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A holistic approach in agriculture development: Part 2

The issue today is not one of lack of laws or financial and other resources, or even an appropriate policy—it is simply one of having patch work approach. The answer lies in paradigm shift to holistic planning.

Aruna Sharma

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Irrigation accounts for, by far, the largest part of the total investment in the agricultural sector. However, the intensively irrigated crop production regions that currently hold the key to the country’s food security are experiencing technology fatigue and are under increasing environmental stress. There is also the problem of major investments not yielding optimum results because of inefficient or insufficient support structures or inputs. The answer lies in dovetailing major and minor irrigation projects. For example there are dams which cannot function because no water courses are made. They can be dovetailed to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme. Other activities and programmes that can be converged are: construction of new tanks or deepening of existing water tanks; small and minor irrigation schemes; making provisions for protection from flooding; micro management plan; watershed; and water conservation. The thrust activity of irrigation needs to be planned in a holistic manner, bringing all these components together. The next step is optimum utilisation of water by encouraging the use of sprinklers, drip irrigation, plastics for horticulture water conservation and subsidy for instruments for plant protection. Thus irrigation is not just an issue of one department but requires dovetailing with employment generation schemes, proper land shaping, planning, credit for drip/well/ sprinklers/lift irrigation, grants and loans from special targeted schemes for SC/ ST/OBC and women.

Agricultural implements: These include sprayers, hand sprayers, machine sprayers, harvesters and even simple instruments for top working for fruit trees and floriculture. These instruments can be given on credit, through grants, as part of mini-kits or through direct purchase or hire. Often the distribution of these implements is taken in isolation, resulting in its nonavailability for some needy farmers. A holistic approach links it with the identified thrust activity so that appropriate implements in sufficient quantity are available and there is no wasteful expenditure.

Fertilizers: The Government gave a subsidy on fertilizers to manufacturers in the hope that the benefit would ultimately be passed on to the poor farmers. However, that has not happened. It is commonly felt that this subsidy has benefited the manufacturers more than the farmers. The book adjustments make it appear like a relief to the farmer but this scheme does not improve his immediate income levels, increase productivity and nor does it amount to a complete waiver of the loan – it just means some relief from the accrued interest and postponement of the installments to be paid. It is important that any activity directed relating to fertilizer subsidy has an individual rather than general approach. The correct dose of fertilizer to be used has to be individualistic (landspecific) – this ensures that no farmer is burdened with more fertiliser than he needs, thus saving himself from unnecessary indebtedness. The extension staff should be Agriculture doctors (using the green cross to help farmers identify them) who can prescribe to individual farmers the right dose of fertilisers, and also the cropping pattern to rejuvenate the micronutrients in the soil in a natural way — for example, leguminous planting after wheat works as the best rotation pattern. There is a trend towards organic farming andfarmers should be informed about its benefits, essentials and other details.

Pesticide: With control of pests being the objective, activities target both the issue of subsidies in pesticide control and also propagation of organic pesticides. The Agriculture doctor plays an important role in recommending the kind of pesticide (natural or chemical), the amount to be used and the timing.

Harvesting: Holistic approach guides farmers to a holistic approach to harvesting and towards using appropriate technology. Systematic convergence can help them minimize costs (by linking them with appropriate credit schemes) and even give them an additional source of earning if they operate through SHGs and Cooperatives. If they are made part of a Labour Cooperative, they can earn for their labour and those with sophisticated instruments can add value to their labour and thus increase their earnings.

Storage: Activities and funds of several ministries and other stakeholders can be converted to ensure good storage facilities. These include the Ministry of Rural Development’s infrastructure schemes, public-private partnerships, funds of agriculture mandis (autonomous bodies for agriculture marketing), the Horticulture Board’s subsidy schemes for cold storage, and direct funding by banks for temporary and long term storage facilities.

