Regulations
PM urges RBI to prepare roadmap for 'financial inclusion' by 2035
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday urged the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to prepare a road-map for "financial inclusion" ahead of its centenary year in 2035.
 
"The RBI will be completing 100 years in 2035 and it will be appropriate for it to work on financial inclusion and prepare a roadmap to achieve it," Modi said, attending the 80th anniversary celebrations of the apex bank in Mumbai.
 
In addition to the RBI's centenary, he said other milestones to achieve financial inclusion could be the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi in 2019, the 75th year of Indian independence in 2022, and the RBI's 90th anniversary in 2025.
 
He said these were four important dates to create a roadmap for financial inclusion, which should not remain just a government programme, but become an 'article of faith.'
 
The prime minister also suggested that banks should be considerate in extending loans to the poor and while making recoveries, especially from the farming community.
 
Expressing concern at the plight of the poor and farmers' suicides, he said these should "shake up the conscience of the banking sector".
 
"Our poor farmers commit suicide... This pain should not only be restricted to the media. When a farmer dies, does it shake the heart of the banking sector? Only because he has taken loan from a moneylender, he has to face death," Modi said.

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Over 350 return home from Yemen, wary of future
Over 350 Indians were safely airlifted from strife-torn Yemen, but the returnees on Thursday were apprehensive about their future and hoped they would land jobs.
 
India sent its biggest plane, the C-17 (Globemaster), to evacuate its nationals, 190 of whom landed in Mumbai on Thursday while another 168 went to Kochi in Kerala.
 
Fighting has been going on in Yemen since January 22 when the government under President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was ousted by Shia Houthi forces. This has provoked the recent military campaign by a coalition of 10 countries led by Saudi Arabia.
 
India has initiated a highly coordinated operation to evacuate its nationals and around 350 people stranded in Yemen's port city of Aden were brought out by Indian Navy Ship INS Sumitra.
 
The returnees were happy to be back home, but were concerned about their future.
 
"We are really happy to be with our near and dear ones," said a nurse who was elated over her safe return in Kochi.
 
"The bigger question is what will happen to our future... We want a job, but do not know where it will come from, as we have families to look after," said the nurse.
 
The number of Indian nationals in Yemen, which was estimated around 14,000 in 2010, declined to an estimated 5,000 by June 2011 following political instability and violence in the country. However, only around 3,000 Indians are registered with the embassy in Sana'a. 
 
Most of the Indians living in Yemen comprise nurses, hospital staff, university professors, professionals, white collar workers, IT professionals and managerial and clerical staff in the private sector. A vast majority of them hail from Kerala but a few belong to other states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.
 
Kerala's Minister for Diaspora K.C. Joseph told IANS that they are in constant touch with the ministry of external affairs in Delhi and with the Indian officials in Yemen and Djibouti.
 
"Diplomatic efforts managed to break ice with Saudi Arabian authorities to clear the way for a free air zone to ensure our flights land in Yemen and then return through their air space.
 
"But talks with Iranian authorities are on as their permission is also required. There are another 2,500 Keralites including nurses and teachers," said Joseph.
 
The Kerala government has given a token amount of Rs.2,000 to each of them.
 
Recalling the horror, a returnee said: "The situation in Yemen is getting worse day by day as there are frequent bombings. Bombs were dropped around 200 metres from where I stayed. The most affected are the children." 
 
Another returnee said: "Communications are also breaking down and then it becomes tough for Indian Embassy officials to get in touch with Indians." 
 
Joseph said the state government will press the central government to ensure that diplomatic talks are held to ensure the return of Indians.
 
"Another tough ask is that nobody knows how many Keralites are there in Yemen. But the Kerala government will do its best to see how best we can help the nurses," Joseph said.
 
He said his government will look into providing jobs to the nurses who have returned.
 
"There are practical difficulties to find jobs for around 2,000 nurses, but our government will do everything possible," said Joseph.
 
India has also agreed to requests from neighbours Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to assist in evacuation of their nationals from Yemen.

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7 months ago

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Unseasonal rains take a toll on wheat, fruit crops; farmers take a hit
The wheat procurement process in Punjab and Haryana, which officially begins on April 1, is likely to be delayed as the crop has still not ripened for harvesting
 
The damage caused to the standing wheat and fruit crop by unseasonal rains in the past four to six weeks has started to hit home, with farmers in these states saying that they will not be able to recover from the loss any time soon.
 
