May , 2024
16:12 pm

Dr. H. P. Kanoria

Dear Readers

On 17th April, 2024, Lord Rama’s birthday was celebrated. Lord Rama and Ma Sita are one of the ideal mythological couples of our Nation. Apart from India, Indonesia is one of the countries which is heavily influenced with the teachings of the epic Ramayana, in spite of being an Islam dominated county. Lord Rama’s teachings have spread the messages like unity among diversity and being dutiful with love for parents, sacrifice for peace in family, cordial family relation, fighting with brutes to establish righteousness and order. Because of an oath King Dasharatha had made to her queen Kaikeyi years before, Lord Rama willingly went to exile for fourteen years along with his wife Sita and brother Laxman so that Kaikeyi’s son Bharata could be crowned as the King of Ayodhya. Despite several challenges and obstacles and even kidnapping of his wife Sita, Rama overcame all of them. He eventually triumphed over the kingdom of Lanka killing demon king Ravana and rescued his wife Sita and made Vibhishana (Ravana’s younger brother) the king of Lanka. Lord Rama was kind and compassionate towards all beings alike with respect. His life gives us the message of love for parents, being dutiful towards family, maintaining peace and cordial atmosphere in the family even at the cost of one’s own happiness for the sake of family, making friends with those placed at a lower societal strata (monkeys), offering help others when needed, not hesitating to ask for help during difficult times, having perseverance and determination and being fearless. Rama, in order to keep his subjects and the kingdom peaceful and to remove misunderstanding about his wife, ordered an unwilling Lakshmana to take his pregnant wife Sita to sage Valmiki’s hermitage and leave her there.

During the “Ashwamedha Yagna”, Lord Rama’s sacred white horse was left to travel with the command that whoever stops it would have to battle one of the strongest armies ever formed. While ignoring the message conveyed by the sacred horse, the very young Luv and Kush got ready to display their bravery. Knowing the real identity of the owner of the horse, the children said that they were performing the duties of a Kshatriya and release the horse. Thus, Lord Rama’s life was a story of righteousness, sacrifice and heroism.

His birthplace is now having a new temple after more than half a century on 22nd January 2024. Years back, Mahatma Gandhi, invoked the idea of “Ram Rajya” to establish moral values – justice, equality and truth, heroism, performing duties, righteousness, fairness dispensed even to the most marginalised.

Cover Story: India’s major plantation crops are Tea, Coffee, Cashew, Cotton, Banana, Rubber, Oil Palm, etc. grown mainly for consumption. Plantation crops or cash crops cultivated on huge and even small plots of land are among India’s main agricultural products. The entire North East India, Karnataka, Kerala, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh are the leading producers of plantation crops in India. These crops have great economic value and are crucial to the nation's trade and economy. Large multinationals and conglomerates have been engaged in plantation as well. But since over a decade, plantation sector has been on a decline. Tea plantations are becoming more unorganised.

If we look upon the history of plantation in India, Gandhi’s references to the opium drug plantation were certainly poignant, considering the importance of opium cultivation for the maintenance of British rule in India and its eventual dominion over China and Hong Kong. From 1773 to 1917, the official policy of the colonial government was to cultivate opium in India for export to China. Opium use was one obvious vice in the Nowgong (Nagaon) Assamese district then.

Consequently, as part of its organisational operations during this period, the Non-Cooperation Movement, which was initiated by Congress, witnessed a female anti-opium movement. The ladies in the district felt more assured after Gandhi’s August 1921 visit to Assam, during which he exhorted the populace to support the Swadeshi movement and boycott foreign goods.

As of now, Tea is the largest and most significant plantation of the country. It has high export value and has become one of the all-time favourite beverages for the poorest of poor and for the trillionaires as well. In 2022, 6.19 lakh hectares of land were under cultivation in India for the production of tea, with the majority of the nation’s tea being consumed by its own citizens. India produced 1,374 million kg of tea in 2022–23 as opposed to 1,344 million kg in 2021–22. India’s overall tea export revenue from April to February of 2024 was USD 752.85 million. The produce is exported to developed countries and other countries as well. Low quality produce is being imported from Sri Lanka and is blended with the marketable produce. Darjeeling Tea is in great demand by countries like Germany. India is among the top 5 exporters of Tea in the world.

Plantation industry in general gets affected by climate change, high cost of inputs, lack of skilled labour, finance, high wage, transportation and storage costs, pest attack, soil fertility, water availability, etc. Government financial support is lacking when the plantation is affected by natural calamities.

