News Wrap


Temperatures are rising, boosted by global emissions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. India becomes more prone to droughts, unseasonal rains, floods, crop failures and cyclones. The average temperatures on the densely populated plains of North India, is predicted to rise between 2.9ºC and 5ºC by 2080. India’s annual per capita carbon dioxide emissions were just 1.6 tons per person in 2012, compared with 16.4 tons per person for the US and 7.1 tons per person for China. By 2030, India’s emissions will still amount to only about 5 tons per person, per year. The country has a growing population, and the need to provide electricity to the 300 million Indians, who lack it today. New coal fired power stations will supplement other sources of electricity, based on solar energy, windmills and hydro-electric dams. Half of India’s extra emissions are expected to come from coal.

195 nations reached a climate change accord in Le Bourget (Paris) on 12 December 2015, seeking to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and committing developed nations to muster at least $100 billion a year from 2020, to help developing nations. However following US objections, it was not included in the legally binding section of the deal. The Paris accord targets limiting global warming of the planet to ‘‘well below’’ 2 degree Celsius, compared with the Industrial Revolution, while aiming for 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Direct Benefit Transfers
Relating to the sugar cane supplied to mills in the 2014-15 sugar cane crushing season, farmers in Uttar Pradesh state received Rs 28.60 per quintal. Based on lists furnished by mills of their growers, along with the quantum of cane delivered, the payments amounted to Rs 2,127.25 crore. The information was verified by district cane officers and co-operative societies, through whom the purchases were made. The balance of Rs 251.40 per quintal, due last season 2013-14, is yet to be paid. The ongoing exercise of Direct Benefit Transfers (DBT) registration of farmers was launched in September 2015. The UP state government has registered over 36 lac farmers, and each farmer has been assigned a unique ‘Kisan ID’ number. These cover details of the names of the farmers, the village, block and district to which they belong; land particulars (holding size, ‘Khasra’ and ‘Khatauni’ numbers, etc.), mobile numbers and bank accounts. The DBT portal of the UP agriculture department is being used for disbursal of subsidy on seed purchases, by farmers registered with it.

The subsidy on seed of certified wheat varieties has been fixed at Rs 1400 per quintal, in the current 2015-16 Rabi season. Stores belonging to the agriculture and co-operative departments, UP State Agro-Industrial Corporation, UP Seed Development Corporation or Kribhco and Iffco are selling seeds to the farmers, at the notified market price of Rs 3000 per quintal. Within 15 days of purchase, the subsidy amount is transferred directly into bank accounts of farmers. About 8 lac of the 36 lac plus registered farmers under DBT, have been paid subsidy amounts, in the current season. The total seed subsidy credited through DBT is expected to touch Rs 175 crore in Rabi season 2015-16. The figures include Rs 161 crore just on 11.5 lac quintals of wheat seed, and the rest for other Rabi crops, like Chana (Chick pea), Matar (Field pea), Masur (Rentil) and Mustard. The DBT scheme in the 2015 Kharif season, was restricted to hybrid paddy seeds, with 15000 quintal distributed to 1.5 lac farmers, at an average subsidy of Rs 130 per kg.

Subsidy on agricultural implements, such as rotavators, seed drills, disc harrows, cultivators and knapsack sprayers is being provided by the UP government, via DBT. The plan is being extended shortly to micronutrients, gypsum and other inputs as well. The Union Government of India, has announced on 18 November 2015, a production subsidy of Rs 4.50 per quintal, on cane to be crushed in the 2015-16 season. The money will be paid directly to farmers, on behalf of the mills. The Punjab State Government has agreed for a similar direct subsidy of Rs 50 a quintal on cane, processed by private mills in the state.

Library Land
In 1983, the Maharashtra State Government had allotted a plot of land, measuring 3478 sq metres, in prime suburban Bandra of Mumbai, along the Western Express Highway, to Associated Journals Ltd for building a Nehru Memorial Library and Research Centre. Having remained vacant for three decades, the prime plot of land will now house a 11-storey office building. The AJL company once published the National Herald, the newspaper launched by Nehru and Qaumi Awaz. According to building permission granted by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to the AJL company, the project is a ‘‘commercial building’’ comprising two levels of basement parking, an office and atrium on the ground floor, and eleven floors of offices. There is no mention for a Nehru Museum Library in the building permission documents. The plot of land is on a large plot, earlier reserved for a hostel for scheduled caste students. The land occupancy price of Rs 98,17,440 has been paid by the AJL company in 2006, following an order. There are arrears of lease rent outstanding. In June 2013, a commencement certificate for a proposed ‘‘commercial building’’ was granted.

National Front
The populist hard-right National Front Party captured 42% of the vote in the first round of France’s big Northern region. Voters in the enlarged Nord-Pas de Calais-Picardy region turned their backs on the Socialist Party, that had long ruled the area, giving a massive endorsement to Marine Le Pen, the 47-year-old daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the National Front leader. Ms Le Pen’s ambition is to win the French Presidency in 2017. Her niece, Marion Marechal Le Pen took 41% of the vote, winning easily in the Southern region of Provence Alpes Cotes d’Azur. Recently the Front adopted the protective economic doctrines of the old communist party, and scored highly in the Eastern region of Alsace-Champagne-Ardennes-Lorraine, as well as in Burgundy-Franche Comté. The Front went ahead in seven of 13 regions. It has never controlled a county or regional council, and has only two MPs. It is an anti-immigration movement, and offers simple solutions to the issues of immigration, terrorism and chronic high unemployment that are now plaguing France. The fear generated by the terrorist attacks in Paris probably contributed to National Front’s first place in the regional elections. The Socialists are held responsible for economic failure.

At the second round national level polling, the National Front scored less than 30% of the votes. Supporters of the mainstream parties turned out in large numbers, to block the far right from gaining control of any of the country’s 13 regions. Marine Le Pen, the party’s leader, was beaten easily by the centre-right Republican candidate, in the new Northern Picardy region, despite having had a big lead in the first round. Marion Marechal-Le Pen, her 26-year old niece, lost by a margin of about ten points to Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice. The results denied the party the breakthrough that gaining control  of a regional council would have marked. The cross-party scare campaign by the establishment parties and the withdrawal of the Socialists to beat the Front in three key regions have only served the Le Pen argument that the ‘‘people’s party’’ is a victim of a plot by ‘‘the oligarchy’’. France’s National Front Party received more than a quarter of the national vote, yet fields only three MPs, and controls nothing larger than a medium-sized town. The right and left united to keep Le Pen away from power.

Vol. 48, No. 31, Feb 7 - 13, 2016