Evening digest: New crop insurance scheme with less premium burden cleared by cabinet

GN Bureau | January 13, 2016



The union cabinet today approved a new crop insurance scheme that aims to reduce the premium burden on farmers and ensure early settlement of claim for the full sum insured. The premium charged in the new scheme will be up to 2% of the sum insured for food crops and oilseeds and up to 5% of the sum for horticultural and cotton crops under the scheme. At present, premiums charged in crop insurance schemes go up to 25% of the sum insured. The government proposes to implement this scheme from the next kharif season starting this June. The Centre plans to cover 50% farmers through the scheme in next 2-3 years as against the current coverage of 23%. Besides lower premium, the ministry has proposed there will not be a cap on the premium and reduction of the sum insured, 25% of the likely claim will be settled directly on farmers account, there will be one insurance company for the entire state, and farm level assessment of loss for localised risks and post harvest loss. The ministry has proposed that private insurance companies along with Agriculture Insurance Company of India Limited (AIC) will implement the scheme. It has recommended that all claim liability will be on insurer and the government would give upfront premium subsidy.

Bihar imposes 13.5% tax on samosa and tax waiver for 'Chal N Duster' movie
The Nitish Kumar government today decided to impose 13.5% tax on luxury items including on sweets priced more than Rs 500 a kg and mosquito repellant among others to mop up additional revenue for carrying development work. A tax of  13.5% would be imposed on sweets priced more than Rs 500 a kg and 13.5% tax would be taken on salty items like samosa, kachauri and branded namkin among others. Sale of all kind of UPS would attract 13.5% tax, Mehrotra said, adding, similar rate of tax would be imposed on auto parts and battery parts. Sand, cosmetic items, scent and hair oil would also attract 13.5% tax, he added. The cabinet also decided to waive off entertainment tax on the movie "Chalk N Duster" which gives a strong social message.

No permission for Nitin Gadkari's rally at Malda
After preventing a BJP team from visiting Kaliachowk in Malda on Monday, Mamata Banerjee's government on Wednesday refused to allow BJP to hold a rally at Malda which was supposed to be addressed by the Union minister for road transport and highways, Nitin Gadkari on January 18. Mamata government's move to disallow BJP leaders in Malda district has stunned many senior party leaders in Bengal. Only on Tuesday, a BJP delegation met Union home minister Rajnath Singh and briefed him details about Monday's incident in which a three-member BJP parliamentary delegation was forced to quit Malda without visiting Kaliachowk which had witnessed sporadic violence following a communal tension.

Significant traction in startup investments in 2015: Grant Thornton
Investment momentum in startups has witnessed a rapid rise in the last five years and in 2015, over 600 companies got funded with more than $2 billion being deployed by PE and VC funds. "2015 witnessed the maximum traction in this space with over 600 companies getting funding; more than $2 billion being deployed by PE and VC funds," according to a report by  assurance, tax and advisory firm Grant Thornton. Sectorwise, consumer focused startups attracted maximum investments in 2015 receiving a cumulative funding of $1,290 million. Substantial interest was also generated in the logistics segment with $262 million investments largely driven by investments in e-commerce logistics players, the report said. The report noted that the Indian startup ecosystem has evolved, being driven by factors such as growth in number of funds/angel investors, evolving technologies, smart phones and the social media penetration.

Government to invite bids for up to 12 power plants
The government will invite bids for 8-12 ultra mega power projects (UMPPs) with a total capacity of 48,000 MW in the next two years, union power minister Piyush Goyal has said in Tokyo. Goyal said bids for four UMPPs will be invited in the next 3-6 months. These projects will be based in Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Jharkhand and Bihar. Meanwhile, taking inspiration from Japanese energy efficiency efforts, Goyal said that Japan has 70-80% of lighting from LEDs, we are targeting 100% LED penetration in India by 2019. The minister is on a visit to Tokyo, Japan to attend the 8th India-Japan Energy Dialogue.

SC extends Italian marine Massimiliano Latorre's stay in Italy
In a relief for Italian marine Massimiliano Latorre, the Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed him to stay back in Italy till April 30. Latorre, who is facing murder charge in India along with his fellow Salvatore Girone for killing two Kerala fishermen, has been allowed to stay in Italy till international arbitration in the case ends. The international arbitration in the case is due to begin on January 18. The development came within hours of an Italian senator saying that Latorre will not return to India. During a hearing today, the Indian government did not object to extension of marine's stay in Italy till international arbitration ends. Latorre was allowed by the Supreme Court in September 2014 to go to Italy initially for four months after he had suffered a brain stroke. His stay there was extended subsequently.

