- New Kisan Suvidha app for farmers launched
- New gen NBFCs to target smaller cities
- Govt allows 49% FDI in insurance under automatic route
- Bill introduced in US Congress to help India join APEC
- Nepal joins SCO grouping as dialogue partner
Also in News
- Commemorative stamp on HAL
New Kisan Suvidha app for farmers launched
A new mobile app—Kisan Suvidha— has been launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for farmers to provide them information on five critical parameters—weather, input dealers, market price, plant protection and expert advisories.
- The app is likely to have many takers as India is second largest smartphone market in the world with 87 million mobile Internet users in rural areas.
Key Features of the App:
- A tap on the weather button shows details of temperature, humidity, wind and rainfall for the current day and the forecast for the next five days. Additionally, a farmer can get extreme weather alerts like hailstorms or unseasonal rains—a useful tool for farmers. For instance, after harvesting, farmers often leave their cereal crops in the field to dry. Prior information on freak rains can help them save their crop.
- The market price button shows latest price of all crops traded in a mandi or registered agriculture market of the particular district a farmer belongs to. Additionally, he gets to see the maximum price in the district, state and the entire country on a particular day.
- For small farmers, who often sell their produce to local traders, this could be an important bargaining tool. Also, farmers can decide on whether to take their produce to the mandi or delay it based on information on current prices.
- Farmers can also access names and mobile numbers of input dealers selling pesticides, seeds, fertiliser and machinery. This is a handy tool—farmers can now make a call and compare prices and availability before they actually head out to purchase these inputs.
- The plant protection button gives pest, weed and disease-related information as well as management practices for each stage of crop development—from nursery to harvesting. A farmer from, say Ganganagar district in Rajasthan, can scan the information for all major crops grown in the district like mustard, wheat and vegetables.
- The agro advisory section shows messages for farmers from district agriculture officials and state universities in their local language. These primarily deal with crop management practices based on the prevailing situation, say a remedy for a widespread pest attack or imminent showers.
- An additional tab directly connects the farmer with the Kisan call centre where technical graduates answer their queries.
The agriculture ministry, which developed the app, describes it as an “omnibus for quick and relevant information”. Adding more local languages will take it a step further.
New gen NBFCs to target smaller cities
New generation Non-Banking Finance Companies (NBFCs) are increasing their focus on tier-II and III cities to expand their businesses.
Reasons for their interest:
- For NBFCs, tier-I cities are comfort zones. But due to compression in interest rates and increasing competition in tier-I cities, NBFCs are looking at tier-2 and 3 cities.
- Also, the repayment capacity of professionals, such as doctors, in tier–II and -III cities is better, as there is less competition for their skill. Besides, lending to them is more beneficial as they can recommend more borrowers/customers.
- As the government sets the agenda for initiatives like Make in India, Digital India, Start-up India, directed towards growing the entrepreneurial environment in the country, NBFCs are also trying to expand their reach to smaller cities as they see business opportunities in the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) sector.
- NBFCs plan to tap the needs of the self-employed professionals, manufacturers and traders to expand their business through secured loans i.e. loan against property (LAP).
- The profitability estimate indicates that NBFCs in tier-II and III cities can break-even in 12 months compared to a time span of 18 months in tier I cities. Tier-I cities generally have high quantum of loans and low numbers of customer.
Govt allows 49% FDI in insurance under automatic route
The Union Commerce and Industry Ministry has notified foreign direct investment (FDI) upto 49% in insurance and pension sector.
- The FDI will be under automatic route.
- In this regard, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has issued official notification to liberalise its FDI policy in insurance and pension sector.
- Under notification, overseas companies are now permitted to buy 49% stake in domestic insurers without prior approval. However, FDI above 49% will be subject to approval of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB).
- Currently, in insurance and pension sector up to 26% FDI is permitted through the automatic approval route.
Bill introduced in US Congress to help India join APEC
A group of influential American lawmakers have introduced a legislation asking the Obama administration to help India join the APEC forum, saying an economically prosperous India benefits the US’ strategic goals in Asia.
Key Features of the legislation:
- The legislation notes that US-India partnership is vital to the US strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region and across the globe, and is an integral aspect to the Administration’s Rebalance to Asia.
- Observing that India enjoys a location within the Asia- Pacific region which provides an avenue for continued trade and investment partnerships with APEC member states, the legislation also asks Secretary of State to develop a strategy to obtain membership status for India in APEC, including participation in related meetings, working groups, activities and mechanisms.
- It even directs the Secretary of State to actively ask APEC member states to support such membership status for India and submit a report to the Congress within two months of the passage of this legislation.
Significant move for India:
- Membership in APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) would provide India a constructive forum to glean insight from other Asian countries that have already taken significant steps to advance their economies.
- India is also striving for major economic reforms to open India’s markets, improve trade volume, and facilitate its growing population’s need for continued job growth. Hence, APEC can be the right platform.
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is a regional economic forum established in 1989 to leverage the growing interdependence of the Asia-Pacific.
- The APEC process is supported by a permanent secretariat based in Singapore.
- APEC’s 21 member economies are Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Canada; Chile; People’s Republic of China; Hong Kong, China; Indonesia; Japan; Republic of Korea; Malaysia; Mexico; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Peru; The Philippines; The Russian Federation; Singapore; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; United States of America; Viet Nam.
- APEC works to help all residents of the Asia-Pacific participate in the growing economy.
- APEC projects provide digital skills training for rural communities and help indigenous women export their products abroad.
- Recognizing the impacts of climate change, APEC members also implement initiatives to increase energy efficiency and promote sustainable management of forest and marine resources.
- The forum adapts to allow members to deal with important new challenges to the region’s economic well-being. This includes ensuring disaster resilience, planning for pandemics, and addressing terrorism.
- In APEC, all economies have an equal say and decision-making is reached by consensus. There are no binding commitments or treaty obligations. Commitments are undertaken on a voluntary basis and capacity building projects help members implement APEC initiatives.
India & APEC:
- India is having observer of APEC since 2011 and has applied for membership.
- However, some countries have objected to granting membership to India as it does not border the Pacific Ocean, which all current members do.
[Ref: Hindu; ET; Wiki]
Nepal joins SCO grouping as dialogue partner
Nepal has become a dialogue partner of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
- As a dialogue partner, Nepal is able to participate in the multi-field cooperation of the SCO, which has an increasing presence in international affairs.
- Besides, as Nepal joins the SCO, it will create new opportunities for the SCO’s mutually beneficial cooperation and benefit people living in the extensive region that the SCO covers.
About Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO):
Seen as a counter to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), SCO is a Eurasian political, economic and military organisation which was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
- These countries, except for Uzbekistan, had been members of the Shanghai Five, founded in 1996; after the inclusion of Uzbekistan in 2001, the members renamed the organisation.
- Its headquarters is located in Beijing, China.
- India, which has had an observer status for the past 10 years, was accepted along with Pakistan as full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in July 2015.
- It has now eight members: China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan.
- SCO has Afghanistan, Iran, Mongolia and Belarus as observers.
- The SCO has established relations with the United Nations, where it is an observer in the General Assembly, the European Union, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
- Recently, Azerbaijanalso officially became a SCO dialogue partner.
[Ref: Hindu; Wiki]
Also in News
Commemorative stamp on HAL
India Post recently released a commemorative stamp on Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., which recently completed 75 years.
- The tagline on the stamp says ‘HAL: the force behind the Forces’.
- This is also the first customised ‘My Stamp’ to be released by India Post.
- The special logo depicts HAL’s first indigenous aircraft programme from HT-2 to the Light Combat Aircraftas also its capabilities related to helicopters.