Farooq Sacks Brother
Here blood is not thicker than political water (power). This was glaringly reflected in action when in Jammu and Kashmir, National Conference (NC) President Farooq Abdullah sacked his younger brother Sheikh Mustafa Kamal after he had slammed the coalition partner Congress scion, Rahul Gandhi. Kamal had remarked that Rahul had no role in the functioning of the state government. A news agency at Srinagar quoted Kamal as saying, “Rahul’s role is to run the Congress party and not the Jammu and Kashmir government. What has Rahul’s happiness or unhappiness to do with the functioning of the state government?”
Kamal’s remark against Rahul Gandhi had come in retaliation to Jammu and Kashmir Congress President Saifuddin Soz’s media statement that the Gandhi scion during his visit to the state last month was dismayed at the functioning of the alliance government. It must be mentioned here that Omar Abdullah holds the Chief Minister chair only with the blessings of Congress. Kamal has also been critical about the army over the issue of lifting of Armed Forces Special Powers Act, (AFSPA) a tough law that gives troops powers to detain and shoot at anyone they suspect to be a militant. The media reports have also quoted Kamal as saying that the army might be involved in a recent attack to scuttle the move to partially withdraw the AFSPA.
MICRO-FINANCE INSTITUTIONS OR MONEYLENDERS?
With increasing number of suicide of farmers, as government agencies and banks are distancing themselves away from their primary responsibilities, MFIs have succeeded in bringing more women in their fold, which are allegedly lending them on higher interest rates. Though MFIs have suffered a temporary setback after the Andhra crisis, the New Micro Finance Regulation bill proposed by Union Government has brought cheers to the ailing sector.
There was a time people were running after village landlords and Moneylenders in time of financial crises, family urgency, marriages, for medical expenses, education of children, to run a petty business and even for consumption. Sometimes interests were high and unbearable and many a time people had to mortgage their land, gold ornaments, household instruments etc. Now government-sponsored SHGs were formed in villages and slums. Microfinance institutions have replaced moneylenders. Even though the same old practices are still going on everywhere, the poor, downtrodden and economically backward classes, small traders and artisans are getting benefits from micro-loans provided by the new-age moneylenders called micro finance organisations.
The contentious issue still unresolved is the rate of interest. Which MFIs have claimed that they are charging 19 to 25 per cent, allegation against them is that they are charging not less than 30-60 per cent. Although the government has asked them to limit within 28 per cent and RBI has recommended being within 24 per cent. On the contrary, studies have found that the impact of such micro-finance services on the individual borrowers and community as a whole is far more exceeding than the price. There has been a lot of small enterprise boom; borrowers are free from the clutches of moneylenders and have options to choose from multiple service providers and products.
Yet another aspect of microlending debate has been the increasing number of farmers’ suicide in Andhra Pradesh—26 such suicides last year got linked with MFIs. In Odisha, out of 30 cases of farmers’ suicide, at least six cases were claimed to be linked with loan burden from MFIs. During the last year more than 53 farmers committed suicide for various reasons among them 29 were from Western Odisha. More than 3509 farmers have committed suicide in the state during the last 11 years. Reacting to the allegations, MFI leaders charged politicians and government with shifting responsibility as the government has failed to provide social security measures. They claim farmers are more indebted to banks and government-run cooperatives than MFIs.
Hirapur is a small and sleepy village under Begunia Block in Khurdha district. Almost all in the village are rural artisans, where weaving is the primary occupation. From children to old all toil and boil in machine and tools to eke out their living. Out of 120 families in the village 110 are weavers. Few of them have power looms and a majority of them have handlooms. Due to lack of capital and investments, modern machine tools and non-availability of varieties of yarn and above all lack of support from government agencies and banks they were not able to run machines and looms. When they got access to micro-credit through micro finance organisations things changed to some extent.
Shantilata Dei of this village was struggling hard to run her family of five including two daughters and a son. Though she owns a handloom to weave and prepare yarn, it was practically difficult for her to purchase raw materials. After 2009 when she joined local Joint Liability Group (JLG) and took up a loan of Rs 7, 000, and got increased the loan amount in subsequent years, she utilised the loan amount to develop her unit and gradually became self-sufficient in running her family. She is now earning Rs 3,000 a month as profit after selling sarees, she has been weaving.