Marketing: The first need is to converge schemes to educate farmers of their rights in terms of setting prices and empowering them for collective informed negotiations with the buyers. The thrust activity of increase in production and crop selection has to include the component of marketing and an investment in building the capacity of farmers to market effectively. They should be exposed to all aspects of this operation (such as the possibility of buy back arrangements with the private sector). Farmers should have established linkages with wholesale mandis, corporate farming, cold storages, private sector, processing plants and retail outlets.

Credit: Loans are available to farmers through several institutions/programmes, such as cooperative banks, lead bank district credit plan, kisan credit cards, Primary Agriculture Cooperative/Credit Societies, Large Adivasi Multi-purpose Cooperative Societies for SC/ ST farmers, credit for land development. However, there is a need to rationalise their borrowing, both in terms of the extent of finance required and the cost of that loan. The holistic approach will enable them on both, ensuring a better repayment percentage by facilitating linkages that ensure optimum utilization of the money at the least cost. The credit gets supplemented by forward and backward linkages automatically and thus ensures fruitful usage of the credit given. There is also a need to focus more on the root of the problem and the attitude to loans by empowering them to take decisions that are beneficial to them and have some relation to the size and potential of their land holding. Misguided by the lure of cash crops, many of them indulge in heavy borrowing. They have no belief in or understanding of the banking system and depend on money lenders. There is a need to converge efforts to increase productivity, educate them in the advantages of the banking system and create a more flexi-lending system with low interest rates. In this context, the issuing of Kisan Credit Cards is a good initiative. This Government of India scheme aims to save farmers from high-interest rates usually charged by money lenders in the unorganised sector. The interest rate can be as low as 2.00% under this scheme

Finance planning: The root cause of farmers’ suicides is poor finance management rather than crop failure. It is therefore as essential to educate farmers in finance planning as in agriculture technology. The training to farmers is currently done in bits and pieces under various schemes of the Government. The holistic approach on finance planning will empower farmers to plan their finances – and will facilitate the process of doing so.

Alternatives after calamities – Crop insurance and Insurance of farmers: Given the high vulnerability of the Indian farmer to the vagaries of nature, it is essential to have in place a plan of action after calamities, including insurance cover for the farmers. However, insurance policies need to be aligned to ground realities, otherwise, like the National Crop Insurance scheme, they will be nonstarters. This scheme uses the tehsil as the unit – it is based on the area approach, with ataluk/tehsil taken to be the area. Indemnities payable to farmers in the area are assessed on the basis of the average yield for the area; the variations in the yield within the area are neglected. This method is considered unsatisfactory. To be effective, insurance schemes in this sector have to be more localised and even individualised. Recommendations for improved schemes have reduced the unit area to Panchayat level and have brought localised calamities also into the purview of coverage. Thus they have defined areas for notified crops for widespread calamities, whereas the insurance provisions are on individualbasis for localised calamities such as hailstorm, landslide, cyclone, and flood. The recent Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana also have an issue of what should be the unit and thus acceptance among farmers is not very large.

 The Tsunami relief package is a typical illustration of the problems referred to above. The farmers in the affected region were given seeds which would not give a suitable yield in the soil which had become saline as an aftermath of the Tsunami. In fact, the compensation package (apart from giving the right kind of seeds for saline soil) should have factored in low early returns and given seeds for three crops — till the soil became normal. Thus the issue of compensation of crop has to be more technology-based than a revenue model. It also has to be rights-based and not given as a charity. After any calamity, it is important to salvage the crop/ suggest alternatives and provide a bridge in terms of compensation. Converging welfare with the effective technological inputs ensures a cushion in case of calamities. Thus necessary amendments are required in the relief manuals.

The other relevant insurance schemes include Janashree to ensure higher education to children of farmers; life insurance schemes of the private sector; group insurance and insurance for small and marginal farmers. Then there are the federations (e.g. those of fisheries and dairy farmers) which have welfare measures for the family of the deceased. Schemes like Janashree encourage higher education among the wards. The premium for these schemes should be paid by SC/ST/OBC corporations.

