New Delhi, Feb 16 (IANSlife) Manasa Varanasi, a 23-year old Computer Science Engineer who has been crowned Miss India World 2020, says she was never really interested in modeling. Hyderabad-based Manasa was working as a Financial Information Exchange (FIX) analyst with a financial software firm; she says modeling was a pastime for her.
In a candid conversation with IANSlife, Manasa shares details of her journey, how she prepared for the contest, her future plans, besides revealing her beauty and fitness regime.
Q: How did you get into modeling?
A: I was a pretty studious girl, and never really interested in modelling, but I won a contest for Freshers in my college and that ignited a spark. Everything built slowly from there, with a lot of encouragement from friends. The reality is that modelling has been a pastime for me, as I was working full time as a software engineer, but it was a creative outlet and was born of a will to expand my horizons.
Q: Did you have to convince your family to get into this field?
A: My family is very academically oriented and traditional so they really did not feel this was a path to aspire to. However, because I held a full time job, their deepest concerns were allayed and today, they are very proud of what I have achieved.
Q: How has your journey being till you won the title?
A: More than anything, it has been one of growth. I've learned to look at my weaknesses, learn skills -- from walking in heels to styling myself, made friends from all over the country. Most of all, I've learned to trust the energy of the moment, accept change and embrace what I am.
Q: How does it feel to be titled as Miss India World?
A: I feel elated, but it is based on a sense of achievement that comes from having worked very hard and having had the courage to fail. And today, I am filled with a sense of hope and a determination to use this opportunity wisely.
Q: How did you prepare for the contest?
A: I focused equally on the physical aspects of the contest -- rampwalk, fitness, styling and the mental aspects -- being self aware and socially informed. But it is just as important to be emotionally prepared -- a contest like Miss India is not for the faint of heart!
Q: How are you preparing yourself for Miss World pageant?
A: A big focus will be my 'Beauty with a Puropse' project, which is at the heart of Miss World. I will have to balance that with continued work on my ramp walk, talent and interview. And of course, lots of time will undoubtedly be spent on getting the right wardrobe and styling in place.
Q: How confident were you winning the title?
A: In a way, I both expected to win and lose the Miss India title. I was hopeful and confident in my abilities and preparation, but winning is out of one's hands -- destiny, luck, the competition -- they all have a say. The difficult thing about a contest such as this is that everything can change in an instant -- and it only takes one bad answer or one judge to change the outcome. So, while I am very proud of my achievement today, I am also humbled and grateful that the stars aligned for me.
Q: What are your future plans?
A: What matters to me at the end of everything is that I live a life with integrity and without regret. My inspirations are people who continue to reinvent and redefine themselves and I hope I will continue to grow as a person my whole life. Who knows what the future can bring? I came to Miss India to create a new world of opportunity for myself and I am excited to see where it can take me.
Q: Please share your beauty regime.
A: I'm definitely a bit of a minimalist when it comes to makeup, but the competition has taught me to be more experimental, and to focus on creating harmony between my makeup, hair, clothes and most of all, carrying it all off with confidence.
Q: What is your beauty secret?
A: Nutritious food, natural products, and a balanced mind.
Q: What fitness regime?
A: I swear by yoga, it helps my mind as much as it helps my body.
Swami Vivekanand & Swami Paramahansa Yogananda
In a modern fast-paced society, stress is a silent killer. The developed nations are struggling to cope up with the growing human individuality crisis. A learned teacher can guide us to learn contentment in life, leading to extreme happiness. Both Swami Vivekanand and Paramahansa Yogananda were great masters of humanity. No ordinary man surely is worthy of this spiritual title. But now and then, there appears on earth one of the noble lineages of God-realized souls to carry out the plans of Divinity and establish righteousness on earth.
Saints and sages occupy a central place in the Indian spiritual tradition. The saints and sages are an integral part of what is called Hindu or Sanatan Dharma. Their elevated souls exemplify beliefs and their lives in totality. These elevated souls exemplify the essence of the spiritual treasure trove that is continued in the vast and varied spiritual literature in Sanskrit and in other languages. From among the exalted and emancipated souls, first Swami Vivekanand and then Paramhansa Yogananda appeared on the Indian scene to bring solace to the people in the Indian continent and the world at large. Both these masters worked untiringly throughout the period they lived on earth and helped to awaken people from their long slumber of centuries. Their contribution to the cause of uplifting human consciousness is no less than those of great incarnation of God who took birth on earth only under divine command.
How to live?
It is not our fate that decides where your life is going. It is all about how you take life and where you take it to. All of us are born in this world like beautiful clay models ready to learn all talking, walking, eating, drinking and so many other lessons and habits. We go back from the earth saying good bye to life as a hardened solid figure. During the course of life, through experiences gained by growth in the years, we start seeing the world according to our own perceptions. We create meaning, we create friends and enemies. We create our own truth – right or wrong.
The nature of life is to grow towards an ever perfect and joyous expression of itself. Each living cell has a nervous system, no matter how rudimentary. The more develop the nervous system, the more it will express the qualities of the pure consciousness – intelligence, creativity and bliss. Life, its substance and purpose, is an enigma, difficult yet not unknowable.
Presently, humanity is passing through a very critical phase of transition from old values to new values getting developed through moving forward in the field of information technology. Being in its initial stages of development, the information technology is however, having its adverse effects on the young minds. The family way of life, peace and under-standing are getting affected. Technology is being misused by antisocial elements bearing far-reaching effect on how we live today.
Way of life?
