Posts tagged ‘Bihar’

02/09/2016

Jobs elusive as India clings to fastest-growing economy tag | Reuters

It’s been two years since India emerged as the world’s fastest-growing major economy, but the rapid expansion has done little to improve the lot of Ashok Kumar.

Parked up and sitting on the kerb, the 25-year-old truck driver is going nowhere fast. He is the sole breadwinner for the 13 people in his extended family and his monthly salary is stuck at $150.

With new, better-paid jobs hard to come by, Kumar lacks options. He fears becoming unemployed like his elder brother, who recently returned to their village in Uttar Pradesh after months of searching in vain for work.

Data out on Wednesday showed India’s economic growth slowed to 7.1 percent in the quarter to June, a 15-month low. That is faster than other major economies, but not fast enough to create enough new jobs to absorb all the one million people who join the workforce every month.

A government survey found that job creation fell by more than two-thirds in 2015. Analysts at HDFC Bank estimate that for every percentage point the economy grows, employment now adds just 0.15 of a percentage point – down from 0.39 in 2000.

It’s a major challenge for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has promised to create 250 million jobs over the next decade.

“For one job, there are at least 20 candidates,” said Kumar. “If you want the job, you can’t afford to bargain.”

Nearly two-thirds of India’s 1.3 billion people are under 35 years old. This rising demographic “bulge” will create the largest working-age population in the world. At the same time China, which has long curbed family size, will age as a society.

Whether this so-called demographic dividend will translate into the kind of economic gains seen in Japan and Korea, or lead to upheavals, depends on India’s ability to generate jobs.

Yet, despite average annual growth of 6.5 percent between 1991 and 2013, India added less than half the jobs needed to absorb new job seekers.

MORE WORKERS, FEWER JOBS

Under Modi, India has opened up further to foreign investment, hoping to generate more manufacturing jobs. A loan scheme for small businesses has been set up and there are plans for a $1.5 billion fund for startups.

Modi has also launched a programme to train over 4 million people in different skills in six years.Pronab Sen, country director for the International Growth Centre, a British-backed think tank, said such measures were “laudable”, but they aimed at boosting supply when more demand was needed.

“India has become a demand-starved economy,” Sen said. “If there is no demand, there will be no incentive to produce more which, in turn, will mean no new jobs.”

The level of desperation for work is staggering. In August, nearly half a million people, including post-graduates, applied for 1,778 jobs as sweepers in the city of Kanpur.

This was not a one-off. Last year, in Uttar Pradesh, 2.3 million people sought 368 low-level government jobs that required a primary education and ability to ride a bicycle.

Competition for such jobs has become fiercer as the public sector’s share in formal employment is declining.

Two years of drought has caused distress in farming, while the construction business has suffered a prolonged downturn – making work scarcer in the two sectors that employ the bulk of India’s unskilled workforce.

Satellite cities around the capital, like Greater Noida were, until recently, bustling with construction activity.

Now, Greater Noida’s skyline is dotted with half-built, abandoned, high-rises. Cranes and diggers stand idle.

In Delhi and the surrounding National Capital Region, housing starts fell 41 percent year-on-year in the first half of the year, according to consultancy Knight Frank. Across India, starts were down 9 percent from a year earlier.

Bhuwan Mahato, a contractor who supplies workers to construction projects around Noida, says demand for labour is down by at least 25 percent.

“I wish I hadn’t joined this business,” said Mahato, a 30-year-old migrant from the state of Bihar. “But, truthfully, there are no other opportunities, either.”

Source: Jobs elusive as India clings to fastest-growing economy tag | Reuters

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18/06/2016

New App Promises to Tell Indian Farmers When to Sow Crops – India Real Time – WSJ

Monsoon season in India has just begun, but farmers in Andhra Pradesh, a southeastern coastal state of India, won’t need to look to the skies to know when to sow their crops.

A new mobile application launched earlier this month and developed by a local agriculture research institute, Microsoft India and the state government tells farmers in the state which week is perfect for sowing seeds, the health of their soil and other indicators.

