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Archives for : December2018

India – Why small, marginal farmers get just 40% of total agri credit

 

Small farmers typically take small loans — of less than 2 lakh. RBI data show that in FY17.

Small farmers typically take small loans — of less than 2 lakh. RBI data show that in FY17.

Loan waivers have made banks wary of them; beneficiaries are farm infra/services firms

BL RESEARCH BUREAU

Every year the Centre announces an increase in the agri credit limit, but not even half of this reaches small farmers.

Small farmers typically take small loans — of less than 2 lakh. RBI data show that in FY17, the share of loans of 2 lakh or less was just 40 per cent of the total agri credit of 10.78-lakh crore.

In contrast, loans between 2 lakh and 1 crore accounted for 47 per cent of the disbursals, and around 13 per cent of the total agri credit was accounted for by loans of 1 crore or more. Loans of over 100 crore were sanctioned to just 210 accounts (individuals/entities).

Speaking to bankers and market veterans revealed that the bulk of these subsidised loans — at 4 per cent interest rate — are taken by owners of warehouses/cold storages, manufacturers of fertiliser/farm-equipment, and food processors.

Gradual drop

The share of loans of 2 lakh or less in the total agri credit has gradually decreased from 45 per cent 10 years ago to 40 per cent in FY17.

Banks have been wary of lending to small farmers mainly because of the spate of loan waivers in recent years. The waivers have destroyed the credit culture in rural India, said a banker who spoke on condition of anonymity.

For Union Bank of India, which allots 60 per cent of its agri loans to small and marginal farmers, NPAs formed 7.62 per cent of the agri book in the September 2018 quarter.

The other reason why banks avoid lending to small farmers is that they are unable to price the loan as per the profile of the farmer or the commodity, observed Arindom Datta, Asia Head, Sustainability Banking, Rabobank Group. “Internationally, loans against riskier commodities are given at higher rates of interest compared to safer commodities. Further, banks make a distinction between a good and a bad farmer based on the repayment track record and tweak the interest rate accordingly.

“But banks in India cannot apply such differentiated pricing to farmers in the same region as it is a sensitive issue. So they keep away from small farmers,” said Datta.

Lending rule change

It’s only since March 2015 that banks have been set specific targets on lending to small and marginal farmers. There was no such requirement earlier.

A loose definition of agri credit has led to the leakage of loans under Priority Sector Lending (PSL) at subsidised rates to many large companies. Though the RBI had set a cap of 4.5 per cent (under the overall 18 per cent target for agri in PSL) for indirect loans, bank advances through indirect loans routinely breach the limit. Such indirect loans were made to dealers/sellers of fertilisers, pesticides, seeds and agricultural implements, and companies that maintain a fleet of tractors, threshers, etc., and undertake work for farmers.

Therefore, in 2015, the RBI dispensed with the distinction between direct and indirect loans and redefined agri credit to cover three categories: (i) Farm Credit, which includes short-term crop loans and medium/long-term credit to farmers, (ii) Agriculture Infrastructure, and (iii) Ancillary Activities. For lending to small and marginal farmers, a target of 8 per cent was also set within the overall target of 18 per cent, to be achieved by FY17.

This, however, is not seen as a happy situation. A farmer-activist who spoke to BusinessLine said: “Should we take comfort that at least 8 per cent will now go to small farmers or be upset that what started as 18 per cent is now effectively only 8 per cent?”

Data reveal that in FY17, private banks fell short of even this 8 per cent target — the proportion of advances made to small and marginal farmers was 5.5 per cent against the total agriculture advance of 16.5 per cent of all advances.

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Mumbai – 7,000 Mahul residents come to Mantralaya to meet CM Fadnavis to end the Pollution deaths – Fadnavis ignores

7,000 Mahul residents come to Mantralaya to meet CM Fadnavis to end the Pollution deaths – Fadnavis ignores, instead attends various events as chief guest, poses for photos and makes speeches and Tweets, ignoring the High Court order regarding Mahul, while detaining 7,000 protesters inside Azad Maidan, misusing state police

12noon:

Rally begins at Carnac Bunder, Mumbai. Over 7,000 Mahul residents, including senior citizens, women, children and chronically ill pollution victims marched upto Azad Maidan to present their simple demand to the Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis – to honour the Mumbai High Court order instructing in no uncertain terms – to get the victims of ‘rehabilitation’ into #MumbaisToxicHell Mahul – out of that severely polluted hell and relocate them in a location safe for human life. The protesters have basically pressed for an end of the state-sponsored genocide/mass-murder of this entire community (over 150 pollution-related deaths so far and hundreds of people chronically ill and dying every week) by putting them in this fatal gas chamber against their wishes and against the orders of so many authorities.

2pm

The Gathering Reached Azad Maidan: Police were sent as messengers to convey the message that the protesters should meet junior secretaries who are not authorised to take a decision on the Mahul such as Secretary, Urban Development and lower ranking officers. Already the Mahul residents have met a whole series of ministers and senior officials, ranging from the environment minister Ramdas Kadam to Housing Minister Prakash Mehta and various other BMC and other officials – all of whom have been unanimous in one statement – that they all agree that Mahul is dangerously and critically polluted, and no place for human beings, and that the CM Fadnavis is the only government figure presently standing between these 30,000 lives and their safe rehabilitation. The only thing awaited in this whole story of rehoming them is Mr. Fadnavis’ order, and he is mysteriously silent on the issue, pretending that none of this is actually happening, and as if the High Court order counts for nothing.

