India’s monsoon rains are likely to be 97 per cent of their long-term average in 2018, its meteorological department said on Monday, reassuring farmers ahead of summer planting in a country where only half of the farmland is irrigated.
What are the categories of monsoon?
A normal, or average, monsoon means rainfall between 96 per cent and 104 per cent of a 50-year average of 89 cm (35 inches) in total during the four-month monsoon season from June, according to the India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) classification.
Rainfall below 90 per cent of the average would be classified as a drought. During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first two years in office, in 2014 and 2015, there were consecutive droughts that led to some criticism due to the government’s handling of the issue.
Rainfall above 110 per cent of the average would mean an excessive monsoon, which would not be as damaging as a drought but could be potentially harmful for the yields of certain crops. The monsoon season starts with rains on the southern Kerala coast around June 1, covering the whole country by the middle of July.
Why is the monsoon important?
The monsoon delivers about 70 per cent of India’s annual rainfall and determines the yield of key crops such as rice, wheat, sugarcane and oilseeds such as soybeans. The farm sector accounts for about 15 percent of India’s $2 trillion economy, but employs more than half of the country’s 1.3 billion people.
If monsoon rains lift farm output, it can boost demand for consumer goods as it raises incomes of rural people.
A stronger economic outlook would lift equities, mainly for companies selling products in rural areas, including consumer goods, automobiles, fertilisers and pesticides.
India is self-sufficient in crops such as rice and wheat, but a drought would require the country to import foodstuffs. In 2009, India imported sugar after poor rains, sending global prices to record highs and pushing up local inflation.
Monsoon rains replenish reservoirs and groundwater, allowing better irrigation and more hydropower output. Higher rainfall can trim demand for subsidised diesel, which is used to pump water from wells for irrigation.
How does the monsoon affect inflation and central bank policy?
Food accounts for 50 per cent of India’s consumer price index, which the central bank closely monitors while deciding on monetary policy. A bumper farm output would keep food prices under control.
During past droughts, the government supported farmers by giving out incentives, straining the fiscal deficit. A good monsoon will limit government spending on such measures.
How reliable is the monsoon forecast?
The IMD issues its first forecast typically more than a month ahead of the monsoon’s onset.
On average, its forecast has been accurate only once every five years over the past two decades, even after taking into account an error band of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
The IMD’s forecast for the 2017 monsoon was its most accurate since 2008. Last year, there was a difference of only 1 percentage point between the forecast and the actual rainfall. Even during normal monsoon years, some parts of India face drought, while some others suffer from floods.
The IMD will come out with a second forecast for the 2018 monsoon rains in June.
Why is the monsoon important for Prime Minister Modi ahead of the 2019 elections?
Modi, who has promised to double farmers’ income over five years, remains popular nearly four years into his term. Farmer unrest, however, has flared in some states ruled by his party, catching regional leaders flat-footed.
A normal monsoon could lead to higher output of summer-sown crops, helping state leaders placate farmers.
The board of directors of Fortis Healthcare will meet on Thursday to decide on investment offers received by the hospital chain.
Fortis has received two binding offers — a revised offer from TPG-backed Manipal Health Enterprises and a joint bid by Hero Enterprise Investment Office and the Burman family office — and a non-binding offer from Malaysia’s IHH Healthcare Berhard.
While IHH said on Monday Fortis had declined to engage with it on a takeover offer, citing binding agreements with other parties, Fortis informed the stock exchanges in the evening that its board had not taken a decision yet.
IHH, the world’s second-largest healthcare group by market capitalisation, had placed a non-binding expression of interest before the Fortis board on April 11, in which it had valued the company at Rs 160 a share. The offer had come a day after TPG-Manipal tweaked its offer to Rs 155 a share to soothe investors’ concerns.
IHH had, however, said its offer was subject to “satisfactory completion of a limited due diligence”.
Fortis has, meanwhile, got a Rs 1.5 billion bridge loan from a non-banking financial company to run its operations smoothly till it finds a buyer.
In a press statement issued earlier on Monday, Fortis said, “Last week, Fortis received two binding offers — one is a revised offer from MHEPL and the second is a joint binding offer from Hero Enterprise Investment Office and the Burman family office —expressing interest in the company. In addition, the company has also received a non-binding expression of interest from IHH Healthcare Bhd.”
The board of directors would be meeting this week “to look at all eligible options and determine the future course of action that is in the best interests of the company, employees and shareholders”, it stated.
