India, From the Destabilization of Agriculture to Demonetization, “Made in America”

India’s PM Narendra Modi has embarked on a ‘demonetisation’ policy, which saw around 85 percent of India’s bank notes becoming invalid overnight.

Emerging evidence indicates that demonetisation was not done to curb corruption, ‘black money’ or terrorism, the reasons originally given. That was a smokescreen. Modi was acting on behalf of powerful Wall Street financial interests. Demonetisation hascaused massive hardship, inconvenience and chaos. It has affected everyone and has impacted the poor and those who reside in rural areas (i.e. most of the population) significantly.

Who does Modi (along with other strategically placed figures) serve primarily: ordinary people and the ‘national interest’ or the interests of the US?

Convenient bedfellows

We don’t have to dig too deep to see where Modi feels at home. Describing itself as a major ‘global communications, stakeholder engagement and business strategy’ company, APCO Worldwide is a lobby agency with firm links to (part of) the Wall Street/US establishment and functions to serve its global agenda. Modi turned to APCO to help transform his image and turn him into electable pro-corporate PM material. It also helped Modi get the message out that what he achieved in Gujarat as Chief Minister was a miracle of economic neoliberalism, although the actual reality is really quite different.

In APCO’s India brochure, there is the claim that India’s resilience in weathering the global downturn and financial crisis has made governments, policy-makers, economists, corporate houses and fund managers believe that the country can play a significant role in the recovery of the global economy. APCO’s publicity blurb about itself claims that it stands “tall as the giant of the lobbying industry.”

The firm, in its own words, offers “professional and rare expertise” to governments, politicians and corporations, and is always ready to help clients to sail through troubled waters in the complex world of both international and domestic affairs.

Mark Halton, former head of Global Marketing and Communications for Monsanto, seemed to agree when he praised APCO for helping the GMO giant to:

… understand how Monsanto could better engage with societal stakeholders surrounding our business and how best to communicate the social value our company brings to the table.

If your name isseverely tarnishedand you need to get your dubious products on the market in countries that you haven’t managed to infiltrate just yet, why not bring in the “giant of the lobbying industry.”

As a former client of APCO, Modi now seems to be the go-to man for Washington. His government is doing the bidding of global biotech companies and is trying to push through herbicide-tolerant GM mustard based on fraudulent tests and ‘regulatory delinquency‘, which will not only open the door to further GM crops but will possibly eventually boost the sales of Monsanto-Bayer’s glufinosate herbicide. In addition, plans have been announced to introduce 100% foreign direct investment in certain sectors of the economy, including food processing.

Neoliberal dogma

This opening up of India to foreign capital is supported by rhetoric about increasing agricultural efficiency, creating jobs and boosting GDP growth. Such rhetoric mirrors that of the pro-business, neoliberal dogma we see in APCO’s brochure for India. From Greece to Spain and from the US to the UK, we are able to see this rhetoric for what it really is: record profits and massive increases in wealth (ie ‘growth) for elite interests and, for the rest, disempowerment, surveillance, austerity, job losses, the erosion of rights, weak unions, cuts to public services, bankrupt governments and opaque, corrupt trade deals.

APCO describes India as a trillion-dollar market. Note that the emphasis is not on redistributing the country’s wealth among its citizens but on exploiting markets. While hundreds of millions live in poverty and hundreds of millions of others hover above it, the combined wealth of India’s richest 296 individuals is $478 billion, some 22% of India’s GDP. According to the ‘World Wealth Report 2015’, there were 198,000 ‘high net worth’ individuals in India in 2014, while in 2013 the figure stood at 156,000.

APCO likes to talk about positioning international funds and facilitating corporations’ ability to exploit markets, sell products and secure profit. In other words, colonising key sectors, regions and nations to serve the needs of US-dominated international capital.

Paving the way for plunder

Modi recently stated that India is now one of the most business friendly countries in the world. The code for this being lowering labour, environmental, health and consumer protection standards, while reducing taxes and tariffs and facilitating the acquisition of public assets via privatisation and instituting policy frameworks that work to the advantage of foreign (US/Western) corporations.

When the World Bank rates countries on their level of ‘Ease of Doing Business’, it means nation states facilitating policies that force working people to take part in a race to the bottom based on free market fundamentalism. The more ‘compliant’ national governments make their populations and regulations, the more attractive foreign capital is tempted to invest.

The World Bank’s ‘Enabling the Business of Agriculture’ – supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID – entails opening up markets to Western agribusiness and their fertilisers, pesticides, weedicides and patented seeds.

Anyone who is aware of the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture and the links with the Indo-US Nuclear Treaty will know who will be aware that those two projects form part of an overall plan to subjugate Indian agriculture to the needs of foreign corporations (see this article from 1999). As the biggest recipient of loans from the World Bank in the history of that institution, India is proving to be very compliant.

The destruction of livelihoods under the guise of ‘job creation’

According to the neoliberal ideologues, foreign investment is good for jobs and good for business. Just how many actually get created is another matter. What is overlooked, however, are the jobs that were lost in the first place to ‘open up’ sectors to foreign capital. For example, Cargill may set up a food or seed processing plant that employs a few hundred people, but what about the agricultural jobs that were deliberately eradicated in the first place or the village-level processors who were cynically put out of business so Cargill could gain a financially lucrative foothold?

