Monday, February 13, 2012

Flagged off the Sealdah-Puri Duranto Express

The Union Minister for Railways, Shri Dinesh Trivedi flagged off the Sealdah-Puri Duranto Express and Sealdah-Barrackpur EMU Local train at Barrackpur Station in West Bengal on February 12, 2012. The Minister of State for Urban Development, Shri Saugata Ray and the Minister of State for Shipping, Shri Mukul Roy are also seen. PIB photo  13-February-2012

Tripura Agriculture Plan Bears Fruit

sole winner of Krishi Karman Award
Success Story                                                      Subhasis K. Chanda*
All photographs Courtesy: Agriculture Department of Tripura
Kumud Behari, a Tripuri hill man, is a traditional jhuming farmer.  He is happy this year as he yielded double crop. A similar record was set by Mohammed Abdul Gafar who adopted the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) and increased the yield to 3.3 tons per hectare from 2.3 tons per hectare produced earlier by traditional methods. These inspiring instances, in contrast to the prevailing scenario in agriculture sector across the country, are outcome of a comprehensive plan initiated by Tripura Agriculture Department, which has emerged as the sole winner of Krishi Karman Award in the category of States with a high overall foodgrain production. Giving away this award the Union Agriculture Ministry recognized the States’ contribution towards increasing the foodgrain production in the country. 

It sounds a miracle, yet, the answer seems hidden into the present agricultural dynamics steered by the State’s ten year term perspective plan, reinforced by two centrally sponsored programme, namely, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) and Agricultural Training and Management Agency (ATMA) projects .       

State Agricultural Setting
The land mass of Tripura is mixed in character in six hill ranges – plain land is lesser in area than hilly land. According to an estimate, amid different land forms available for uses, high hilly area accounts for 4000 sq. km, tilla land or hillocks account for 2300 sq. km, whereas valley land accounts for 2249 sq. km and plain area at 2042 sq. km only. Most of the farmers are small and marginal, approximately 96 per cent of the community occupy 0.5-1.25 hectares of land. Their investment for crop and the yield are very less. The net sown area is about 24 per cent of the State’s total geographical area accounting 10,49,169 hectares as against the all India figure of 43 per cent.

Prevailing cropping pattern of the State is characterized mainly by two systems, settled cultivation in the plains and the shifting cultivation in the hills. The majority farmers practicing either of these systems have hitherto shown conservativeness in adopting modern technology, which resulted in a very low cropping intensity. Amidst the orthodox agricultural pattern of the farmers, availability of cultivable land is shrinking. Added to this, erection of barbed wire fencing along the Indo-Bangla international borders has also slashed 27,000 acre land from cultivation. Gradual loss of soil from hilly land, which is considerably larger in size compared to plain land, has been posing a real threat. An official estimate recorded that about 30 lakh tons of top soil from the steep land goes as run-off in rain every year.    

Reinforcing Conventional Program
Given this backdrop, it appeared a great challenge initially before the State Agriculture Department to think of attaining self sufficiency in foodgrain production. Having embarked on the ongoing agricultural programmes, the State Agriculture Department, designed a ten year term perspective plan giving impetus on expansion of irrigation coverage to 1,16,867 hectare as against 51,000 hectare in 1999-2000. Similarly, in order to enhance cropping intensity to 283 per cent from 169 per cent, various approaches have been initiated. Improved method of shifting cultivation has also been introduced so as to enhance the productivity to 1000 Kg rice from 600 kg rice per hectare till 1999-2000. These apart, the propagation of uses of HYV rice varieties, growing rice varieties having potentials of at least 3500 Kg per hectare, integrated pest management, enhancing consumption of plant nutrients and incorporation of bio fertilizers in conjunction with inorganic fertilizers have been accorded top most priority.

Perspective Plan & Innovative Approaches
Despite all sorts of oddities and rigours, agriculture, however, appears to be the only option left open before its people for economic sustenance. For, the State is pitted into the vortex of sylvan valley and terrain and affected vigorously with communication bottlenecks and natural vacuum of industrialization. 

To cope up with the inherent challenges, the State Agriculture Department has introduced added strategies on propagation of extension services, technology campaign and exposure visits of farmers, conducting farmer training schools, use of high yielding varieties of rice, bio-fertilizers, organic manure and agro-based implements and lastly increasing flow of credit to farmers through Kisan Credit Card Scheme. Hopefully, when 27,000 acre land has remained cut off from cultivation because of border fencing, the State has, however, witnessed an increase of production of foodgrains by two lakh tones in 2011, lending credit to the ongoing agricultural efforts.

