Livelihoods News

The Congress' flagship programme, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, is facing a big cut in its budgetary grant for the first time since its launch in 2006.The budgetary support for the current financial year was a tad lower at Rs. 40,000 crore but the progress of the MGNREGS has been so bad that the UPA government is now set to slash the allocation for the job scheme for the poor for the 2012-13 financial year by 10 to 20 per cent.It is just a question of reconciling perceptions on the extent of deduction to be made. The Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD), the Finance Ministry and the Planning Commission differ on the size of the cut, but all seem to be unanimous on allocating less for the MGNREGS given the government's adverse fiscal position.

There is very little that distinguishes the hamlet of Madri from the innumerable others that dot southern Rajasthan. This is a region where the Aravallis make their presence felt in gnarled hillocks, where water is scarce and where the land yields its harvests grudgingly. People here, including toddlers, know well the edge of hunger. So when Ranjani Ashok, 54, who runs the anganwadi in this village – perched on the border that separates Dungarpur and Banswara districts – serves her charges their small helping of ‘kichidi' (gruel of rice and lentil), it disappears in a trice. The children in Ranjani's anaganwadi are not picky eaters. Unlike well-fed kids from prosperous city neighbourhoods, these children eat pretty much whatever is served to them, unless they happen to have a fever.

A big revolution is on its way to change a small village. Umarpada, a tribal village in south Gujarat, is set to change its economy by turning to rose production by leaving behind their current livelihood of agricultural work at others' field.  Nearly 1,500 farm-workers have committed to join hands with Surat-based JJ Flora Cooperative Society to produce dutch (exported) roses and gerbera flowers with a view to ship branded roses to western markets including the US, Europe and Japan by next Valentine season. The cooperative society along with 50 tribal farmers has already started an initial production of dutch roses in 30 acres.

NEW DELHI: Experts have given thumbs down to big irrigation projects in Vidarbha, a view that may mark major shift in government's approach in tackling the crisis of vulnerable cotton farmers after the expiry of Prime Minister's special package for the region.  The Centre may now go for a scheme which would junk big irrigation dams in Vidarbha, and instead focus on harvesting rainwater to boost irrigation.  The National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA) has dubbed the big and medium projects as "overdesigned", filled only up to 34% in 2008-09 and 41% in 2009-10. The negative feedback underlines some of the misdirected priorities of Rs 3750-crore PM's package for cotton farmers and Maharashtra government who funneled major chunk of funds for big and medium irrigation projects.  The expert view against the new irrigation projects seems to point to the need for change in approach.


The Indian leather industry is likely to face challenges in maintaining the existing growth level, said Aqeel Ahmed, Regional Chairman, Council for Leather Exports, Southern Region, here on Friday. Talking to journalists, Mr. Ahmed said that the Europe is the major market for Indian leather exports. At present there is a crisis in Europe owing to which the economy has slowed down. Germany is the only market which is doing better. However, there is an opportunity to increase the Indian leather industry's share in the global leather trade. The leather industry recorded an all time high growth of 27 per cent during the current fiscal up to November last year.

NEW DELHI: Farmers across the country are entitled to get Rs 1,080 a quintal (100kg) as minimum support price for paddy. But surprisingly, a team from the Centre that visited Bihar and Uttar Pradesh last week found that the Food Corporation of India  (FCI) was paying nearly 30% less. With little procurement taking place in these states, farmers have been left with no option but to go for distress sale. The result: In procurement centres such as Raia in Allahabad, farmers were being paid Rs 750-800 a quintal by FCI. In neighbouring Sultanpur's Ramganj, the rate paid for paddy was marginally better, at Rs 775-825 a quintal.

Over the next five years, the Forest Department will create fodder resources inside forest areas to improve wildlife habitats and mitigate human-animal conflict. As the department pays a huge sum of money as compensation for damage caused to the agricultural crops by wild animals, especially elephants straying into fields, and also for the loss of life and injury to human beings in attacks by animals, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests came up with the proposal to raise green fodder bank inside the reserve forest areas to prevent the straying of animals into human habitats. Accepting the proposal, the government has sanctioned Rs.20.87 crore for five years, including Rs.3.45 crore for 2011-12. Besides, the department plans to construct about 100 percolation ponds and 100 check dams in the next five years to satiate the thirst of the wild animals during summer. Silvicultural operations will be taken up on about 100 places. In Coimbatore circle, where the human-animal conflict is more pronounced, the Forest Department will establish ten irrigated fodder plots every year. (The Hindu- Chennai, January 25, 2012)

Central Delhi, comprising largely of Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal's parliamentary constituency Chandni Chowk, has been included in the list of 419 special focus districts (SFDs) for 2012-13 under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). Last year the number was 389. The Ministry describes these 419 districts as being “characterised by marginalisation and backwardness and yet to be on a par with other districts” on school education parameters. Central Delhi, with a substantial Muslim population, has been included in the SFDs for a low retention rate in schools — below 60 per cent. 

The second “National Convention on Children's Right to Food” concluded here on Sunday with a call to link anti-malnutrition strategies to inflationary indices. The three-day convention in which about 1,000 delegates from 21 States participated, adopted a 25-point “charter” on combating malnutrition. ,Shanta Sinha, chairperson of the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), stressed on focusing on the disadvantaged sections in the fight against malnutrition. Blaming the Central and State governments for rampant malnutrition across the country, Dr. Sinha called for a decentralized approach to counter malnutrition. “There should be better coordination between the two and the ultimate responsibility to answer for child deaths should be fixed with either on of them,” Vibhanshu Joshi, chairperson of the Madhya Pradesh commission for the protection of child rights said.

The Finance Ministry  has launched a concessional loan scheme for farmers to prevent distress sale of agricultural produce.  Farmers who park their produce at warehouses will be able to avail short-term post harvest loan at 7% as against the prevailing rate of 11%-12%. Farmers making timely payment of the loans will further enjoy 3% interest subvention, bringing the real interest rate to 4%, according to the finance ministry directive.  This will benefit close to 100 million marginal and small farmers with kisan credit cards. "Now, a farmer will be able to get two crop loans in a year at a concessional rate," said a senior official with the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), which will implement the scheme.