The Indian economy is being opened-up through the concurrent displacement of a pre-existing (highly) productive system for the benefit of foreign corporations.For farmers, the majority are not to be empowered but displaced from the land. Farming is being made financially non-viable for small farmers, seeds are to be privatised as intellectual property rights are redefined, land is to be acquired and an industrialised, foreign corporate-controlled food production, processing and retail system is to be implemented.

The long-term plan is tocontinue to starve agricultureof investment and have an urbanised India with a fraction of the population left in farming working on contracts for large suppliers and Wal-Mart-type supermarkets that offer highly processed, denutrified, genetically altered food contaminated with chemicals and grown in increasingly degraded soils according to an unsustainable model of agriculture that is less climate/drought resistant, less diverse and unable to achieve food security. This would be disastrous for farmers, public health and local livelihoods.

Low input, sustainable models of food production and notions of independence and local or regional self-reliance do not provide opportunities to global agribusiness or international funds to exploit markets, sell their products and cash in on APCO’s vision of a trillion-dollar corporate hijack; moreover, they have little in common with Bill Gates/USAID’s vision for an Africa dominated by global agribusiness.

And, finally, to demonetisation

Modi rode to power on a nationalist platform and talks about various ‘nation-building’ initiatives, not least the ‘make in India’ campaign. But he is not the only key figure in the story of India’s capitulation to Washington’s agenda for India. There is, for instance,Avrind Subramanian, the chief economic advisor to the government, and Raghuram Rajan who was until recently Governor of the Reserve Bank of India.He was chief economist at the International Monetary Fund from 2003 to 2007 and was a Distinguished Service Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business from 1991 to 2013. He is now back at the University of Chicago.

Aside from Rajan acting as a mouthpiece for Washington’s strategy to recast agriculture in a corporate image and get people out of agriculture in India, in arecent article, economist Norbert Haring implicates Rajan in the demonestisation policy. He indicates that the policy was carried out on behalf of USAID, MasterCard, Visa and the people behind eBay and Citi, among others, with support from the Gates Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

Haring calls Rajan the Reserve Bank of India’s “IMF-Chicago boy” and based on his employment record, memberships (not least of the elite Group of Thirty which includes heads of central, investment and commercial banksand links, place him squarely at the centre of Washington’s financial cabal.

Haring says that Raghuram Rajan has good reason to expect to climb further to the highest rungs in international finance and thus play bow to Washington’s game plan:

He already was a President of the American Finance Association and inaugural recipient of its Fisher-Black-Prize in financial research. He won the handsomely endowed prizes of Infosys for economic research and of Deutsche Bank for financial economics as well as the Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Prize for best economics book. He was declared Indian of the year by NASSCOM and Central Banker of the year by Euromoney and by The Banker. He is considered a possible successor of Christine Lagard at the helm of the IMF, but can certainly also expect to be considered for other top jobs in international finance.”

The move towards a cashless society would secure a further degree of control over India by the institutions who are pushing for it. Securing payments that accrue from each digital transaction would of course be very financially lucrative for them. These institutions are therefore pursuing a global ‘war on cash’.

Small, wealthy countries like Denmark and Sweden can bear the impact of a transition to a cashless economy, but for a country such as India, which runs on cash, the outcomes so far have been catastrophic for hundreds of millions of people, especially those who don’t have a bank account (almost half the population) or do not even have easy access to a bank.

But, regardless of the large-scale human suffering imposed as a result of demonetisation, it could kill two birds with one stone: 1) securing the interests of international capital, including the eventual displacement of the informal (i.e. self-organised) economy; and 2) acting as another deliberate nail in the coffin of Indian farmers, driving even more of them out of the sector. The US’s game plan remains well and truly on course.

Not really a case of ‘make in India’. Some 50 years after independence, as a state India remains compromised, weak and hobbled. More a case of made in Washington.

— source globalresearch.ca By Colin Todhunter

Cannot fully accept these reasons for demonetization. I think its just because BJP dont want other parties take advantage of vote for money system in the state elections. All the major elections BJP won. because other parties dont have black money to buy votes. But BJP got lot of new money using the administration. Lot of unaccounted new currency was caught from BJP leaders all over india.

Farmer suicides in India correlate with Bt cotton adoption

An important new paper by respected researchers deconstructs the false hype around Bt insecticidal cotton in India. The study shows that:
* Bt cotton, introduced in 2002 to control bollworm and other pests, is grown on more than 90% of the cotton area
* By 2013 insecticide use was high – back to 2000 levels (before the introduction of Bt cotton)
* Yields have plateaued nationally, and farmer suicides have increased in some areas
* Pink bollworm causes damage in irrigated cotton, but not in rainfed cotton unless infested from irrigated fields. Therefore use of Bt cotton seed and insecticide in rainfed cotton is questionable
* Bt cotton may be economic in irrigated cotton, whereas costs of Bt seed and insecticide increase the risk of farmer bankruptcy in low-yield rainfed cotton
* Inability to use saved seed and inadequate agronomic information trap cotton farmers on biotechnology and insecticide treadmills
* Annual suicide rates in rainfed areas are inversely related to farm size and yield, and directly related to increases in Bt cotton adoption (i.e., costs)
* High-density short-season non-GM cottons could increase yields and reduce input costs in irrigated and rainfed cotton
* Policy makers need to conduct a holistic analysis before new technologies are implemented in agricultural development.

The lead researcher on the study, Andrew Paul Gutierrez, is a professor at UC Berkeley and an expert in agroecological systems as well as GM crops.