Life was not smooth sailing for Khulana Nayak. There was a time when patta paintings, palm leaf paintings and writings, idol-making were traditionally and inherently done by men and women were looking after household chores. But now the scenario has changed. Women have cautiously trodden in this trade and production. Thanks to the support of micro finance institutions, those who have lent women the required money for purchasing raw materials, even facilitating market support. Many women like Khulana are running their families. She joined the JLG three years ago. Within this period she along with her daughter has almost taken over the art of patta painting, has been making hundreds of pieces in a month. Her husband and son are assisting her to collect raw materials and selling and marketing the products. A native and a resident of Raghurajpur known as “Artists’ and Heritage Village” in Puri district, Khulana could well manage to showcase her products to Indian and foreign tourists.
Given the scenario of all-round success stories of women entrepreneurs, it has been amply proved that they have left far behind their male counterparts in dominating the financial wellbeing of the family. They do not want to limit themselves to four walls of their home. They have come out of the veil and have apparently moved to where male were dominating. All these happened following the financial support of Adhikar Microfinance which had extended a helping hand to the artisan families to develop their business.
But things now have changed due to crisis in micro-finance sector in Andhra and owing to unhealthy competitions. Banks have stopped lending to MFIs. As a result of this MFIs in the state have squeezed their operations.
When asked a senior industry specialist said: “Poor people remain poor not because any fault of their own, but because we have designed institutions and policies that keep them poor. No matter how hard they try, they remain trapped in poverty because of these institutions and policies.”
While speaking to this correspondent Md N Amin, Vice President, Sadhan, Odisha chapter, said, “It is unfortunate that as per the figure available more than 70 per cent of the population is still outside the purview of the banking infrastructure. In the name of priority sector lending a large amount of credit and subsidy is channelised to the large farmers or for mechanisation. And the poor continue to suffer.”
He further added, “The SHG movement has been successful in bringing drinking water, improvement in health conditions, increasing the status of the poor as a whole. I would like to say that this is the only programme where almost all money reaches to the targeted poor. There are efforts to address the very poor. Here the role of the government and the NGO is very important. The role of the RBI is very encouraging. A number of steps have been taken so that the poor living in the remote corner of the state can avail the banking facilities. But the mindset of the bankers takes a long time to change. Some of the examples are no frill account, relaxation in KYC norms, OTS for below Rs 25000 general purpose credit cards. In order to avail this facility there is a strong and committed local leadership required.”
Micro-finance sector in Odisha has achieved incredible growth in terms of both outreach and sustainability. Importantly, the mainstream financial sector has increasingly recognised the micro-finance sector as an important ally in expanding financial inclusion to the unreached and under-reached segment of the population. Odisha MFIs are also operating in the most poverty-stricken and high-risky areas like Malkangiri, Koraput, Rayagada and Nowarangpur districts. The total turnover of MFI-based loan disbursement will be to the tune of Rs 1500 crore in the state. At least 50 leading MFIs are operating in the state with 10,000 staff and out of them 3000 are women employees.
Sources close to the sector said that MFIs had roped in about 20,00,000 women as members of their lending groups. They have covered almost all 30 districts in the state working in 198 blocs. MFIs offer various loan products like income generating loans, housing loans, sanitation loans, mobile loan, crop/agriculture loan, dairy/livestock loan, education loan, festival loan and consumption loan. Both loanee and spouse are covered with insurance. Some of the leading MFIs in the state with loan disbursement to the tune of Rs 100 crore are Adhikar 238 crore with outstanding of 55 crore, People Forum 88 crore with outstanding of 24 crore, Gram Utthan 221 crore with outstanding of 40 crore, SMCS 120 crore with outstanding of 22 crore and BISWA with more than 100 crore. Other than these agencies national MFIs like SKS, Spandana, Share, Asmita and Bandhan are also working in the state.
By SUDARSHAN CHHOTORAY from Bhubaneswar
Though the Abdullahs soon after criticism in Delhi over Kamal’s comments had publicly distanced themselves from Kamal’s statements and dismissed them as “unfortunate” but did not initiate any action against him. Sources have revealed that Congress leadership in Delhi in its first assertion of authority and command in the last three years of NC-Congress coalition in a snub categorically told Farooq Abdullah, National Conference patriarch and who is also the minister of New and Renewable Energy in Manmohan Singh’s cabinet to bridle his younger brother from spilling anti-Rahul, anti-Delhi and anti-Army remarks. Working obsequiously on the warning from Delhi, Farooq in a late night telephonic call asked Kamal to tender his resignation, both as NC’s chief spokesman and Additional General Secretary. Kamal has recently been given charge of the two important positions in the party.