Details of Janashree: The Central Government and Life Insurance Corporation together launched the Janashree Bima Yojana (JBY) on August 10, 2000. JBY is sponsored by the government. The scheme is devised to provide life insurance cover  to rural and urban people below and marginally above the poverty line.The premium to be paid for the scheme is Rs.200/- per member. 50% of the premium will be paid by the members or the State Government/Nodal Agency. The other 50% of the premium will be borne from the Social Security Fund. Nodal Agencies comprise Self Help Groups (SHGs), NGOs, Panchayat, or any other institutional arrangement. Janashree Bima Yojana  offers a special scheme to women SHG members. The plan assists women under SHG members in their children’s education. It also offers a term insurance plan with a coverage of Rs. 30,000 on a premium of Rs.200/ year. 50% of the premium is shared with LIC and 50% of the premium is paid by SHG member. It also offers a social security scheme, Shiksha Sahyog Yojana which covers children of parents covered under the JBY. The benefit comes as a scholarship amount of Rs.600, which is paid in every six months to students studying in IX to XII including students pursuing ITI. Maximum number of two children under this plan is offered with the scholarship.

Biogas: Holistic planning enables the farmer to make use of abyproduct of his farming as compost and as energy for cooking and, if possible, for electricity as well. It could trigger an environmental initiative like creating a smoke-less chulha(cooking stove). The convergent approach thus fills the gap for these products by constant education by different field workers and does not restrict it to a field visit by a functionary of the department or agency dealing with biogas.

Forest dwellers: The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 is a key piece of forest legislation focusing on the rights of forest dwelling communities to land and other resources, denied to them over decades as a result of the continuance of colonial forest laws in India. The Act has generated a lot of debate – and concern among conservationists. However, this manual will limit itself to the issues related to sustainable income, displacement and rehabilitation of tribal. Despite forest produce being a multi-million-rupeetrade, there are few mechanisms for using it to generate sustainable livelihood opportunities for the tribal population. This in itself can be a thrust activity to list land and forest-based produce, their collection, growth, marketing, value addition etc. There is ample scope for convergence to achieve the outcome of giving the forest dwellers an income that can move from sustainable to surplus. The tendu patta (leaf used for making beedis) trade in Madhya Pradesh is an excellent illustration of linkage between the collectors of leaves and professional marketing practices.

CONCLUSION

There are countless schemes for all the above elements but little information is available on the impact of schemes at the critical cutting-edge level. There is a need for effective outcomeoriented monitoring. Most of these schemes are universal and do not take into account specifics. Schemes are often lost in the mazeof scores of schemes; many lie unutilised, their objective forgotten, even though the scheme remains. An objective analysis shows that only 12% of the schemes are utilised. Thus after a calamity, waiverof interest and giving a fresh loan is easier said than done; watershed development has become just a meaningless formality to be included in plans; major irrigation schemes have been accorded low priority; rain water harvesting is done more as a demonstration than a regular practice. Extension services, which have a pivotal role to play, have unfortunately been ignored. Respect for the last functionary needs to be regained to make these schemes work for the actual targeted beneficiaries.

Part of the 59th Round of the National Sample Survey Organisation carried out in 2003, was the Situation Assessment Survey (SAS) of Farmers. The results of the SAS survey were compiled in five valuable reports: Indebtedness of Farmers; Some Aspects of Farming; Access to Modern Technology; Household Consumption Expenditure for Farmers; and Income, Expenditure and Productive Assets of Farmer Households. The National Commission on Farmers, chaired by Prof. M. S. Swaminathan, submitted five reports through the period December 2004 – October 2006with recommendations for rejuvenating Indian Agriculture. Following from the first four, the final report focused on causes of famer distresses and the rise in farmer suicides, and recommends addressing them through a holistic national policy for farmers. The National Development Council (NDC) has also prepared its diagnosis and prescriptions. There have been a number of committees on financial inclusion. But all these recommendations are being addressed in bits and pieces. If they are followed in a comprehensive, consistent manner, Agriculture will emerge as the driving force to push the country’s growth rate even higher. The issue today is not one of lack of laws or financial and other resources, or even an appropriate policy – it is simply one of having patch work approach. The answer lies in paradigm shift to holistic planning. (Concluded)

Dr. Aruna Sharma has served as Secretary, Govt. of India. She is a Development Economist and served as Secretary, Ministry of Steel; Secretary, Electronics and Panchayati Raj. She also held charge of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj in Madhya Pradesh state government. She conceived and launched governance software like Samagra, now operational in 10 states and coordinated for Direct Benefit Transfer. She was member in 5 member high level committee of RBI for deepening digital payments.