Deconstructing Indian cotton: weather, yields, and suicides
Andrew Paul Gutierrez, Luigi Ponti, Hans R Herren, Johann Baumgärtner and Peter E Kenmore
Environmental Sciences Europe (2015) 27:12
http://www.enveurope.com/content/27/1/12/abstract (open access)

Abstract

Background:
Cotton with coevolving pests has been grown in India more than 5000 years. Hybrid cotton was introduced in the 1970s with increases in fertilizer and in insecticide use against pink bollworm that caused outbreaks of bollworm. Hybrid Bt cotton, introduced in 2002 to control bollworm and other lepidopteran pests, is grown on more than 90% of the cotton area. Despite initial declines, year 2013 insecticide use is at 2000 levels, yields plateaued nationally, and farmer suicides increased in some areas. Biological modeling of the pre-1970s cotton/pink bollworm system was used to examine the need for Bt cotton, conditions for its economic viability, and linkage to farmer suicides.

Results:
Yields in rainfed cotton depend on timing, distribution, and quantity of monsoon rains. Pink bollworm causes damage in irrigated cotton, but not in rainfed cotton unless infested from irrigated fields. Use of Bt cotton seed and insecticide in rainfed cotton is questionable.

Conclusions:

Bt cotton may be economic in irrigated cotton, whereas costs of Bt seed and insecticide increase the risk of farmer bankruptcy in low-yield rainfed cotton. Inability to use saved seed and inadequate agronomic information trap cotton farmers on biotechnology and insecticide treadmills. Annual suicide rates in rainfed areas are inversely related to farm size and yield, and directly related to increases in Bt cotton adoption (i.e., costs). High-density short-season cottons could increase yields and reduce input costs in irrigated and rainfed cotton. Policy makers need holistic analysis before new technologies are implemented in agricultural development.

— source gmwatch.org

Framed-up Maruti Suzuki workers sentenced to life imprisonment in India

Thirteen Maruti Suzuki autoworkers were sentenced to life in prison by an Indian court on Saturday. Four others have been given five-year prison terms, and 14 more sentenced to three-year jail terms. The workers are victims of a monstrous frame-up mounted by the automaker, the police and judicial authorities, with the full complicity of India’s principal political parties—the Congress Party and the Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The 13 workers condemned to life in prison include the entire leadership of the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU). The MSWU was established by workers at Maruti Suzuki’s Manesar, Haryana car assembly plant in opposition to a stooge union that had connived with the company in their brutal exploitation. The workers have been framed for a 2012 company-provoked altercation and fire that resulted in the death of a company human resources manager.

— source wsws.org

Analysis of Union Budget since 1947

Pre-liberalisation

From the very first Budget of independent India that focussed on food security to the 2016-17 Budget presented by the current NDA government that promised to double farmers’ income, the challenges and issues have remained much the same, so are the proposed solutions. Here, we take a look at the last 69 years of budget-making through the lens of environment and development.

1948-1949: The first budget of India covered just 7-1/2 months, from August 15, 1947, to March 31, 1948. The main highlight of the first budget was the decision to pass the budget. Partition and the consequent destabilisation were the core factors that determined the budget provisions. The three major expenses in the budget were on food grain production, defence services and civil expenditure. Food production was low, and therefore, self-sufficiency in food grains was accorded highest priority. The targeted budget revenue was Rs 171 crore (approx). Of this, Rs 15.9 crore was expected from the posts and telegraph department. The expected revenue expenditure was Rs 197 cr (approx), of which defence was allocated Rs 92.74 crore. The increase in expenditure was on account of expenses allocated for stabilisation, refugee relief and rehabilitation.

1949 to 1950: The after-effects of partition continued to be major deciding factor of this budget as well. The floods in Bihar, the cyclone in Bombay and the famine that hit the western coast were also major concerns. The key highlight of the second budget was controlling inflationary trends as the purchasing power increased in certain sections of society. The focus areas of the budget were: reintroducing food control, increasing supply of food grains at fair price and limiting food imports from overseas. Proposals to take dollar loans from IBRD/IMF were incorporated to sanction development projects. The revenue receipts were estimated at Rs 338.32 crore against the budget estimate of Rs 255.24 crore, an increase of Rs 83.08 crores. Defence Services accounted for Rs 34.35 crore and civil expenditure estimates were at a balance of Rs 48.14 crore. The defence sector saw an increase due to operations in the Kashmir valley.

1950-51: This was the first budget after India adopted the Constitution, declaring the country a republic. The main purpose of the budget was to lay down the foundation of the Planning Commission, which in turn was to formulate effective plans for utilising the nation’s resources. Indian budget highlights in the early 1950s revolved around the public sector and finances, and, hence, dwelt much on taxation, inflation and public savings. Priority was given to agricultural sector in this phase. Defence and civil expenditure continued to peak. Provisions had to be made for severe natural calamities like the earthquake in Assam, the floods in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and droughts in Bihar and some other parts of the country. The budget also reduced the maximum rate of income tax from 30 per cent to 25 per cent. Incomes above Rs 121,000 attracted a super-tax rate of 8.5 annas per rupee. The maximum rate of personal taxation was about 78 per cent.

1951-52: The period was marked by high demand for indigenous goods, such as jute goods, raw cotton, cotton waste and raw wool. Import regulations were gradually relaxed to allow essential commodities into the country. The monetary ceiling on import of raw materials as well as essential consumer goods like drugs and medicines had been progressively increased during 1950. An improvement in the balance of payments began with the devaluation of the rupee in September 1949. This period also witnessed a marked reduction in expenditure vis-à-vis revenue receipts unlike the previous years. The revenue was now estimated at Rs 387.21 crore and expenditure at Rs 379.28 crore. This was due to the improvement in receipts from customs, railways, import duty reduction and profits made by the posts and telegraph department. Of the total expenditure increase of Rs 41.4 crore, defence services was allocated Rs 11.45 crore and civil estimates were at Rs 29.95 crore.