Hinduism is not a religion commonly understood terms comprising set of dogmas and belief but it is proven way of life which has helped mankind from millennium to know its true nature that of the infinite which is its source. Hinduism is the most tolerant religion in the world because its one transcendent God includes all possible goals
Why Guru’s guidance?
Swami Vivekanand had handsome face, magnetic presence and wonderful oratory. Never before did an oriental make such an impression on the global society. According to him, nothing else is necessary except love, sincerity and patience. Life is only growth i.e. expansion, love. All love is life; it is the only law of life: all selfishness is death and this is true here or hereafter. For more than 100 years the work has continued and Ramakrishna Mission is now a well-established institution helping everyone to work for One’s own liberalization and for welfare of the world. The mission has rendered yeoman service in all fields for the upliftment of masses fulfilling the dream of great Master-Mystic, Prophet, Disciple, Lover of humanity, Patriot, friend, beloved Swami Vivekanand.
Swami Vivekanand teachings mainly centered on the following ideals:
Swami Paramahansa Yogananda
Paramahansa Yogananda used to explain: Knowing God is not only a privilege and a divine duty but a practical necessity. The guru is the awakened God awakening the sleeping God in the disciple. He gives us all we need to rouse the divine image within methods that take us beyond the restless mind to touch the infinite consciousness that sustains us: timeless truths for spiritual living amongst the ever-shifting values of this world. Swami said – Education must provide life building, man making, and character making assimilation of ideas.
Meditation is strictly prescribed by Yoganandaji to de- lay cell decay, regulate blood circulation and improvement of heart function. The lungs gets extra oxygen, senses get subdued. Perfect state of meditation being human’s true nature, sooner or later; humanity has to learn this lesson to remain on the path to progress. The path of a human life can be identified by -
1 Man’s Eternal Quest 2 Divine Romance
3 Journey of Self Realisation
The joy felt in meditation reveals the presence of Eternal joy spread over all creations. The light seen in meditation is the astral light from which our tangible creation is made.
– Paramahansa Yogananda Spirituality for a common man may best be termed as science of the soul. It is reaching be- yond all sciences. The soul keeps as alive and guides our live on earth and is a part/ reflection of the infinite consciousness pulsating through whole creation, commonly understood as God. Knowledge of this science can help us lead happy, contented, joyful and purposeful lives on earth. The greatest help to spiritual life is meditation (Dhyana) – Meditation is instrument of spirituality.
Paramahansa Yogananda teachings mainly centered on the following ideals:
(Writer is editor-in-Chief / Opinion Express)
New Delhi, Feb 6 (IANS) India's first Budget after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic is prudent, transparent and futuristic and is aimed at making the country self-reliant, Minister of State for Finance, Anurag Thakur, told IANS. Following are the excerpts from the post-Budget exclusive conversation IANS had with Thakur.
Q1. What were your first thoughts regarding the economic impact that will occur due to the Covid-19 lockdown? What was your first reaction?
Ans. Today, you can see that India has emerged stronger from this pandemic. We know what happened in those countries which did not impose the lockdown or those that did but were not able to save as many lives. India on the other hand emerged as one of the countries with the lowest mortality rates as we implemented a systematic lockdown. This was our main goal to save as many lives as possible.
Besides, we have grown our capacity. Earlier, we had negligible manufacturing of PPE kits, today we are a major exporter. We are also exporting vaccines which have been made in India to around 100 countries. Our approach has been to save lives and livelihood, and the results of the same can be seen.
We had taken steps to support the MSME sector and the economy by the way of additional funding, there was also the loan moratorium as well as other schemes and steps which were taken such as partial credit guarantee scheme, additional working capital loans that were given to protect businesses and jobs.
Q2. Is the worst behind us in terms of economic shock that was unleashed by this pandemic?
Ans. If you look at the projections, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects India's GDP growth to be over 11 per cent in FY22, while the RBI's estimates show a growth of around 10.5 per cent. India is seen as the only major economy in the world to have a double-digit growth next year.
This recovery has been made possible because of the structural reforms that we have undertaken under the AatmaNirbhar Bharat package. These reforms range from power, coal, agriculture to defence production, mining and space sector amongst others. These reforms were even bigger than the ones carried out in the 1990s decade. The Prime Minister has turned this crisis into an opportunity which has given the pace to this recovery. This V-shape recovery has been made possible due to the measures taken to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, and the historic reforms that were implemented to support the economy.
Q 3. With stepped up expenditure, as is also visible in the Budget proposals, to counter the adverse effects of the pandemic, are we moving away from the path of fiscal consolidation?
Ans. We have to look back at the period of 2013-14. India was known as among the fragile five economies under the Congress-led UPA Government. After 2014, for the next the Narendra Modi government gave more than 7.5 per cent growth rate, every year, on an average. Now we are among the top six big economies of the world. What is the challenge in the financial year, 2021, which was the Covid-19 year. For us it was important to borrow and more than Rs 12.5 lakh crore has been borrowed by government of India to give food grains, funds, subsidies, to those who actually require this. More than 80 crore people got food grains, pulses for a period of eight months. No other country was able to even afford that, but India did it. Also, 30 crore women have been given Rs 31,000 rupees in their Jan Dhan accounts by the government. Three crores disabled, especially abled, widows and old age people have got more than Rs 3,000 crore, farmers got more Rs 1.10 lakh crore. And during the pandemic time, they got thousands of crores rupees into their bank accounts. Apart from this, the EPF contribution of the employer and employee has been paid by the Government of India totalling about Rs 7,000 crore. Now that kind of money was required. You also wanted to help the states to fight the pandemic. So, virtually for the first three months, the economy was shut in a way and no economic activity was taking place. So, what could you do as a country, you have to borrow and help people.