Farooq also made his embarrassment public through National Conference’s media cell. A NC’s press release read: “President of Jammu & Kashmir National Conference Dr Farooq Abdullah has asked Dr Mustafa Kamal to resign immediately as the Additional General Secretary and chief spokesman of the party. Dr Farooq Abdullah said that he had to take this difficult decision because Dr Mustafa Kamal has been making certain statements which are not in tandem with the policies of the National Conference and are against the coalition dharm. Dr Abdullah said Jammu & Kashmir National Conference is committed to the National Conference-Congress coalition government and its smooth functioning and any indiscipline in this regard within the National Conference will not be tolerated.”
THE MICRO-FINANCE INSTITUTIONS (DEVELOPMENT & REGULATION) BILL-2011
The bill includes all the organisational form that is providing micro-finance services to the poor. More importantly, the bill has specifically recognised micro-finance institutions as extended arm of banking and also includes provision for “thrift services” through micro-finance institutions. Significantly, according to the bill, micro-finance services extended by any micro-finance institution registered with the Reserve Bank shall not be treated as money-lender for the purpose of any state enactments relating to moneylenders and usurious loans.
Sadhan, the Association of Community Development Finance Institution, welcomes the government’s proposal of the Micro-finance Institutions (Development and Regulation) Bill 2011. The bill would reinforce the sense of legitimacy of micro-finance operations, besides providing clarity on regulatory jurisdiction and comfort to the bankers and lenders of micro-finance institutions. The bill reaffirms the sector’s position in defining micro-finance as extended arms of banks and financial institutions.
The bill is comprehensive and provides for most requisite provisions for regulation of the micro-finance sector in the country. The provisions are: Inclusion of all legal forms under the proposed Act; provisions for composite financial services including thrift; the bill includes all the organisational form that is providing micro-finance services to the poor, the RBI as the sole regulator for the sector; developmental and advisory role of the Councils, Ombudsman scheme for client protection and grievance redressed; provision for recognition to the self-regulatory organisations in promotion and compliance of code of conduct by member MFIs.
Sadhan putting together, has a total client outreach of more than 26 million and an outstanding portfolio of Rs 22000 crore.
Kamal as a loyal party soldier while confirming his resignation said that he had stepped down from both his posts. “I have made some innocuous and harmless remarks. I have now stepped down from both the posts. Perhaps I failed,” Kamal stated. Kamal was number two in the party. He in comparison with his elder brother has been a sober man in his sixties and a bachelor. As Farooq Abdullah is much more flamboyant with great maverick skills, Kamal from the beginning has kept a low profile, preferring to live in the political shadow of his elder brother and now his son, Omar Abdullah. He is a legislator from Hazrat Bal Constituency in Srinagar as he lost his traditional Tangmarg seat in the last elections.
Political commentators however say that Kamal has been made a scapegoat as he was only towing the Abdullah’s recent stances on Rahul, Armed Forces Act or other things. “Kamal does not have the political ambitions or powers to make any of the above comments without the approval of the party high command”, said a senior journalist in Srinagar. And the series of verbal spats between Congress and National Conference leadership in recent times further give credibility to the fact that Kamal Mustafa is no authority. All is not well within the coalition kitty of Congress and National Conference in Jammu and Kashmir. Congress leaders, who had so far chosen not to go public against the NC leadership, too have already come out in the open.
In response to the adamant public assertion of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah that he would not listen “NO” to revoke the AFSPA ‘within days’, Saifuddin Soz openly made his displeasure known against the Omar for not taking into confidence the state Congress leadership regarding an important decision over AFSPA revocation. And in endorsement of Soz, another senior Congress leader Taj Mohiuddin, who also happens to be the PHE Minister, in an open defiance of Omar’s stand said that time was not ripe for the revocation of the controversial Act. In response, Farooq said that since Home Minister P Chidamaram had been consulted by his son, there was no need to consult Soz. And then Soz attacked the NC over the mysterious death of its worker, Haji Yusuf, allegedly involved in money laundering to sell political and bureaucratic posts in the state. Yusuf had died soon after meeting the Chief Minister at his residence last month. Given that the NC had already took some flak about the alleged deliberate delay in probing Yusuf’s death, Soz taking a dig at NC remarked that by delaying the probe, it would ‘lose its meaning’.
