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Archive for the ‘Getting to the deep end’ Category

GoI spins a ‘no, I really do love you!’ to Cooperative Banks as a relief to farmers

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The demonetization drive made a whole lot of cash, (80+% of the total cash in circulation actually) flow into the nationalized banks and severely affected the balance sheets of cooperative banks. A friend flagged a Deccan Herald news report asking for my opinion. And I stumbled upon how the GoI spins a ‘no, I really do love you!’ to Cooperative Banks as a relief to farmers.
Apparently, the GoI decided in its cabinet meeting on 24th Jan that interest for the 2 months of Nov-Dec. would be waived on short term crop loans taken by farmers in the Q1 & Q2 of FY16-17 and allocated Rs. 660 Cr. towards that. The original press release from Cabinet Secretariat can be found in item # 5 of Cabinet decisions in Jan 2017.
As stated in the last paragraph of the press release the Rs. 660 cr. is to cover the interest subvention and administrative cost incurred by NABARD on additional short term borrowing of Rs. 20,000 crore for on-lending to Cooperatives Banks in the current financial year. 3% cost of the interest subvention scheme and 1% of that towards administrative costs(which seems reasonable) matches up with this number. This additional Rs. 20,000 Cr. credit made available is communicated through item #1 in of Cabinet decisions in Jan 2017 with the following explanation:
In the light of good monsoon and expectation of increased credit demand and in order to boost agricultural production, the farmers need to be supported through Cooperative Banks, which purvey credit at their doorstep, to enable them to scale up their agricultural operation.
The approval will ensure increased availability of short term crop loans to farmers through Cooperative banks at reduced rate of interest.
BTW, DH news report got the numbers mixed up: of the announced Rs. 1060.5 Cr., the amount left for the waiver of (2 months) interest on the short term crop loans would be 400 Cr. This would be sufficient to cover the cost of the interest waiver (@ the post income subvention scheme rate of 4%) on a sum total of Rs. 6,000 Cr.
PS: I did not search out what was the total short term crop loans disbursed in Q1 & Q2 of FY16-17. The DH news report does note that Rs. 7.56 lakh crore was the total credit disbursed by the banks for this period under the agricultural credit category. But note that this includes not just short term crop loans but other categories of agricultural credit too.
Wow, if we are to trust this number in the DH news report, then all of 0.8% of the total agricultural credit disbursed in Q1 & Q2 of FY16-17 were as short term crop loans? This really needs some digging and verification. I suspected it would be small but this is way too small a slice of the pie !

Written by Dwiji

Thursday, January 26th, 2017 at 07:56

On planning. executing. responding.

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The idea of removing large value currency due to large scale counterfeiting is a good thing. I also agree that it is important to make it a surprise move. The logistics of the currency exchange in a country with a population and geography as India is a big challenge that almost no one has dared to undertake in the recent past. So irrespective of the merits of the exercise, kudos to the powers that are for taking on a challenge that most would have shied away from.

The first impact of any news among people living on the edge is almost always the same – panic. This is true not just in rural India, it is true even for the most urban communities of the most developed countries (think reactions to news of terrorist attacks, storms, hurricanes, etc.). And when the currency exchange bomb was dropped, the response was no different. People were scampering from pillar to post to convert the few 500 and 1000 rupee notes they have to the new/fresh currency. And they still are, even after a week.

Most day to day needs would cost around 100 to 200 rupees (thankfully!!). So what does one do with the new 2000 rupee notes when nobody is ready to part with the few smaller denomination currencies they have? So now they are scampering around for new currencies of the large denominations AND for smaller denomination older currencies.

A few simple questions about the implementation of the currency exchange policy. Not whether the currency exchange is warranted; Not Whether it will achieve its objectives. Just on Planning. Execution. Responding. :

  1. When you are rolling back 500 and 1000 rupee notes, would you not want to make sure that the smaller value new currency reaches the people first rather than the larger value one?
  2. When you are planning a roll back of the 500 and 1000 rupee notes, could a whole load of 100 rupee notes not have been printed and dispatched to currency exchange centers to service the obviously expected rush for legal currency to transact business with?
  3. What is the number of people estimated to land at a currency exchange center in an hour? Had sufficient currency reached these centers even a few days after the announcement? Were there sufficient people working at these centers to service the rush? Could some other personnel not have been pulled in to do assist in this work?
  4. How are you any different when the people who were already being crushed under the wheels of ‘development’ get crushed further ? (access and ability to use cash is what defines the poor !!)
  5. Could you not have chosen a better time than the planting period for the rabi crop? Ok, you missed it. But when you created exceptions for transport agencies (and later on added) utility companies and other amenities but EVEN in that list you do not include agri input vendors, who are your advisors? what news are you reading? Who does your heart blead for??

