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#Noteban: Sales fall, anger rises; why the fishing industry can’t go cashless

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Siolim/Mapusa/Panaji/Margao (Goa), December 20: Gangu Kundaikar is a small-framed, sari-clad woman who rises at 3 a.m. every day, wraps a cloth around her waist so fish do not soil her sari, and takes a rented vehicle to the Malim jetty in Panaji, North Goa, 8 km from her village in one of Indias most prosperous and literate states.

Kundaikar, 50, brings her day’s supply of fish back home to her village, Chimbel, to sell. Kundaikar, who studied up to class 10, has no bank account and a phone without an Internet connection. She is the only earner in her family of three, which includes her ageing mother and unemployed son.

Kundaikar bought fish worth Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 every day and kept the unsold catch in her refrigerator – her only asset. She worked through most of the day and barely made enough to keep her family fed.

That was before midnight on November 8, 2016, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government scrapped 86 per cent of India’s bank notes, by value. Since then, Kundaikar has struggled to balance her family’s budget: Demand for fish has fallen and sales have dropped by 30 per cent. “We are poor, hard-working people,” she told IndiaSpend. “Because of this move by the government, it has become hard for us.”

After China, India is the world’s second-largest producer of fish, but it is a perishable commodity, and less than 19 per cent of fishing centres nationwide have infrastructure that allows fish to be processed or stored: Less than 23 per cent of fishing villages have Internet access, and the fishing economy depends on cash. Profit margins vary according to the species sold, varying from 3.5 per cent (medium-priced fish) to about 10 per cent (high-priced fish) to 20 per cent (low-priced fish), according to a 2012 research paper.

So merchant charges by banks – of 2-2.5 per cent (on credit cards), 0.75-1 per cent (on debit cards) – and even the 1 per cent fee charged by Paytm, a digital wallet – is largely unaffordable, even if fishing villages had good internet access, which they do usually do not.

With notebandi – as the scrapping of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes is colloquially called – stories like Kundaikar’s have become common in fishing communities nationwide. Distress sales, market closures and anchoring of fishing fleets have been reported from West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. A particular hammer blow appears to have been dealt by the new Rs 2,000 note because there is no change to return.

The crisis of 14.5 million Indians – more than the population of Greece or Portugal – dependent on fishing has crippled an industry that generates almost 1.1 per cent to India’s gross domestic product (GDP). A quarter of these people work along 8,118 km of India’s coastline and 10 million along 197,024 km of inland waterways.

Most of these 14.5 million are part of India’s informal sector, unorganised workers, who constitute 82 per cent of India’s 500-million-strong workforce – more than the combined populations of the USA, Germany and South Africa – and generate half of national GDP. Their world, as we found, changed almost overnight.

Ground reality: Over 50 per cent loss in business, anger at government

Of the 20 fish sellers that IndiaSpend surveyed at a government-run market in Margao, south Goa, more than 80 per cent reported buying less fish from wholesalers because demand was low, while 75 per cent reported income-losses of half or more over the past month.

Our survey also showed that 30 per cent of women did not have a bank account and that 55 per cent did not use phones. Of the ones that did, only 33 per cent had internet on their phone, which they did not use for banking.

Small-scale fish retailers earn between Rs 3,000 and Rs 4,000 every day, IndiaSpend found. If they were to use Paytm for transactions, they would be paying 1 per cent charge to withdraw their money, which is Rs 30-40. For a daily profit of Rs 350-400, they said, this is unaffordable.

Cashless transactions are not an immediate option, so the losses will continue. In any case, most have no internet on their phone and hardly use their bank accounts, said Shashikala Govekar, president of the Fish Vendors Association at the Mapusa market.

We found a cascading effect of such losses. Before November 8, 2016, fish sellers got Rs 280 to Rs 300 per kg of mackerel (bangda), which is now down by about 35 per cent to Rs 180 to Rs 200 per kg, according to members of the All Goa Wholesale Fish Market Association. The Margao Wholesale market is the only wholesale market in Goa where catch from the neighbouring states of Maharashtra and Karnataka is also sold. Vehicles carrying fish from outside the state have fallen by a third.

Unless frozen, fresh fish must be thrown away, if not sold within two days: 67 per cent of fish consumed in India is fresh; no more than 23 per cent is processed (dried, frozen or canned).

Neither fish markets nor landing centres (harbours where fishermen land their craft) have cold storages. Post-harvest fishing losses due to lack of infrastructure (for landing and berthing vessels) and domestic marketing are estimated to be as high as 20 per cent, according to a 2011 report of the erstwhile Planning Commission. These losses are exacerbated by the current market slump.