The app uses rainfall data collected from farms in 13 districts in Andhra Pradesh over 45 years to give farmers a sense of when to start planting, Suhas P. Wani, director of Asia research at the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics or ICRISAT, a research organization in Hyderabad said.Farmers are asked to register a mobile number with the state government, choose a language–currently limited to the regional Telugu and English–and enter details of the village, district or sub-district.

The advice received could vary from farmer to farmer and from village to village, Mr. Wani said. “The app has crop-specific information such as 10 years of groundnut sowing progress data” to guide farmers who grow specific crops, he added.

He said that constant data on crop yield was being collected on a monthly basis by field officers and sent for evaluation to provide regular forecasts to farmers.

A weather button shows the temperature and rainfall as well as fertilizer recommendations for the day and projection for the next seven days. Additionally, a farmer can get weather alerts for extreme conditions like hailstorms or unseasonal rains that impact crop yields.

Andhra Pradesh logged the highest number of farmer suicides in the country last year. At least 58 farmers took their own lives in the state, according to an agriculture ministry report.

But not every farmer can afford to invest in expensive smartphone technology.

So far, most of the farmers have requested to be sent the information via SMS message. Mr. Wani said once registered, farmers can get the predicted sowing date through SMS. “The main idea behind the application is to help farmers reduce losses by telling when to sow seeds or spray the plants,” he said.

The application will be rolled out in other Indian states next year, based on feedback from farmers in the state, he added.

Source: New App Promises to Tell Indian Farmers When to Sow Crops – India Real Time – WSJ

15/11/2015

How Modi Dealt With Pointed Questions From the British Press – India Real Time – WSJ

Narendra Modi hasn’t given a news conference in India since becoming prime minister last year.

So when he arrived in the U.K. on Thursday and addressed the media with his counterpart, David Cameron, British reporters seized the opportunity to ask a few pointed questions.

Referring to recent incidents of religious violence, BBC correspondent Justin Rowlatt kicked off by asking Mr. Modi: “India is becoming an increasingly intolerant place. Why?”

Mr. Modi answered, in Hindi: “India is the land of Buddha. India is the land of Gandhi. And so, it is in our culture and blood that we don’t accept anything against the basic values of society.”

He continued: “For us, every incident is serious. We don’t tolerate it under any circumstances. Law takes strict action and will continue to do so. India is a vibrant democracy, and its constitution provides for the safety of people from all strata of society. We are committed to protecting freedom of thought.”

A little later in the news conference, Guardian reporter Nicholas Watt asked Mr. Cameron what he felt about the visit. “How comfortable do you feel welcoming Prime Minister Modi to this country given that for the first two years of your premiership he was not permitted to visit this country because of his record as chief minister of Gujarat?”

The U.K. distanced itself from Gujarat and Mr. Modi after religious riots in the state that killed more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, in 2002, when Mr. Modi was the state’s top official. Mr. Modi has denied wrongdoing and court investigations have said there isn’t enough evidence to prosecute him.

Mr. Watt then asked about Europe’s migrant crisis and the U.K.’s referendum on European Union membership before turning back to India.

“Prime Minister Modi, can I ask you: Tomorrow night you will obviously have a rapturous reception at Wembley Stadium. But there are a number of protesters out today who are saying—and I am wondering what you say to them—that given your record as chief minister of the state of Gujarat, you do not deserve the respect that would normally be accorded to the leader of the world’s largest democracy.”

Mr. Cameron answered by citing Mr. Modi’s “record and historic majority” in the Indian parliament after the 2014 election. Mr. Modi then said he was never denied entry to the U.K. The U.S. refused him a visa in 2005 based on his response to the riots but issued him one in 2014, after he became prime minister.

“To keep the record straight, I would like to give some information,” Mr. Modi said. “I came here in 2003 and received a big welcome and respect, and participated in several programs. The U.K. has never stopped me from coming here, has never imposed any restrictions. I couldn’t come here due to a lack of time. That’s a different issue. So this is a wrong perception. Please correct it.”

Mr. Modi then spoke on the British referendum and proceeded to take a question on trade and economic cooperation from an Indian reporter. He never directly addressed the last part of Mr. Watt’s question.

Source: How Modi Dealt With Pointed Questions From the British Press – India Real Time – WSJ

18/10/2015

Top African leaders to meet PM Modi in his trademark jacket

PM Narendra Modi has not only gained prominence across world for giving a personal touch in his diplomatic efforts but he is also famous for his impeccable dress sense. Prime Minister will take the diplomatic skills to new level when he will host a dinner for top African leaders later this month.

