One District One Product

If you want to start a business in food products, it would serve you well to look at the farm/animal/ marine product-specific map with insights into the speciality of that district and the support which you may get from the government as a food processing entrepreneur.

The agriculture ministry under ‘One District One Product’ approach has finalised 135 district specific unique products for 728 districts across the country, identifying each of them with certain agricultural, horticultural, animal, poultry, milk or marine products.

Though there are some familiar names of district-product combo in the list such as oranges of Nagpur, grapes of Sangli, litchis of Muzaffarpur, the comprehensive list dedicates 60% of total 728 districts to fruits (226 districts), vegetables (107) and spices (105). In contrast, foodgrains such as paddy (40), pulses (16) and wheat (5) found place in quite a small number of districts across the country even as they are produced widely.

It can be attributed to the need for processing and support which the listed products may require for value addition, keeping in view brand building and export promotion of local produce. The list of products has been finalised after taking inputs from the states/UTs and Indian Council of Agricultural Research, focussing on existing clusters and availability of raw materials. “These products will be promoted in a cluster approach through convergence of the central government schemes to increase the value of the products with the ultimate aim of increasing the income of the farmers,” said Shubha Thakur, joint secretary in agriculture ministry, in a note to chief secretaries/administrators of States/UTs. These district-wise identified products will be supported under the PM Formalisation of Micro food processing Enterprises scheme which provides incentives to promoters and micro-enterprises. The Scheme adopts ODOP approach to reap benefits of scale in terms of procurement of inputs, availing common services and marketing of products.

“The state governments are accordingly requesting a plan for implementation of the programme which can benefit farmers and provide support for realizing the expectations of value addition and subsequently enhancing agri export,” said Thakur.


Five assembly polls to begin from March 27

As many as 824 assembly constituencies shall be going for polls in four states — Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam — and Puducherry (Union Territory), said Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) of India Sunil Arora on Friday.

Tamil Nadu assembly elections to be held in a single phase on April 6, Kerala also goes to polls on April 6; Assam assembly elections to be held in three phases — first phase of polling March 27, second phase on April 1 and third phase on April 6; Puducherry elections are to be held on April 6.

Counting of all votes will be held on May 2. “Nearly 18.68 crore electors will vote at 2.7 lakh polling stations for 824 seats in four assembly elections,” Sunil Arora said addressing media persons here today.

He also said the Bihar Assembly polls last year in November amid the COVID-19 pandemic was a watershed moment and proved to be a litmus test for the Election Commission of India.

India out of recession

Growth returned to the economy in the October-December quarter of 2020 -21, helping it to move out of the recession that had gripped following one of the strictest lockdowns imposed last year to ward off the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The economy grew 0.4% in the three months ended December powered by manufacturing, farm, electricity, construction, financial, real estate and professional services. The numbers showed the contraction in the June quarter was sharper at 24.4% than the previous estimate of 23.9%, while the decline in the September quarter was revised to 7.3% from the earlier 7.5%. An economy is said to be in recession after posting two consecutive quarters of contraction.

The second advance estimate for the full year showed the economy is forecast to contract by 8%, higher than the 7.7% projected before and mostly in line with other estimates.

The December quarter data also showed that India had joined China, Vietnam and Taiwan, a select group of economies, which have posted growth during the three-month period against the backdrop of sharp declines in major economies of the world hit hard by the pandemic. The RBI had earlier estimated that growth would return in the third and fourth quarters of the current fiscal year that ends in March.

Recent estimates by multilateral agencies and economists have pointed to a rebound in the Indian economy. The IMF has also forecast India to be one of the fastest growing major economies in the world in 2021-22 as growth momentum gathers pace. The rollout of the vaccination programme has added to the optimism, but the resurgence of the virus in some parts of the country has emerged as a risk factor. The finance ministry said the October-December quarter data was also a reflection of a further strengthening of the V-shaped recovery that began in Q2 of 2020-21 after a large GDP contraction in the April-June quarter, which followed one of the strictest lockdowns imposed by the government relative to other economies.


No fundamental right of same-sex marriage: Centre

The Centre told the Delhi High Court that there is no fundamental right to seek recognition for same-sex marriage. The government stated this in an affidavit filed in reply to a petition by same-sex couples seeking enforcement of fundamental right of choice of partner.

“Despite the decriminalisation of Section 377 of the IPC, the petitioners cannot claim a fundamental right for same-sex marriage being recognised under the laws of the country,” the affidavit stated.

It said that the fundamental right under Article 21 cannot be expanded to include the fundamental right for same sex marriage. “In India, marriage is not just a matter of union of two individuals but a solemn institution between a biological man and a biological woman,” the affidavit read.

The Centre further stated that living together as partners and having sexual relationship with same-sex individuals, which is decriminalised now, is not comparable with the Indian family unit concept of a husband, wife and children.

It submitted that any interference with the marriage laws framed by the Parliament in the country would cause complete havoc with the delicate balance of personal laws in the country.

The Centre submitted that marriage in India is regarded as a sacrament and depends on age-old customs, rituals and cultural ethos and societal values.