Taking on a challenge: brave

Not preparing adequately : unwise, foolhardy.

Not taking the plight of small traders, farmers, labourers :  callous.

Responding to cries of the middle class : playing to the gallery.

Written by Dwiji

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016 at 07:35

Parameters to compare different millet grain hulling machines

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This is a Q that keeps coming up again and again. And given how much impact this has on realizing more millet processing units, I am kicking myself for not having posted this earlier.
There are many individuals and organizations thinking of starting millet processing. And everyone arrives at a realization that the biggest challenge is in getting a good dehusking machine. This is only part of the challenge, but thats for another day. So how does one evaluate the performance of a dehusking / hulling machine? Broadly, we can look at these parameters under two categories.
What does it take to get it to work?
These are reasonably self evident and do not need too much explaining.
  1. How much electric power will it require to run?
  2. Does it require 3 phase or single phase electricity?
  3. What is the minimum quantity needed to get decent output?
  4. How many people are needed to get the design output?
  5. How much floor space does it require?
  6. Does it require an elevator to load grains into the machine?
  7. How many times do the grains need to be processed before we get desired quality output?
When working, what does it deliver & how much of it?

There are four parameters to quantify this:

  1. hulling efficiency: how many unhulled grains come through in 100 grains of the output after one pass through the huller.
  2. rice recovery percentage: weight of the rice fraction in the output as a percentage of input material.
  3. grain shattering percentage: the weight of the shattered grains in the output as a percentage of the input material
  4. through put / capacity: What is the maximum quantity of input grains it can process in an hour?
  5. bran loss & damage to bran estimation: how white are the millet rice kernels in the output? And what is the estimate on the extent of damage to the bran layer?
Note that the unhulled grains and the broken/shattered rice kernels in the output should be separated before weighing for the rice fraction or the shattered grains fraction of the output.
Do ask the machine supplier these questions / for the values of these parameters. This information could be in the product brochure or as part of a third party evaluation report. If you are looking to process a particular millet, make sure the numbers they share are for that millet. Yes, millets are rain fed crops and there will be variations based on variety, season, etc. But having these numbers and estimates is essential to understand how well the machine performs and what has gone into designing (and refining) it.
If you are looking for a machine to process multiple millets, please ask them to share information for at least three of them – either foxtail or little millet, kodo millet, and either proso millet or barnyard millet.

Written by Dwiji

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016 at 00:02

Facebook for Free Basics the (dis)ingeneous (feel) good campaign

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So yesterday’s Deccan Herald B’luru edition had an Ad – Two full pages. See the attached image. I am christening it the Facebook for Free Basics or the #FB4FB campaign.

The #FB4FB ad in the Dec 23rd, 2015 Deccan Herald, B'luru Edition

The #FB4FB ad in the Dec 23rd, 2015 Deccan Herald, B’luru Edition

So FB sees enough coming about from FB that they are not just using their own platform to sell FB. Well, if the ISPs and TSPs are going to make money, why leave out famous English dailies in leading newspaper markets of the country! Spread the wealth? Trickle down economics? Psst: If you don’t write anything bad about FB in your editorial pages or news reports, there will be more goodies for you !!

Anyway, let me do a point by point re-interpretation of the 10 claims in the Ad:

#FB4FB : Free Basics is open to any carrier. Any mobile operator can join us in connecting India.
#WhatFBreallyMeans : Free Basics is open to any carrier. Any mobile operator can join us in connecting India … to the websites that have conform to _our_ standards i.e. _our_ preferences and _our_ limitations.

#FB4FB : We do not charge anything for Free Basics. Period.
#WhatFBreallyMeans : We do not charge anything for Free Basics. Period. … But we will only let you see the content that our ‘friends’ offer.

#FB4FB : We do not pay for the data consumed in Free Basics. Operators participate because the program has proven to bring more people online. Free Basics has brought new people on to mobile networks on average over 50% faster since launching the service.
#WhatFBreallyMeans : We do not pay for the data consumed in Free Basics. Operators participate because the program has had the cash registers ringing ! see -6- below.

