30 Jan :In order to step up procurement and thereby strengthen the public distribution system, the government has increased the minimum support price of wheat by Rs 80 to Rs 1,080 a quintal for the 2009-10 season.
"The MSP for wheat has been fixed at Rs 1,080 a quintal," Railway Minister Lalu Prasad said after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on Wednesday.
The MSP for wheat was Rs 1,000 per quintal for the 2008-09 marketing season. The procurement of wheat, a major rabi crop, starts from April and continues till June.
The Centre had increased the wheat MSP in accordance with the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), the nodal agency that suggests remunerative prices of various crops.
The significant increase in the wheat MSP was one of the major factors in the country’s record output of 78.4 million tonnes and the government’s procurement of 22.6 million tonnes last season.
India had to import over seven million tonnes of wheat during 2006 and 2007 to augment the buffer stock and run the public distribution system (PDS) as the procurement fell short of the targeted 15 million tonnes.
According to government estimates, the wheat stock will be nearly 10 million tonnes on 1st April, 2009, against the buffer norm of four million tonnes. In addition, there is a strategic reserve of three million tonnes of wheat.
In another important decision the Cabinet Committee on economic Affairs has given approval to 4 laning and 6 laning of important sections of National Highway, including Delhi-Agra highway.
The cabinet also decided central government employees recruited for Prasar Bharati will continue on deemed deputation basis and will continue to enjoy all government facilities.In another important decision, cabinet committee on Economic Affairs approved two special packages for ITI and 7 other sick PSUs to clear salary and other payments.
Govt relaxes norms allowing states to borrow Rs 30,000 cr more Operationalising the second stimulus package to boost the economy, the government has relaxed the debt relief guidelines allowing states to borrow an additional Rs 30,000 crore to step up capital expenditure.
The states can borrow an additional 0.5 percent of their Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP), amounting to Rs 30,000 crore, for capital expenditure without losing the debt relief benefits recommended by the Finance Commission, an official spokesperson said after a meeting of the union cabinet on Thursday.
Pursuant to the recommendations of the Twelfth Finance Commission, the government had permitted the states to borrow up to 3 percent of GSDP, a limit now raised to 3.5 percent.
The relaxation dealing with the fiscal deficit targets and borrowing ceiling of the states will be a one-time measure, the release said.
The Finance Ministry, a release said, could also allow states to borrow an additional 0.5 percent of GSDP, over and above 3.5 percent, for undertaking capital expenditure.
However, states borrowing more than the ceiling of 3.5 percent of their GSDP will not be entitled to debt relief benefits under Debt Consolidation and Relief Facility (DCRF).
The Finance Ministry, the release said, will be writing to the 13th Finance Commission to incorporate necessary changes in the debt relief formula under the DCRF scheme.
Besides, the states have also been advised to appropriately amend their Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Acts making room for more borrowings.
In order to battle the impact of the global financial meltdown on the country, the government came out with a second stimulus package earlier this month enhancing the borrowing limits of the states.
Govt approves Rs 18,238 cr projects for six laning of highways
The government has approved six laning of 1,409.93 km of highways in various states at an estimated cost of Rs 18,238 crore, under the National Highways Development Project (NHDP).
"The six-laning of nine sub-projects in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh under NHDP phase V was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) yesterday," an official spokesperson said in New Delhi on Thursday.
The CCEA approved Rs 550.68 crore project for four-laning of 65 km Vijayawada-Machilipatnam section in Andhra Pradesh under NHDP, he said.
All nine stretches, including Delhi-Agra, Kishangarh-Udaipur, Chandikhol-Jagatpur-Bhubaneshwar and Vijaywada-Elluru-Rajamundri, will be developed by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) under public-private-partnership (PPP).
Other stretches include Varanasi-Aurangabad, Nellore-Chilkaluripet, Krishnagiri-Walahjpet, Belgaum-Dharwad and Indore-Dewas sections.
The concession period for the nine stretches vary from 26 years to 30 years for various projects, including construction period of 30 months.
The NHAI would select private sector concessionaires through a two stage bidding process.
The first stage of the bidding process for pre-qualification of bidders has been completed while the second stage is in process.
The official said the government will provide a viability gap funding (VGF), which would not exceed 40 percent of Rs 550.68 crore total project cost for Vijayawada-Machilipatnam section in Andhra Pradesh.
The VGF excludes land acquisition, rehabilitation, resettlement and pre-construction.
About Rs 83 crore out of total project cost has been earmarked for land acquisition, rehabilitation, resettlement and pre-construction.
JNNURM guidelines revised to benefit urban poor
The government has revised the cost of a dwelling unit for the urban poor provided under the Integrated Housing and Slum Development Programme (IHSDP) from Rs 80,000 to Rs 1 lakh.
In a series of steps, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) took the decision to revise the guidelines for basic services to the urban poor in small and medium towns under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urbal Renewal Mission (JNNURM).
With the revision of the guidelines, the Centre has ensured that provisions of basic services, including security of tenure at affordable prices, improved housing, water supply, sanitation and ensuring delivery of other already existing services for education, health and social security, reached the urban poor in a time-bound manner.
It has been decided to reconstitute the central sanctioning committee of IHSDP to give representation to the department of expenditure and other relevant ministries.
With the aim of improving the livelihoods of the urban population living below the poverty line, the Cabinet has also approved the modifications in the guidelines of the Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana scheme.
The education limit criteria of "not educated beyond 9th Standard" in the Urban Self Employment Programme has been removed and now no minimum or maximum educational qualification level has been prescribed for the purpose of eligibility of assistance under the scheme.
The project cost ceiling for the self-employment has been enhanced to Rs 2 lakhs from the existing Rs 50,000 and the subsidy has also been increased to 25 percent of the project cost.