In fact, the 10 year term perspective plan formulated in 2000 has achieved remarkable success with the foodgrain production reaching 7.12 lakh tons in 2010-11 as against the production of 5.13 lakh tons in 1999-2000.  However, compared to the projected requirement of 8.22 lakh tonnes in 2010-11, the shortfall was 1.10 lakh tonnes. Meantime, irrigational coverage has been extended upto 1,16,867 hectare. The cropping intensity standing at 172 per cent in 1999-2000 has gone up to 184 per cent in 10 years. Most interestingly, hill cultivators who yielded only 600 kg per hectare from jhum land having the crop cycle of seven years, presently can produce double crops every season by using bio-fertilizers and organic manure and have been able to bring down the crop cycle to every season.  

RKVY, ATMA & Participatory Communication
With the inception of Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) in 2007-08 the State’s agriculture and allied fields found an avenue to increase public investment in the sector. The State, considering the RKVY as a boon towards attainment of self sufficiency in food production, has taken up 41 projects under stream -1 of the program primarily aimed at increasing production and productivity. Under the program, it has undertaken some major projects such as cultivation of paddy following SRI techniques, cent per cent seed treatment, hybrid paddy cultivation, hybrid maize cultivation, reclamation of acidic soils, minor irrigation, farm mechanization, production of certified vegetable seeds, promotion of True Potato Seed (TPS) – tuberlet technology for production of table potato etc. So far, through all such projects, RKVY has drawn to the State an investment of Rs. 177 crore.

In order to motivate farmers to adopt HYV cropping, help them protect crop from loss and diseases, increase soil energy and also to propagate traditional and innovative knowledge to farmers centrally sponsored Agricultural Training and Management Agency (ATMA) has been accorded impetus so as to play a big role through its branches in all districts. With a comprehensive design and route compared to the extension service, ATMA has taken up an effective two-way participatory communication model accommodating experts from agriculture, animal husbandry, fisheries and forestry and on the other end the farmers and through training programme, demonstration and group meetings-on-field. Cohesive to this model, State Agriculture Department launched in the current financial year another programme, called Technology Extension Campaign – a one day programme in every agri sub-division - with the inclusion of plant clinic, demonstration of organic and bio-fertilizers, soil testing laboratory and workshop under one umbrella. Preceded to this campaign in November-December last year, the Department conducted exposure visits of the farmers across the State. Each exposure visit worth Rs. 5 lakh was sponsored by the Union Agriculture Ministry - that seemed to be a complete educational and motivational exercise amalgamating several kinds of communication tools. 
One Harendra Nath, participant in the exposure visit looked cheerful. He says the visit benefited him manifold. It has helped him recognizing useful insects. He also came to know the uses of new implements such as thrashing machines.  These programs should continue at least for two seasons, said a shifting cultivator, named Anada Debabrma attending such a technology campaign held at Chhailengta in Dhalai district recently. The officials of the State Agriculture Department told that the programs like exposure visits of the farmers and the technology campaign would continue in coming years, so as to motivate farmers adopt modern technology and knowledge. This would ensure increase in productivity and earning of farmers and help change their stereotype mindset so as to take up agriculture as a business deal. (PIB Feature) 09-February-2012 18:07 IST  ****

*Media & Communication Officer, PIB, Agartala.

Journey into History of Bank of the Bankers

RBIA long and tough journey of evolution
FEATURE RBI                                                              Sameer Pushp*
Reserve Bank of India (RBI) did not become the ‘Bank of the Bankers’ in a day. It’s been a long and tough journey of evolution, consolidation, policy changes and reforms that shaped it to be an institution with a difference. Legislation to set up the RBI was first introduced in January 1927, and after seven years in March 1934, the enactment became an accomplished fact. It is one of the oldest central banks in the developing countries. Its formative years have been eventful. Its efforts to adapt central banking functions was neither deep-rooted nor widespread, the special responsibilities including those of exchange control to shoulder with the outbreak of World War II was a great responsibility thrust upon in the very first decade of its existence. Its transformation from a privately owned institution to a nationalized undertaking and its new role in the economy with the advent of independence was formidable.  Over the years when RBI embarked upon the path of its growth there are many anecdotes that are wrapped in the footprints of time.
Prior to the establishment of the RBI in 1935, the principal functions of a central bank were performed by the Government of India primarily, and to a smaller extent, by the Imperial Bank of India, since its establishment in 1921. The regulation of note issue, the management of foreign exchange and the custody of the nation are metallic and foreign exchange reserves were the responsibilities of the Government of India. The Imperial Bank acted as banker to Government and to a limited extent as a bankers’ bank, in addition to its primary functions as a commercial bank. By the time the Reserve Bank came to be established, organized banking in India had developed to an extent and an important element of this sector which comprised foreign banks were generally referred to as Exchange Banks.
In 1941, Karachi office was mainly a currency office having a small strength of about 75 staff members. At that time currency notes, which were mostly in the domination of Rs. 100 and Rs. 1000 were issued circle wise; they were a legal tender throughout undivided India. Names of circles of issue, viz; Mumbai, Kanpur, Calcutta, Madras, Karachi, Lahore; used to be printed on the notes. Each circle has to maintain member- wise record of notes issued and cancelled from time to time. If issued notes of Karachi circle were collected in Calcutta, they had to be brought to Karachi and brunt there after noting the cancelled numbers in the issue ledgers. The ledgers containing individual number of notes issued & cancelled. In any case any note having the same number as the one on the cancelled note was detected, an inquiry used to be conducted.
In 1946, when Rs. 1000 notes were demonetize some people exchanged their notes for Rs. 500 to Rs. 600 per piece, which were individually exchanged at the RBI counters- one or two pieces to the income-tax department. Banks and other corporate bodies had changed their higher denomination notes with smaller denomination. Thus, they could oblige their customers and acquaintances by exchange of notes in their names.   In those days, one-rupee silver coins used to be examined by cashiers for their genuineness by striking them on the wooden counter or wooden tables at a very fast speed. They could identify counterfeit coins just by listening to the sound of each coin. The RBI was truly musical those days.