1952-53: Food grain production increased with growth in the agricultural sector. This was followed by a steady downward movement in prices. A marked improvement in the revenue position was mainly due to the extraordinary buoyancy of receipts from customs, excise duties and income tax. However, balance of payments (BOP) was not favourable as exports fell. What’s more, substantial quantities of food grains, essential raw materials and capital/consumer goods continued to be imported from abroad.

1955 to 1957: The major highlight of these financial years was industrial development taking centre stage with annual growth rate of 8 per cent. This was because of development of chemical industries, promotion of small industries, advances made in the capital and consumer goods sectors. Allocation for the education sector was increased, which included provision for grants to states for basic, social, secondary, and university education and for scholarships to students of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes. Defence expenditure rose with the expansion programme of the navy and air force. Capital outlay increased and savings were encouraged. There was a sustained effort to increase productivity and mobilise savings on a national scale. Progress was also made in enlarging domestic savings and securing an inflow of external finance, adequate to meet the foreign exchange requirements. The economic condition in the country changed for the better in 1953-54 and the economy achieved greater strength in the course of 1955. The focus was also to increase the standard of living and reduce poverty by pulling more families above BPL status.

1957-58: The key highlight was imposition of severe restrictions on imports through an import licensing system. The government withdrew budgetary allocation for non-core projects and set up Export Risk Insurance Corp to protect exporters against payment risks. Wealth tax, expenditure tax and a tax on railway passenger fee were introduced. Peak excise was raised to 400 per cent. The budget marked the first attempt to distinguish between active income (salaries or business) and passive income (interest or rent). Income tax rates were hiked.

1958 to 1960: Industrial production continued to grow, but at a slower pace as compared to 1957. However, agricultural production saw a rapid increase in 1958-59. This was seen to be the maximum growth as climatic conditions were favourable. It was also seen that export earnings flourished and imports reduced. But the major factor in the stability of the foreign exchange position was largely the availability of external assistance. Industrial production saw an increase of 7.4 per cent in 1959. This was a substantial improvement over the rate of increase of 1.7 per cent and 3.5 per cent in 1956 and 1957 respectively. Another notable feature of the year was the increase in the production of iron, steel and aluminium, which together accounted for over a third of the rise in the index of industrial production.

1960 to 1965: The paramount consideration in framing the budgets for this period was the need to build up the defence potential of the nation. Following principles of past budgets, the budget for this term stressed on expenses on development, production, employment and investment. Another important aspect was to improve the savings rate of the common man even more. The budget provided for export promotion and development. The industrial and investment sectors grew. However, the agriculture output did not match up with investments because of unfavourable climatic conditions that year. This decreased the availability of food grains and raw materials and altered the pattern of demand and supply equation in the country. Another important factor was that foreign aid was provided for railways and industry.

1965 to 1970: The major concerns during this period were price rise and scarcity of food supplies, reviving industrial activity and improving exports. Industrial production rose at a rate of six to eight per cent per annum. The government encouraged ploughing back of profits for investments and loan finances to private industries. The government promoted greater participation of citizens in the growth of industry. The primary objective was to raise the capacity for individual savings and to improve the performance of industry to receive high returns on the capital invested. The budget also for the first time had provisions of aid to foreign countries, such as Nepal, Bhutan and African countries. Defence expenditure continually rose despite efforts to restrict its growing share. The 1968-69 Budget was considered to be a people-sensitive budget as it ended the requirement of stamping and assessment of goods by the Excise Department authorities. The government also introduced the system of self-assessment by all manufacturers.

1970 to 1975: The major highlights for this phase were to provide adequate employment opportunities. Greater attention was paid to dry farming areas and small enterprises and entrepreneurs were encouraged. The budget for 1970-71 made provisions essentially through schemes that focussed on social welfare with future growth potential. Institutional finance to assist industry and agriculture was also mobilised to create employment opportunities in the longer run. The other areas of focus were: rural and urban development, drinking water facilities and pension schemes. The budget also provided Rs 56 crore for the nationalisation of the general insurance companies, Indian Copper Corp and coal mines. This was done to maintain uninterrupted supply of coal with the growing demand for coal in various industries like power, cement and steel at the time. It was also believed that the interest of mine workers would be best served in a government-run set-up. The estimate for the budget deficit for 1973-74 was Rs 550 crore.

1975 to 1980: The first priority was agriculture sector. The budget allocations included provisions to supply good quality seeds of high-yielding varieties. Fertiliser production programmes were pushed. The programmes were designed for optimum utilisation of surface and groundwater. Farmers’ service societies were launched to provide credit to farmers in time for processing and marketing their produce. The nationalisation of coal began to yield results. The provision in the budget for food subsidy at Rs100 crore increased to Rs 295 crore. Defence expenditure for the phase was Rs 2,752 crore, while non-plan revenue expenditure was estimated at Rs 5,908 crore. The investment sector was given maximum attention in the budget for 1976-77. A provision of Rs 393 crore was made in 1978-79 for health and family welfare as against only Rs 284 crore in 1977-78.

