News Wrap


Plantings in India’s Farm sector for the ongoing Rabi (winter-spring) season shows progressive crop average at 470.70 lac hectares, to be below the 503.66 lac hectares covered in 2013. India’s farm sector faces the prospect of a negative growth, for the first time since 2009-10. The Union Agriculture Ministry’s data indicates that farmers have sown less area under wheat (241.91 lac hectares against 251.32 lac hectares), and also the two other major crops viz gram or chana (71.51 lac hectares against 85.75 lac hectares), and rapeseed-mustard (61.48 lac hectares against 64.54 lac hectares). A poor south-west monsoons in 2014 caused production declines in Kharif (summer-autumn) season. The prices in mandis (wholesale markets) are ruling lower compared to levels a year ago, in spite of the current drought like situation. Farmers are suffering with the annual consumer food price inflation falling to 3.14% (November 2014) from 5.59% (October 2014). The declining output and prices are affecting farmers.

The crash in global prices of rice, wheat, maize, cotton, soyabean and sugar, where India is a major producer and exporter, is getting transmitted to the domestic market. Prices are ruling firm in commodities, where India is a large consumer and importer, especially pulses and oil seeds, such as rape-seed-mustard. Lack of adequate soil moisturising has influenced the lower rabi plantings. Cumulative rainfall in the north-east monsoons season (October to December) has been 32% below the normal long-period average. The deficit during the main south-west monsoons season (June to September) is 12.5%. The weak winter rain precipitation has been felt the most in Madhya Pradesh, which has recorded a 75% north-east monsoons rainfall deficit. The possible withdrawal of a Rs 150 per quintal bonus paid by the state government in 2013-14, in addition to the central government’s minimum support price of Rs 1400 per quintal, in certain states like Madhya Pradesh, is also a reason for farmers planting less in 2014-15.

Cataract Surgery
Over 60 persons have lost their eye sight after a cataract operation at an eye camp, organized by an NGO in Gurdaspur district (Punjab). Sixteen persons belonged to villages of Amritsar, and the rest were from Gurdaspur district. The patients were operated at an eye camp in Ghuman village of Gurdaspur district in the last week of November 2014. Cataract surgery in the eye camp was performed under severe unhygienic conditions. Before organizing the eye camp norms were not followed in obtaining mandatory permission from the administration and civil surgeons of Gurdaspur and Amritsar.

White Collar Frauds
Outpacing Indian companies’ efforts to mitigate corporate frauds, private sector frauds are rising sharply over the last two years. Diversion or theft of funds, bribery and corruption, and regulatory non-compliance are the prominent frauds experienced in the last two years. Companies have to allocate time, money and resources for cyber security, and most companies keep trouble under the carpet. Losses due to frauds are around Rs 100 lacs, over the last two years. Emerging fraud risks comprise social media fraud (69%), e-commerce fraud (60%), cloud computing fraud (69%), and virtual / crypto currency fraud (50%). About 400 chief experienced officers (CXOs) across major sectors in the area of fraud risk management are still reliant on in adequate or dated mechanisms to manage fraud risks. The executives generally rely on internal audit reviews, whistle blower hot lines and IT controls to defect fraud. Key company actions include identifying internal investigations (87%), disciplinary action taken against the fraudstar (78%), and renewing/updating existing controls. Most companies in sunrise sectors such as e-commerce, social media, etc are not proactively investing in cyber security, as they are not anticipating huge losses. Corporate frauds are expected to be rising in the next two years.

CIA’s Interrogations
A long delayed US Senate report points to CIA’s harsh interrogations of terrorist detainees held in secret overseas facilities like Guantanamo, the George W Bush administration deployed in the fear-laden days, after the 11 September 2001 terror attacks. The report covers the treatment of around 120 terror suspects rounded up by US operatives, between 2001 and 2009. The CIA’s brutal interrogation of Al-Qaeda suspects, under ‘enhanced interrogation’ programs, in many cases amounted to torture. In the aftermath of 9/11 attacks, the CIA’s interrogation techniques included mock execution, nudity, sleep deprivation, rectal insertion and ‘hard’ takedowns among others. The US Senate Report alleged the spy agency’s torturing did not yield any substantial inputs. The CIA has claimed that information gained through interrogation of detainees helped in tracking down Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. CIA’s harsh interrogations delivered no ‘kicking time bomb’ information that prevented an attack. There was no relationship between the claimed counter-terrorism ‘success’ and any information provided by a CIA detainee.

Vol. 47, No. 31, Feb 8 -14, 2015