Tea Board of India has a great role in the promotionof Tea production, distribution and promotional marketing. The Tea Board provides subsidies to domestic exporters to participate in international fairs and exhibitions. Other schemes of the Board include creation of sector specific plans for North East India, supporting the tea producers and traders in market promotion activities, workers’ welfare, research activities, and others. The tea business in India employs around 10 million (app) people directly or indirectly. But tea plantations are affected very much by vagaries of nature which has led growers at times to sustain heavy losses selling off their business, not allowing them to recover even when the produce is good. The Government of India has also taken over many tea gardens over the years. Further, tea prices have not kept pace with rising input costs with wages of workers having increased by 200% while the tea prices have increased by only 30% with many tea plantersbecoming insolvent and ultimately selling off their business under IBC. Tea plantations have become more unorganised. Previously 65% of the business used to be in the hands of the organised sector, now it has shrunk to merely 45%.

India is also the largest exporter of Cashew and Areca Nut which are consumed highly in the domestic market; another major plantation crop contributing to around 50% of the world’s exports which has marginally fallen.

India is also the largest producer of Natural Rubber accounting for 5.5% of the total supply of around 13.800 mn tonnes during 2021 and occupies the second position in terms of productivity. The country is also importing Rubber plants and Rubber as its production is not sufficient for domestic consumption despite marginal increase in production.

Indian Economy: FM Sitharaman said that India, despite the global headwinds, has a pivotal role in supporting the global growth trajectory. India’s GDP growth predictions by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) got revised upwards for both FY24 and FY25 - to 7.8% and to 6.8% respectively. Asian Development Bank (ADB) updated its prediction for India’s GDP growth and for FY24 increased it from 6.7% to 7% and predicted 7.2% for FY25. RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das projected a GDP growth rate between 7.6-8% for FY24. RBI retains 7% GDP growth forecast for FY25. 

A normal monsoon has been forecast.

Inflow of Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI) stood at USD 41 billion at the end of FY24, compared to a net outflow for the previous two years. Despite global economic uncertainties, India's services exports surged by 11.4% to USD 345 billion in 2023, outpacing China. Retail inflation is expected to average 4.5% in FY25 vs 6.4% in FY24.

S&P Global Market Intelligence projects that by 2030, India’s GDP would reach USD7.3 trillion, making it the third largest economy in the world, surpassing that of Germany and Japan. According to CRISIL, India’s formal sector had revenue growth of between 4-6% from January to March 24, the slowest quarterly growth since the recovery from COVID-19. Of the 47 industries that CRISIL tracks, only 12 - including retail, automotive, discretionary services, construction-related industries, cement, and others—are anticipated to have had an increase in revenue growth.

India is expected to witness enhanced capital inflows and a growth in exports. India's steady recovery momentum has been maintained by investment supported by substantial government spending on infrastructure. However, inflation and geopolitical tensions are causes for concern. Under consumer spending, luxury and high-end goods and services are in greater demand than necessities, according to

Deloitte and this clearly reflects an unequal recovery within the economy with the well-off sections of the society doing well while the vast majority are facing difficulties and are clearly circumspect about their discretionary spending.

Public capex, according to the IMF, is behind growth. Target for capital expenditure in the interim budget has been kept at Rs.11.11 lakh crore for FY25.

Furthermore, from the 1990s onwards, the pattern of economic development has shifted from a socialist one to a free market one, with private capital increasingly playing a vital role. Private investment must be encouraged for an economy to be productive. In India, public investment is expected to contribute disproportionately to growth.

Global Economy: The Federal Reserve of US may announce a couple of rate cuts later in 2024. Fears of a long-term recession were allayed as the UK economy expanded by 0.2% month-on-month in January, thanks to a strong rebound in expenditure. Moving eastward, Japan's high inflation has resulted in a difficult situation for the nation due to an increase in interest rates.

IBC: As of September 2023 more than 13,000 cases were stuck at various stages of IBC resolution. It is a pity that RBI has not been taking into consideration the external factors which can affect an enterprise. Lenders, instead of restructuring, are not giving any time to the debtors in case of temporary delays in payment and are taking such cases to the IBC process even if there is a risk of an average haircut of around 80% or more. As such, the animal spirit of the wealth creators and employment generators has been severely affected. Many start-ups have also been affected.

Government needs to take remedial actions urgently so that the private wealth and employment generators regain their animal spirit and their families remain protected.

A government enterprise/bank is taking over many sick units who are going through the IBC process as the lenders prefer it for sale and their own integrity. Many public sector enterprises have been privatised and many are on the list. This new enterprise is not skilled enough to manage various functional areas and cannot manage so many enterprises. Retail shareholders are also suffering huge losses in the process without any fault of their own. In many enterprises shareholders have been written off.

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