Now in this budget also we have utilised those funds for the capital expenditure. So that clearly means, more amount in respect of the capital expenditure, close to 35 per cent capital expenditure increase. Now, the multiplier effect will be 2.5 times. There will be more job creation, more revenue for the government. So, I think it is very important for us to borrow, build, monetize and then repay. It will help the Indian economy to grow, create more jobs, and also be among the top leading economies where the growth will take place.
Q 4. The privatisation policy announced in the budget has not found favour in several quarters with certain sections of the political class terming it as an exercise to sell the family silver?
Ans. We have to see the government's decision on privatisation in perspective. The UPA government also tried to do this during the Prime Ministership of Manmohan Singh. But they could hardly raise about Rs 10,000 crore from 2004 to 2009. But the Modi government raised close to Rs 3 lakh crore between 2014-2019. That is the big difference. You have more credibility. You can deliver better. You could have that transparent policy for the disinvestment. We have also divided the companies into priority and non-priority sectors and disinvestment will be based on this categorisation. This while giving opportunity to the government to mobilise more funds will also help companies to grow up the ladder with the infusion of fresh capital that will also generate more opportunities for employment. If in the operation of certain entities, PSUs are not able to do well or the government has too many players in the field, why not to pursue privatisation initiative involving change of management. Government job is not to be in business but to facilitate more people to do more business activities and the government should get more revenue out of it.
Q 5. So, through budget proposals as well, the government wants to make a statement that it is solidly behind the economy?
Ans. Absolutely. Economy needs investment and sentiments improve once the government invests. So, when the government itself increases capital expenditure next year by 35 per cent, it would give a necessary boost to the investment climate in the country and help improve the health of the economy and generate more employment opportunities for its people. Worldwide experience has proven that economies where the government initiates the investment, the growth pick up is faster. This also helps to bring in private investment. The multiplier effect of capital expenditure 2.5 times. The budget also aims to achieve this with higher capex.
Q 6. Will the higher capex announced in the Budget, are we on course to become a $5 trillion economy faster?
Ans. The growth of any economy takes time. But for India, we became the sixth largest economy in the world from earlier eleventh in a matter of just five years. Our effort to raise economic growth has continued but with Covid-19 pandemic we have lost one full year. Any economy takes time to recover from acute slowdown. But the steps that we have taken, have ensured that the recovery is faster. We presented a good budget that was also acknowledged by the capital markets with a consistent rise over the past few days. This clearly shows that if you take the right steps, the overall sentiment improves and investments too picks up.
Q 7. You have also announced privatisation of two public sector banks and one general insurance entity. These announcements have already evoked sharp reactions from bank unions. How do you aim to pursue this critical disinvestment plan?
Ans. During the UPA time, the way the funds were distributed to the banks and loans were given, putting the banks in a difficult situation that were also having higher NPA ratio. And this year, there was a reduction in the NPA ratio by 20 per cent. So that clearly showcases that we have done well in the last five six years. We have done the asset quality review of the banks; we have done the recapitalisation of more than Rs 5.5 lakh crore for public sector banks. India needs more facilities for the consumers or the people who bank. Then what do you do. You have 12 banks. We have done the amalgamation/ merger of banks, we have strengthened the banks, brought them out of the PCA framework. But the government can't keep on investing in the banks, every year. They have to stand on their feet, or they have to earn, they have to be more profitable. That is where we said that out of 12, even if the government does the privatisation for two, and one insurance company, it will also help the employees also to get better salaries and to get more benefits, and those banks and insurance companies can also grow. If the present management is unable to do justice then the new management could be able to do so. If we look at the past experiences, most of the companies have grown manifolds and the employees are also very happy.
Q 8. But will the government take bank employees into confidence before stating the privatisation process?
Ans. The Government will take all steps that are required for healthy disinvestment.
Q 9. Will we also see weaker banks that are in prompt corrective action (PCA) framework being put in the sell off list?
Ans. We have to think from buyers' perspective also. We have to offer something to buyers that attracts investment.
Q 10. The budget has put a cap on tax free interest earnings on individual savings put in provident fund (PF) and ULIPs. Is this not reducing the shrinking list of avenues available to salaried to save in instruments that offer security and assured returns?
Ans. Many have taken advantage of investment in PF that give tax free assured returns. But this advantage is also being taken by high net-worth individuals (HNIs), some of whom have put over Rs 2 crore into their PF accounts. This raises a question, whether the savings is for workers or for ones who have amassed huge wealth and are depositing in excess Rs 50 crore in PF accounts in a year and taking 8 per cent tax free returns. The Budget proposal will keep less than half per cent of EPFO subscribers out of the tax-free savings benefit. But 99.5 per cent of EPFO subscribers will get the services as it is. So, no change for the common man.
Q 11. The Budget is yet to be passed by Parliament. Is the government looking to bring more changes in the Finance Bill to further strengthen proposals required for putting on path of a speedy recovery or there is a rethink on some proposals that may be rolled back?
Ans. I think we have covered everyone from youth to women to farmers to the common man or traders. We have tried to take care of all the sectors. Even if you look at the scheduled caste and scheduled tribes, there is an increase of 51.65 per cent in the budgetary allocation. So, the government has taken care of several sectors and a scientific thought process has gone behind devising schemes for each sector so that a larger population benefits from this Budget.
