Companies & Sectors
India's farm sector growth at 0.02percent, rural-urban divide widens
India's agriculture growth dropped to 0.02% in the last quarter of 2014-15, according to the latest government data, compounding predictions of a bad monsoon ahead.
 
 
The meteorological department on June 2, 2015, lowered its rainfall projections, saying the monsoon rainfall would be 88 percent of the average. If this prediction pans out, 2015 will officially be a drought year, declared when monsoon rainfall shortfall exceeds 10 percent.
 
Unseasonal rains caused crop damage and a farm crisis this year, forcing wheat imports from Australia.
 
While agriculture - which supports 600 million Indians - faces significant distress, the warning signs have been evident for many years. Over the past 20 years, the farm sector has experienced negative growth during five years, three of those being drought years.
 
Two indicators of India's struggle to keep its people fed are foodgrain production and its per capita availability.
 
Although foodgrain production increased 32 percent over the past two decades, the population has increased by roughly 42 percent over this period. Per capita availability of foodgrain has increased marginally, from 471 gm in 1994-95 to 511 gm in 2013-14.
 
Agriculture in India is mostly weather dependent, and that is a major reason for the fluctuations in farm growth.
 
The year 2014-15 has not been a good year for agriculture and productivity. Our recent report shows how hunger and malnourishment are growing in India, and why agriculture needs a boost in innovation for better productivity.
 
Instead, India's farmers are sinking deeper into distress.
 
Why farmers are becoming workers
 
Data gleaned over last three census periods-1991, 2001 and 2011-indicate that the population of cultivators has declined and farm labourers has increased.
 
This indicates that more people engaged in agriculture are landless and work on other people's land for wages.
 
The census defines two categories of workers engaged in farming: cultivators and agricultural labourers. While cultivators own land, agricultural labourers work on farms.
 
People engaged in the farm sector are mostly unskilled workers.
 
Meanwhile, India's urban-rural divide appears to have widened between 1993-94 and 2011-12, according to an IIM-Ahmedabad study, which indicated two trends over this period:
 
* Per capita GDP for rural India increased 7 times and for urban India by 8 times.
 
* Urban per capita GDP was 2.3 times more than rural in 1993-94; this difference was 2.5 times in 2011-12
 
The increasing gap shows that instead of moving towards greater economic productivity, rural India is engaged in low wage-earning activity on farms.

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Workmen strike cripples SBI associate banks
Banking operations were severely hit as workers struck work in five associate banks of the State Bank of India across the country on Thursday, a union official said here.
 
The strike by clerical staff was to protest against the proposed merger of the five associates of SBI, the country's leading public sector bank, said All Indian Bank Employees Association vice president Vishwas Utagi.
 
"The employees are opposed to the merger and we want these five banks to be delinked from SBI and function independently," Utagi told IANS.
 
The five associate banks hit by the strike are the State Bank of Patiala, State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Mysore and State Bank of Travancore.
 
Utagi said that around 50,000 staffers were on strike on Thursday in 6,000 branches of the five associate banks all over India.
 
On account of the strike in the five associate banks, inter-banking operations with other banks, including the SBI, also suffered, he added.
 
Today's strike was supported by all unions in the banking sector which have planned a major all-India strike on June 24.

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Fitness apps: How fit are they?
The market is already flooded with more than 30,000 health and fitness applications and more are in the offing
 
Is the smartphone your new doctor, as is being claimed by many app developers?
 
The market is already flooded with more than 30,000 health and fitness applications and more are in the offing.
 
So, there is an app that can measure your calorie intake while another can track your physical activity. Yet another can throw up dietary suggestions after measuring your Body Mass Index (BMI) and still others can provide you with a good cardio chart.
 
People, especially the urban smartphone users whose hectic work life allows them very little time for exercise, are downloading such apps with enthusiasm in the hope of achieving "better" health.
 
But are these apps effective? According to fitness experts, such "virtual" apps can hardly be a replacement for "real" exercise, be it going to the gym or walking in the park.
 
"I do not think a smartphone application can make you healthy until you actually hit the gym. In our gym, not too many people use these apps to track their physical activity or metabolism," Vivek Soni, head trainer at Gold's Gym in New Delhi, told IANS.
 
Fitness apps may be useful for athletes because they have to constantly maintain a certain fitness level and require far more intense physical training than an average person.
 
"But for common people, these apps can't be very useful," Soni says.
 
There is another aspect too. Every person's dietary and training needs are different from anyone else.
 
But the free apps are designed in a 'one-size-fits-all' manner. So, it may be counter-productive to use these apps without expert supervision, experts warn.
 
"The smartphone apps are effective, but what kind of apps? The internet is flooded with information on health and fitness. But how would you know what is right for you and what is not?" Roshini Gilbert, transformation and rehabilitation coach at Bangalore-based online health solutions provider Healthifyme.com, asks.
 
"For an app to be truly effective, it must be tailor-made according to the specific needs and lifestyle of the user. A general app may be effective for some, but not for all," she noted.
 
According to a US-based study, gamification - or applying game design to non-game applications - is currently the popular trend for mobile fitness app makers looking to cash in on helping people get fit.
 
Fitness app enthusiasts, though, would be in for a disappointment if they go by the results of most of the recent studies done to fathom the efficacy of such apps.
 
"It has just been assumed that gamified apps will work, but there has been no research to show that they are effective for people in the long term," said Cameron Lister from Utah-based Brigham Young University.
 
Lister and health science professor Josh West analysed over 2,000 health and fitness apps and found that the majority of the most popular and widely used ones feature gamification.
 
As part of their study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, the duo personally downloaded and used 132 of the apps to examine how well they worked.
 
They found that gamification ignores key elements of behaviour change and could be demotivating in the long run.
 
"It is like people assuming that you hate health and you hate taking care of your body so they offer to give you some stuff in order for you to do what they want you to do," Lister noted.
 
According to the inaugural "2015 State of US Health & Fitness Apps Economy" report published by US-based research group ARC 360 late last year, many well-known brand apps were not favourites with consumers with some being rated as fair.
 
"Health and fitness brands with apps rated as fair need to expand testing out of the lab and into the real world," said the authors.
 
The experts believe more research needs to be carried out in an industry projected to hit close to the $3 billion mark by 2016.
 
So, the next time you download a health app, think about giving that early morning jog another thought.

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