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Policy & Politics

PIYUSH GOYAL CALLS UPON STARTUPS TO LEVERAGE ‘DEEP TECH’

Goyal says start ups to build solutions for local & global markets: AI, IoT, Big Data, etc.

Tarun Nangia

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Piyush Goyal

The Minister of Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Piyush Goyal today called upon the Indian industry to aim for raising 75 unicorns in the 75 weeks to the 75th anniversary of Independence next year.

“We have added 43 unicorns added in 45 weeks, since the start of ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ on 12th March, 2021. Let us aim for atleast 75 unicorns in this 75 week period to 75thAnniversary of Independence,” he said, while releasing the NASSCOM Tech Start-up Report 2022.

Goyal said Startup India started a revolution six years ago and today ‘Startup’ has become a common household term. Indian Startups are fast becoming the champions of India Inc’s growth story, he added.

“India has now become the hallmark of a trailblazer & is leaving its mark on global startup landscape. Investments received by Indian startups overshadowed pre-pandemic highs. 2021 will be remembered as the year Indian start-ups delivered on their promise, – fearlessly chasing opportunities across verticals – Edtech, HealthTech & AgriTech amongst others,” he said.

Goyal lauded the ITES (Information Technology Enabled Services) industry including the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector for the record Services exports during the last year. “Services Export for Apr-Dec 2021 reached more than $178 bn despite the Covid19 pandemic when the Travel, Hospitality & Tourism sectors were significantly down,” he said.

• “Let us aim for at least 75 unicorns in the 75 weeks to the 75th Anniversary of Independence”: Piyush Goyal

• Goyal lauds the ITES industry including the BPO sector for the record Services exports during the last year despite the pandemic

•  Piyush Goyal says the PM’s interaction with Startups a week ago has supercharged our innovators

• The next “UPI moment” will be the ONDC (Open Network for Digital Commerce) – Goyal

• New India is today being led by new troika of Innovation, Technology & Entrepreneurship (ITE), ‘India at 100’ will be renowned as a Startup nation: Goyal

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Subhas Chandra Bose statue to be installed in India Gate, announced PM Modi

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Friday that a grand statue of iconic freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose will be installed at India Gate. This announcement came ahead of the 125th anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that his statue will be installed at India Gate to honor his contribution to the independence movement.

The Prime Minister further said that Bose’s grand statue will be made of granite and will be a symbol of India’s indebtedness to him. “Till the grand statue of Netaji Bose is completed, a hologram statue of his would be present at the same place. I will unveil the hologram statue on 23rd January, Netaji’s birth anniversary” PM Modi tweeted

“At a time when the entire nation is marking the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, I am glad to share that his grand statue, made of granite, will be installed at India Gate,” PM Modi tweeted on Friday. “This would be a symbol of India’s indebtedness to him.”

The statue will be installed under the grand canopy near which the Amar Jawan Jyothi flickers in remembrance of India’s martyrs. The eternal flame, which has not been extinguished for 50 years, will be put off on Friday, as it will be merged with the flame at the National War Memorial.

The canopy, which was built along with the rest of the grand monument in the 1930s by Sir Edwin Lutyens, once housed a statue of the former king of England George V. The statue was later moved to Coronation Park in Central Delhi in the mid-1960s.

The announcement was hailed by many Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, Union ministers and civil society members.

“Great news for the entire nation as PM @narendramodi Ji has today announced that a grand statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, will be installed at the iconic India Gate, New Delhi. This is a befitting tribute to the legendary Netaji, who gave everything for India’s freedom.” Amit Shah tweeted.