In early 40’s, senior officials posts in RBI were filled up by the promotions from the existing staff and/or taking staff in deputation from the Imperial Bank of India. The final interview used to be held at central board of Directors at Calcutta.  After partition officers from Karachi were asked to report to Mumbai office in 1947. When it came to women staff, there were hardly any on the Bank’s rolls on that time. The few who joined being mainly telephone operators. The first lady to be taken up for a clerical work joined in early forties and the first to be recruited directly as an officer was Miss Dharma Venkatraman who joined in March 1949. Gradually the numbers increased. According to a data women formed less than 8 per cent of the total staff in January 1968; which is around 18 per cent.
Pages of history tell us that there were in fact very few Europeans recruits other than those who originally came from the Imperial Bank. This was mainly due to the efforts of Deputy Governor Nanavati who wanted the maximum opportunities to be given to the Indians. In the matter of staff he stood for Indianisation of as much as buying India made articles. In this connection, it is of interest to know that when the office raised objections to buying of India made clocks on the ground that they stopped working frequently. Shri Nanavati remarked that, “it did not matter even if all clocks in the bank come to a standstill.”
However, it is very interesting to learn that the Secretary of State for India favored a leisurely time-table, for several reasons for the enactment of RBI as an institution. First, apart from the time necessary to make the preliminary arrangements, some of the pre-conditions envisaged for the establishment of the Bank, such as, improvement of the budgetary position of the Government and the return of the normal export surplus, required to be fulfilled. These preconditions were time consuming and burdensome. Further, the Secretary of State was of the view that ‘ it would be unfair to hasten the opening of the Reserve Bank until he (the new Finance Member) has had an opportunity of acquainting himself personally with the situation on the spot and been able to form his own judgment on matters.  A suggestion put forth by the Government of India that the Bank should start without the function of currency regulation was rejected by the Secretary of State. In the end, a compromise emerged in that the Bank started functioning not as early as the Government of India had desired but not as late as the Secretary of State had envisaged.
One of the important agreements was ‘British Debt Pact with India’ which was signed on the 15th August, 1947. The Government of UK & Government of India signed an interim agreement, to cover the period up to the end of 1947, relating to India’s sterling balances that time. After the meeting of officials from both sides reviewed on economic and financial problems between two countries and probable requirements of India was taken. In the meeting it was agreed that a sum of £ 35 million should be available from India’s existing balance for expenditure in any currency, to be arranged up to December 31st, 1947. In addition, a working balance of £ 30 million will be at the disposal of Reserve Bank of India. In particular both the Governments also agreed that no restrictions will be placed by either Government on the remittances of savings belongings to persons of UK origin who are proceedings to UK to take up permanent residence or a voluntary repatriation of Investments in India by persons resident in UK. 
Today, RBI is an institution with a difference which works with the objective of ensuring monetary stability, monetary management, foreign exchange, reserves management, government debt management, financial regulation and supervision. It core duties also entails: currency management and operating the credit system to India’s advantage. In addition, since inception the bank has played an active developmental role, particularly for the agriculture and rural sectors. These are the snap shots from pages of history which I could snatch from the long and distinguished journey of the Bank of the Bankers. (PIB Feature).08-February-2012 16:30 IST

Disclaimer: The writer is a freelance journalist and the views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of PIB.

* Sameer Pushp is a freelance writer.