Monsoon sub-normal, farm output fell last season: Government

Even as monsoon rains are now predicted at 10 percent below normal, raising fears of another hard year for farmers, the latest official estimates suggest that the country's grain output fell 4.7 percent in the 2014-15 (July to June) season.

"As per the 4th advance estimates for 2014-15, total foodgrain production in the country is estimated at 252.68 million tonnes, which is lower by 12.36 million tonnes than the last year's record foodgrains production of 265.04 million tonnes," an official statement said.
The agriculture ministry, which released the fresh data, said that during the previous farm year, the Kharif crop for which where sowing starts in June with paddy as the main crop, was hit due to poor monsoon.
Alongside, the India Meteorological Department on Monday released the estimates of India's monsoon rain and said the deficit has widened to 10 percent, raising fears of a drought after six years.
Already, the unseasonal rains in the February-March this year had hit the Rabi crop hard, notably wheat, for which sowing starts in November and the harvest happens April-May.
India's agriculture year begins July 1 and ends June 30.
"As such, the 4th advance estimates are considered to be almost as good as final estimates, released the next February, along with the 2nd advance estimates for the subsequent agricultural year," the agriculture ministry said.
The saving grace, thus for, for the current Kharif season is that total sown area is now at 890.82 lakh hectare, against 863.61 lakh hectare in the like period of last year. The sown area for rice is at 300.55 lakh hectares, against 288.15 lakh hectares.
The fate of farmers in India is largely linked to monsoon rains, as it is the main source of water for more than half of the country's farmland, which lacks irrigation.
As for the 2014-15 agriculture season, the total production of rice was estimated at 104.80 million tonnes -- lower by 1.85 million tonnes than last year's 106.65 million tonnes. For wheat, it is 88.94 million tonnes, a dip of 6.91 million tonnes over 95.85 million tonnes.
This apart, the total production of coarse cereals has been pegged at 41.75 million tonnes, a fall of 1.54 million tonnes over 2013-14. The output of cereals is expected to plunge by 2.05 million tonnes to 17.20 million tonnes.
Highlights of farm out output for the agriculture year July 2014 to June 2015 in million tonnes:
* Grains-252.68 * Rice-104.80 * Wheat-88.94 * Coarse Cereals-41.75 * Maize-23.67 * Pulses - 17.20 * Tur - 2.78 * Gram - 7.17 * Oilseeds-26.68 * Soyabean-10.53 * Groundnut-6.56 * Rapeseed & Mustard-6.31 * Cotton-35.48 million bales of 170 kg each * Sugarcane-359.33 million tonnes


What the seven colours of ‘Indradhanush’ should have stood for
The government has laid out 7-pronged action plan from A to G for reforming public sector banks. It will not make one wiser on several policy issues. Here is what a 7-pronged plan should have looked like
On 14 August 2015 Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced a Seven Step Revamp Programme for Indian Public Sector Banks. Essentially a re-packaging of measures in progress, the seven colours of the programme enshrined “Indradhanush” comprise:
A new approach to top-level appointments (Allowing entry of talent from outside)
Bank Board Bureau: This will come into being on April 1, 2016 and will be the nucleus for a Bank Holding Company to be established later
Capitalisation: An announcement about pumping additional capital of Rs 20,000 crore distributed among 12 PSBs including State bank of India.
De-stressing: Meaning management of NPAs
Empowerment: More flexibility in hiring staff
Framework of accountability: ESOPs and higher performance bonus
Governance reforms: Strategy to be discussed at next Gyan Sangam during January 2016.
In reality, excluding induction of a couple of executives from private sector at the top and release of Rs20,000 crore additional capital, everything else, represented by alphabets B, D, E, F and G here are, to borrow a phrase from RBI Governor Dr Raghuram Rajan, “Work in Progress”. Even an interview given by Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha to a mainstream financial newspaper does not make one wiser about the direction in which government intends to go on several other more important colours of Indradhanush (if that is the code name for banking reforms affecting public sector banks). An illustrative list follows:
Attrition management: In addition to attrition due to ageing, public sector banks will see migration of their staff to private sector during the next five years as more banking institutions are being set up in the private sector. Retaining talent will be a challenge. The dependence on contract employment and ‘outsourcing’ skilled work (including IT-related projects) has not been cost-effective, besides their impact on employee-morale which is an aspect extremely significant for jobs in financial sector. High time, HR management in financial sector as an issue, as skill-needs here are different from building workers.
Branch expansion, ATMs and Banking Correspondents: Branch expansion has to be need-based. Here sharing of centres among banks (both public and private sector) has to be more realistic. This did not find a place in government’s revamp programme, because it involves regulatory measures. Working of ATMs, including their fee-structure and positioning need more attention. How the Banking Correspondents have fared also need to be studied from cost and efficiency angles.
Consolidation: Delaying consolidation is a drain on resources. Here the Narasimham Committee recommendations relating to Universal Banks, Large banks and Local Banks need to be re-visited in the changed context of the Multi-Agency System (with different categories of banks in the commercial category) now being contemplated. 
Diversification of business: Like the present proposal from RBI to allow urban cooperative banks to become full-fledged commercial banks, each bank will have to identify its strengths and weaknesses and decide the business-mix it can focus on.
Employee morale: This is a neglected area in financial sector. It is not just about wage structure or job security. A sense of belonging needs to be inculcated. Banks can learn a lot from Tatas in this area.
Fast track reforms: Government and RBI should identify areas where reforms can follow a fast track. So far, the negotiation and debate have been on shifting power from statutory bodies to finance ministry, rather than introducing sector-specific reforms.
Globalisation: We should try to improve performance of our institutional system by adhering to global standards. Recently, Prime Minister was talking about the quality of our handlooms. India’s cooperatives can become world-class organisations, if they get proper guidance and a de-politicalised environment to function. Perhaps, select cooperative banks can be made models for working further on the idea.
(MG Warrier is former general manager, RBI, Mumbai and author of the 2014 book “Banking, Reforms & Corruption: Development Issues in 21st Century India”.)