“Netaji is an epitome of India’s true strength & resolve. Congress has left no stone unturned to forget the immortal contributions of India’s brave son. PM @narendramodi’s decision to install Netaji’s statue at India Gate on his 125th Jayanti will inspire our generations to come.” Amit Shah added in his tweet.

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi will unveil a 216-foot statue of Ramanujacharya, a 11th century saint and a social reformer, in Hyderabad on February 5. The statue described as the ‘Statue of Equality is located in a 45-acre complex at Shamshabad on the outskirts of the city.

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‘US, India should set bold goals to attain $500bn target’, said Keshap

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Having achieved a huge success in their bilateral relations, two of the world’s greatest democracies – India and the United States of America should opt in favour of setting bold goals in order to take their relationship to a new high thereby achieving the ambitious target of $500 billion in bilateral trade echoes retired American Diplomat Atul Keshap, who recently became the new president of the US India Business Council (USIBC).

“I think it’s vitally important that we show that democracies can deliver; that the United States and India can be a driver of global growth and a model for prosperity and development in the 21st century,” Keshap said.

During his illustrious career, the veteran diplomat has served in various capacities with the US State Department. He has been the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives and has also served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.

In 2021, he took over as the Chargé d’affaires of the United States mission to India and has been instrumental in shaping the US-India ties under the Joe Biden administration.

“I feel it’s critically important that we show that open societies powered by a free enterprise can be relevant for their people and can help power the world out of this pandemic. I tend to agree entirely with President Biden and PM Narendra Modi that the US India Partnership is a force for global good and it’s going to have a huge impact on economic growth,” he said.

Keshap feels that USIBC is the podium where he can give his best and help the people from both countries. “We need to move forward on the global trade agenda. We need to ensure the prosperity of the future, especially after this pandemic,” he said.

The 50-year-old diplomat reflected on the vision set by Biden, about potentially having a $500 billion trade in goods and services between the US and India. “That’s a very ambitious number and I believe in it. It is a great idea to try to have ambitious targets, else we are on a standstill” he said.

Having donned the new role recently, Keshap said he wants to help meet that $500 billion bilateral trade goal. “This is where the government and the private sector have to work together hand-in-hand,” he said.

“We have to articulate the benefits and have to convince all our stakeholders that there is value in lowering trade barriers, in creating strong standards and in creating positive ecosystems. There is value in dealing with small technical issues that might be creating a blockage to greater prosperity between our countries,” Keshap said.

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Coal crisis: How private sector can power India’s growth

Tarun Nangia

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India has been reeling under a coal shortage crisis and the situation got aggravated in October 2021 leading to a lot of concern amongst various stakeholders including government bodies, thermal power plants, industry and investors. The shortages, triggered by global factors, of course with Indian peculiarities, threatened supplies to thermal-based power plants, leading to an alarm.

Recovering from Covid-19-induced reverses, the global economy has rebounded and gathered steam. This was one of the prime reasons why there was an acute shortage of coal and sources of energy, worldwide. Global coal prices have risen by 40 per cent.

Port based Indian power plants normally rely on imports. Given the global conditions, and the sharp rise in coal prices internationally, the power plants are now almost solely dependent on Indian coal. It’s in this context that the coal crisis has been amplified by various stakeholders.

While global factors did contribute, did we fail to take necessary action, over a period of time? To highlight one prominent factor: Why should the Coal India Limited have monopoly over coal mining / supplies? Consider the CIL performance in the last few years: Its output was 606 MT in 2018-2019, 602 MT in 2019-2020, and 596 MT in 2020-2021. Contrast this with various governments’ efforts to ramp up Coal production in the 1992-2010 period.

So, why did Coal India Limited fail to expand capacity? This is one big question that must be debated. It can therefore be argued that CIL’s monopoly on coal extraction and supplies (till very recently) is one of the prime reasons why India’s thermal power plants faced a coal crisis.