1980 to 1985: The improvement of socio-economic condition of the scheduled castes was a major element of the development strategy during this phase. A provision of Rs 3,094 crore was made for Central assistance to states’ plans, Union territories’ plans and sub-plans of hills and tribal areas, special component plans for the scheduled castes, schemes of the North Eastern Council, Rural Electrification Corporation and natural calamities. A provision of about Rs 50 crore was made for the landless and weaker sections as part of the 20-point economic programme. A provision of Rs 70 crore was made for the development of tribal people and areas under the tribal sub-plan. Outlay on agriculture and rural development was increased substantially. Industrial growth increased to 4.5 per cent.

1985-1990: MODVAT credit was introduced. This allowed credit set-off of duty paid on raw materials against the duty on final products to reduce the cascading effect of taxes on the final price of goods. Budget provisioning in this phase also proposed the setting up of a small industries development bank, an accident insurance scheme for municipal sweepers and railway porters, bank loans with a subsidy for rickshaw pullers, cobblers and such self-employed people. The government also proposed the setting up of Unit Trust of India’s mutual fund and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited. The government also announced its intention to dismantle the license raj. The enforcement directorate of the finance ministry was established with the mandate to sniff out tax evaders. Provisions related to minimum corporate tax, better known today as MAT or Minimum Alternative Tax was also introduced to bring into the tax net highly profitable companies that were legally managing to avoid paying income tax.
Post-liberalisation

1991 to 2000: The year 1991-92 marked the beginning of economic liberalisation. Import-export policy was revised and import duties were slashed to expose Indian industry to competition from abroad. The government began rationalisation of duty structures by reducing the peak customs duty from 220 per cent to 150 per cent. This was done because the balance of payments was precarious. The government introduced service tax in the 1994 budget and also placed bets on growth through rapid technological development. The 1997 budget made tax rates moderate for individuals as well as companies. It allowed companies to adjust MAT paid in earlier years against tax liability of subsequent years. The government also launched the Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme (VDIS), to bring out black money. It phased out ad-hoc treasury bills used for financing budget deficit. Budget 1997 aimed to widen the tax base. India had a peak income tax rate in the late 1960s and early 1970s of 97.5 per cent. The moderation in rates improved overall compliance as those who used to find rates prohibitive earlier began to pay up instead of hiding their incomes. Personal income tax collections increased from 1997-98—from Rs 18,700 crore to Rs 100,100 crore during April 2010-January 2011. VDIS garnered about Rs 10,000 crore. Higher disposable incomes in the hands of taxpayers helped generate demand. The incremental tax revenues were leveraged to increase public expenditure on social welfare and infrastructure.

2000 to 2011: Incentives for software exporters was phased out during this period. In Budget 1991, income from software exports was made tax-free for three years, and then the tax holiday was extended to perpetuity in budget 1995.This was to improve the ratio of taxes to GDP and to promote India as a major software development centre in the world. The introduction of this tax holiday to software export sector was followed by exceptional growth in Indian IT industry. Transfer pricing regulations was also introduced in 2001-02, which required transactions between associated enterprises to be transparent and whole. The regulation played a big role in the prevention of erosion of the tax base in India. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was estimated to have grown at 8.6 per cent in 2010-11 in real terms. Economy showed remarkable resilience. Continued high food prices were a principal concern. Consumers were denied the benefit of seasonal fall in prices despite improved availability of food items, revealing shortcomings in distribution and marketing systems. The budget for the financial year 2010-11 aimed to revive the agriculture sector but mentioned no incentives for organic fertilizers and sustainable farming. Monetary policy measures were expected to further moderate inflation in the coming months. Exports grew by 29.4 per cent, while imports recorded a growth of 17.6 per cent during April to January 2010-11 over the corresponding period the previous year.

2012: The budget projected a pro-poor image while covertly playing to the market by not increasing borrowing to spend on development programmes. The government tried to replace declarations of sops with access to easy credits. First, it markedly increased and facilitated poor people’s access to credit. The target for agricultural credit was raised from Rs 100,000 crore to Rs 575,000 crore in 2012-13. Second, through various fiscal initiatives like amending the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act of 2003 (FRBM Act), the budget gave the private sector the message that reforms were on track, at least those concerning government’s direct market impacting activities like borrowing. However, the budget failed to restrain use of subsidised diesel in private diesel cars

2013: The finance minister’s main mantra for the last full-fledged budget of UPA II was inclusiveness and sustainable development, but there was little budget allocation to steer the country towards ecologically sustainable development. The budget increased allocation for agriculture and watershed development. Agriculture budget was increased by 22 per cent of revised estimate, but there were no initiatives to lift farmers from the debt-ridden operations or offer a vision of agriculture that was sustainable.

Women and youth seemed to get priority. The budget specifically tried to woo women of the country: the finance minister announced a “Nirbhaya” fund of Rs 1,000 crore in memory of the December 16, 2012 rape-and-murder victim. An all-women bank was also announced. For the youth, Rs 1,000-crore was allocated for skill development while for the poor there was the promise of rolling out the Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme across the country.

Anticipating passing of National Food Security Bill, Rs 10,000 crore was set aside to meet incremental cost on food subsidies. There was a 46 per cent increase in budget for rural development.However, according to Sunita Naraian, director general at the Cerntre for Science and Environment, the budget was a missed opportunity.

