The prime minister said foodgrain production will exceed the target by 5 million tonnes and cotton output at 34 million bales, which is a new record as per the latest estimates. However, there was only 1% growth rate in food production in the country, against 2% required to meet India’s grain requirement by 2020-21, he said
New Delhi, Feb 15 (PTI) Exceeding target, the country is set to harvest a record 250 million tonnes of foodgrain this year, as efforts to push farm growth seem to be paying off, reports PTI quoting prime minister Manmohan Singh.
“Our farmers have done us proud again this year. ...but we still have a long way to go. ...we cannot afford to be complacent since demand of horticulture and animal products is increasing very rapidly and this will require some shift of area away from production of foodgrain.
“Therefore productivity in foodgrain has to go up handsomely,” he said at a workshop at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in the capital.
The workshop is the part of the initiative of president Pratibha Patil for enhancing farm productivity, especially in rain-fed areas. A committee of governors constituted by the president has already met twice.
Besides Ms Patil, Wednesday’s meeting was attended by over 20 governors, eight Union ministers, five chief ministers and 37 vice-chancellors of agricultural universities.
The prime minister said foodgrain production will exceed the target by 5 million tonnes and cotton output at 34 million bales, which is a new record as per the latest estimates.
However, there was only 1% growth rate in food production in the country, against 2% required to meet India’s grain requirement by 2020-21, he said.
The prime minister also pointed out distortions arising from pricing and subsidy regimes resulted into soil degradation.
He expressed concern over volatility in prices of farm products. “There is a big gap between farm gate and retail prices that the consumers pay. There is also volatility with prices being low after harvest. We need to address all this by reforming agricultural marketing systems and investing in supply chains,” he said.
The prime minister stressed the need of private investment in marketing logistics, particularly in sub-sectors with perishable products, as well as in agricultural research areas like extension activities.
Mr Singh called for a special focus on rain-fed areas, where farm productivity continues to be low.
“Rain-fed farming continues to be a gamble with nature and cases of distress continue to be reported despite our efforts,” he said, adding that productivity in rain-fed areas must be improved.
Rain-fed farming account for about 60% of the country’s total cropped area. It contributes more than 80% of the oilseeds and pulses grown in the country.
The prime minister also observed that strong agriculture is necessary for food security and inclusive growth cannot be achieved in its true sense without providing livelihood security to the farmers.
Referring to the suggestions made by the three core groups, constituted by PMO to look into agricultural issues, Mr Singh said, “These groups have given their reports and ministry of food and agriculture has examined them. I am told that most of the recommendations are acceptable and action on them has either already been taken or is underway.”
Agriculture and allied sectors have grown at an estimated rate of 3.5% in the 11th Five-Year Plan (2007-2012), compared to the growth rate of 2.4% in the previous plan period, he added.
The foodgrain production in 2010-11 crop year (July-June) stood at 244.78 million tonnes.
While the EGOM is slated to meet again to finalise the ONGC stake sale plan, heavy industries minister Praful Patel said that the BHEL disinvestment may happen in the next fiscal
New Delhi: With just one-and-half months left to meet the Rs40,000 crore disinvestment target for this fiscal, a panel of ministers today failed to take a decision on stake sale of blue chip oil major ONGC and engineering giant BHEL and decided to meet again to take a final call, reports PTI.
“(The government is) considering auction route for ONGC (disinvestment). No time line fixed as yet. Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) to meet again shortly”, petroleum and natural gas minister, S Jaipal Reddy, told reporters after the meeting of the EGoM here.
As regards BHEL, heavy industries and public enterprises minister Praful Patel said, “no decision on BHEL disinvestment...May happen next fiscal”.
The EGoM, which met under the chairmanship of finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, was slated to take a call on stake sale in the two major PSUs with a view to garnering about Rs14,500 crore in the current fiscal itself.
The government in the budget for 2011-12 had envisaged to raise Rs40,000 crore through PSU disinvestment, but in over 10 months it could mop up only Rs1,145 crore from stake sale in the Power Finance Corporation (PFC).
The target of Rs40,000 crore, according to disinvestment secretary Mohammad Haleem Khan, “is now almost impossible (to meet)”.
He further said that a final picture with regard to raising funds from disinvestment in the current fiscal would emerge after the next meeting of the EGoM.
The government is, however, hopeful that NBCC disinvestment might go ahead in the current fiscal, but that would only fetch Rs250 crore.
The government has been considering selling 5% government stake in ONGC to raise about Rs12,000 crore through the auction route.
It owns 74.14% stake in ONGC and proposed to offload 427.77 million shares or 5% equity.
In case of BHEL, the proposal is to offload 10% government stake in the state-owned company with a view to mopping up around Rs2,500 crore.
The auction route, which is being considered by the EGoM for stake sale, is aimed at allowing the government to complete the disinvestment process quickly and raise funds within the current fiscal which ends on 31st March.
The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has already issued norms allowing promoters to sell stake by way of auction, through a separate window on the BSE and the NSE, which has to be completed within a day.
The share price of ONGC rose 1.78% to Rs280.90 during the mid-day trade on BSE, while BHEL shares were up 2.45% at Rs 271.45.