Top African leaders to meet PM Modi in his trademark jacket

According to a report in The Times of India, All of the 42 heads of state and government, who are attending the 3rd India-Africa Forum Summit, from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to South African counterpart Jacob Zuma, will attend the dinner wearing Modi’s trademark jacket. They are specially designed by government agencies.

The bundi waistcoat that PM Modi made his own accessory will be at the heart of his latest bit of sartorial diplomacy. The sleeveless jackets will be available in several brilliant colours.

The African leaders will also be wearing unique ‘ikkat kurta’ (no pyjamas) being gifted to them by the government during their visit to India.

A senior African diplomat said to TOI that he was really impressed with the attention PM Modi was giving to the summit despite his hectic campaigning for Bihar elections.

Source: Top African leaders to meet PM Modi in his trademark jacket

23/09/2015

Prime Minister Popularity and Voter Optimism Have Soared in India Under Modi, U.S. Think-Tank Survey Shows – India Real Time – WSJ

In the sixteen months since Prime Minister Narendra Modi won a landslide victory in national elections, he has faced policy setbacks, parliamentary roadblocks and electoral failure. These appear to have had little impact on support for him.

A new report by the U.S.-based think tank Pew Research Center says Mr. Modi remains overwhelmingly popular among Indians. Among those surveyed, 87% said they have a favorable opinion of Mr. Modi. Unpacking that statistic gives Mr. Modi greater reason to celebrate. His popularity is the highest among two crucial demographic groups: 18 to 29 year olds and rural Indians. Nine out of 10 people in each category gave the leader of the world’s largest democracy a thumbs up.

Mr. Modi’s undented approval ratings come at a time when his appeal among investors and analysts has lost some of its sheen. India-watchers complain big policy pronouncements have been few and slow to come, limiting India’s growth potential. Far from sharing that pessimism, a majority of Indians are upbeat about their country’ economic prospects, the survey showed. More than half of the respondents said they were happy with the direction of their country, up from 29% in 2013, toward the end of the Congress party’s decade-long tenure when the economic was stuttering and corruption scandals dogged the government. More than 90% of those surveyed by Pew said they had faith in government, up from 70% two years ago. These findings raise key political questions.

Some strategists wonder why, given his once-in-a-generation mandate, Mr. Modi hasn’t pushed for tougher, more-disruptive measures to accelerate growth. His government recently backtracked on a policy that would have made it easier to acquire land for infrastructure and industry because of protests by opponents in Parliament and fear of a backlash from rural voters.

Others argue Mr. Modi is playing the long game, seeking to build on his popularity to consolidate more political power at state and local levels rather than risking it at an early stage on controversial policies. Leaders of his Bharatiya Janata Party say they are planning for at least two five-year terms under Mr. Modi’s premiership during which they hope their party, whose political authority has grown sporadically since its inception in 1980, will achieve the kind of dominance Congress enjoyed in the decades after India won independence from British colonial rule in 1947.

Such a strategy – and Pew’s data – explains why Mr. Modi is the BJP’s star campaigner. In the state of Bihar where elections are scheduled to begin next month, the BJP has not announced a candidate for chief minister, the person who would run the state if the party won. Instead, posters and hoardings are plastered with Mr. Modi’s face. To be sure, the Bihar polls won’t be easy. Caste allegiances play an important role in the vote and the incumbent regional leader, Nitish Kumar, is seen as an effective leader for development. A recent opinion poll by the Hindi-language ABP News channel and Nielsen showed the BJP and Janata Dal (United)-led alliances are neck and neck.

Source: Prime Minister Popularity and Voter Optimism Have Soared in India Under Modi, U.S. Think-Tank Survey Shows – India Real Time – WSJ

08/07/2015

India to roll out $20 billion food welfare plan by December | Reuters

India will roll out its multi-billion dollar food welfare plan by December, the food minister said, allowing 67 percent of its 1.2 billion people access to cheap rice and wheat.