As if the fury of the rainfall in February and early March was not enough, another spell of rainfall in late March, coupled with strong winds and hailstorms, has added to the damage caused to the standing crops in states like Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.
 
While the wheat crop in Punjab and Haryana that was to be harvested later this month has been damaged, the mango and strawberry crop in Maharashtra and the apple crop in Himachal Pradesh has been severely affected.
 
The wheat procurement process in Punjab and Haryana, which officially begins on April 1, is likely to be delayed as the crop has still not ripened for harvesting.
 
In Haryana and Punjab, agriculture experts feel that the damage to the crop could be up to 25 percent till mid-March itself. The rainfall and strong winds in March-end have added to the woes of farmers.
 
"The crop that has been damaged cannot be recovered. The crop, which is still standing will also not be of much use as it will have a higher moisture content and procurement agencies will be unwilling to purchase it," agriculturist Amar Singh Sandhu of Moga district told IANS.
 
Scientists at the Haryana Agriculture University (HAU), Hisar, and Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, have said that the quality of grain in the wheat crop this season will be poor.
 
"The grain will have high moisture content. It will not be good for long-term storage," a senior scientist at HAU told IANS on the phone from Hisar.
 
And there will be no respite from the unfavourable weather conditions in the coming days too.
 
Weather department officials in Chandigarh said that western disturbances could lead to more rain over the northern region in the next few days.
 
The worries for the farmers - and the affected states - are that the central government, as per existing rules, does not chip in with compensation for the damaged crops if it is less than 50 percent.
 
"In case of Punjab and Haryana, the damage was up to 25 percent till mid-March. Fresh assessment is being done to find out the extent of damage to crops," a senior officer of the Punjab agriculture department, told IANS in Chandigarh, speaking on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
 
In Maharashtra, the two fruits of pride - mangoes and strawberries - have been drastically hit due to regular bouts of unseasonal rains in different parts of the state.
 
The damage has happened at the peak cropping and plucking season, industry stakeholders said.
 
"Nearly 60 percent of the mango crop has been hit by twin spells of heavy rains, one during Diwali (last October) which hit flowering and in March which hit the ready crop that was to be plucked after a few days," Fruit Growers Welfare Association chief Balasaheb Bhende told IANS in Mumbai.
 
Compared to an estimated 45,000 tonnes of mango crop from the state, the final season's tally (in July) may barely touch 25,000 tonnes, he rued.
 
The worst-hit is the famous alphonso of Maharashtra's Ratnagiri district.
 
The rains have resulted in anthracnose disease, which blots the raw fruit and rots it before it ripens, rendering it useless.
 
"Even strawberry has been at the receiving end of rains and hailstorms at different times during the cropping season from November to February," Strawberry Growers Association of India President Balasaheb Bhilare told IANS in Mumbai, adding that the production will be less than 50 percent this time.
 
Consequently, the prices of both mangoes and strawberries have hit the roof in major markets like Mumbai and Pune.
 
The juicy apples from hill state Himachal Pradesh too may not be as sweet this time, with adverse weather conditions damaging the crop.
 
State horticulture department officials say continuous spells of rain in Shimla, Mandi and Kullu districts and snow in the higher reaches of Kinnaur district are good at this point in time, but if precipitation continues till mid-April, it will delay the flowering stage of the apple crop.
 
"There are reports of widespread rains in Jubbal, Kotkhai, Rohru, Theog and Narkanda areas (in Shimla district). This will help sustain the required level of moisture in the soil during summer," S.P. Bhardwaj, former joint director at the Solan-based Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, told IANS.
 
Bhupinder Chauhan, an apple grower in Jubbal in upper Shimla, said the rain during this period is good but after the middle of next month it would be a matter of concern.
 
The fruit production in 2014-15 is estimated at 653,000 tonnes, compared to 866,000 tonnes in 2013-14.
 
"Apples constitute about 89 percent of the total fruit production. During 2014-15 (up to December 2014), 581,000 tonnes of apples were produced against 739,000 tonnes in 2013-14," the state economic survey report said.

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