Citizens' Issues
Maharashtra plans cloud seeding to combat monsoon blues
Worried by the revised monsoon forecast of lower than normal rainfall, the Maharashtra government has set in motion a contingency plan for cloud seeding to combat the looming water crises in the state, an official said here.
 
The revenue, relief and rehabilitation ministry issued tenders last month inviting bids for cloud seeding operations in different parts of the state.
 
The issue was also discussed at Tuesday's cabinet meeting presided over by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and an amount of Rs.10 crore has been set aside for the venture.
 
"We plan to undertake cloud seeding in Vidarbha, Marathwada and north Maharashtra on a pilot basis," Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse later told media.
 
In the past few years, the state has experienced spells of droughts or semi-droughts, with bouts of unseasonal rains and hailstorms which have resulted in huge crop damage and large numbers of farmers committing suicide.
 
Way back in 1992, cloud seeding was attempted by the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) over a couple of lakes supplying drinking water to the city, but the results were not very encouraging.
 
The process involved a furnace in which coal is burnt at 1,350 degrees Celsius in which powdered Silver Iodide is sprinkled.
 
These particles rise in the air to cloud level in 10 - 12 minutes. 
 
There are various natural parameters contributing to its success, including the height of the clouds which must be between 8,000-10,000 metres, wind speed of between 15-20 kmph and at least 70 percent humidity levels.
 
After these particles travel upwards, they crystallize at minus-five degrees and since clouds have both ice and water crystals, the particles attract the water, its weight increases and they fall down in the form of rain within a couple of hours.
 
The proposed exercise may be taken up only after studying the current monsoon patterns and would be largely experimental in nature, but if it succeeds, it would be taken up on regular basis in the state, officials said.

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Financial literacy: Lessons from the ground level
During a financial literacy seminar, one attendee asked why there is no government social security, insurance or pension scheme for people over 70 years. Hope those in power are listening
 
As part of spreading financial literacy under Moneylife Foundation, last week I conducted a seminar at BDD Chawl in Worli for a group of about 125 people, mostly senior citizens. Since it was a mixed crowd, we had decided to conduct the seminar in Hindi. Some attendees, however, turned out to be more fluent in Marathi since they have been living in Worli, the central place in Mumbai, since past several decades. The financial literacy seminar was organised by Dignity Foundation.
 
Also, since the people were from the lower middle income group, we tried to keep the contents at basic level, like identifying fake currency notes (incidentally, people from the lower income group and below poverty line are more susceptible for 'real' looking fake notes), the Pradhanmantri Jan Dhan Yojana, newly launched Suraksha Bima Yojana, Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, how to use the RuPay card (provided by the bank after opening Jan Dhan account), how to use it, how to transfer money using mobile phone. 
 
When I informed them about fake notes and how one can easily identify one, many have a simple question, what next? This means, what to do when they find the note in their hand is fake and what about the financial loss. As per the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) guidelines, since the note is fake, it has no value as such. However, the citizens are expected to deposit the fake note in the bank and obtain a receipt for it. 
 
While nobody was willing to accept that they indeed had received fake notes in the past, several attendees told me that either their friend or relative was turned away from the bank while trying to deposit the note. Despite clear directions from the RBI, several of the branch officials in banks, simply turn away such customers or demand another note. If insisted, then, the officials simply take the fake note, put a stamp across it as 'fake' and return to customer or tear it into pieces, which they simply are not allowed to do. Few attendees even told me that bank officials threaten to hand them over to police if they insist on depositing the fake note. 
 
RBI had directed all banks to collect and deposit all such fake currency notes into the chest only and never allow the note to get back into circulation. Banks are even paid 25% of the value as incentive for collecting and depositing fake note in the chest. However, the customers are deprived the value of the currency note that they may have received without checking.
 
Next part was how to take care of one’s wealth and how to manage need-based expenses. I told the attendees how not to go to private moneylenders and instead they should use a bank for their loan requirements. I also explained them about the benefits of Jan Dhan Yojana bank accounts and how they can avail the overdraft facility of Rs5,000 after successfully operating their bank accounts. In addition, I told them to swipe or use their RuPay card at least once in 45 days so that they can get the additional Rs1 lakh accidental insurance coverage. Using some short films, I explained the attendees on money transfer using mobile phone. 
 
Several people from this income group fall prey to get-rich-quick schemes as well as multi-level marketing (MLM) and money circulation schemes. Citing several examples, I explained them why there is nothing called as get money doubled within a short span and why they should stay away from such luring offers.
 
In the absence of access to formal banking channels, many people often go to moneylenders or take loan against their gold and gold jewellery. When I mentioned about few TV advertisement that claims to give loan against gold within two minutes, many of them laughed. They agreed that it was not possible and the moneylender first checks the quality of the gold and then only gives loan up to 75% of its value. Some even said the moneylender deducts the interest component and handover balance to them as new loan. 
 