A source close to the developments said, “The board cannot really entertain non-binding bids at this stage, as that would drag the process further.
Also, the real value of the company is in RHT (which owns the infrastructure of Fortis Healthcare), and it is critical to buy back these assets. Payment to RHT is already delayed. The Singapore-listed RHT would prefer a buyer that would honour the agreement between Fortis and them.”
Mar 1, 2018: Fortis releases its Q2, Q3 results, delayed after its auditor red-flagged certain related party transactions worth around Rs 5 bn
Mar 28: Manipal Hospitals and Fortis announce merger of their hospital businesses, creating the largest provider of healthcare services in India by revenue
|Investors, shareholders express dissatisfaction over deal valuation
Apr 5: On an application moved by Daiichi Sankyo, the Delhi HC asks Fortis to file an affidavit
Apr 10: TPG-Manipal revises its offer, increasing it by 21%
Apr 11: Malaysia’s IHH Healthcare offers up to Rs 160 a share in a
non-binding bid, up from Manipal’s Rs 155 a share
Apr 12: Sunil Kant Munjal of Hero Enterprise and the Burman family office propose to invest Rs 12.50 bn in two tranches
In February, Fortis and RHT Health Trust had entered into a definitive agreement to acquire RHT’s assets for an enterprise value of Rs 46.5 billion, including debts of Rs 11.52 billion, five years after the hospital chain had spun off these assets to the business trust. RHT’s portfolio comprises two hospitals, 12 clinics and four upcoming clinics that are operated by its subsidiaries. All these companies (RHT’s subsidiaries) will become Fortis’ subsidiaries after the proposed acquisition is completed.
TPG-Manipal is working on extending the validity of its revised offer, which was placed before the Fortis board on April 10, according to sources. The April 10 offer was valid for seven days.
Ranjan Pai, managing director and chief executive officer of Manipal Hospitals Enterprises, said if the full capital did not come in at this point, it would lead to a long-term value erosion for Fortis’ investors.
“It is not a Rs 10-billion problem, it is a Rs 40-billion problem. Long-drawn-out negotiations may trigger the insolvency process for Fortis,” he said.
On April 12, Sunil Kant Munjal of Hero Enterprise and the Burman family office, which owns around a 3 per cent stake in Fortis Healthcare, had proposed to invest Rs 12.50 billion in two tranches to take care of the urgent financial needs of the company, which is said to have only Rs 700 million in cash.
Given the complex nature of the deal and probable delay in its closure, the Fortis stock was down 1.94 per cent to Rs 149 at the end of Monday’s trade.
Investor consultancy firm IiAS said, “To evaluate the bids, shareholders need more credence at the board-level: all four members of the current board have been associated with either the Fortis group, the Religare group, or Ranbaxy for long tenures in the past,” it said.
“The decision on which bid to accept cannot be driven by valuation alone. There are questions regarding subsequent control and the issues regarding the current promoters need to be dealt with,” IiAS said.
There has been an upswing in investors’ interest in engineering-procurement-construction (EPC) projects.
They have bagged 80 per cent of those tendered last year by quoting rates lower than the reserve price.
These projects are expected to be completed in time because the clearances are in place. Investors are interested because the eligibility threshold to bid for such contracts has been lowered. The Union road transport and highways ministry had in January last year relaxed the eligibility criteria required to bid for them.
For instance, before January 2017, a company that wanted to bid for a Rs 10-billion contract was required to have finished jobs worth Rs 5 billion.
Now a company that has finished jobs worth Rs 2.5 billion qualifies to participate.
“Mid- and small-sized companies are eligible to participate in the tender, thereby widening the pool of investors,” a senior ministry official told Business Standard.
Earlier, large contractors bagged these contracts at a premium and employed small-sized companies as sub-contractors to finish them.
Road sector revival: Projects being awarded at lower than reserve prices
“With the new system in place, the margins have declined for mid-sized contractors and they can bag these projects as primary contractors,” an official said.
“There is a merit in what the government is saying. With the increased pace and amount of construction, and significantly higher targets to achieve, work will get sub-contracted,” said Puneet Narang, partner, Major Projects Advisory, KPMG India.
He adds the focus should be on three things — easing pressure on incumbents, free work front, and ensuring that the projects deploy skilled sub-contractors and a trained workforce, besides strong project governance, planning and controls.
In 2017-18, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) awarded 150 road projects for 7,400 km and worth Rs 1,220 billion.
In the last five years, the average length of road projects awarded by the NHAI has been 2,860 km, with 4,335 km awarded in the last financial year.
