Delhi: Amid inter-ministerial differences over the decontrol of urea prices, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has asked the fertiliser ministry to expedite the proposed policy, reports PTI.

“The PMO has directed the fertiliser ministry to accelerate the urea decontrol policy,” sources said.

On 5th August, the Group of Ministers on fertiliser, headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, had referred the proposed urea decontrol policy to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) for approval as there was strong opposition from various ministries.

In the GoM, it was agreed that views of all concerned ministries on the issue would be sent to the CCEA, which would take a final call, source said.

The direction from the PMO comes in the wake of delay on the part of the fertiliser ministry to move the Cabinet note.

According to sources, fertiliser minister MK Azhagiri has not yet cleared the note prepared by the Department of Fertilisers.

The minister is opposing the proposed policy contending that the decontrol of urea sector would lead to rise in prices of the important farm nutrient.

Before the GoM, Mr Azhagiri had written to prime minister Manmohan Singh, opposing decontrol of the widely-used fertiliser. He had said the move should wait till amendment to the new investment policy for the sector is brought about.

Besides the fertiliser, agriculture and petroleum and natural gas ministries, the commerce ministry was also opposed to the move to free urea from price controls.

The proposal is, however, being pushed by the finance ministry and the Planning Commission, as they are concerned over big subsidy bill on fertiliser. In 2010-11, it was estimated at Rs52,840 crore, almost half of which was on account of urea.

Urea is the only fertiliser that remains under full price control. The government had freed prices of phosphatic and potash fertilisers in the last fiscal.

Under the draft policy prepared by the Committee of Secretaries, a partial freeing of the retail price of urea was proposed. It also proposed that with the partial decontrol kicking in, the industry can hike prices by 10% after a year.

The agriculture ministry does not want the prices to escalate. It feels the decontrol could wait for 2-3 years, sources said. At present, MRP (maximum retail price) of urea is Rs5,310 a tonne.

Currently, the domestic production is stagnant at 21-22 million tonnes as against demand of 27-28 million tonnes.

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