Pawar said that availability of foodgrains stock in the country would not be a problem and in fact, India has surplus grains for exports as well
New Delhi: Foodgrains production in 2012-13 will be lower than last year's record output of 257.44 million tonnes but availability would be sufficient to meet domestic demand, India's Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said on Tuesday, reports PTI.
Addressing the Economic Editors Conference, he said the government would make efforts to compensate the projected fall in kharif foodgrains output during the ongoing rabi season.
"This year, production will definitely be less than last year. Last year was exceptional year, we had very good production," Pawar said when asked about the total foodgrains production estimate for 2012-13 crop year (July-June).
However, the minister said, that he does "not expect a major drop in foodgrains production" despite the erratic and delayed monsoon in some parts of the country this year.
Last month, the Agriculture Ministry had projected 10% fall in kharif foodgrains production at 117.18 million tonnes in view of poor rains and drought in more than 360 talukas in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat.
"Better rainfall in August and September has provided us an opportunity for good rabi (winter) season ahead. Moisture position is comparatively good and that's why we will be able to recoup kharif losses in the rabi season," he said, adding that monsoon deficit has come down to 6% now.
Pawar said that availability of foodgrains stock in the country would not be a problem and in fact, the country has surplus grains for exports as well.
In his opening remarks, Pawar said: "It is definitely a matter of pride for me, as the Agriculture Minister, to be associated with record foodgrains production for consecutive 2 years. We have been successful in exporting 10 million tonnes of rice and 2.5 million tonnes each of wheat and sugar."
As against the buffer requirement of around 21.2 million tonnes, the government has 70 million tonnes of stocks in the central pool, he added.
Tendulkar's suggestions include a roadmap for complete overhaul of the sports infrastructure at the university and college level
New Delhi: Batting maestro and Rajya Sabha MP Sachin Tendulkar has expressed his desire to work closely with the government to integrate sports into the education system, reports PTI.
39-year-old Tendulkar, in a letter to HRD Minister Kapil Sibal last week, has stressed on honing the potential of the younger generation and nurturing their talent as he felt that sports is being neglected in educational institutions, a senior HRD Ministry official said.
Tendulkar's suggestions include a roadmap for complete overhaul of the sports infrastructure at the university and college level, he said.
The batting legend has been invited by the Ministry to make a detailed presentation following which his suggestion on integration of sports with education would be looked into by NCERT and CBSE, he said.
The official said Sibal is keen on taking forward the proposal and is awaiting an early interaction with Tendulkar in this regard.
"We welcome Sachin Tendulkar's proposal and I have already written to him inviting him for a presentation," Sibal said.
One of the key suggestions could also include making sports a compulsory activity and infusing greater share of sports-related activities in the course curriculum to bring in more competitive spirit.
Ministry officials also seem to endorse Tendulkar's view on making sports a compulsory activity because at present it is only extra-curricular in nature.
Official figures have shown that in July-September, the air traffic in India has shrunk by 9-11% on a month-over-month basis
New Delhi: Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh on Tuesday expressed concern over shrinkage in air passenger traffic numbers in the last three months but hoped that the buoyancy in the sector would lead to a spike in the long-run, reports PTI.
"In the past three months, the traffic numbers have fallen. Following the global economic downturn, there were worries about a downturn in the Indian economy. There were estimations about a fall in GDP growth and there were issues relating to high costs. And airlines and the hospitality industry are the first to suffer from this," Singh told the Economic Editors conference.
"We hope that in the long-run the traffic will increase. It is bound to increase," he said.
Official figures have shown that in July-September, the air traffic has shrunk month-over-month by 9-11%.
However, between January-August this year, international passenger traffic grew by 15% over the same period last year and the number of passengers carried rose marginally from 39.63 million in 2011 to 39.82 million this year.
The overall losses of all Indian carriers totalled about Rs10,000 crore, he said, adding, half of their debt related to aircraft purchase apart from massive working capital loans.
Giving a brief on various aspects of the civil aviation sector, the Minister said the government had undertaken a series of initiatives to further the growth of the sector.
In order to promote regional air connectivity, he said the government had approved creation of 15 greenfield airports and work on three of them -- at Mopa (Goa), Navi Mumbai and Kannur -- is likely to begin by the end of this fiscal.
A total of Rs24,132 crore would be made available for airport development in the 12th Plan period, including Rs17,500 crore investment in the central sector.
To promote connectivity to Tier-II and Tier-III cities, he said changes were being made in the Route Dispersal Guidelines, which make it mandatory for all Indian airlines to operate to socially-important but financially unviable routes in the Northeast, Jammu and Kashmir and A&N Islands.
Singh said the Aircraft Acquisition Policy was also being amended to "nudge" the Indian carriers to buy smaller planes to operate to smaller cities.
Singh said, "We have engaged consultants to help formulate (changes in the route dispersal guidelines) and their report is expected in two months".
Government was also having a re-look at the Aircraft Acquisition Policy, under which Indian carriers would be "nudged to acquire smaller planes to fly to smaller cities, we can't mandate them to do that. They would also be asked to submit detailed business plans to help us understand how many planes they would require," Singh said.
Other measures initiated by the government include allowing foreign airlines to invest FDI upto 49% in Indian carriers, allowing airlines to directly import jet fuel, seeking rationalisation of taxes on it, modernising a large number of airports in metros and non-metros, initiating steps to establish a Civil Aviation Authority, a separate Air Accident Bureau and Civil Aviation Security Force.
Asked about the response of liberalising FDI in the sector so far, Singh said "no one (foreign airline) has approached yet. It is an enabling provision and part of a long-term policy. Aviation business in highly complicated. Let us see what happens."
Maintaining that there was "a very low level of investment" in aviation due to the high risk factor, he said substantial FDI could only come if foreign carriers were permitted to invest. "The purpose is to bring in strategic foreign investors, apart from expertise and experience."
Regarding high ATF prices which account for 45-55% of an airline's total operational cost, he said Civil Aviation Ministry was in talks with other concerned Ministries to declare aviation turbine fuel as a notified good and to bring its pricing under the ambit of Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board.
Efforts were also governments, which imposed five-30% sales tax on ATF, which would bring down its prices, the Minister said.