Meenal Mamdani

2 years ago

Excellent article.

Employee morale is very important as the author says. Are bank managers given credit for increase in deposits in their branches? Is an employee rewarded publicly for exceptional service or suggestions for improving efficiency?

Neral, at the base of Matheran, is growing fast. But the development has been lop sided with all the commercial establishments including bank branches on just one side of the rail tracks which run through the town. Residents of the other side have been asking for a branch for a while. Two lady officers of SBI accepted our invitation to de-mystify banking for the women on the undeveloped side. During discussion women asked for a SBI branch on their side. We were told to submit a request to the bank, signed by local gram panchayats, etc. As expected nothing has happened over the last 6 months. If there were sufficient rewards for showing initiative I am sure the bank officers would have pursued this request in the bank hierarchy.

Public sector employees are managed with ineffective sticks and not enough carrots. This needs to change.


MG Warrier

In Reply to Meenal Mamdani 2 years ago

Thanks. There are certain forces working against improvement in Human Resources Management in Government and public sector. Efficiency of public sector directly affects the profitability of private sector. Tragedy is, private sector wants to enjoy the creamy layer of business and would prefer 'less attractive' or 'more difficult' tasks to remain with government or public sector!

Will there be justice for the late Lance Naik Ved Mitra Chaudhary?
The army must press for prosecution of the criminals and ensure that the next-of-kin of Lance Naik Ved Mitra Chaudhary gets due legal justice and full pension 
A global survey on attitudes to democracy conducted in India by Lokniti at the Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in 2013 and titled “Democracy in India: A Citizens’ Perspective”, mentioned that: “As in 2005, political parties were the least trusted political institutions, and the police the least trusted unelected institution. Trust in Parliament, while low, rose between 2005 and 2013, while the Army continued to be the most trusted institution. The civil service was perceived as the most corrupt, more so than local, State and Central governments”. Thus, citizens' opinion in relative terms, of the trustworthiness of the institutions of government, specifically, the political parties, the police, the army (meaning, of course, the Armed Forces) and the civil service (bureaucracy), is unequivocal. 
How did this “least trusted institution” deal with the “most trusted institution last week? An area near New Delhi's Jantar Mantar is allowed by government for protestors to demonstrate peacefully with the permission of Delhi Police. Military veterans have been staging a peaceful and dignified relay fast for over two months at Jantar Mantar to press their decades-old demand for One-Rank-One-Pension (OROP). Briefly, veterans argue that the Koshiyari Committee appointed by Parliament has agreed to the validity of OROP, the Supreme Court has agreed to its justice, and successive governments have agreed to its provision. That is, the legislative, the judiciary and the executive – the three pillars of our Constitution – have agreed to the veterans' OROP demand. The veterans' straightforward demand is for immediate implementation of OROP. The most adversely affected veterans at Jantar Mantar are old, many over 80, many of them having fought in the wars in 1962, 1965 and 1971 for the country's security and sovereignty. 
Serving personnel of the Armed Forces and veterans are linked by an organic bond because of military tradition, many serving soldiers being children of veterans, and all serving men one day becoming veterans. And as a rule, soldiers carry their discipline and codes of conduct into civilian life after retirement. 
On the morning of 14 August 2015, Police moved into Jantar Mantar area in New Delhi in preparation for Independence Day, reportedly to evict demonstrators who could pose a security threat, and manhandled many veterans who peacefully resisted. This was police violence against ex-soldiers who have defended the sovereignty and honour of our country, and who have been continually called out by governments over the decades in “aid of the civil power” to do what is very often a police job, due to the repeated failure of governance by the politician-bureaucrat-police combine.  
