In ‘The case for banning GM crops’ (November 5), cell biologist Pushpa M Bhargava clearly shows how Monsanto arm-twists to get its products passed on to unsuspecting Americans. It would not be out of place to mention that the presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton herself represents Monsanto in legal matters. It is reliably learnt that the FDA gives a clean chit to GM products without rigorous safety testing.
Our own situation is no different with the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee. In 2006 when Mahyco, subsidiary of Monsanto, wanted to push Bt brinjal into commercial cultivation, the late YK Sabharwal, former CJI, mandated that the question of GM crops be examined by an independent expert committee; a committee was constituted to examine the field data provided by Mahyco. It found several instances of breach of safety testing protocol. The failure of Bt cotton in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan due to a severe attack of white fly , also leading to several suicides, must open the eyes of the Centre.
Recent research from systems biology clearly indicates that the main difference between a GM plant and a non-GM plant is that in the former, the toxin, formaldehyde, accumulates in the cell while in the latter it is excreted. This has shown to be true with a dicot soybean, and now the Modi government is dabbling with another food crop, mustard, which is a dicot. Why is the government risking the safety of millions of unsuspecting Indians?
KP Prabhakaran Nair
When gold won’t glitter
With reference to the edit, ‘Old ain’t gold’ (November 6), Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that India has no reason to be described as a poor country as it has 20,000 tonnes of gold. But the question is: Do the millions of poor in the country have gold? Can this quantum of gold stop farmer suicides? Can it create employable skills? There is no dearth of resources in India. But, sadly, they are not used to maximise the welfare of the people.
Be that as it may, the local nationalised banks and post offices must educate the people on the Gold Monetisation Scheme and help them use it in the optimum manner. If people part with gold (for certificates), its imports can be reduced and this in turn can save precious foreign exchange.
Ranipet, Tamil Nadu
If the schemes help bring in at least a portion of the estimated 22,000 tonnes of surface domestic stock of gold and arrest the craze for possessing gold in metal form, and abusing it for plating roofs and masts, it may trigger a new direction for the country’s growth story.
The Centre and the RBI should not delay initiatives to put in place an institutional arrangement to support gold management. Some preliminary work on setting up a gold bank was done by the RBI in the 1990s. The authorities may have to think in terms of dedicated professional institutions at the regional/State level to handle gold from a banking angle. An apex body should be equipped with linkages for import and export of gold and gold products with borrowing and lending capabilities.
States such as Kerala successfully intervened in chits/kuris and lotteries, which were exploitated by vested interests, and private players had to fall in line.
The new scheme is an improved version due to the higher return it offers and much lower threshold deposit limit. The Gold Bonds with higher coupon should attract all existing investors investing in physical gold. The price is fixed on the basis of the previous week’s average of closing price of gold of 999 purity, published by the IBJA. Price-fixing is transparent, therefore, it cannot be a deterrent.
However, the RBI should ensure enough liquidity for gold bonds in the secondary market at all times to enable quick entry or exit of the gold bond by the retail investor at a fair price. The Centre will not face difficulty in hedging gold bonds against future gold price fluctuation due to a 5 per cent cushion (TGOI pays about 7.75 per cent interest on securities of similar maturity) that can be used towards hedging cost.
Hurdles to growth
The opinion of the London-based International Federation that certain recent policy proposals of the Basel Committee are contrary to the goal of encouraging and supporting growth is absolutely right. Their apprehension that high capital hurdles resulting from the new proposals will make it more difficult for banks to extend their products and services to creditworthy customers and clients is true. Already, banks have been following stricter guidelines in improving their asset quality, working hard to reduce their NPAs besides meeting social obligations. High capital hurdles will pose problems especially to smaller and community-based banks who face high compliance costs in dealing with supervisory requirements. Hence it is advised that these Basel requirements be relaxed in the case of smaller banks.
Bhimavaram, Andhra Pradesh
Stay the course
This is with reference to ‘What about the development agenda?’ by Sidharth Birla (November 6). Though the government’s intent on progressing on the path of growth and development cannot be doubted, a lot of work needs to be done. The World Bank’s report is not much to cheer about since it shows many areas where India scores poorly. The incidents of lynching and intolerance make the Prime Minister’s task tough, and distract from the main agenda.
Noida, Uttar Pradesh
The IDBI story
There are reports that the government is considering the merger of IDBI and has hired SBI Caps to look at valuation and different models for sale of government stake in the bank. That would change the face of this institution. Is this exercise really necessary for an entity that already has decades of standing and proven expertise?
The history of IDBI, since its inception in 1964 as the Industrial Development Bank of India and constituted under a special central statute, is somewhat difficult to grasp. Even many senior bankers in the industry aren’t familiar with its mechanisms and structure. Unlike other commercial entities, this institution went through many complex and challenging phases during the course of its journey and evolved well by transforming from a development financial institution into a commercial bank and provides a range of financial services under one roof. That is absolutely commendable.
Small farmers, big problems
Many rural youth are not inclined to farming anymore as agriculture gives only a negligible income for their hard labour throughout the year without any leave. Also their inability to afford improved seed varieties coupled with rising input costs compared to only a small increase in output prices has added to their woes. The government should take immediate steps so that agricultural benefits reach even small farmers.
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