Maya Elliott is the face of generation, a supermodel, and student by profession; she stands 5'11 inches tall and expands her influence in the fashion world, bringing together the sharpest female brains in the Fashion world. She is born and brought up in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
She has a great camera presence. Her look is flexible ranging from High Fashion, to Fitness/Lifestyle. She was scouted by IMG models and life has changed for since then as she is getting ready to be America’s next top model. She is represented by Ursula Wiedmann models in Women main board and they are specialised in finding amazing models and developing them to be the best models and talent they can be. She is in conversation with team Opinion Express.
First off tell us how you were “discovered” and how your modelling career all started?
I was discovered by IMG models through their Instagram campaign ‘WLYG’ and was shortly signed after that. It all started from there.
What kind of connection do you share with India, considering your Indian roots? Is there a bit of influence that Indian lineage gives to your food and culture choices?
My mom was born and brought up in India until she was thirteen so since I was little I have been introduced to the food and culture of India. Some of the customs and our family dynamics come from that Indian lineage.
Having walked for so many runway shows, you must have had lots of exposure in the high fashion, glamour side of the industry. Which would you say, has been your best show till date and why?
I liked the first show that I did, which was at the Americas mart in Atlanta because everything was so new and exciting and the adrenaline was pumping and all the clothes that I wore were amazing.
Was modelling something you always wanted to do, or did it just happen?
I would always watch reality Tv shows about modelling like America’s next top model and it always sparked an interest and then one day I just thought that it would be a cool thing to try to do and it’s been going since.
What do you do to stay in shape?
I try to stay in good shape by eating healthy, mainly home cooked meals and staying active by going to the gym and participating in sports.
Are you into watching Bollywood films? If yes who is your favourite actor?
I don’t watch as many Bollywood movies as I should but I love watching the music videos from the movies. Of course everyone knows Aishwarya Rai and Priyanka Chopra but I also like Deepika (who doesn’t?) and Alia Bhatt even though she’s technically British.
For the gentlemen I like SRK and Salman Khan. I also like Jishu Sengupta because my mom is Bengali and she watches Bengali movies too.
Do we also see an actress in Maya Elliott? Is acting in your bucket? If yes what kind of characters do you desire to play?
As far as acting is concerned, it’s surely on my list in the future. Atlanta has a lot of movies and television shows that are shot here and I can start out as an extra and move into other supporting roles. I have to wait till I turn 18 because of my height I can’t pass for a teenager. In order to play an adult role I have to be 18. So let’s see what happens over the next year. There are a lot of possibilities but I think I would do better in a comedic/light role rather than a dramatic one.
(The writer is Nithya Ramesh, Bureau Chief – Fashion & Entertainment Desk)
Suneet Sharma on Friday took over the charge as new Railway Board Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Indian Railways and ex-officio Principal Secretary to the government, officials said. The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet had approved the appointment of Sharma as Chairman and CEO of the Railway Board on Thursday.
Prior to this, Sharma worked as the General Manager of Eastern Railway since September 2019. Sharma joined the Indian Railways in 1979 as a Special Class Apprentice while he was studying engineering at IIT Kanpur.
According to railway ministry officials, Sharma, a graduate in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering has more than 40 years of experience in serving in the Indian Railways in various capacities. He has done stints in operational working, maintenance in sheds, depots and workshops.
He was Chief Workshop Manager, Parel workshop in Mumbai where he was instrumental in manufacturing narrow gauge locomotives for hill railways. He also restored old steam narrow gauge locomotive for the heritage Matheran line near Mumbai.
"During the 2006 Mumbai suburban train blasts, he was part of the team which put the suburban network on track within a few hours after the terror attack," ministry official said.
As ADRM, Mumbai CST, he is credited with increasing the services of the suburban network, which is considered the life-line of Mumbai. "During the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, he was part of the team that managed the aftermath of the attacks at Mumbai CST, Central Railway," the official said.
The official said as DRM, Pune he was instrumental in adding infrastructure which brought about operational efficiency. As Chief Mechanical Engineer Diesel Locomotive Works, Varanasi he was a team leader for starting the electric locomotive production. Conversion of diesel to electric locomotives took place under his leadership in a record time and for the first time anywhere in the world.
As General Manager Modern Coach Factory, Raebareli, he set a record by doubling the out turn of the much required modern passenger coaches in one year. During his stint as the General Manager of Eastern Railway, he took initiative in increasing the speed of goods trains to a record level and for completing a number of infrastructure projects of new lines and electrification which not only resulted in operational efficiency but developed the local areas. He is known for bringing about systemic changes for ease of working and administrative reforms.
Sharma in his three decade long career has won many professional awards. As General Manager (Modern Coach Factory Raebareli) and Chief Mechanical Engineer (Banaras Locomotive Works)) the factories won the award for best production units.
Sharma has attended professional training in Germany and France and he has done an advanced leadership and management course at Carnegie Mellon University in the US. He has visited Iran as a consultant for manufacture of locomotives.
He is also an avid sportsman and has played Billiards and Snooker at competitive levels. He is also a keen golfer and a badminton and squash player.
Chennai, Dec 31 (IANS) The priority for the year 2021 will be to usher in increased space sector reforms by putting in place a permanent Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) and other sectoral policies, said K.Sivan, Secretary, Department of Space (DoS). Sivan is also the Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Space Commission.