NDA regime

2014: BJP government’s maiden budget was disappointing for farmers with Arun Jaitley announcing nothing much in their kitty to address increasing farm stress and resolve agrarian crisis in the country. While several announcements were made for the health sector, all were focussed on medical education and building institutions. Preventive or primary healthcare found no mention. In the energy sector, Jaitley emphasised big solar power projects, neglecting decentralised mini and micro grid solar projects for rural areas. The government also proposed to set up an Integrated Ganga Conservation Mission— Namami Gange—and allocated Rs 2,037 crore towards the mission.

2015: Even the first full-year budget of the NDA government left some critical questions about the future of social sector schemes unanswered. According to experts, the Union Budget 2015-16 had failed to make investment for transmission infrastructure a priority. This was in contrast to government’s intention of manufacturing 175 GW of renewable energy by 2020. The only big green initiative of this budget is the increase of cess on coal from Rs 100 per tonne to Rs 200 per tonne.

However, cut in allocation for rural development was a dampener, especially at a time when most villages were witnessing reverse migration and dip in rural wage growth. It not only gave drought-hit Marathwada a miss but also proposed public-private partnership (PPP) in irrigation, which may prove disastrous as private hands may gain control over water. The budget didn’t talk about broadening the scope of the National Adaptation Fund instead of funding standalone adaptation projects.

2016: Realising that the sanitation coverage in India continues to be low, the Centre granted Rs 9,000 crore in the 2016-17 Budget to the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA) for rural sanitation. It was an increase from Rs 3,625 crore granted the previous year. Besides rural sanitation, irrigation also got a boost as the government announced its decision to revive 89 irrigation projects under Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme. While Jaitley proposed to increase the coverage of health insurance scheme, he did not opt for a significant increase in allocations on several existing health programmes. There was no clarity on what will be adequate for coverage for treatment of major illnesses.

One of the major promises made by the Finance Minster was to double the income of farmers by 2022. The target looked overtly ambitious as two successive years of drought had already hit the annual average earning of 90 million agricultural households.

— source downtoearth.org.in By Roomana Hukil

China expresses concern at revelations in Wikileaks dump of hacked CIA data

China expressed concern on Thursday over revelations in a trove of data released by Wikileaks purporting to show that the CIA can hack all manner of devices, including those made by Chinese companies. Dozens of firms rushed to contain the damage from possible security weak points following the anti-secrecy organization’s revelations, although some said they needed more details of what the U.S. intelligence agency was up to.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China expressed concern about the reports and reiterated its opposition to all forms of hacking. “We urge the U.S. side to stop listening in, monitoring, stealing secrets and internet hacking against China and other countries,” Geng told a daily news briefing.

China is frequently accused by the United States and other countries of hacking attacks, which it always denies.

— source reuters.com

Claims we buy

As Nandini Shah, a health-conscious young working mother in New Delhi, enters a supermarket, she knows exactly what to buy. She picks Bournvita for her 11-year-old son and Fortune VIVO Diabetes-Care Oil for her husband. “Bournvita will help build stamina in my son who has interest in sports, and the oil can help manage diabetes of my husband,” she says. Deepti Khanna, a college student from a posh South Delhi locality, carefully reads nutrition facts on the label before buying grocery items. “I prefer NutriChoice Essentials Oats cookies and Sunfeast Farmlite Digestive over other biscuits as they have a high fibre content, are made out of whole grains and have no added sugar,” says Khanna. She also buys ragi (finger millet) cookies for her diabetic father and Saffola Masala Oats for a healthy snack in the morning.

While Shah and Khanna are happy with their choices, the claims based on which they choose the products may not be entirely true. An analysis by Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) shows that several milk-food drinks come loaded with sugar. A serving of Bournvita contains enough sugar to exhaust 57 per cent of one’s daily quota as recommended by the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) in Hyderabad.

CSE researchers also spoke to health and nutrition experts to understand the authenticity of claims by food manufactu rers, and the observations were startling.

The claims made by diabetes-friendly products like Fortune VIVO Diabetes-Care Oil are misleading. “Diabetics may assume that such products are especially made for them and end up consuming liberally, leading to excess calorie intake,” says V Mohan, Chairperson of Madras Diabetes Research Foundation, Chennai. In fact, nine cases have been registered against Fortune VIVO Diabetes-Care Oil at the Grievance Against Misleading Advertise ments (GAMA) portal of the Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) since it was launched in 2016. An evaluation of the product’s claim by DoCA showed it pertains to only type-2 diabetics and is based on a study conducted over a short period.

“Diabetes-friendly cookies are misleading as cookies usually contain a minimum of 15 per cent fat which may increase the total caloric intake,” says Mohan. A 150 g pack of NutriChoice Essentials Ragi cookies comes with six packets of three biscuits, which are usually consumed in one go. These three biscuits can provide 18-22.5 per cent of the daily fat allowance—this is significantly high given that biscuits are not meal. Though popular digestive biscuits are considered healthier alternatives due to no added sugar, the calorie content in 1 g of fat is double that of sugar, he adds.

Seema Gulati, Head of Nutrition Research Group at the Center for Nutrition and Metabolic Research, Delhi, points out a serious problem. Food items marketed under high fiber, multi-grain category often come loaded with saturated fats and trans-fats, which are implicated in heart diseases. “Whole grain cereals are healthy. But it is not appropriate to call whole grains healthy after they are coated with sugars and fats,” says Shweta Khandelwal, associate professor with the Public Health Foundation of India in Gurugram.