#FB4FB : Any developer or publisher can have their content on Free Basics. There are technical specs openly published here: some url. and we have never rejected an app or publisher who has met these technical specs
#WhatFBreallyMeans : Any one who meets our technical specs (and our service agreement) is in. Otherwise you are out.

#FB4FB : Nearly 800 developers have signed their support for Free Basics.
#WhatFBreallyMeans : We have managed to find 800 developers out of the few lakh content generators that are out there on the internet. And oh ! these ‘nearly 800’ have only signed their support, we are not sure if their content is on FB yet.

#FB4FB : It is not a walled garden: In India, 40% of people who have come online through FB are paying for data and accessing the full internet within the first 30 days. In the same time period, 8 times more people are paying than staying on just the free services.
#WhatFBreallyMeans : It is a great deal for the telecom service prodviders ! We have a saying in FB, data wins arguments. Look at the numbers. Look how much more money you can make, if you are a TSP/ISP.

#FB4FB : Free Basics is growing and popular in 36 other countries, which have welcomed the program with open arms and seen the enormous benefits it has brought.
#WhatFBreallyMeans : Gimme a break ok, there are 36 other countries who have accepted what we are offering without questioning us. Why do you ask so many questions? Let us just save the poor souls by getting them to access the FB world !!

#FB4FB : In a recent representative poll, 86% of Indians supported Free Basics by Facebook, and the idea that everyone deserves access to free basic internet services
#WhatFBreallyMeans : Internet.org was too distinct, it stood out by itself. So we had a crack team work on it and we changed the name to FB. After all when we are trying to sell a platform, it has to (a) appear ubiquitous (Free Basics internet service is nothing but free basic internet service) and (b) have the same acronym as our primary product ! 🙂

#FB4FB : In the past several days 3.2 million people have petitioned the TRAI in support of Free Basics.
#WhatFBreallyMeans : We set up a ‘send a petition’ page on FB that gave people a single big blue button to click reading ‘send email’. No cancel, no small or big ‘x’ to close the pop up screen anywhere. Simplicity, no choices. he! he! he! he! gotcha !!

#FB4FB : There are no ads in the version of Facebook on Free Basics. Facebook produces no revenue. We are doing this to connect India and the benefits to do so are clear.
#WhatFBreallyMeans : FB does not make money on FB. But our partners do. see -6- above. And FB is saving the world, it is connecting India to the FB world! what more can you ask of us!!

Written by Dwiji

Thursday, December 24th, 2015 at 05:30

Tech Fixes – The unique ID project in India

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I have major concerns about this whole Unique Identification Number project, recently in the news in India, on three grounds :

  • who is doing it?
  • which problem are they trying to fix? and
  • how will the proposed solution solve the stated problem?

Who is doing it?

As I posted in the comments section on Ashwin’s article at India Together, the primary issue I have with the UIDA is that is an “Authority”. One that is not directly accountable to the people.

The establishment of more and more ‘Authorities’ is very unnerving. Cities are no longer governed by elected representatives, services like water, sewage, electricity are being either contracted to fully private entities or carted out as PPPs. In spite of CAG reports that indicate that these entities are as corrupt and inefficient as the govt., we seem to be heading towards creating more such bodies to decide on a bigger slice of the ever shrinking pie of resources.

Technological solutions to governance issues are like pain killers, good till you are popping the pills. Good governance can be realized and sustained only through an aware and participative citizenry.

Which problem are they trying to fix?

According to media reports, the objectives of having a UID range from national security to govt. programs to law enforcement to access to medical records to ‘having a homogenized identification’ – something that doesn’t show one’s caste, class, religion, region, etc. The last reason being the most disturbing. It will take ages before we have a citizenry that is aware and participates in civic issues. So we might as well use technology to show that we are trying to ensure citizen rights. Especially when we are talking about contracts worth thousands of crores !

How will the proposed solution solve the stated problem?

Almost every one going ga-ga on this seem to think the challenge is purely technological and that this challenge can be easily overcome by The Great Indian IT Prowess. Well, storing a billion numbers and running a few lakh simultaneous compare operations is only one part of the challenge. One needs to look at (if and) how this solution would reach a jawan patrolling in Kashmir, or a ration shop contractor in a village in rural India let alone the lakhs of other places where we use identification.

As I see it, like the interlinking of rivers, this is yet another mega-mega project that is intended to show that we are fixing the problem. The lack of an informed and public debate on this and the structures being used do not reflect well on our much proclaimed democratic ethoes. Running after such solutions, we are loosing focus of the problem and the root causes will lie unaddressed that much longer.

http://mnic.nic.in/ is the under construction web site of the agency set up to translate the UIDAI’s UID to a card. The wikipedia page on this has some background information though it is more than a year old.