In the hilly terrain at the northern tip of Western Ghats, bordering Maharashtra and Gujarat, lies Surgana, an erstwhile princely state ruled by tribal chieftains of the Mahadev Koli tribe. Surgana joined the instrument of accession to be part of the Indian Union in March 1948. Seventy years later, in March 2018, it was the birthplace of the uniquely successful protest by the tribal folk and farmers of Maharashtra.
Minal Pawar, 32, and a graduate in commerce is the sarpanch (head) of the gram panchayat at Khobla village, 20 km from Surgana town in the northern district of Nashik in Maharashtra.
As she pulls her daughter, a toddler, to pacify her, she recalls how she led one group among the 25 that left from Nashik city on March 6. She took up the responsibility of leading farmers from six padas (hamlets) surrounding her village.
“When Gavit saheb informed us about the march, we spread the word to nearby villages in two days,” she reveals. Jiva Pandu Gavit, 67, member of legislative Assembly from the region since 1978 with brief interruptions, is a mass leader with a loyal support base and a strong organisation of volunteers in the tribal belt. He is the lone MLA of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Maharashtra.
The ownership of land being tilled for generations, pension for the old and subsidised food through the public distribution system have been the long-standing demands. Those leading the protest march added to this list their demand for loan waiver and remunerative prices for their produce.
“On the one hand, we cannot grow food even when the land is available, and on the other, we do not get subsidised food if the ration card is damaged or misplaced,” says Rahul Gavit, another young sarpanch of the nearby village of Hatrundi.
About 25-30 young workers like Minal and Rahul were given the job of leading a contingent of 500, and to ensure the availability of a water tanker and a pick-up truck for their group to carry daily essentials like rice, dal and oil, in addition to modest bedding for each of the members.
But this meticulous planning of making manageable groups of 500 each, entrusting the provision of food, water and bedding autonomously to a group leader, and continuous coordination between group leaders and march leaders was a daunting task, says Dr Ajit Navle.
Navle, 41, a general physician in Akole town in Ahmednagar district and the state general secretary of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), is one of the leaders of the protest.
“When you know that it is a fight for survival, mobilization does not need money,” he asserts. “Farmers and tribals have been looted for generations. We have marched to ensure ‘loot-vapsi’ and ‘loot-mukti’ of our people,” his voice rises.
About 300,000 farmer suicides have been reported in the last 20 years, which translates into 40 farmers ending their lives every day in India. Maharashtra, with more than 45,000, leads all states.
He believes that the farmers’ long march of March 2018 is markedly distinct from all farmer protests in the agrarian political history of Maharashtra. “Farmers’ movements till date were crop-specific. Late Sharad Joshi led massive rallies for cotton and cane farmers in the 70s and 80s, and underlined the importance of markets for farmers.”
“But this is the first time we gave a call to farmers across the state cultivating all kinds of crops, or even those engaged in non-crop activities like dairy and poultry,” he adds.
Growth in agriculture in a decade post-liberalisation had slipped to 1.74 per cent from 3.37 per cent ten years preceding liberalisation, a study by erstwhile Planning Commission had noted.
He, along with Ashok Dhavale, Kisan Gujar and Sunil Malusare—all of them members of AIKS and CPI (M)—traversed 25 districts of the state twice, once in February 2016 and later in April 2017 to bring voices of different farmers’ organisations together.
A member of the old guard of the CPI (M) from Maharashtra, Ashok Dhawale, 65, is a doctor by profession. He strongly believes that it was because of the incessant push from the Left that statutes such as the MGNREGA and Forest Rights Act (FRA) were legislated.
“This time, it is no different,” he says.
“The March 2016 ‘mahapadaav’ (mega gathering) in Nashik was the first successful protest in recent times. Then, both the October 2016 gherao of state-tribal minister’s residence—in Palghar, a tribal district north of Mumbai—and the May 2017 surrounding the house of agriculture minister—in Buldana district in Vidarbha region—got huge response from all kinds of farmers,” he explains the build-up of the protest over time.
The call for Bharat Bandh in June 2017—when farmers across Maharashtra refused to market their milk and vegetables—reached out to organisations like Shetkari Sanghatana from Western Maharashtra and Shetkari Jagar Manch from Vidarbha region, and culminated in the widely accepted leadership of Navle, Dhavale and Gavit—strong in the Nashik region, with support from organisations across the state.