“Saffola Masala Oats are salty (or have high sodium content),” says Shalini Singhal, chief nutritionist at Dr Shalini’s Wellness in New Delhi. High-sodium foods can strain one’s heart and blood vessels. But the 40 g pack of Saffola Masala Oats does not mention sodium content on its label. Another brand, Quaker Oats, owned by Pepsico, mentions sodium content on the label of its sweet variety but not on the salted one. Nestle’s Maggi Veg Atta Noodles also does not declare sodium content on the pack, though Maggi Masala declares that it contains about 900 mg of sodium per serve. A 2012 study by CSE had found that instant noodles have highest salt content—4.2 g in Maggi Masala and 3.2g in Top Ramen noodles (per 100 g).

While Shah and Khanna may feel duped after knowing these information (see ‘Hidden facts’), making misleading claims by manufacturers through labels and advertisements is a common practice in the country. And at the root of this is a weak regulatory framework governing labels and advertisements.

Gross omissions on labels “Food labels are essential source of infor mation and potentially powerful tools of communication to discourage consump tion of unhealthy packed foods,” says SubbaRao M Gavaravarapu, Deputy Director at NIN.

Nutrition and health claims made on labels are governed under the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011. But all that the regulations do is briefly define nutrition and health claims. While the market is flooded with multitude of claims, the regulations have set standards for only three nutrition claims—trans-fats, saturated fats, and dietary fibres, which was added almost as an afterthought in mid-2016. Worse, the standard set for the claim “trans-fats free” is vague—it is based on serving size whereas India does not have a standard serving size.

While food manufacturers often use nutritional facts to make health claims, such as “diabetic-friendly” and “whole at its heart”, the regulations do not have a list of authorised or unauthorised health claims. “All health claims are misleading as health depends on the total diet and lifestyle, not just on one product,” says Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health with New York University.

Though the regulations say such claims should be scientifically substantiated, they do not mention the kind of substantiation required. They also have no provision requiring manufacturers to seek approval for such claims. “The approval procedure is mostly about self declaration,” says Ashok Kanchan, chief advisor at Consumer Voice, voluntary action group in Delhi. Companies share details about the claims upon being questioned, and this leaves a room to cheat consumers by not selling the same product batch that has been tested, he says.

The regulations also do not provide reference values for popular claims, such as low sugar, low sodium, light or lite, diet.

The scenario in India appears chaotic when compared with developed countries. The EU maintains a list of permitted nutrition claims and authorised and unauthorised health claims; has a detailed approval process; and prescribes reference values for terms such as high, low, extra, rich, more and less, which are used to describe the amount of nutrients.

Similarly, in the US, standards are available for almost all nutrients of concern and details on the kind of health claims that can be made along with approval process. “It is important to regulate claims to ensure that food labels are truthful and not misleading. This way, consumers can have confidence in the label,” says Anne Norris, Health Communications Specialist, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), adding that FDA has the authority to take action in case the information on labels are false and misleading.

Even the Codex Alimentarius, whose set of standards and guidelines are recognised by several countries across the globe, lays out standards for nutrients, such as salt, sugar and fat.

A lax regulation means several claims that are considered invalid or unlawful in developed countries, are freely used to push products in India. For instance, Kellogg’s Special K makes the claim of being 98 per cent fat-free. No food product can make such “x per cent fat-free” claims in the EU. Health claims linking dietary fibre to a lower risk of heart diseases are not authorised in the US, whereas such claims are liberally made in India. In Canada, claims, such as “DHA helps in cognitive performance”, are considered vague. But in India, Bournvita Lil Champs claims: “contains DHA helps brain development”.

Censored ad regulations

Advertisements are another powerful tool to push food products. Though they come under the purview of several departments and government agencies, including the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), they are largely self-regulated through the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), an industry association.

For instance, FSSAI can penalise those involved in misleading advertisements under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. But it does not directly monitor advertisements and has a Memorandum of Understanding with ASCI for doing so. Similarly, DoCA directs all complaints registered on its grievance portal GAMA to ASCI.

“We are not a pre-approving body, so there is no pre-censorship of advertisements,” says Shweta Purandre, Secretary General of ASCI. “We are a self-regulatory body and our role is to sensitise advertiser,” she adds. Based on complaints, ASCI has withheld a few advertisements in the past. A few recent ones are the claims made by Fortune Rice Bran Health Oil, which says the product contains “antioxidant power”. But antioxidants do not necessarily correspond to “power”. Another such claim is by Kellogg’s K, which mentions, “2 week challenge and eating 2 bowls everyday: 1 for breakfast, 1 for lunch/dinner for only 2 weeks”. The advertisement was found to be misleading as it does not mention specific conditions of the diet plan.

But since ASCI does not have the power to impose punitive measures, violators often repeat offences. In fact, companies are lately changing their campaigns, moving from nutrition and health claims to emotional tags to avoid scientific scrutiny.

In 2011, Bournvita’s tag line was “Badhaye doodh ki shakti” (increases power of milk), where the advertisement focussed on the presence of Vitamin D in the drink, which can help absorption of calcium in milk. In 2013, the focus shifted to emotion. In the ad-campaign “Tayari jeet ki—Adatein”, a mother and son can be seen racing. The voice-over says, “Toh jis din woh mujhe harayega, main jeet jaoongi” (I will win the day he defeats me). Finally, one day, the son defeats the mother in their race.

“Present situation can encourage purposeful misleading advertisement as advertiser can go scot free. Consumers usually do not pursue action against misleading advertisements. So the role of government is important,” says Kirti Bhatt, former head of the legal division at Consumer Education Research Centre, Ahmedabad.

