Archive for July 2007

Third party motor policy’s turnaround

July 23, 2007

UNTIL RECENTLY general insurers would not issue third party motor polices in respect of commercial vehicles. While the private sector players bluntly said no, their public sector counterparts did so mostly covertly. This warranted designing a new mechanism to manage third party claims arising from insuring commercial vehicles. The insurer is permitted to retain 10% of the premium collected as service charges and the balance is credited to the said pool account. The smaller players are incentivised to underwrite more and more of these policies since their contribution to claim payout is lower on account of their lower market share.  Apart from hiking the insurance premium and raising the floor on the sum insured, insurers have placed a cap on doctor’s fee, room rent, reimbursement of expenses incurred towards anaesthesia, blood, oxygen, operation theatre, etc.  This led to the government banning futures trading in wheat and pulses.  Meanwhile, Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Bangalore commissioned by the Forward Markets Commission (FMC) to study the impact of futures trading on prices of agricultural commodities and other aspects of futures market has already come out with an interim report. 

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Politics without Borders

July 4, 2007

Fujimori, two terms President of Peru who is under house arrest in Chile is contesting elections for a parliamentary seat in Japan. Borderless politics seems to have arrived in the world and maybe we Indians need to start adopting it in small doses.

The Congress split because a few who believed that Indian citizens of foreign origin should not occupy that post walked out to form the Nationalist Congress Party. Alberto Fujimori, two terms President of Peru with a not too particularly distinguished record and who is currently under house arrest in Chile will run for a seat in the Japanese Parliamentary elections due later this month. He actually speaks of returning to the presidency in Peru too. Kamei said he wanted Fujimori – who holds Japanese citizenship – to put "his knowledge, rich experience and reputation" to use in Japan.
A Japanese political party is prepared to welcome into their fold and offer a Parliamentary seat to someone who is not exactly a political elder statesman but is actually in disgrace and under house arrest in a third country. Fujimori said he had accepted the request to run for the People’s New Party in the upper house elections in a talk with party chief Shizuka Kamei.

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Put agriculture in concurrent list to serve farmers

July 4, 2007

Although placing agriculture in the State list is actually a legacy of the Government of India Act, 1935 (as is water, entry No.17), it is obvious that leaving the States to their fate in agriculture would tantamount to inviting starvation and famines.
By placing agriculture in the Concurrent List, serving farmers and saving farming becomes a joint responsibility of the Centre and the States, i.e. a truly national endeavor in raising then morale, prestige and economic well being of our farm women and men." The last four were part-time members of the commission.
The main emphasis in this report is on farmers and not agriculture as such. Essentially farmer-friendly, the Commission says that there has to be a policy for farmers, instead of a policy for farming. The Commission recommended that prime farmland must be conserved for agriculture and should not be diverted for non-agricultural purposes and programs. It also made the suggestion that the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) should function like a National Bank for Farmers.
"Food imports are temporary measures and cannot lead to food- nutrition security," Dr. Swaminathan said. The NCF chairman also stressed the critical role of the mass media in creating a climate of confidence in
India’s agricultural capabilities.

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Food Shortages: Will they be back ?

July 3, 2007

No doubt for improving the infrastructure government needs to acquire farm land. But by neglecting the reforms in the agricultural sector and focusing only on industrial reforms, are we bringing back the specter of famine and food shortages?
When some members questioned the lengthy time frame, the explanation provided was that the land being purchased was agricultural land and that there were several procedural formalities involved in converting agricultural land into no agricultural use.
While the manner in which farmers are treated when land is acquired is certainly an issue, there is also a need to examine the whole matter of acquiring agricultural land in other contexts. While improving infrastructure—roads, highways and expressways etc are important and they would require acquiring land, there needs to be a re-look at how agricultural yield can be increased and land under cultivation can be increased. While probably nothing can be done to increase the size of land holdings since the notion of population control is all but forgotten, increasing mechanization, investment in irrigation infrastructure a policy regulating cash crops that are often grown for short term profits at the cost of long term food security needs to be regulated.
The emergence of private buyers of food grains as against the erstwhile monopoly of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) Mandis has been heralded as an unmitigated boom.

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Monitoring Pension Funds

July 3, 2007

The regulator’s job is not over with just putting in place the architecture for management of pension funds or for that matter, any fund. In the past there have been occasions when not only the regulated but also the regulator has failed miserably.
THE MULISH PENSION reforms in the country seem to be gathering pace with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) announcing norms for management of pension funds by banks.  The announcement is a sequel to the government’s decision to allow banking companies to manage pension funds.  The eligibility criteria for fund managers for the government’s New Pension Scheme (NPS) have been laid down by the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA).  RBI norms intend to eventually permit private and foreign banks to enter the business of pension funds management.  I sound a bit cynical because of the poor management of the funds of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) by the country’s leading commercial bank, the State Bank of India (SBI).  Interestingly, lesser known Provident Funds (PFs) returned better income at the time.  If the Chennai-based Royapettah Benefit Fund (RBF) went down with Rs 450 crores belonging to over 1,00,000 small investors, part of the blame lies with RBI too. RBI’s inaction amounts to collusion with the RBF management, covert or overt. 

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Sky chart showing Venus and Saturn

July 3, 2007

Stargazers and young astronomers witness a rare celestial conjugation on Sunday as Venus the planet of love courted the ringed Saturn.

Venus is bright in part because it comes closer to Earth than any other planet. Saturn is the most distant world that one can easily see with the unaided eye. These two bright pinpoints in our twilight sky are two very different kinds of worlds. Venus is a rocky planet like Earth, and Saturn is a gas giant. At mid northern latitudes, Venus and Saturn stay out a bit longer than 2 hours after sundown. Venus’ orbit lies inside the Earth’s orbit, at about seven-tenths the Earth’s distance from the sun. Saturn resides in the solar system’s hinterlands, its oblong orbit is at 9 to 10 times the Earth’s distance from the sun. The first four planets from the sun – Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars – are all terrestrial or rocky planets. The outer four planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune – are all gas giants.

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Three years after the killing, family still awaits justice

July 3, 2007

THE FAMILY MEMBERS of Ram Lal, who along with three other porters was allegedly killed in a fake army encounter in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir in April 2004, still cannot come out of the grief and disa sociate themselves from the cherished moments spent with Ram Lal. “The time when Ram Lal left his family, his wife was pregnant and a son was born after his death. Ram Lal being the eldest among five brothers was the main bread earner for the family. Like Ram Lal’s family, family of another victim Bhushan Lal a resident of Mangu Chak has also been living in miserable conditions. The hope to get justice has kindled among the family members as the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, on June 23, 2007, issued notices to Union of India through Secretary Defence, Chief of Army Staff, General Officer Commanding Northern Command, Chief Secretary J&K State, DC Kupwara, SSP Kupwara, DC Jammu and 12 officers/officials 18 RR.

The family members of deceased filed a writ petition and asked for the investigation of the alleged fake encounter by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and compensation of Rs 10 lacs each to the legal heirs of deceased.

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