At a meeting on February 16, 2018, at Sangli, the AIKS led by Dhavale, Gavit and Navle decided to march from Nashik, the hotbed of protests in the last three years, to Mumbai, the seat of the government, with at least 10,000 farmers.
Dhavale said that there were no corporate or political donations (from the opposition) to fund the protest. “We managed a part of it from concerned individuals, while most of it was borne by those who walked themselves,” he said.
Each group of 400-500 farmers was led by a small group of 6-7 people: leaders, drivers, scouts and cooks. The leaders collected raw food in the form of rice, dal and oil from the members themselves. The pick-up vehicle with scouts and cooks would leave early in the morning, visit a couple of places, finalise the place to rest and to eat and cook food in large containers for their group members.
“Only 70% of forest land claims in Surgana have been accepted, and to those accepted, only a portion of the original claim has been allotted. Some of them have received less than an acre,” says MLA and former AIKS state president Jiva Gavit.
‘Not holding or tilling the land in 2007’, when the rules of Forest Rights Act was framed, or ‘not entirely dependent on forest land for survival’ were the reasons given by the forest department while rejecting land claims.
“Had traditionally utilised lands been allotted and had the water flowing to the west in Gujarat been harvested by erecting bunds and weirs, tribal folk here would have been able to sow and harvest winter crops like wheat, which only a handful of farmers can do today,” says a pensive Gavit.
It was only when the march reached Thane that the farmers received external help, when member of Parliament Eknath Shinde, belonging to the BJP-ally Shiv Sena, offered water and ambulance services.
When the farmers waited at Azad Maidan, the final stop as leaders negotiated terms with cabinet ministers, they were offered the final meal. Jayant Patil of the Peasants and Workers Party of India, and MLA from Raigad crowd-sourced jowar and rice breads (bhakari) and masala-cooked dried fish (sukat)—traditional food plate in coastal Maharashtra—from households in his constituency and shipped them to Azad Maidan.
To commemorate the success, about five to six thousand farmers participated in a victory rally on April 2 in Kalwan, 50 km from Surgana.
“Why do you think a farmer chooses to kill himself instead of voicing his anger in protest? It is because he has lost all hope,” Navle says.
“A farmer deserves to live on his own with dignity, but he cannot fight the quest alone. Only collective action can bring out a change. This long march was one step in that direction”.
As Minal Pawar, who returned to her village a decade ago after graduation, says, “My people did not walk 170 km and got their feet injured for empty promises. Our protest will not stop until all demands are met.”
Infosys on Saturday announced it will hold an analysts’ meet on April 23 in Mumbai where the Bengaluru-based outsourcing giant is expected to unveil its new strategy.
The IT major on Friday reported a 2.4 per cent rise in the March quarter net profit and projected better revenues in FY19 as it focuses on digital business and increasing localisation in key markets like the US and Europe.
“This is to inform that the Company will organise an analyst meeting in Mumbai on April 23, 2018 at Hotel Taj Lands End, Bandra between 4:00 PM and 7:30 PM,” the company said in a BSE filing.
Infosys said the proceedings of the meet will be webcast live on the company’s website along with the presentations made at the event and transcripts of discussions.
Outlining the strategy, the firm’s CEO Salil Parekh on Friday said Infosys will focus on four pillars — scaling digital business ($ 2.79 billion in revenue currently), energising client’s core technology landscape via artificial intelligence and automation, re-skilling employees, and expanding localisation in markets like US, Europe, and Australia.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is undergoing treatment for kidney ailment, will take oath on Sunday for his new six years term in the Rajya Sabha.
The ceremony will take place in the chambers of Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu.
The 65-year old Jaitley was elected recently from Uttar Pradesh and will take oath at a special ceremony due to his health condition.
“The Union Minister of Finance & Corporate Affairs, Shri @arunjaitley will take oath as Member of Rajya Sabha tomorrow,15th April,2018. The Vice President & Chairman, Rajya Sabha, Shri @MVenkaiahNaidu will administer the oath to Shri Jaitley in his Chamber in Parliament House,” the Finance Ministry said in a tweet.
The ceremony is likely to take place at 11 am, sources said.
Jaitley was on April 3 once again appointed as the Leader of the Upper House following the re-election.
He has not been going to his North Block office since April 2. He underwent dialysis at AIIMS on April 9 and has been confined to a ‘controlled environment’ at home.
He had cancelled his scheduled foreign visits and had confirmed his illness in a tweet. “I am being treated for kidney related problems & certain infections that I have contracted,” he had tweeted.