Written by Dwiji

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 at 15:49

Report on Action 2009

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More than a thousand representatives from movements and struggles from across the country converged to Jan Mantar for a two day dharna. Objections and concerns about the amendments being introduced to the Land Acquistion Act (1894) and the draft Rehabilitation & Resettlement Bill were presented by the movements from more than 15 states. Eminent citizen and activists like Kuldip Nayyar, Jst. Rajender Sachar, among others shared their concerns about the government’s (in)actions and intentions in trying to table these bills without any public debate or consultation.

The primary demands of the dharna were:

  • Abolish the Land Acquisition Act of British Legacy

  • Issue a White paper on Land Acquisition, Displacement and Rehabilitation for the last 60 years

  • Shelve the two Bills and hold a national consultation on the NAC approved draft along with the displaced people and the people’s organizations and

  • Institute a Joint Parliamentary Standing Committee for the discussion on the two Acts

The Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill was introduced by the UPA government in the last session of their previous term; however, while it was passed in the Lok Sabha, it could not go through a vote in the Rajya Sabha. The Bill endorses the view that ‘private’ purpose, implying corporate and private commercial interests, is synonymous with ‘public’ purpose. The Bill in its current form negates the process of consultation that began with the National Advisory Council (NAC) and people’s movements, where a comprehensive Development Policy was drafted, keeping in mind concerns of the people.

Speakers underlined that the interlinked nature of the two subjects, land acquisition and Rehabilitation & Resettlement was the basis on which the comprehensive Development Policy was drafted in a people centric manner following the consultations at the National Advisory Council. Voices from across the country opposed the plan to (re)introduce these two bills as regressive steps.

A people’s parliament, जन संसद, was organized on the second day of the dharna. People from different places presented their arguments on the idea of comprehensive development, land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement. Rajya Sabha MP Ali Anwar presided over a session of the Jan Sansad and expressed his continued support to people’s struggles for justice. Speaking from experiences of the havoc wrecked by various projects undertaken in the name of development, the shameless non compliance of current norms for land acquisition and rehabilitation was laid out in stark detail. The dharna ended with a crescendo of slogan decrying the government’s anti people action and a symbolic throwing of the draft bills in water.

Written by Dwiji

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 at 15:33

“Nature’s terror not rain”

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If it was a normal year, end of July is the time when the rains are just starting up in Sitapur. This year, the rains had started by late May and a steady downpour had resulted in flooded fields and swamped paths around the district. When we reached Sitapur in the last week of July, people were fairly certain that the worst was yet to come, given that the real monsoon months were coming up. Bracing for worse conditions is a coping mechanism that most of us employ and we felt that this might be the case here.

As days rolled on, we realized that indeed the rains were continuing at a steady pace. By 14th July there were reports of flooding in low lying villages and by the 18th parts of Kunwarapur, and some of the other villages that we had visited frequently during our stay earlier in the year, were under water.

Most houses in this part of the land are built of mud and straw roof. They might have one room with a mud roof on wooden rafters within which they store their grains and other valuables. There are some houses with brick walls, but most of these have mud roof on wooden rafters as well. Only a few houses are built of brick & mortar and have concrete roofs. The straw roofs are quite resilient against rain and as long as the water flows off they hold out pretty well. The mud walls though are a different story. One could see lots of grass and small plants growing on the top of the walls. And one by one, the walls began to melt and collapse under the persistent rains even in villages where there was no standing water. Soon, the reports of houses and villages flooding seemed to be far outpaced by reports of collapsed walls, caved in roofs and lost grains.

The day we arrived in Sitapur, Umesh Pandey, a local Bharatiya Kisan Union leader offered to drop us in Mishrikh. He is a local politician with a good sense of humor and a fairly good vocabulory. While driving along the state highway we had noticed that the fields on either side were flooded and very few fields had any standing crops. When asked if the rains this time around was normal, he said, “Bhaisaab, is baar jo ho raha hein, woh barish nahi, prakrutik aatank hein!” (“Dear sir, what we are seeing this year is not rain but nature’s terror”). After about a month in the region and after seeing the lost crops, collapsed walls, lost grains, widespread ill health, severly affected cattle, and a few lost lives, his words seem so true.

Written by Dwiji

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008 at 02:22

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