Govt may postpone Coal India stake sale
Government may postpone a $3 billion share sale in state-run Coal India Ltd. to the next fiscal year due to unfavorable market conditions. This could add pressure on budget deficit and  already-weak finances of the government. With stock markets falling, in particular stocks in metals and mining companies due to the sharp decline in global commodity prices, the government may choose to wait to push forward with its stake sale plan. The Coal India stake sale is crucial as it could help the government raise almost a third of the total $10.4 billion revenue that it has budgeted under its disinvestment plan for the current fiscal year.

Mayawati cancels poll ticket as candidate posts feet-touching picture on Facebook
BSP has cancelled the ticket of its Atrauli seat candidate for the 2017 assembly polls Sangeeta Chowdhury on grounds of indiscipline, after she posted a picture on Facebook in which she and her children are seen touching the feet of party supremo Mayawati.The picture reportedly left Mayawati miffed, resulting in the cancellation of Sangeeta's ticket. BSP district President Arvind Aditya said Sangeeta's ticket was cancelled due to indiscipline.
Meanwhile,  Sangeeta said it was not her intention to upset Mayawati. She said she would apologise to the BSP supremo for the act. "The motive behind uploading the picture on Facebook was not to upset Mayawatiji but to show my opponents that she is with me and I will win the elections," she said. Sangeeta's husband, Dharmendra Chowdhury was earlier the candidate from Atrauli seat, but was murdered in January 2015.

Yale School of Management names deanship chair after Indra Nooyi
The Yale School of Management is naming a deanship Chair after PepsiCo Chairman Indra K Nooyi. She has made a gift to endow the deanship of the school and inaugurate the Fifth Decade Innovation Fund, making her the most generous graduate of Yale School of Management in terms of lifetime giving. The school did not divulge the pledged amount. But Nooyi's gift being the most generous to date should be higher than the $8.9 million (Rs 58.80 crore) given by the school's largest donor so far. Nooyi is the first woman to endow the deanship at a top business school. An endowed deanship provides discretionary funds to help the dean realise his/her vision. Edward A Snyder is the inaugural Indra K Nooyi Dean. He has led the Yale School of Management since 2011 and was recently appointed to a second fiveyear term as dean.

Rajasthan records first swine flu deaths this year as 5 die
The state witnessed its first swine flu deaths this year as five persons died and 38 have been tested positive for the H1N1 virus since January 1, a state health & medical department official said today. Of the five deceased, two succumbed to the virus in Jaipur, and one each in Churu, Sikar and Kota districts, the officer said. Out of 268 patients screened, 38 were found H1N1 positive. Twenty-two patients are receiving treatment in hospitals at Jaipur, six in Kota, three in Sikar, two each in Sawaimadhopur and Churu, the officer said. The spread of the H1N1 virus in the state has been attributed to the rising temperature in the winters, the officer said.

Iran frees 10 sailors after US ‘apologizes’ for naval incursion
In another thaw in international politics, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) released 10 American sailors who it had detained on Tuesday after they entered Iranian waters. Their release came shorty after the US apologized to Iran for the naval incursion on Wednesday. Tuesday’s incident rattled nerves days ahead of the expected implementation of a landmark nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers. General Ali Fadavi said investigations concluded “that this trespassing was not hostile or for spying purposes.” He said a broken navigation system had led the US sailors — reportedly nine men and a woman — to stray toward Iran’s Farsi island. “Naturally in territorial waters of the country any naval craft should announce their presence beforehand, especially if they are military,” Fadavi added.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was briefed about the incident.

BP gets approval to sell jet fuel in India
British multinational company BP plc has secured an ‘in-principle’ approval to retail aviation turbine fuel (ATF) to airlines in India. While the Petroleum Ministry has given nod to BP to enter Indian aviation fuel supply space, the Europe’s second-largest oil company will have to take environment and safety as well as airport clearance before actually beginning jet fuel sales. BP Exploration (Alpha), a wholly-owned subsidiary of BP, had on June 11, 2014 submitted an application for authorisation to market ATF. It claimed to have invested $ 477 million in the country. The Oil Ministry initially rejected BP’s application on the ground that its investment does not qualify for a retailing licence but kept the door open for the company by saying it can still get the licence provided it meets the eligibility criteria. The Ministry, rejecting the application, said only $ 171 million of the claimed investment was capital expenditure and the rest operating expenditure. For a licence to retail auto fuels petrol, diesel and ATF, a company should have invested a minimum of Rs. 2,000 crore in exploration or production, refining, pipeline or terminals leading to additionality to the existing assets or creation of new assets in the eligible activities.

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