KERALA TOURISM TO LAUNCH ONLINE GAMING
Kerala tourism has tied up with India’s largest gaming company, Zapak to launch an interactive online game to unfold the state’s tourism destinations to gamers around the world.
Exploring the entire stretch of God’s Own Country on a bike or houseboat or trailing a ‘God’s Own Treasure’ may take only a few minutes now, thanks to a new online game.
The game will have a hand-drawn map of Kerala with a trail and markings for the important tourist attractions in the state. The gamer can use various modes of transport to travel through the state—a rented car, a tourist bus, a rented bike or a traditional boat. Once the gamer reaches a location, there is also a treasure to discover—‘God’s Own Treasure’. The treasures are hidden in a temple or a church, a historic monument, a beach or a national park. A photography mode allows the gamer to click away in a destination. Good photographs will earn more points.
“Kerala Tourism has always tried to innovate and engage the latest tools of marketing to promote its products and destinations,” said Kerala’s Tourism Secretary TK Manoj Kumar, while speaking to Uday India.
“Our gaming initiative is going to be another first in the country in tapping the vibes of the generation next and drawing them to explore new tourist spots. Besides being an exciting game, learning about new places and cultures will be the value addition for them,” he added.
Kerala Tourism Director Rani George, IAS, while speaking to Uday India said: “It is a novel tool by which one can explore Kerala by following the trail through different levels. The environments of the travel typify the various natural, urban and country settings in Kerala.”
“Apart from the excitements as a game, it also adds a real-time element by giving a Google Maps location link and information on how to get to a destination.’’ Zapak (www.zapak.com) is India’s largest gaming company that addresses the complete value chain of digital gaming. With currently over 7.5 million registered gamers, zapak.com is not only the largest casual gaming site in the country but also amongst the top gaming sites in the world.
Zapak owns the largest chain of dedicated gaming cafes in the country Zapak GamePlex. These are first of their kind, high speed gaming cafes that offer world-class gaming content to the Indian user. Presently, there are over 100 cafes in more than 40 cities in India. Zapak Games, the licensing and merchandising arm of Zapak, has created one of India’s largest retail distribution networks with presence in over 5,000 retail outlets across 135 cities all across India.
Using technology in promoting tourism is nothing new to Kerala Tourism. In February this year, Kerala Tourism launched two new technology-driven schemes (Bring Home a Friend and Audio Guide) to market the state’s tourism destinations. Under ‘Bring Home a Friend’, targeted at the huge Malayalee diaspora,
non-resident Keralites can invite friends from their places of stay to Kerala and earn free holiday back home for themselves. The ‘Audio Guide’ initiative, the first by a state in India, allows a visitor to receive audio tours of the state’s tourist destinations on their mobile phones by dialing a dedicated number.
By Reshmi Padma from Thiruvananthapuram
Earlier, when Soz had stated that RahuL Gandhi was not happy with government running in Jammu and Kashmir, questioning Soz’s comments, Omar had said, “I don’t know whether Soz Sahab is authorised to speak on behalf of Rahul Gandhi. I am sure if Rahul has certain feelings about the governance in Jammu and Kashmir, he will make known to me.” Meanwhile, in an interesting spin of events, the infuriated Sheikh Mustafa Kamal has started queering his nephew Omar Abdullah’s pitch and exposing brother Farooq Abdullah.
In a recent media interaction, he said that he issued statements against the Congress, New Delhi, Saifuddin Soz, and even Rahul Gandhi as per the mandate given to him by the authority. In other words, he suggested that his statements were actually the statements of the party (read Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, he himself and general secretary Sheikh Nazir). He did not stop here. He went on to say that Omar Abdullah was under the baneful influence of the “coterie” that had surrounded him and that poisoned his ears against him (Kamal). In other words, he suggested that Omar Abdullah was just incapable of taking right decisions and that it was the “coterie” that is ruling the roost.
By Prakriiti Gupta from Jammu
Abhishek plz make this article in Box