He said an interim IN-SPACe, which was set up, has received 28 applications from the private sector companies -- small and big -- startups, and academic institutions for various space related activities. The IN-SPACe is the regulator for the private sector space industry players in India. It would also provide a level playing field for private companies to use Indian space infrastructure. "We want to install the IN-SPACe next year. The existing space related policies are being modified or new one brought in," Sivan added.
As per current scheme of things, IN-SPACe will have its own directorates for technical, legal, safety and security, monitoring as well as activities promotion for assessing the private sector's needs and coordination of the activities. IN-SPACe would have a board and representatives from industry, academia and the government.
Till date, the DoS has also come out with three draft policies -- Draft Space Based Communication Policy of India 2020 (Spacecom Policy-2020), Draft Space Based Remote Sensing Policy and Revised Technology Transfer Policy Guidelines -- to enable the private sector to play a greater role in the space field. A policy for launch vehicles or rockets, space exploration and also a comprehensive Space Act will also be announced, Sivan had said earlier.
According to him the other priority areas for 2021 will be the Gaganyaan mission (India's human space mission), third moon mission-Chandrayaan-3, development of high thrust launcher, advanced satellites, electrical propulsion for satellites, realisation of Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV). Sivan said the liquid fuel powered engine for the Gaganyaan rocket was tested. "The crew module design phase is over," he added.
Earlier Sivan had said Team ISRO has a busy schedule ahead for the launch of Aditya L1 satellite, third moon mission Chandrayaan-3, Gaganyaaan -- India's human space mission, and realisation of small rocket Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV). He also said the SSLV will carry EOS-02 (Earth Observation Satellite), and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-F10 (GSLV) carrying EOS-3.
The other Indian satellites that are ready for launch are GISAT and Microsat-2A.
New Delhi, Dec 18 (IANS) Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs Anurag Thakur, who comes from Himachal Pradesh, has an understanding of farm issues. He provides the government's point of view on the contentious farm laws which have seen farmers laying siege to Delhi. Minister strongly supports the new farms laws and he is sure that through new laws, the promise to double the farmers income is possible.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: Farmers are apprehensive that the government will withdraw completely from purchasing farm produce and leave it entirely open to the private sector. The corporates, n turn, will purchase a small portion of the total produce "as per the high standards which can be manipulated" and the remaining crop will get paid only a pittance...
A: The government is not going to withdraw purchasing farm produce and we are not doing away with the Minimum Support Price (MSP) scheme. This has rightly been called as the 1991 moment for the agricultural sector in India.
Under The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, farmers will be freed from the grip of the middleman, and they will be able to sell their produce to the buyers from across the country at a price they deem to be fair and at a time of their choosing.
Meanwhile, under The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, farmers can opt for contract farming with agriculture trade firms, wholesalers, big retailers and exporters. The provision of market linkages at the sowing stage itself will insulate them from production and price vagaries.
Through these Acts, we are enabling the farmers to produce as per their will and convenience and that they should not be bound by selling only to the APMCs. The farmer should have the control over his crop and he should have the right to decide the price of the crop. These Acts will be the catalysts to the promise we made to the nation of doubling farmer's income by 2022.
Q: The sugarcane farmers particularly were upset, thousands committed suicide and successive governments have promised assistance, but nothing happened. Is Modi government simply doing lip service?
A: The Modi government is not only committed to increasing farmers' incomes, but also their welfare. The last Cabinet Committee headed by the Prime Minister approved an assistance of about Rs 3,500 crore for sugarcane farmers. This will benefit five crore sugarcane farmers and their dependents.
In addition to this, there are about five lakh workers employed in the sugar mills and ancillary activities; and their livelihoods depend on the sugar industry.
Farmers sell their sugarcane to the sugar mills. However, the farmers are not getting their dues from the sugar mill owners as they have surplus sugar stock. To address this concern, the government is facilitating the evacuation of surplus sugar stock. This will enable payment of dues of the sugarcane farmers. The government will incur about Rs 3,500 crore for this purpose, and this assistance would be directly credited into the farmers' accounts on behalf of the sugar mills against cane price dues and the subsequent balance, if any, would be credited to the mill's account.
This subsidy aims at covering expenses on marketing costs including handling, upgrading and other processing costs and costs of international and internal transport and freight charges on export of up to 60 LMT of sugar limited to Maximum Admissible Export Quota (MAEQ) allocated to the sugar mills for sugar season 2020-21.
Q: You claim to ensure farmers' welfare, yet farmers are on the streets. Either they are misled or your schemes and assurances are like hollow promises. What do you have to say?
A: A few farmers have been misled by the opposition parties. The majority of the farmers have benefited and understand our various initiatives. Since 2014, Soil Health Card has increased productivity levels, provided e-NAM facility to sell produce and set up cold storage facilities apart from opening mega food parks.
We have also provided PM Kisan Maandhan Yojana with an assured monthly pension of Rs 3,000. This is a voluntary pension scheme, where the government will match the monthly contribution and it will also be payable to the farmer's spouse in case of death. Already over 21 lakh farmers have registered for this.
PM KISAN is another flagship initiative that has already benefited around 11 crore farmers with a disbursement of over Rs 95,000 crore. Besides this, the Fasal Beema Yojana, increase in MSP rates and procurement -- all these have immensely increased farmers' welfare, income and productivity. Will the opposition explain why they did not do any of these while in power or in the states they are in power? Clearly, facts speak louder than the opposition's myth mongering.
Q: What was the hurry in introducing farmer-related issues as ordinances in the month of June? The issues concerning lakhs of farmers deserved to be brought in as bills for the opposition to debate them before they were passed. Why did you not allow questions to be raised on the 'anti-farmer' provisions in the bills?
