The nationwide survey was conducted to help formulate a policy around biotechnological innovations in India, taking into account public perceptions and attitudes
In the backdrop of the controversy over the safety of use of Bt brinjal in the country, a study has claimed that most farmers do not favour genetically modified (GM) seeds for producing food crops while there is also a lack of information among consumers about their usage, reports PTI.
Around 4,000 farmers and 2,500 consumers nationwide were surveyed in the last three years in five States jointly by Gene Campaign, an NGO, and Hyderabad University, to study the general attitudes and perception of farmers and consumers towards GM seeds and foods. “Among farmers, about 40% said that they were willing to cultivate cash crops with modified seeds (often referred to as transgenic fertilisation) while 80% refused to use such seeds, that contain a poison to control pests, for producing food crops,” says the study.
It also noted that their attitude towards food was conservative and there was sacredness attached with it.
About 90% of farmers did not agree to take the risk to use technology that allows the use of chemicals to control all weeds effortlessly but also destroyed surrounding flora, as per the study.
The seed "modified" with animal or insect parts were viewed as "tempered," not normal and natural and different from regular seeds, said Suman Sahai of Gene Campaign, claiming that such perceptions was seen across all age groups and educational status.
However, the respondents, both farmers and consumers, trusted the government with respect to agriculture and food technologies rather than the media or NGOs—or for that matter, scientists—according to the study.
“The government must be humbled by the trust placed in it by the country's farmers and consumers with respect to agriculture and food technologies and this should propel them to safeguard public interest," said Ms Sahai, advocating further research in this area. She said that the government's biotechnology policy must take into account the societal contexts of technology adoption to strengthen the interest of the public who, according to the survey, have posed faith on the government for information and regulations.
"The overall goal of this first-ever study in the country is to contribute towards formulation of a meaningful and transparent public policy around biotechnological innovations in India, which takes into account public perceptions and attitudes," said E Haribabu, who is associated with the Hyderabad University.
Consumers were equally sceptical of GM foods mainly because of lack of information and the respondents felt they had no benefit from such items while private companies were the prime beneficiaries.
“Attempts to introduce foods into a situation where the majority of the population is not aware of the nature of GM foods or of their benefits and risks is not democratic or enlightened policy making,” said the study.
India's nationalised banks seem set for a major recruitment drive once again to meet growth needs and fresh vacancies that will arise when a large number of employees retire in the next three-four years
Public and private sector banks in India are expected to hire over 45,000-50,000 people this year alone as probationary officers (POs) as well as clerks. While Indian banks today employ over 7.25 lakh persons, the new recruitment drive is taking place due to three factors—staff needs arising out of growth and expansion, preparing for the large number of bank employees who are expected to retire in the coming three-four years and mitigating staff shortage caused by the belt-tightening over the past two years.
“Recruiting more people has now become a 'compulsion' for public sector banks (PSBs) as most of the employees working there had joined after 1970 and are near their retirement," CH Venkatachalam, general secretary, All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) and convener for the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) told Moneylife. Another top union leader told us that a large number of employees will be retiring in the next three years.
Leading the recruitment in 2010 is the country's largest lender State Bank of India (SBI), which plans to hire around 4,500 officers and about 25,000 clerks, while its associate banks would hire another 1,700 officers. Bank of Baroda, the country's third largest State-run lender, is planning to recruit about 3,500 employees that would include around 1,800 to 2,000 officers.
"With most banks entering diversified business segments, they need to recruit people and train them properly, as there are many changes taking place in the banking domain. Earlier, banks used to recruit people as clerks without any proper training in banking. But now they will have to change their hiring process as required," Mr Venkatachalam said.
With a number of employees retiring over the next few years, there would be a dearth of knowledgeable people in the banking system. The freeze on recruitment in the past years has also caused PSBs to face a real drought in talent. This is true for junior level employees and also top management.
"Chairmen and managing directors of some PSBs are going to retire over the next few months. However, there still is no plan for their succession. The case is similar with senior management. Earlier, an assistant general manager would automatically become general manager when the post fell vacant. But this is no longer the case at most banks," the union leader said. The vacancies are not filled immediately and the workload is often redistributed among existing employees.
Besides regular bank jobs, banks are also planning to start a new chapter in banking services with the recruitment of business correspondents (BCs), mainly in rural areas. SBI alone is planning to hire 15,000 BCs during FY11. SBI’s plans are in tune with the Budget decision to provide banking facilities in all domiciles with more than 2,000 people.
However, unions are against the new banking model. "Using BCs as a front, private corporates and entities may enter PSBs and can misuse the banking system. Therefore, we are opposing the idea to hire BCs, as banks themselves can go to the last mile and provide banking services," Mr Venkatachalam said.
"Bank unions would protest the move and launch an agitation, if needed," the union leader added.
More and more road developers are seeking underwriters for their road projects in order to achieve financial closure faster and bid for more national projects
With the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) insisting on financial closure of existing projects—or at least a financial assurance for these projects—road developers are looking at banks to underwrite or syndicate debts for their projects. Bankers too seem more than happy to do so.
“We could see more (underwriting) for them (road projects) in FY11, especially with more and more projects coming up and with NHAI coming up with new bidding norms,” said Ashish Chandak, executive director- infrastructure banking (corporate finance), Yes Bank. A similar trend has been observed by two other bankers, who requested anonymity.
In the underwriting or syndication process, a bank underwrites the entire debt for a certain project, for a certain fee. The bank then seeks funds from other banks for the debt. This helps the developer tie up funds for projects easily and thus enables work on a project to move along at a faster pace.
Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) and Gammon Infrastructure Projects Ltd (GIPL) are two such road companies who are in favour of underwriting. “We are surely open to the option of underwriting,” said Parvez Umrigar, managing director, GIPL.
Praveen Sood, CFO, HCC, had stated last week, “We are looking for underwriters. A number of banks have shown interest in underwriting our projects. We have almost finalised the bank for one of our projects, which we would be announcing in a couple of days.”
However, there are companies like IRB Infrastructure who still prefer the traditional method of financial closure. The road development company announced financial closures for all three projects it was working on. “We are not looking for underwriting, we would be achieving financial closure for our three road projects in this month through the normal procedure,” V Mhaiskar, managing director, IRB Infrastructure, had told Moneylife last week.
While underwriting is surely a lucrative option for road companies to enable them to bid for more projects, banks too are looking at the brighter side of such ventures. “If it is a good project, the banker is happy to get the extra amount in the form of an underwriting fee,” stated Mr Chandak.
“We have received very good response from banks,” stated Mr Sood. According to sources, Axis Bank, United Bank of India and Bank of Baroda are among the other banks interested in the underwriting process.