Marriage of same-sex persons would violate the existing personal as well as codified laws, the Centre claimed, while seeking dismissal of the petition.

India, Pak to follow all ceasefire pacts

India and Pakistan have agreed to strictly observe all agreements on ceasefire along the Line of Control and other sectors, according to a joint statement on Thursday.

The decision on ceasefire, effective since Wednesday midnight, was taken at a meeting between the Director Generals of Military Operations of India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan signed a ceasefire agreement in 2003, but it has hardly been followed in letter and spirit over past several years with more violations than observance of the pact.

The DGMOs held discussions over the established mechanism of hotline contact and reviewed the situation along the Line of Control and all other sectors in a “free, frank and cordial atmosphere”.

“In the interest of achieving mutually beneficial and sustainable peace along the borders, the two DGMOs agreed to address each other’s core issues and concerns which have propensity to disturb peace and lead to violence. Both sides agreed for strict observance of all agreements, understandings and cease firing along the Line of Control and all other sectors with effect from midnight of February 24/25,” the joint statement said.

They also reiterated that existing mechanisms of hotline contact and border flag meetings will be utilised to resolve any unforeseen situation or misunderstanding, it added.

In written response to a question in Lok Sabha earlier this month, Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy said a total of 10,752 cases of ceasefire violations have taken place along India’s border with Pakistan in the last three years, in which 72 security personnel and 70 civilians were killed.

He said 364 security personnel and 341 civilians were injured in cross-border firings along the International Border and the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir in 2018, 2019 and 2020.


Mumbai: Water taxis to Navi Mum, more ro-ro ferries, harbour cruises likely in a year

Water taxis to Navi Mumbai and a few other destinations to the city’s southeast, roll on-roll off ferry services to JNPT, Mandwa and Kashid, and harbour cruises for tourists could start in a year, the Mumbai Port Trust has said.

MbPT has signed as many as 13 MoUs worth Rs 7,500 crore on developing water transport ahead of the three-day Virtual Maritime India Summit slated to be addressed by PM Narendra Modi on March 2. JNPT has signed over 30 Mo-Us worth Rs 27,000 crore for its SEZ as well as port expansion. With MbPT expecting to ink deals on infrastructure worth another Rs 12,000 crore, around Rs 47,000 crore of the Rs 1.3 lakh crore investments being sought for ports across India could be coming Mumbai’s way.

The water taxis, with a capacity of 20-50 passengers, will ply most likely from Ferry Wharf to Vashi, Nerul, Belapur, Nhava, Karanja, Rewas and Dharamtar at an average tariff of Rs 200-500 per person. The harbour cruises will offer facilities like food and games. MbPT chairman Rajeev Jalota said these projects can be running in a year’s time. One of the MoUs was with Cordelia Cruises run by Waterways Leisure Tourism, which plans to invest Rs 3,000 crore to buy ships and ferry tourists around the country and even outside, he added.

The Ro-Ro services planned, on the lines of the successful service to Alibaug, include one from the port on the Mumbai mainland to JNPT, the country’s largest container port, located across the harbour. It will ease movement of heavy vehicles between the two, said Jalota, and cut traffic and pollution in the city.

The summit, held every five years, will include Afghanistan, Russia, Uzbekistan, Iran and Armenia and also discuss opportunities on the strategic Chabahar port that India is helping develop in Iran.

JNPT chairman Sanjay Sethi said prominent companies have signed MoUs to set up facilities ranging from manufacturing, IT, warehousing/cold storage, free trade warehousing zone, pharma, engineering to confectionary and food processing in the JNPT SEZ. There will be special emphasis in the summit on developing deep-draft ports that can take in big vessels for more trade.

For MbPT, besides citizen facing projects like the ferry services, a 300-yacht marina, a ropeway to Elephanta, and floating restaurants, Jalota said a bulk of the investments will be coming from oil companies looking to set up crude landing, bunkering, pipelines and other allied infrastructure. HPCL and BPCL, which are next month commissioning the largest berth for oil carriers in the country, have signed a pact to invest an additional Rs 1,500 crore to set up oil tanks, he pointed out.

Oil Companies Venturing into Green Hydrogen

State-run fossil fuel companies IndianOil, GAIL, HPCL and BPCL are venturing into green hydrogen space as part of the government’s push to adopt the environment-friendly fuel to help accelerate the energy transition.

These companies, spurred by the oil ministry, plan to undertake pilot projects for green hydrogen in 2021-22, said Dr SSV Ramakumar, director at IndianOil, who has been guiding the company’s hydrogen fuel development projects and helping the government evolve a strategy on the green fuel.

IndianOil, the nation’s largest fossil fuel retailer, aims to build a hydrogen distribution network in the future and is already testing the technology and economics of the fuel in multiple projects. It is the largest producer of hydrogen in the country, mostly using natural gas and naphtha and utilising it to reduce sulphur content in motor fuels at its refineries.

The new push is about green hydrogen, which is produced using renewable energy. IndianOil and other state oil companies plan to partner with renewable energy firms for their green hydrogen pilots.