A: Let's go by hard facts. During 2009-2014, the budget allocation for agriculture increased by a meagre 8.5 per cent. From 2014-2019, the Modi government took it much higher - an increase of 38.8 per cent. Those people who accuse the BJP government of being anti-poor have no facts to back their rhetoric. We have been standing with our farmer brothers and sisters and these Acts are a watershed moment in India's agricultural history.
After decades of toil and struggle, our farmers finally have the the option of choice; to choose what they produce, when they produce, whom to sell, at what price to sell. This all is in addition to the MSP scheme which will guarantee a minimum support price for their produce no matter what.
The Indian agricultural sector remained malnourished because of the archaic APMC (Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee) Acts. The mandis which were meant to help and protect the farmers instead became monopolies and benefited only them and not the farmers.
By opposing the passing of these historic Agri Acts in the Parliament, the hypocrisy and the duplicitous nature of the Congress gets exposed. Why? Because in their 2019 manifesto, the Congress had clearly said they "will repeal the Agricultural Produce Market Committee Act and make trade in agricultural produce - including exports and inter-state trade - free from all restrictions".
Lastly, on the issue of this Parliamentary session, it is a fact that this session witnessed 167 per cent productivity, with 60 hours of sittings, 2,300 questions and 370 zero hour mentions. In fact, the House on multiple occasions debated and sat late into the night. Why did the opposition parties not participate in the debates during the session? Why did they create disruption instead of having a democratic debate?
Q: Farmers apprehend that the government is making false claims about the provision for the continuance of the MSP system. Out of the listed 23 crops, in Punjab, MSP is paid only for wheat, paddy and cotton. Does the government guarantee that in case farmers do not get the MSP from traders, the government will buy all the listed crops at MSP?
A: The 70th round of NSSO on Key Indicators of Situation Assessment of Agricultural Households in India shows that only six per cent of farmers gain from MSPs. The archaic and regressive laws did not allow the markets to function and thereby only the rich farmers benefited from the earlier laws.
We had recently released the first instalment of over Rs 19,000 crore for paddy procurement in three states under the MSP scheme. We also announced the MSPs for six rabi crops of 2020-21 which are in line with the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission.
Wheat MSP for the rabi crop of 2020-21 has been fixed at Rs 1,975 per quintal - 2.6 per cent higher than Rs 1,925 in 2019-20. MSP for lentil (masur) has been fixed at Rs 5,100 per quintal - 6.25 per cent or Rs 300 higher than in 2019-20.
The MSP for gram has been increased to Rs 5,100 per quintal - Rs 225 or 4.62 per cent higher than last year. MSP for safflower has been increased to Rs 5,327 per quintal - hiked by Rs 112 or 2.15 per cent over last year. MSP for barley has seen an increase of Rs 75 (4.92 per cent) from Rs 1,525 per quintal in 2019-20 to Rs 1,600 in 2020-21.
The increase in MSP for Rabi crops for marketing season 2021-22 is in line with the principle of fixing the MSPs at a level of at least 1.5 times of the all-India weighted average cost of production as announced in the Union Budget 2018-19.
Q: How will the government ensure that the private sector pays the MSP when even the government was not doing so in letter and spirit?
A: In spite of the rumour mongering and the underhanded tactics of the opposition to falsely portray fear, the Prime Minister and the Agriculture Minister have clarified that the system of MSP will remain and government procurement will continue.
These Acts, meanwhile, empower the farmers to do business with those private companies that they want and they have no compulsion to accept any contracts which they do not agree with. The imperfectness of the markets was a reason for the poor growth of the agricultural sector. We are giving options to the farmers, no one is compelling them to choose one or the other. If a farmer thinks the APMC mechanism is good, he can opt for it; if he wants to sell his produce to a private company, he should be free to do so. These Agri Acts have empowered the farmers with the power of choice.
By removing the barriers, farmers all across the country can sell their produce wherever they want. This will promote inter-state trade and the farmers will get the right price for their produce. We are also strengthening the agricultural infrastructure and we have announced a Rs 1 lakh crore fund for the same. This fund will facilitate the development of agricultural infrastructure, that includes collection centres, warehouses, storage centres, cold chains, and pre-processing facilities, among others. Funds for the development of the animal husbandry and fisheries sector have also been launched to diversify the sources of farmers' income.
Q: Can the protests of the farmers all across the country be termed unjust? Shouldn't the farmers be given a patient hearing?
A: Do not underestimate the intelligence of our farmers. We have had several rounds of discussions with the Agriculture Minister and we will clarify all the concerns being raised by the farmers.
We have our ears to the ground and have been listening to the farmers. Farmers across the nation are happy and pleased with these Acts. Visit any part of rural India and you will get the real picture.
These are Acts which will alter the agricultural sector as we know it and will bring a paradigm shift in the way the farmers have been doing their business. With the emergence of agri-tech startups and the government being committed to improving the infrastructure side by side, the focus is solely now on increasing the farmers' income and improving their standard of living.
Our doors are always open for our farmer brothers and sisters and we will always pay heed to their concerns as these Acts are for their prosperity and for their benefits. They are the biggest stakeholders in our 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat' vision and their interests are Modi government's priority.
Q: Farmers feel that they have not been involved at any time during the decision-making process on an issue which affects their lives. They say before formulation of the policies, they were not consulted at all. Your comments?