Labourers unload sacks filled with wheat from a truck at the Punjab State Civil Supplies Corporation Limited (PUNSUP) godown at a wholesale grain market in Punjab, May 6, 2015. REUTERS/Ajay Verma/Files

The previous Congress-led government approved the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in August 2013. India’s 29 states and seven union territories had to implement it within a year.

After missing several deadlines, only 11 states could introduce the plan and the rest sought more time.

“Finally most states have agreed to implement the NFSA by December, after the latest deadline ends in September,” Ram Vilas Paswan told reporters after meeting his counterparts from states on Tuesday.

In his February budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley earmarked 1.24 trillion rupees ($20.11 billion) for food subsidies.

Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi is implementing the expensive food welfare plan approved by his predecessor Manmohan Singh, the government is now trying to rein in overall subsidies to focus on investment in manufacturing and infrastructure.

via India to roll out $20 billion food welfare plan by December | Reuters.

03/07/2015

Fridges, Cellphones and Divorce Rates: Independent India’s First Socio Economic and Caste Census – WSJ

India on Friday released the results of a census that gives the first large-scale picture of India’s caste and socio-economic makeup since 1932.

The numbers from the Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011 reveal where Indians live, what work they do and what kind of products they own. They are separate from the Census of India that is carried out every 10 years, and highlight major gaps in education and job opportunities.

Here are 10 key numbers, all relating to houses in rural areas, from the census.

TAX

4.58%

The percentage of households where someone pays income tax.

Less than 10% of households get their income from a salaried job. Of these, around 5% are employed in government jobs, just over 1% in the public sector and 3.5% in private entities.

In only 8% of households, the highest earning member makes Rs. 10,000 ($157) or more a month. It is hardly a surprise then, that fewer than 5% pay income tax.

REFRIGERATORS

11.04%

The percentage of households with a refrigerator. Whether they have the electricity to run it is another question.

Goa has the highest percentage of households in rural areas with a fridge–at 69%. By contrast, in Bihar, only 2.61% of households in the countryside have a fridge.

NO PHONES

50 million

Households that don’t own a landline or a mobile phone. Roughly 70% of the 179 million rural households in India own cellphones.

But 27% have neither a cellphone nor a landline. The eastern states of Chhattisgarh and Orissa, home to some of India’s largest indigenous populations, have the lowest access to telecommunications.

DIVORCEES

1,052,210

Divorced people living in rural areas. That’s just 0.12% of the population. Divorce is very rare in India.

FAMILY SIZE

4.93

Average household size in rural areas. Though in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most-populous state with 200 million people, the average number of people in a rural household is 6.26.

WOMEN HEADS

12.83%

The percentage of households headed by a woman.

MANUAL SCAVENGERS

180,657

The number of people who carry out manual scavenging, a practice of collecting human waste from primitive dry latrines by hand, which is outlawed but persists.  Manual scavengers are usually from the lowest rungs of the Hindu caste system (Indian Muslim communities have similar low-status members who perform this job) and women, according to U.S. human-rights group Human Rights Watch.

MECHANIZATION

4%

Of households own mechanized equipment with three or four wheels for carrying out manual labor through which they earn a living.

Nearly 40% of households don’t own land and earn wages through casual, manual labor. Agriculture is tough work, with 40% of rural land still lacking irrigation facilities.

LEARNING

35%

More than 35% of rural Indians are illiterate, with the highest numbers of those who can’t read or write coming from the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar.

MAKESHIFT HOUSING

45%

Nearly half of rural households still live in what are called “kuccha” houses, which include structures made of materials such as thatch, mud, plastic and wood.

via Fridges, Cellphones and Divorce Rates: Independent India’s First Socio Economic and Caste Census – WSJ.

21/04/2015

Rahul Gandhi’s Speech: The Indian Media’s Surprise Verdict – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s punditocracy in recent weeks has loved to hate Rahul Gandhi.

Mr. Gandhi, the vice president of India’s opposition Congress party, was derided by some opinion-makers for taking a break from frontline politics in mid-February–and not returning until mid-April. But on Monday, in a speech before Parliament, Mr. Gandhi surprised many pundits.

Not by what he said — he attacked, as expected, the government’s proposed changes to India’s laws on purchasing land — but by the fact that he spoke at all.

