Citizens' Issues
India sees 62 percent jump in sown crop area
Dispelling fears of an agricultural slowdown, India has so far seen the sown area under crops jump by over 62 percent during the ensuing kharif season over the same period of last year, official data showed on Friday.
 
Compared with similar data released a week ago, the area under paddy this year stood at 132.11 lakh hectares, surpassing last year's level of 126.55 lakh hectares. 
 
The sown area under paddy on July 10 stood at 89.59 lakh hectares, which was, however, lower than 94.73 lakh hectares in the same period of last year.
 
Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh has been maintaining all that the government has adequate contingency plans in place to address any shortfall and that farmers have no cause for worry. The increase in area under crop reinforces such efforts, an official said.
 
The development comes against the backdrop of the agriculture ministry's advance estimates suggesting India's grain output for the 2014-15 season (July-June) may have fallen to 251.12 million tonnes - some 14 million tonnes lower than the previous year's record output of 265.04 million tonnes.
 
There were fears that this agriculture year, too, would see a slowdown in growth, or even a decline, due to monsoon forecasts. Rains during this season still account for 75 percent of the country's precipitation and over half of the farm sector's water needs.
 
Unseasonal rains in the early months of this year hit the rabi crops, especially wheat, for which sowing starts in November and the harvest happens April-May. For the kharif season, where sowing starts in June with paddy as the main crop, the deficit rain forecasts had raised fears.
 
The most encouraging development was in oilseeds. Official data showed that the crop sowing area has shot up to 127.12 lakh hectares as on July 17 compared with the coverage of 38.07 lakh hectares a year ago. Area under pulses also improved to 55.99 lakh hectares from 23.92 lakh hectares.
 
Cotton plantation was also up at 93.22 lakh hectares, against 55.99 lakh hectares.

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Lalu's horse carts to take on BJP 'raths'
RJD chief Lalu Prasad on Friday said he will unleash 1,000 horse carts, called 'Tum-Tum', across Bihar to take on the BJP's high-tech 'raths' ahead of assembly elections.
 
"I will flag off 1,000 Tum-Tums for campaigning to reach out to the poorest of the poor to counter the BJP raths," the former chief minister said here.
 
"We don't have funding from the rich. So the RJD has decided to use horse power to defeat the BJP's machine power," he said, referring to the 'raths'.
 
"Dozens of Tum-Tums will be engaged by our party for campaigning in each constituency." 
 
Elections to the 243-seat Bihar assembly will take place later this year.
 
The Rashtriya Janata Dal leader said the horse carts were perfect for Bihar's "dusty and rough roads. Tum-Tums will help us save money on petrol and diesel".
 
BJP president Amit Shah on Thursday launched the party's high-tech 'Parivartan Rath' campaign for the polls by flagging off 160 GPS-fitted 'raths' here.
 
The 'raths' would show a video film in Hindi depicting the 15 years of "misrule" of Bihar by Lalu Prasad and his wife Rabri Devi.

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Who's to pay anti-trust penalty imposed on state-run insurers?
While the Competition Commission of India imposed the penalty on National Insurance, New India Assurance, Oriental Insurance and United India Insurance, the question is: Will it be drawn from the funds of the shareholders of these non-life insurers or from that of policyholders
 
The penalty of Rs.671.05 crore imposed on four state-run insurers by the anti-trust panel for manipulation in the bidding process for the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna of Kerala has raised a curious question: From where will the money be drawn for the fine?
 
While the Competition Commission of India imposed the penalty on National Insurance, New India Assurance, Oriental Insurance and United India Insurance, the question is: Will it be drawn from the funds of the shareholders of these non-life insurers or from that of policyholders.
 
The regulator stipulates that fines imposed by it are to be debited to the shareholder fund and not on the policyholders. But the current debate is over penalty imposed by the anti-trust ody over malafide means in selecting service providers for the Kerala's insurance scheme over three years from 2010-11.
 
The matter was taken up by the anti-trust suo moto on receipt of anonymous information against the four companies. The allegation was that the four companies had indulged in anti-competitive agreements including bid rigging.
 
"The commission noted the impugned conduct of these companies to have resulted in manipulation of the bidding process in contravention of the provisions of section 3(1) read with section 3(3)(d) of the Act," the CCI said in a statement.
 
While imposing penalties, the commission noted that the present case related to bid-rigging in public procurement for social welfare schemes, the beneficiaries of which were below the poverty line and poor families. Accordingly, it was taken as a more serious offence.
 
The penalties imposed was Rs. 162.80 crore National Insurance, Rs. 251.07 crore on New India Assurance, Rs. 100.56 crore on Oriental Insurance and Rs.156.62 crore on United India Insurance.

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