Talking about insurance, I explained to the attendees the benefits of two new and very cost effective schemes launched by the Prime Minister — the  Pradhanmantri Suraksha Bima Yojana and Pradhanmantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana. The Suraksha Bima Yojana is applicable for anyone between the ages of 18 to 70 years while for Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana the age limit is 18-50 years. Main advantage of both the schemes is low premium of Rs12 and Rs330, respectively, per year.
 
One of the attendees pointed out that since he is over 70 years, there is no insurance or pension scheme for people like him. This we agree is a weakness. He also told me that in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, senior citizens, widows, weavers and toddy tappers receive a monthly pension of Rs1,000 and asked why the same is not available in Maharashtra. He requested Moneylife Foundation to take up both the issues with relevant authorities in the government. It is an interesting learning and shows a high level of awareness. 
 
In the end, I informed people about the Rajiv Gandhi Jeevandayee Arogya Yojana (RGJDAY) that is available in Maharashtra. Under this scheme, people having yellow or orange ration cards can avail benefits Rs1.5 lakh per year. The Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), a government-run health insurance scheme for poor covers only up to Rs30,000. On the other hand, RGJDAY from Maharashtra state government gives free health insurance up to Rs1.5 lakh on a floater basis.
 
The feedback that I have received also creates an opportunity for further refinement, especially when it comes to younger people. We want to tell them about the power of compounding and benefits of systematic savings, including building a good credit record. 
   
My effort was to use existing literacy tools and audio visuals to spread the message. NGOs and organisations who want to join Moneylife Foundation in spreading this message to groups (of a minimum of 75 to 100) that they are connected with, including microfinance companies, may contact us at [email protected] .
 

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Can Blatter's shock resignation rescue his FIFA legacy?
Not even the most hopeful of outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter's critics could have seen it coming this soon.
 
On Friday, Blatter was re-elected for a fifth straight mandate as the president of world football's governing body, reports Xinhua.
 
When he delivered his cheerful victory speech to FIFA's executive committee, he vowed "age would be no barrier" in his quest to steer "the ship back to the beach" amid a corruption scandal that has shaken the organisation to its very core.
 
But the new four-year term barely lasted four days.
 
Blatter looked every bit his 79 years on Tuesday as he hunched over a prepared statement at FIFA's headquarters here to announce his resignation from the sport's most senior position.
 
"While I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football - the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football as much as we all do at FIFA," Blatter said.
 
He added that a request for an extraordinary meeting of FIFA's executive committee would be made at "the earliest opportunity" so that a successor could be elected.
 
Unsurprisingly, the announcement was prime social media fodder. The underlying message that swept Twitter and Facebook news feeds was "goodbye and good riddance" to a man whose popularity among football fans has ebbed to new lows over the past week.
 
But there were also words of praise; even from one of his most outspoken critics, by European football's governing body, UEFA president Michel Platini.
 
"It was a difficult decision, a brave decision, and the right decision," he said on Tuesday.
 
Many questioned the timing of the announcement. Why now, just days after he spoke so defiantly about his next term in charge?
 
The answer could lie in the myriad graft allegations leveled against his colleagues.
 
Blatter was not named in an indictment by America's Department of Justice last week that accused 14 people - including seven top football officials - of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.
 
He has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence, saying it was impossible for him to monitor the actions of every official from each of FIFA's six confederations.
 
But it is clear he has felt the heat of developments over the past few days.
 
None of those developments has been more significant than explosive allegations in the New York Times that FIFA secretary general and Blatter's right-hand man, Jerome Valcke, was involved in wire transfers of bribe money for World Cup bids.
 
Valcke denied the accusation, as did FIFA in an official statement on Tuesday.
 
But for Blatter, who has fought off allegations of corruption since taking office in 1998, the claims meant the scandal has now reached his inner circle. Pressure from FIFA's major sponsors is also likely to have played a part in Blatter's decision.
 
It took about an hour after Tuesday's announcement for Coca-Cola to issue a statement endorsing the move.
 
Blatter is also understood to have been urged to step down by his family, especially daughter Corinne. Whatever the underlying reason for his about-turn, the process to elect his successor will not be so swift.
 
FIFA statutes require four months' notice for elections to be held, meaning Blatter is likely to remain in the job at least until the end of the year.
 
It is long enough, he says, to set the wheels in motion for structural change at FIFA.
 
"Since I shall not be a candidate, and am therefore now free from the constraints that elections inevitably impose, I shall be able to focus on driving far-reaching, fundamental reforms that transcend our previous efforts," he said.
 
A few months will not allow him to rid FIFA of all its ills. But there is hope that, with his legacy at stake, it might just be long enough for Blatter to write a bright addendum to what is already one of the darkest periods in football's history.

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