India has the world’s fourth-largest coal reserve, with around 300 billion tonnes of coal. But it is also true that it imports approximately 250 million tonnes of coal. This is because we don’t mine enough and use our resources optimally.

CIL supplies 80 per cent of India’s coal needs. The demand for coal in India is nearly a billion tonnes a year, and the supply is below 800 million tonnes.

Unfortunately, based on then CAG Vinod Rai’s miscalculations and the Notional Loss theory, the Supreme Court cancelled 214 coal blocks in September 2014. Private players were not given a patient hearing on the issue. Rather than encouraging them, the private sector got punished unfairly for its efforts to strengthen the economy through coal mining. If 100 out of 214 of those mines were functional and each one was producing, say, 4 mtpa of Coal, India today would be a net exporter, not importer, of Coal.

Rai’s theory and the Supreme Court judgment had devastating consequences. The coal production in the country took a hit. The country’s GDP declined by almost 1 per cent. Millions of jobs were lost. NPAs of banks with exposure to power, steel and mining sector rose exponentially. Such is Rai’s credibility that he recently tendered an apology to a Congress leader, who, Rai claimed in his book, “requested him to remove then PM Manmohan Singh’s name from the coal scam”. Taking a cue, if someone sues Rai for his Coal Scam theory and numbers, would he be able to defend his report in court?

Against the recommendations of CAG of incentivizing good performers who produce coal, the Supreme Court imposed an additional levy of 295 rupees per ton on the coal extracted from operational mines retrospectively from 1993. The private miners were directed to deposit more than Rs. 9000 crore as penalty.

The stagnating CIL coal output should be seen in this background. Being a monopoly, CIL could have been a saviour for the nation. CIL however neither ramped up production nor invested in technology or expansion of new mines.

In 2020, in a bold and much welcome development, the Union Government opened up commercial coal mining, thus ending Coal India’s monopoly. PM Modi said that he wanted India to be a net exporter of coal, as he set ambitious targets.

A lesson from the recent crisis is this – the CIL monopoly, along with the no-entry sign for the private sector, harmed the country.

There are lessons to be drawn from the opening up of the aviation sector for the recent coal crisis episode. With a series of measures, the aviation sector was opened up, with the Air India privatisation being the latest example. The economy, the nation and consumer benefitted. When sectors as diverse as Steel, Infrastructure and Healthcare were unshackled, the end consumer, the economy and the nation benefitted.

Similarly, if the private sector in coal mining would have been encouraged consistently, and ill-advised measures like cancellation of coal blocks not taken, the coal situation would not have come to such a pass. In 2014, the private sector was said to be accounting for 90 million tons of coal – a substantial figure. Instead of getting encouraged, the private sector had to fight protracted court cases and spend its time wastefully.

There’s a consensus that Coal would continue to power economic growth for a country like India for the next two decades. It’s important that this abundantly-available natural resource is used optimally. The Private Sector can play a key role here.

The Government has shown intent and commitment. It’s time for all the stakeholders to ensure that the country faces no shortage of Coal hereafter. It’s time we all learnt our lessons and ensure that Coal and Mining booms and fires India’s growth march.

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eGrocers seize the day as orders rise 40% amid third wave

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In the ongoing third wave of Covid-19 one industry tops it all with high revenue generation based on more than enough orders to double their size of operation. eGrocers are riding the Corona wave high with record number of orders rising in the third wave and inevitably increasing the rate of their operations. Since December the online grocer Blinkit has added 200 “dark stores” that are designed only for deliveries in ten minutes.The company now plans to take the number to 1000 by March. Reliance owned MilkBasket is more than doubling its warehousing capacity to almost 350,000 sq ft in NCR to cater to 1,50,000 orders a day, double the current order size. In the midst of the growing Covid-19 cases while the brick and mortar retailers and dine-in restaurants are holding out on their expansion plans, online grocers like Blinkit and MilkBasket are going all out on aggressively pushing to take advantage of the growing demand for quick online deliveries. Even at the time of the first and second wave the online grocers had been in the works to expand their operations as millions of Indians gravitated to digital commerce. However the ongoing third wave has made the push on market capitalisation more aggressive and ambitious. “One thing has changed in this wave that our pace of expansion has doubled,” said Rohit Sharma head of supply chain at Blinkit.