The responsibility for ordering eviction lies with the Union Home Ministry, which controls the Delhi Police. Since police permission had been taken by the veterans to hold peaceful demonstration, the Police was well aware that veterans were among those at Jantar Mantar. Government considering veterans as a security threat and police manhandling them was deeply humiliating to the veterans. 
Thus, in terms of the foregoing citizens' opinion, the “least trusted unelected institution” inflicted physical violence on peaceful members of the “most trusted institution” at the behest of the political leadership conveyed by orders of the “most corrupt” institution. 
On 16th August, in Haradev Nagar locality of Meerut, a group of five youth were misbehaving with a girl. An army man, Lance Naik Ved Mitra Chaudhary, who happened to be passing by, stopped and chased away the miscreants to save the girl's honour. However, sadly, minutes later, the miscreants returned with rods, bricks and more accomplices, attacked Chaudhary, and beat him to death.
This incident reinforces the citizens' trust in the institution of the Army, exemplified by Lance Naik Chaudhary's courageous and selfless act. The murder of Lance Naik Chaudhary is being investigated by the police, who are reported to have detained some persons for investigation. 
Prosecution of criminal charges has far too frequently been ineffective, because of shoddy criminal investigation and/ or the prosecution being influenced by the accused and/ or prosecution witnesses turning hostile under influence of the accused through money-power or muscle-power or their combination, namely, powerful contacts. Thus often, the police (the least-trusted unelected institution) and the bureaucracy (the most corrupt institution) do not merely deny justice to the victim of crime, but also often enough succeed in helping the accused to get acquittal due to lack of evidence by incompetent or deliberately shoddy investigation, or inadequate prosecution not excluding collusion with the defending counsel. Many examples can be quoted for serious crimes like rape, murder, manslaughter, etc.
Lance Naik Ved Mitra Chaudhary was a courageous upholder of morality and law, who did the right thing instinctively. The fate of the case of his murder in the hands of corrupt, untrustworthy, callous and complicit institutions of governance remains to be seen. 

Bottom line

Most large social institutions (some named above in terms of citizens' trust) pursue objectives other than the ones they proclaim, because of the mal-influence of powerful persons with personal agendas. They try to do the wrong thing better, and this exacerbates the wrongness. It is much better to do the right thing inefficiently than the wrong thing efficiently, and morality and justice must always come before efficiency. 
The outcome of police investigation into the murder of Lance Naik Ved Mitra Chaudhary, the time frame in which it is done, and the speed and earnestness of the criminal investigation system need to be watched, primarily because of the influence that lumpen elements and political parties have on the police criminal justice system. 
The army needs to actively press for rapid and honest investigation and prosecution of the criminals, ensure that the next-of-kin of Lance Naik Ved Mitra Chaudhary gets due legal justice and full pension, and award him due posthumous honour for courage in upholding the highest military traditions and reinforcing citizens' trust in the army, at the cost of his life. 
(Major General SG Vombatkere, VSM, retired in 1996 as Additional DG Discipline & Vigilance in Army HQ AG's Branch. He holds a PhD degree in Structural Dynamics from IIT, Madras. He is Adjunct Associate Professor of the University of Iowa, US, in international studies. With over 400 published papers in national and international journals and seminars, his current area of interest is strategic and development-related issues)


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