Food inflation to ease, WPI unlikely to touch double-digits: Montek

The Planning Commission of India on Friday said that high inflation, primarily driven by rising food prices, is likely to ease in the next few months on the back of an expected good rabi crop, reports PTI.

"I expect food price inflation to come down in the next couple of months on the back of an (expected) good rabi crop," Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, said at a conference.

Downplaying fears of wholesale price index (WPI) inflation touching double-digits, the Planning Commission official said, "I don't think this will happen. I expect WPI inflation to gradually come down."

With economic growth momentum returning, the Planning Commission expects a GDP growth of 8.5% for FY11 and a 9% growth in the subsequent fiscal, he said.

"I think the economy is doing very well. We have weathered an extraordinary crisis. Now we are well set to get back to 8.5% (GDP growth) in 2010-11 and hope to see a 9% growth after that," Mr Ahluwalia said.

"We are going to get back to the path of fiscal prudence," he said, adding that with the economy improving, he expected institutional investments to continue. “I think the fiscal deficit has been brought down—economic growth momentum has returned," Mr Ahluwalia said. "We are counting on this momentum continuing in the next two-years. That is what we predicted and that is what we were expecting."

According to him, the economy has shown very good resilience. The government was concerned about the high food prices which he attributed mainly to the drought conditions of last year.
"I think it (high food prices) is mainly because of the drought conditions last year. Excessive speculation and exaggerated reports have also contributed (to the price rise)," Mr Ahluwalia said. Now, however, with rabi crops coming in, he expected food price inflation to decline in the next couple of months.

On government borrowings and whether it would impact private demand, Mr Ahluwalia said, "There is no need for us to worry about government borrowings next fiscal," he said. Total borrowing is pegged at Rs4.57 lakh crore in the next fiscal.

Asked about the poor response which state-run units’ issues have received recently, Mr Ahluwalia said that the relatively poor response did not indicate that the government should slow down its disinvestment plan.

State governments should proactively take steps to improve basic infrastructure like health and education, Mr Ahluwalia said.


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    ‘Subsidised fertilisers being smuggled out from India’

    The Indian government on Friday said that subsidised fertiliser was being smuggled out to countries like Nepal and asked state governments to take stringent action, reports PTI.

    Replying to supplementaries during Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha, minister of state for chemicals and fertilisers Srikant Kumar Jena said that smuggling was taking place from different parts of the country.

    The government, he said, has written to chief ministers to take stringent action against urea dealers who may be involved in smuggling. States like Uttar Pradesh need to take steps to prevent smuggling, he said.

    Explaining the compulsions behind the recent decision to hike urea prices, Mr Jena said that the cost had not changed in the past eight years compared to two price revisions during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) rule.

    The NDA government had raised urea prices by 20% when global rates were $110 per tonne. International rates have risen three-fold since, warranting a 10% hike in urea prices from 1st April, he said.

    "The government has decided to increase the maximum retail price (MRP) of urea by 10% to Rs5,310 per tonne from the current Rs4,830 per tonne with effect from 1 April 2010," he said, adding that urea would remain under government control.

    The minister said it was difficult to predict the quantum of fertiliser subsidy for the next fiscal as consumption was not known.

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    And now, a computer that can read your mind!

    British scientists have developed a computer that can read human minds, a key breakthrough that they claim takes telepathy a step closer to reality, reports PTI. 

    According to them, the computer is able to decipher thought patterns and tell what people are thinking simply by scanning the brain—in fact, it can delve into memories and differentiate between different recollections.

    This breakthrough follows research last year by the same scientists who used the same technique to track a person's movements around a computer-simulated room. For the current research, which focussed on the hippocampus, an area at the centre of the brain that plays a crucial role in short-term memory, the scientists carried out an experiment involving 10 volunteers. 

    The subjects were shown three seven-second films featuring different women carrying out an everyday task in a typical urban street such as posting a letter or drinking a cup of coffee from a paper cup. 

    The volunteers were asked to memorise what they saw and then recall each one in turn whilst inside a magnetic resonance imaging scanner which records brain activity by measuring changes in blood flow within the brain. 

    The computer algorithm then studied the electrical patterns and could tell which film the volunteer was recalling with an accuracy of about 50%—which was well above chance, 'The Daily Telegraph' reported.

    Lead scientist Prof Eleanor Maguire of University College of London said, "In our previous experiment we're looking at basic memories, at someone's location in an environment.” 

    "What is more interesting is to look at 'episodic' memories—the complex, everyday memories that include much more information on where we are, what we are doing and how we feel. We've been able to look at brain activity for a specific episodic memory—to look at actual memory traces. We found our memories are definitely represented in the hippocampus. Now that we've seen where they are, we have an opportunity to understand how memories are stored and how they may change through time," said Prof Maguire.

    The findings have been published in the latest edition of the 'Current Biology' journal.

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