The main rival of Blinkit, Tata owned BigBasket is planning to launch BB Now, its express delivery service of delivering products in 10-20 minutes, joining the growing space of quick commerce. Currently Blinkit, Swiggy’s Instamart, Dunzo and Zepto are active in that space. T K Balakumar, chief operating officer at Big Basket said his company is planning to increase its existing warehousing capacity by 40%. They are also planning to open more than 300 dark stores in the coming financial year starting April.

During the ongoing Covid wave the orders in various cities have gone up by 30-40%, said the online grocers. Milkbasket is currently catering to about 70,000 orders per day in the NCR. Its new 150,000 sq ft warehouse in the region will be ready by next month. “There is excess demand. They are already running 110% of capacity,” said a person familiar with MilkBaskets’ plans. MilkBasket operates in Delhi-NCR, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai and is set to enter Jaipur later this month.

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India-assisted projects launched for Mauritius by PMs Modi and Jugnauth

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During a virtual event on January 20, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Mauritius counterpart Pravind Kumar Jugnauth jointly opened an India-assisted social housing project in Mauritius. The two leaders also opened a civil service college and an 8-MW solar power project in Mauritius, both of which are being funded by India, as per the external affairs ministry. According to the ministry, a bilateral agreement for the implementation of modest development projects was exchanged, as well as an agreement to grant a $190 million line of credit from India to Mauritius for the Metro Express Project and other infrastructure projects. The news follows Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s tour to Indian Ocean countries like Sri Lanka, Comoros, and the Maldives, during which the Chinese side disclosed a number of business initiatives. Mauritius is an important aspect of India’s “Neighbourhood First” strategy, with New Delhi supporting a variety of projects in the African island nation. India supplied immunizations and medical supplies to Mauritius during the initial stages of the Covid-19 outbreak.. Last February, India, and Mauritius signed a free trade agreement aimed at making the island nation a regional center for Indian investments, and New Delhi offered a $100 million line of credit to cover defense gear purchases. Both governments decided to lease a Dornier plane and a Dhruv advanced light chopper to monitor Mauritius’ exclusive economic zone at the time.The Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Pact (CECPA) between India and Mauritius was the country’s first free trade agreement with an African nation.

METRO EXPRESS PROJECT

PM Modi and his Mauritian counterpart Jugnauth jointly launched phase-I of the rail transportation line between India and Mauritius in 2019. The Light Rail Transit System Project represents a watershed moment in Indo-Mauritian ties, delivering significant economic benefits to both countries. In addition, the project provided engineering and technical skill development possibilities for the island nation. According to Rajeev Jyoti, Chief Executive of L&T, the construction company that won the contract from the Government of Mauritius, the large-scale investment also established India’s credibility in the international railway market. The first phase comprised the construction of a 26-kilometer railway with 19 stations connecting Curepipe and Immigration Square in Port Louis. Two of the stations were described as cutting-edge. Three major bus interchanges are included in the alignment, making it a multi-modal urban transit system. The bilateral flagship program was expanded in June 2021 with the start of phase-II, which runs from Rose Hill to the Quatre Bornes sector. PM Modi and PM Jugnauth jointly inaugurated the Metro Express corridor, “providing a safe, secure, dependable, and efficient method of transit in Mauritius,” according to the Indian embassy in Mauritius. Three major bus interchanges are included in the alignment, making it a multi-modal urban transit system. The bilateral flagship program was expanded in June 2021 with the start of phase-II, which runs from Rose Hill to the Quatre Bornes sector. PM Modi and PM Jugnauth jointly inaugurated the Metro Express corridor, “providing a safe, secure, dependable, and efficient method of transit in Mauritius,” according to the Indian embassy in Mauritius.

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