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Mr. Gandhi, who is a member of Parliament, rarely speaks in India’s lower chamber, the Lok Sabha. In fact, this was only his first address since Congress lost badly in national elections almost a year ago.

Congress’s loss provoked deep soul-searching within the party about its future. Mr. Gandhi was Congress’s prime ministerial hopeful in that drubbing.

On Monday, Mr. Gandhi blasted India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, and his Bharatiya Janata Party, for proposed changes to the Land Acquisition Act that, among other things would make it easier for businesses and the government to buy land for defense, industrial corridors, affordable housing and infrastructure projects by removing a requirement to obtain the consent of more than two-thirds of landowners.

Mr. Gandhi’s Congress party argues these changes are bad for India’s huge population of farmers, who he described in Parliament as the country’s backbone. “Everything has been built on a foundation that has been provided to us by the farmer,” Mr. Gandhi told lawmakers.

Pictures of Mr. Gandhi, dressed in a close-fitting white kurta and flanked by some of the party’s youngest members of Parliament, filled television screens and set his name trending on Twitter on Monday evening.

It also put the ruling BJP on the defensive after months of relatively limited challenges from the Congress party.  A piece in the Indian Express newspaper said the government was pushed into “damage control after Rahul Gandhi’s attack over the agrarian situation.”

Sanjay Singh, who writes about politics for Firstpost, wrote that Mr. Gandhi’s “rather aggressive pitching in Parliament has surely charged up Congress’ ranks.”

Another piece, posted on the IBNLive website of the Indian news channel CNN-IBN, said Mr. Gandhi had shown “he is back and he means business.”

“Maybe it is the low expectations,” the IBNLive piece said, “but Rahul Gandhi was definitely on fire.” The article was published with no byline.

via Rahul Gandhi’s Speech: The Indian Media’s Surprise Verdict – India Real Time – WSJ.

01/04/2015

Tandoori microwaves help Samsung woo India, counter global dip | Reuters

Microwave ovens that cook tandoori bread, smartphones that understand Tamil and washing machines designed to deal with humid, dusty cities: all part of Samsung Electronics’ push to conquer India and offset a global slump.

A man walks at the Samsung Electronics' headquarters in Seoul January 7, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/Files

The consumer electronics giant is betting big on Asia’s third-largest economy, at a time when overall sales have struggled against rivals like Apple. In January, Samsung reported its first annual group profit drop since 2011, and in February its first wage freeze for employees in Korea in six years.

One source familiar with Samsung said the group, one of the biggest players in the Indian consumer electronics market, would invest up to $1 billion in manufacturing units and in research and development, adapting products to local taste and needs.

While Samsung does not give a figure for its investments or revenue targets from India, senior officials say it plans to invest heavily in manufacturing and research. It already uses a 10,000-strong development team to tailor everything from fridges to air conditioning units for Indian consumers.

“While Prime Minister Narendra Modi is talking about ‘Make in India’, we are saying ‘Make for India’,” said Ranjivjit Singh, chief marketing officer for Samsung in India.

“It’s not just about manufacturing, that we’ve been doing anyway. But we are making products designed for India, and this doesn’t happen by luck.”

Singh said Samsung was also considering adding a new manufacturing unit. It already has three research centres and two factories.

“A lot of states have been approaching us for a new factory, but it is premature to talk about investments,” he told Reuters.

via Tandoori microwaves help Samsung woo India, counter global dip | Reuters.

21/03/2015

BBC News – India arrests hundreds over Bihar school cheating

About 300 people have been arrested in the Indian state of Bihar, authorities say, after reports emerged of blatant cheating in school exams.

Indians climb the wall of a building to help students appearing in an examination in Hajipur, in the eastern Indian state of Bihar

Parents and friends of students were photographed climbing school walls to pass on answers.

Many of those arrested were parents. At least 750 students have been expelled.

An estimated 1.4m students are taking their school leaving exams in Bihar alone – tests seen as crucial for their chances of a successful career.

The authorities have clearly been embarrassed by the cheating, the BBC’s Jill McGivering says, with the episode prompting ridicule on social media.

Students were seen copying answers from smuggled-in note sheets, and police posted outside test centres were even seen being bribed to look the other way.

via BBC News – India arrests hundreds over Bihar school cheating.

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