Aphro Finance is neither a bank nor a financial institution, yet it claims to provide interest-free loans between Rs6 lakh and Rs33 lakh to women in Tamil Nadu to buy homes constructed by itself or its sister concern. What is the source of funding for AphroFin?
Anyone who want to take a home loan is little nervous about the prevailing interest rate which is over 10% due to the higher interest rate regime since past several months, courtesy, unabated inflation and rising policy rates. However, there is one company in Tamil Nadu that claims to provide interest-free home loans. Only catch is you need to buy a home built by its own sister concern.
Aphro Financial Services Pvt Ltd (AphroFin) and Aphro Micro Finance Pvt Ltd are the two companies based in Chennai. While not much information is available about these companies and the Aphro group of companies, the name of its director IP Yesudoss continues to be in focus. In fact, AphroFin’s website is full of Mr Yesudoss’ images and videos.
Here is what the company says: “The rules and regulations of many banks and finance companies are very severe. For example, the ways to get those loans are easily approachable by only educated people and not by illiterate and poor people. So these innocent people have to look for the help of others to get credit. Loan got after these system will be of high interest. Therefore within a few months people are not able to return the loan and they get more loans to repay and lose their happiness. Aphro was started to give a new dimension to these old systems. At this time of strong rules, regulations and high interest, Aphro started its office in the place where poor people live to support them with easy rules and less interest for the future welfare of them by giving business loans.”
Nothing wrong in providing loans to the needy. However, to do this on a large scale one needs to be super rich or a bank or financial institution. Unfortunately, AphroFin is none of them. It is just a broking agency-cum-builder. This is what is written by the agency on its site: “Aphro is a funding agency committed to the welfare of the people. Aphro was launched with the view to ensure the overall well–being of the people. We give loans to eligible people, under various schemes. Each scheme is designed to ensure 100% benefit to the borrowers…”
However, here is what it says about the loan under its terms and conditions...
“Your agreement with Aphro Finance does not constitute a guarantee of a loan as the lender grants the final approval and evidence may be required. We will act as your credit broker for the purpose of securing a loan or finance.”
When Moneylife contacted Aphro Trust (another unit or front of AphroFin), under the pretext of a loan seeker, one of the company’s managers said that the company doesn’t provide information over the phone. Information about loans and repayment is given when we visit the company personally. The company’s Hindi and English phone numbers are out of service. Also, the “Contact Us” section on the company’s website—http://www.aphrofin.com/contactus.php—doesn’t provide the location of the company. One has to fill in the details on the website.
Here is what the manager, said, “Loans are not provided for places outside Tamil Nadu. The company has just begun its operations. The company constructs buildings and give home loans for buying flats in those buildings only. We do not have any tie-up with any banks and the loans are provided by Aphro Trust.”
According to the information provided by an AphroFin representative, Aphro Trust is constructing buildings at about eight locations in Tamil Nadu and the buyer or loanee has to buy a flat in one of the buildings in order to avail the home loan. Aphro Trust has just started construction of the buildings and expects to complete them over next eight to 12 months.
AphroFin says: “Under this scheme Aphro builds and transfers Rs6,00,000 to Rs33,00,000. The scheme is operational across Tamil Nadu. It is enough if the loan taken is paid back and settled in instalments. The loan can be settled over a period of 15/20/25 years. Eligibility: 1) Anyone living in rented houses can apply 2) Allotment orders are given in three months and built-in homes are handed over in one year’s time.”
While there is no interest on loans offered for buying homes built by its own units, AphroFin, however, charges an administration fee for every application. The amount is not revealed. AphroFin also provides personal loans or business loans at an interest of 6% per annum, contrary to what every other lender in the country charges. This is surprising, especially when some banks are offering 6% to 7% interest on savings account while AphroFin if asking for just 6% interest on a loan!
Aphro Financial Services Pvt Ltd is registered with the ministry of corporate affairs with a CIN no. U65922TN2011PTC079076 and has shown its authorised capital as Rs5 lakh with Rs1 lakh as paid-up capital. This raises question about the source of funding of AphroFin and its units—Aphro Trust and Aphro Micro Finance. Similarly, while AphroFin maintained that it does not provide funding on its own and merely acts as funding agency or broker, it is revealed that the loans are provided by Aphro Trust.
Aprho Trust exists only on AphroFin’s website and few of its branches. There is no information available about the trust and whether it is genuine and properly registered anywhere. In addition, from where it is receiving the funds for distributing to women without any interest is a big mystery. Actually, this should have ringed loud alarm bells. But it has not. No one, including the police, administration and tax authorities are finding AphroFin’s business model strange and doubtful.
The reason? Last June year, Aphro Trust organised a function at Rajalakshmi Paradise Hall near Madavaram in Chennai to donate Rs5,000 each for 1,000 children belonging to its women members. And, according to information on AphroFin’s website, it was attended by P Sakthivel, joint commissioner of police (traffic), Chennai, Anthony Johnson Jayapal, commandant/ superintendent of police, small arms, Tamil Nadu along with several priests, educational officers and lawyers.