Endorsements of foods high in salt, sugar and fat by celebrities, such as prominent sports icons, actors and TV personalities, is also a huge concern worldwide. Their impact is not limited to the buying behaviour of children. The situation is damaging in India where most popular packaged foods, especially sweetened beverages, are endorsed by film celebrities. These include Kellogg’s K Special by Deepika Padukone, Thums Up by Salman Khan, Ching’s Secret and Kellogg’s Oat Masst Masala by Ranveer Singh.

The Consumer Protection Bill, 2015, which aims to replace the archaic Consu mer Protection Act, 1986, recommends stringent measures to tackle misleading advertisements and fix liability on endorsers or celebrities. The draft Bill has provisions for imposing a penalty of Rs 10 lakh and imprisonment of up to two years or both for the first offence; and a fine of Rs 50 lakh and imprisonment of five years for the second offence. For subsequent offences, the penalty will increase proportionally based on the sales volume of the product.

But this may not be sufficient. Harish Bijoor, Chief Executive Officer at private-label consulting firm Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, says celebrities should not endorse food and beverage brands at all. “I blame us for tolerating brand endorsements. When you advertise something you put personal liability,” he says.

Words of advice

MAKE FOOD LABELLING AND CLAIMS FOOL-PROOF

Ascertain the nutrients for which claims can be made. The kind of nutrition claims along with limits suitable in the Indian context should be finalised. All other nutrition claims should be prohibited.
Only authorised health claims should be allowed. A procedure to approve health claims should be developed. A well-defined criterion for requirement and evaluation of scientific substantiation of claims needs to be worked upon. A detailed list of health claims, which are unacceptable, should be formalised.
An online system for all information related to claims should be set and made available to all stakeholders, including the public. It should include an updated repository of approved and unapproved nutrition and health claims.
Public health campaign on nutrition, food labelling and misleading claims should be initiated at all levels, starting from schools to mass media campaigns.
The current nutrition labelling needs to strengthen. It should include mandatory labelling of salt/sodium, added sugar, and immediate implementation of saturated fats and trans-fats labelling. Serving size must be standardised to help per serve information disclosure; nutrient declaration as per serve should be mandatory. Accordingly, serving size and number of servings in a pack must be mentioned wherever applicable. Per serve nutrient information should be mentioned along with percentage contribution to the recommended dietary allowance. The reference value used for calculating percentage should also be mentioned.
An easy-to-understand front-of-pack labelling system, provisions for warning labels and specified format for nutrition labelling should be developed.

MAKE ADVERTISEMENTS TRUTHFUL

Advertisements of food, particularly those high in salt, sugar or fat, should be approved prior to screening. They should be based on approved and unapproved claims finalised by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. The evaluation should include the design and target group of the advertisement. An integrated advertisement approval and monitoring team should be set up by roping in different stakeholder ministries, such as the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Information Broadcasting and Health and Family Welfare. Advertising Standards Council of India should also be involved in this.
With an aim to limit the power and exposure of advertisements to children and adolescents, celebrities should not be allowed to endorse foods high in salt, sugar or fat. No advertisement should be allowed for categories such as soft drinks on the lines of tobacco-based products.
There should be stringent legal and financial penalties for misleading claims. Liabi- lity should be aligned with the scale of damage. Penal provisions should be directed towards food manufactures and/or marketers.

— source downtoearth.org.in By Ananya Tewari, Amit Khurana

Defence to be largest business of Reliance Group

Defence will emerge as the largest business for the Reliance Group, said Anil Ambani, chairman of Reliance Group in a presentation to analysts on Monday as Reliance Defence gears to tap defence opportunities worth Rs. 1 lakh crore annually in the Indian defence market.

“There is a huge opportunity for private sector in the defence business as currently India imports 70% of its defence requirement in value terms and accounts for 14% of the global defence imports in 2016,” said Anil Ambani addressing a gathering of 80 analysts in Mumbai on Monday. “Overall, India Offset opportunities are in excess of Rs. 77,000 crore with peak obligation of Rs. 10,000 crore in 2018. This is a big playing field for the Indian private sector,” he said.

Reliance Defence has submitted bids for Rs. 30,000 crore of defence orders comprising landing platform dock and anti submarine warfare and shallow water craft.

Reliance Defence is planning to bid for the construction of two indigenous aircraft carriers worth Rs. 90,000 crore and 12 submarines worth Rs. 1.2 lakh crore. The company is also planning to submit bids worth another Rs. 30,000 for building next-generation missile vessels and a next-generation corvette this year. “Reliance Group’s entry into the defence sector is driven by the new policy of Make in India and Skill India which makes available the large opportunity for the group. Contrary to general perception, defence is [a] low-capital business with high turnover,” said Mr. Ambani adding that his vision was to be the leading manufacturer and supplier of ‘state-of -the-art’ advanced weapon platforms, equipment, systems and hardware “to meet the domestic requirements of the Indian Armed Forces and to mark our presence across the world.”

In aerospace, Reliance Defence has set up a 51: 49 JV, Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd., which plans to be a key player in the offset opportunity for the Rafael 36 contract. The annual budget for Indian defence is about Rs. 2.6 lakh crore.

— source thehindu.com by Piyush Pandey

when defence becomes private business, conflicts and war will escalate. because these private companies get profits only if there is need of weapons. America proved this.

Our soldiers and civilians will going to die in unnecessory wars. We must end privatization of defense sector. Soldier’s families and citizen must unite on this issue.