Even as the government was preparing for its maiden budget bad news came from the weather gods. The India Metrological Department (IMD) announced on Wednesday that the monsoon rains might be 7% below normal.
The government says there’s no cause for immediate alarm. Earlier this year procurement of food grains hit a record high. And if the rains are below normal, authorities can draw from a comfortable stock of 53 million tones of food grain it has built up.
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The agriculture ministry played down the fears saying that while meteorologists were looking at precipitation levels of rainfall, what was important for agriculturists was the timing and the spread of rainfall.
Government officials said they are confident they can handle the situation. They added that sowing was proceeding well in the southern states and in Gujarat. And in July the monsoon should reach parts of northern India including Uttar Pradesh.
But when rains fail there could be other fallouts. Experts say the government needs to make sure people have enough water to drink or there could be large migrations.
On Thursday, human resources minister Kapil Sibal laid out
ambitious plans to start education reform in his first 100 days. Sibal proposed making Class X Board Exams optional and setting up an independent body that would grant accreditations to schools. Another major reform Sibal announced was setting up an autonomous body for higher education.
Air India is in trouble. The airline does not have enough cash to even run its day-to-day operations. The Civil Aviation minister and the chairman of the airline rushed to the prime minister on Wednesday seeking a bail out. The message to them was loud and clear: The government was willing to support the airline provided it shapes up fast. It’s been asked to submit a revival plan within a month.
Last week, Air India delayed June salaries to 31,000 employees by two weeks and asked senior staff to voluntarily forego their July salaries.
Another airline was in the news this week. Jets Airways received a government notice on a potential service tax liability of Rs. 400 crore.
Nandan Nilekani has a new job. The co-chairman of Infosys Technologies resigned from the board of the company to become chairperson of the Unique Identification Authority of India, which plans to make standardized ID cards for Indian citizens.