  

 Mr. Fadnavis, on the other hand left for Pune and refused to meet these people or save these many lives, choosing instead run away to Pune to play an ornamental visit to a sugar factory in Pune to make a speech and post happy tweets from there, pretending that none of this was happening in Mumbai. The agitators’ demand was clear – ‘send us a person who’s authorized to take decisions leading to the urgent and immediate rehabilitation of this community even acknowledgement of the issue ’ according to the High Court Order. No such dialogue was offered by the CM’s office today.

4pm-8pm:

Still no word from the CM’s office. The protestors decide that if the CM or his representatives refuse to meet them, then they will march upto Mantralaya to meet him. The gathering begins to proceed, and the police block the exits of Azad Maidan and positioned armed policemen, ready to attack the peacefully protesting  Mahul residents, threatening that if they move anywhere out of Azad Maidan they would be attacked with weapons, thereby trapping the entire peacefully protesting gathering of thousands of people inside the maidan, misusing the public space as an unofficial ‘detention centre’ and the police force as ‘bouncers’ of a genocidal CM – all because the CM insists on continuing the state govt sponsored murder and poison-gassing of tax paying citizens and considers itself above the orders of the High Court, which the protesters are asking the CM to implement as their constitutional Right to Life as human beings. The only people who have benefited out of the demolition of the Tansa Pipeline slums and the rehabilitation hellhole project in Mahul are cronies from the construction mafia, who have been raking in the profits through generous FSI and TDR bonanzas and the corrupt politicians who have been supporting this real estate mafia and related scams.

By trapping and detaining the Mahul residents, instead of meeting them for a humane and respectful dialogue, the already unpopular CM has now sealed his own fate and created out of the “Azad Maidan Open Jail” a long term, embarrassing live monument of his corruption, favour of the builder mafia and his anti-people and anti-environment policies. An entire exhibit of protestors who will now remain here for days to haunt Fadnavis, instead of hours as planned earlier. This dharna and his silence on the Mahul gas chamber will continue to shame him for several days, till the whole country begins to ask… “After all this, why is Fadnavis still silent?”  Or will he send the police to brutalise women and children to get them to leave, to ‘eliminate the problem’ altogether? The CM has put himself in a fix by misusing his power today and positioning himself as above the law

8pm

It turns out The CM is in Mumbai and still not interested in acknowledging the problem or saving these lives – and we only find out from other people’s social media posts, not from his office – he is at from the Gateway of India and attending another “Amrut Mahotsav” as chief guest, as an obvious statement to proclaim that 30,000 lives whom he has exposed to toxic gas can be ignored and more people killed because making speeches and cuttings is always more important. He doesn’t want to step down from his earlier position (pretend this is not happening, sweep it under the carpet while poor people die in #MumbaisToxicHell and the builders rake in the profits). This has now become a ‘status issue’ for the CM, but this time he will have a tough time explaining to the whole city of Mumbai why he has used state police machinery to lock-up 6000 people in a clearly visible “Outdoor jail” in downtown Mumbai.Mumbai

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Did Vedanta PR Firm access NGT order before publication : How deep is the Rot ? #mustshare

By Nityanand Jayaraman

Evidence released by Anti-Sterlite People’s Movement spokesperson Fatima in Thoothukudi today suggests that persons close to Vedanta may have had access to a “DRAFT” version of the NGT order well before the actual order was made public. Fatima has said she would file a police complaint seeking a probe into the matter, and has urged the Government to do the same.

The revelation lends strength to allegations on social media that Vedanta had illegally compromised judicial confidentiality and integrity.

“This is a very serious breach of judicial process. If proven, Sterlite’s access to the order even before it is pronounced indicates how far the company has gone to protect itself,” said Justice D. Hariparanthaman, a retired judge of the Madras High Court

The evidence emerged after a “draft” version of a Microsoft Word file containing the order circulated by media people during the early afternoon of 15.12.2018 was analysed for information regarding its origins. The file, reportedly circulated by Sterlite’s private PR agency, was titled “Final Order of VEDANTA DRAFT ORDER-15.12.2018.docx.” A closer look at its analytics revealed that it was created by an author named “NGT PA” at 07.39.00 that day and modified instantly by author named Aabhas Pandya. (See Screenshot.jpg)

Coincidentally, one Mr. Aabhas Pandya also happens to be the Senior Group Head at Adfactors, a PR firm that claims to specialise in public relations, media relations and crisis communications among other things. Adfactors manages Vedanta’s account, and Pandya is listed as contact person in Vedanta communiques. https://www.marketscreener.com/VEDANTA-LTD-22130723/news/Vedanta-Srinivasan-Venkatakrishnan-takes-charge-as-Chief-Executive-Officer-of-Vedanta-Resources-pl-27194516/

The Delhi police must verify if the Aabhas Pandya mentioned in the analytics of the .docx file is the same as the head of Vedanta’s PR agency.