A: Again, let's go by facts. We have at every stage been in touch with the farmers. In fact, the Prime Minister has spoken about them around 25 times! The total number of training and webinar sessions conducted with farmers were over 1,30,000 reaching out to over 92,00,000 farmers between June and November 2020.
We have been in touch with the farmers across the nation. Moreover, as I shared already, the Acts were passed after hours of discussion in both the Houses of the Parliament. The farmers all across the country have suffered because of their inability to produce and sell independently. We have already created 2,000-plus Farmer Producer Organisations (FPO) and 10,000 more are in the works with a budgetary allocation of Rs 5,000 crore.
Over 1,000 agri startups, driven by young technology graduates, have been created and over 20,000 agri clinics have been made possible by agriculture graduates. We need these reforms now more than ever before for these start ups to prosper which will benefit the farmers the most.
No amount of scare mongering will take away the fact that it is the government led by PM Narendra Modi that dismantled monopolies of the APMCs and began a new era for the farmers.
Q: Why are electricity and fertiliser subsidies being taken away and farmers being told that they will be compensated later? Can the government deny that the state and the Central finance departments struggle for funds? So, what is the guarantee for farmers getting refunded later? Many subsidies like those on polyhouses have not been cleared...
A: We have not taken away any electricity and fertiliser subsidies. Instead, since 2013-14, MSP for wheat and paddy has increased by 41 ore cent and 43 per cent, respectively, while there has been up to 65 per cent rise in MSP for pulses and oilseeds.
The quantity of wheat and paddy procured has also increased by 73 per cent and 114 per cent, respectively, compared to 2014. In the case of pulses, the increase has been a staggering 4,962 per cent.
Increased agriculture credit, higher loan subsidy, and soil health card to 16.38 crore farmers have benefited farmers across the nation. The Modi government has also provided security cover to 13.26 crore farmers under the PM crop insurance scheme and direct cash benefit of Rs 94,000 crore to 10.21 crore farmers through the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi.
New Delhi, Dec 21 (IANS) Vineet Agarwal, the Managing Director of logistics major Transport Corporation of India Limited (TCIL), has taken over as the new President of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).
He replaced Niranjan Hiranandani, co-founder and Managing Director of Hiranandani Group of Companies, who has completed his tenure at the chamber during its centenary year.
Apart from being the first head of a logistics company and one of the youngest industry captains to be appointed as the chief of an apex industry body in India, Agarwal is also the founding national President of Young Leaders Council at the All India Management Association.
Sumant Sinha, Chairman and Managing Director of ReNew Power, India's leading clean energy company, has been appointed the new Senior Vice President of ASSOCHAM.
New Delhi/Washington, Dec 22 (IANS) US President Donald Trump has presented America's highest military decoration, The Legion of Merit, to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his leadership and vision under which India's emergence as a global power has accelerated and for elevating strategic partnership of the two countries.
Official sources said, The Legion of Merit, Degree Chief Commander, bestowed on Prime Minister Modi on behalf of the President, is a rarely-awarded, prestigious decoration that can only be bestowed by Trump, typically to heads of state or heads of government of other countries.
India's Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, accepted the award on behalf of the Prime Minister from the US National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien at the White House.
The citation with the award states: "For exceptionally meritorious service as the Prime Minister of the Republic of India from May 2014 to August 2020. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's steadfast leadership and vision have accelerated India's emergence as a global power and elevated the strategic partnership between the US and India to address global challenges. Prime Minister Modi's personal engagement expanded US-India ties across all facets of the relationship, helping to establish a strong foundation for an enduring partnership that is based on shared commitment to freedom, democratic principles, the equal treatment of all citizens, and the rule of law.
"India is a key partner for the US in the Indo-Pacific, where the two countries are increasing collaboration to ensure freedom of the seas, open and transparent investment and infrastructure development, secure and reliable digital networks, and good governance."
In a glowing tribute, the citation adds: "Prime Minister Modi's personal initiative strengthened the defence partnership between the United States and India, enhancing the US' ability to secure joint military cooperation that addressed shared challenges. His efforts to expand India's economic cooperation with the US has advanced prosperity, investment and job creation in both countries.
"Prime Minister Modi's superior effort, personal leadership, and unwavering commitment to advancing strategic cooperation between the United States and India and promoting global peace and prosperity reflect great credit upon himself, the Indian armed forces, and his country."
The Legion of Merit, Degree Chief Commander is a domed five-pointed American white star plaque of heraldic form bordered in purplish-red enamel 215/16 inches circumscribing diameter with 13 white stars on a blue field emerging from a circle of clouds; backing the star, a laurel wreath with pierced, crossed arrows pointing outward between each arm of the star and the wreath. The reverse is engraved with the words 'United States of America'.
In September this year, after a very long gap, President Donald Trump awarded the Legion of Merit, Degree Chief Commander, to Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Amir of the State of Kuwait.
The decoration was last awarded in 1991.
In happy tidings, Mukesh and Nita Ambani on Thursday announced that they have become grandparents for the first time as their son Akash and daughter-in-law Shloka gave birth to a baby boy.
"With the grace and blessings of Lord Krishna, Shloka and Akash Ambani became proud parents of a baby boy today in Mumbai," the RIL family said in a brief statement.
Shloka (Mehta) and Akash were married at a glittering ceremony in Mumbai on March 9, 2019, with the who's who from the world of business, politics, Bollywood, cricket along with international celebs coming to bless the young couple.