A PDF version of the order began doing the rounds in social media at around 2 p.m. However, this file too was titled “Final Order of VEDANTA DRAFT ORDER-15.12.2018.pdf.” This file was also created by author named “NGT PA” but at 08.01.17+00.00 which is Coordinated Universal Time for 1.31 p.m. Indian time. That is around the time that the order was uploaded on the website.

RESTING IN CONFIDENCE

Vedanta was clearly confident of a favourable order despite the findings of illegalities by the Agarwal Committee. Within hours of the NGT order, a ship carrying 25,000 tonnes of copper concentrate for Sterlite Copper arrived in VOC Port in Thoothukudi from Peru, triggering speculation that the long arms of Vedanta had breached the judicial process. Not only that, the final order is starkly different from the report of the Committee. Committee’s findings have been misrepresented, and recommendations substantially changed in a manner than helps Vedanta.

Take, for instance, what the Order says on the matter of violations in the manner the copper slag has been handled:

Para 52 of the Order reads: “With regard to (ii), copper slag is not found to be hazardous nor has been found to be obstructing the flow even on visit of the site by the Committee. Physical barrier could be directed to be constructed for the entire area.”

This is in direct contrast to the findings of the Committee, which noted that the river was dry at the time of its visit.

Para 22(i) of the Committee report states:
“As per our naked eyes, the slag was dumped alongside the bank of the river Uppar. The river was dry at this moment, but according to the Collector and others, this dry bed gets filled up with the storm water during the monsoon season which occurs from October to December.”
Similarly, adverse findings by the Committee on matters that would have delayed or defeated the prospects of reopening the factory have been neutralised in the Order.
On the matter of greenbelt, the Committee found that “there was hardly any greenery inside the factory premises and that it was a concrete jungle. . .” and recommended that the “Appellant company should be directed that they shall develop a green belt of 25 mtrs width around the battery limits of the factory.”

Fact aside that this requirement has been in violation since 1995 when it was first imposed as a license condition, the NGT has done away with the recommendation on this front by stating incorrectly that the matter is covered by the 2013 Supreme Court judgement.

NGT’s treatment of two other recommendations of the Committee are noteworthy. Recommendations “s” and “t” of the Committee state that the chimney stack should either be increased to the legally mandated height or emissions made compliant by bringing production down to match stack height. Recommendation “u” directs the company to transport its copper ore concentrate in closed conveyance or a pipe conveyor.

While implementation of these recommendations would have offered some degree of protection to citizens, the NGT refuses to engage with them and instead refers the matter to a joint committee of TNPCB and CPCB which will once again take a view on the matter after giving “due hearing to the appellant.” Once again, the principles of natural justice are applied to Vedanta without a reciprocal offer to the citizens of Thoothukudi

OPEN COURT CONCEPT

On 10.12.2018, the NGT announced that its order would be uploaded on its website on or before 17.12.2018. That in itself was irregular. Section 23(1) and (2) of NGT Rules require that “Every order of the Tribunal shall be signed and dated by the Members constituting the sitting of the Tribunal, which pronounced the order” and that “The order shall be pronounced in open court.” http://www.greentribunal.gov.in/FileDisplay.aspx?file_id=hp6pqcrv0hY1hc2OYG8Sk8xCFfwF7gv7U3%2bZFw6ix2CzX4E9OpzihA%3d%3d

While the NGT has some leeway in creating its own procedures, the Open Court Concept is a constitutional principle binding even the Supreme Court. Article 145(4) of the Constitution states that “No judgement shall be delivered by the Supreme Court save in open court. . .”

The matter was not listed for hearing on 15.12.2018 – the date of uploading of the order. Neither has it been listed in the Causelist for hearing on 17.12.2018 suggesting that the order will not be read in open court

This lapse is not merely technical in nature. In uploading the order on Saturday during the vacation of the Supreme Court without the benefit of an open court pronouncement, parties and interveners have effectively lost their right to request a stay on the operationalising of the order until they have an opportunity to approach the higher court.

The NGT’s handling of this highly sensitive case has come under severe criticism with civil society interveners alleging bias, favoured treatment to Vedanta and violation of principles of natural justice. The Tribunal headed by Justice A.K. Goel refused to grant interveners any status to present arguments and denied them access to the report of the Committee appointed by it. An application by intervener Fatima seeking reconstitution of the Committee with a retired judge of impeccable integrity to replace Justice (Retd) Tarun Agarwal who was named as a beneficiary in the Ghaziabad PF scam was ignored by the Tribunal. The order disposes all applications of the interveners without hearing

>However, the allegations of bias now pale in comparison with the new revelations that suggest a breach in the confidentiality of a judicial order, and fuel suspicions regarding the integrity of due process.

At the very least, Vedanta and Adfactors have some explaining to do. At worst, the very order of the NGT is thrown in question.

Nityanand is a Chennai-based writer and social activist, and has been a part of the campaign to hold Vedanta accountable for Sterlite Copper’s pollution in Thoothukudi.

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