"Nita and Mukesh Ambani are delighted to have become grandparents for the first time, as they welcome the great-grandson of Dhirubhai and Kokilaben Ambani," the overjoyed family said today.
"Shloka and Akash Ambani became proud parents of a baby boy today (Dec. 10) in Mumbai. Both mother and son are doing well," the Indian business's first couple added.
The new arrival has brought immense joy to the Mehta and Ambani families, they said, even as social media erupted in jubilation with congratulatory messages flooding from all over.
Chennai, Dec 3 (IANS) Today's movie stars are tomorrow's political leaders and Chief Ministerial aspirants -- that is the trend in Tamil Nadu. The latest to join that club is actor Rajinikanth, who on Thursday announced his decision to float a political party in January 2021.
With this Rajinikanth puts an end to various speculations about his plunge into Tamil Nadu politics. Announcing this in a tweet he added: "In the upcoming assembly polls, with people's massive support, in Tamil Nadu, an honest, transparent corruption less, secular and spiritual politics is sure to happen." "Miracle, Wonder will happen," he added.
Speaking to reporters here Rajinikanth said: "The time has come to change the fate of Tamil Nadu. Political and government change in the state important. It will surely change. The political change is important and is compulsion of time. If not now, it is not possible ever. Everything has to be changed. We will change everything." He appealed to all to support him to bring in the change. "I am just a small instrument in the change. If I win then it is people's victory," he added.
With five chief ministers in the last five decades from the Tamil movie world, the way to the political power in Tamil Nadu is through tinsel town. Five of the state's chief ministers - C.N. Annadurai, M. Karunanidhi, M.G. Ramachandran (MGR), Janaki Ramachandran and J. Jayalalitha - had their roots in filmdom, while several other actors showed an interest in politics.
However, the trend of movie hero turning into a mass political leader was started by MGR who broke away from DMK and to float All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and went on to become the state Chief Minister. In the upcoming 2021 Tamil Nadu assembly polls, the movie heroes who will be contesting would be: Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan and A. Vijaykant. While Annadurai and Karunanidhi were involved in writing the story, screenplay and dialogues of movies, it was MGR who became the first actor-turned-Chief Minister.
The state has seen and is seeing several actor-turned-politicians like the late Sivaji Ganesan, T. Rajendar, M. Karthik, Vijayakanth with the DMDK, Sarathkumar with his All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi, Director and actor Seeman with his Naam Tamilar Katchi and recently Kamal Haasan floating the MNM.
There are several other actors like R. Ramarajan, Vagai Chandrasekhar, Napoleon, Khushbu, C.R. Saraswathi, Anantharaaj, Radha Ravi and others who have joined the AIADMK, the DMK and the BJP. Barring MGR and Jayalalithaa, no other actor has captured power in the state fighting elections.
In 1972 MGR broke away from DMK and floated AIADMK and in 1977 captured power in the state in 1977. He continued to be the state Chief Minister till his death in 1987. He was succeeded by his wife Janaki Ramachandran and latter by J. Jayalalithaa, a popular heroine in Tamil movies. In 2005, Vijaykant, an action hero known to perform stunts in movies without a double, floated his DMDK party as an alternative to the two dominant Dravidian parties -- the AIADMK and the DMK.
"Vijaykant had his fan club in nook and corner of the state. The set up was great and it was converted into a political party. He had developed the fan club like a political party set up," political analyst Kolahala Srenivaas told IANS. When he fought the 2006 assembly polls alone without aligning with any party, the DMDK notched up an impressive vote share, better than even the established MDMK and PMK.
In the 2006 assembly polls the party contested in all the 234 assembly elections and got about 10 per cent vote share. Barring Vijayakant who won from Virudhachalam seat, all other party candidates lost the polls. Then DMDK became a most sought after party for alliance, more so for DMK.
Alinging with AIADMK in 2011, the DMDK became the second largest party in the assembly and Vijaykant became the Leader of the Opposition. Later the party witnessed dissensions and some long time office bearers broke away. The party now has lost its steam with Vijayakant's health not up to the mark. Over the years the DMDK's vote share has come down.
In 2018, Kamal Haasan floated his Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) party in Madurai. The party contested independently in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and got about four per cent vote share while all the party candidates lost. In 2021 assembly polls the party plans to contest lead by Kamal Haasan.
The other action hero Sarath Kumar floated The All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi in 2007. The party mostly contested in alliance with AIADMK and its own vote share is not known. The other notable politician import from Tamil movie world is Seeman who has floated Naam Tamilar Katchi. The party has been contesting in the polls without aligning with any other party.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls Naam Tamilar Katchi had polled four per cent, logging three per cent vote growth over the earlier assembly polls. "In terms of growth, it is only Kamal Haasan's MNM and Seeman's Naam Tamilar Katchi has the growth opportunity. While MNM can cut into urban votes of other parties-mainly DMK-Seeman's party can gain in the rural areas," a political analyst not wanting to be quoted told IANS.
But such a scenario is bound to change with the entry of Rajinikanth the latest movie hero to enter the state politics. "He is super caste neutral. He can attract all voter segments - urban, rural, apolitical, small, micro communities. It is going to impact all the parties," the analyst added.
The next probable actor in the political line could be Vijay. However last month he distanced himself from the political party floated by his father and movie director S.A. Chandrasekhar. Vijay urged his fans not to join or serve the party just because his father started. The actor said there is no connection between his father's party and his fan's movement. "I also hope that appropriate action will be taken against them if they engage in any activities involving my name or photo or the name of Vijay Makkal Iyakkam," Vijay had said.