Can Goa really go cashless? Even the Chief Minister does not think so

On November 25, 2016, 16 days after the demonetisation announcement, the Indian Express reported Defence Minister and erstwhile Goa Chief Minister (CM) Manohar Parrikar saying that Goa would become India’s first cashless state by December 30, 2016.

“Goans are using cards (ATM/credit) in a big way,” Parrikar was quoted as saying at a public meeting near Panjim. “Goa will soon be the first state with cashless society fulfilling a dream of the Prime Minister.”

On December 7, 2016, after his party and the opposition reflected the resentment across Goa, CM Laxmikant Parsekar said that there would be no deadline for Goa to go cashless. “There cannot be a deadline to go cashless,” said Parsekar. “I have always said that it is not cashless, but could be less cash to start with. Goa can do it.”

A major reason that India is unprepared for a cashless economy is a lack of connectivity. At least 73 per cent of Indians (912 million people) do not have access to the internet, IndiaSpend reported on December 3, 2016.

Within 3,237 marine fishing villages in nine of India’s coastal states, 91 per cent villages had mobile phone coverage, but barely 23 per cent had access to the internet.

IANS

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Hyundai Motor India launches all new Santro

“Our R&D centre in Namyang (S. Korea), Chennai and Hyderabad have put strong efforts for product supremacy and utmost customer delight.”

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2018 Hyundai Santro launch
New Delhi: Hyundai Motor India Ltd MD and CEO Y K Koo and actor Shah Rukh Khan pose with the newly launched 2018 Hyundai Santro in New Delhi, on Oct 23, 2018. (Photo: Amlan Paliwal/IANS)

New Delhi, Oct 23 : Automobile major Hyundai Motor India (HMIL) on Tuesday launched ‘the all new Santro’ with an introductory price starting at Rs 3.89 lakh.

“The all new Santro is a true example of Hyundai’s Made-in-India philosophy and a shining result of our numerous product clinics and rigorous durability test on various terrains in India,” Y.K. Koo, MD and CEO, HMIL said in a statement.

“Our R&D centre in Namyang (S. Korea), Chennai and Hyderabad have put strong efforts for product supremacy and utmost customer delight.”

According to the company, the new passenger car is equipped with a 4-cylinder 1.1 litre petrol engine which offers 69 ps of power. It is mated with option of MT (manual transmission) and in-house developed ‘Smart Auto’ AMT (automatic manual transmission).

The petrol powered vehicle comes with a fuel mileage of 20.3 km per litre. It also has the option for a factory fitted CNG (60 L water equivalent).

Currently, the company has ten car models across segments – Eon, All New Santro, Grand i10, Elite i20, Active i20, Xcent, Verna, Elantra, Creta and Tucson.

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Xiaomi leads India smartphone shipments in Q3 2018: Counterpoint

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New Delhi, Oct 23: With a 27 per cent market share, Chinese handset maker Xiaomi dominated India smartphone shipments in the third quarter of this year, Counterpoint Research said on Tuesday.

Xiaomi Redmi 6 Pro

India smartphone shipments during the July-September period of this year grew 24 per cent sequentially and five per cent year-over-year, the report said.

Xiaomi, which recorded its highest ever shipments in India in a single quarter driven by the new Redmi 6 series and expansion in offline channels, was followed by Samsung (23 per cent), Vivo (10 per cent) Micromax (nine per cent), and OPPO (eight per cent).

“India’s shipments surpassed those of the US during the quarter; the second time this has occurred,” said Karn Chauhan, Research Analyst at Counterpoint.

The top five brands captured 77 per cent share of the total smartphone market during the quarter, the report said, adding that the smartphone segment contributed to half of the total handset market during the July-September period of this year.

“The record shipments happened at a time when the Indian Rupee has hit a record low against the US Dollar,” Counterpoint Research Analyst Anshika Jain noted.

India, which now has over 400 million smartphone users, recently surpassed the US to become the second largest smartphone market in the world after China.

“The $150-$250 segment contributed to almost one third of the volume during the (third) quarter as many new products are launching at this level,” Chauhan said.

The launch of a new sub brand, Pocophone, also helped Xiaomi lead the India smartphone market in terms of shipments, the report said.

Samsung’s shipments were driven by the J series as the demand for J6 and J8 remained strong. Apart from this, the South Korean tech giant also launched the Android Go edition, Galaxy J2 core, giving it a much-needed offering in the sub $100 segment, the report said.

Vivo shipments reached their highest ever as it refreshed its V series with the launch of the V11 and V11 Pro.

Micromax was back among the top five brands for the first time in two years. Micromax, along with Reliance Jio, has won an order from the Chhattisgarh government under which it will be the sole supplier of five million smartphones to be distributed to women and students in the state.

However, shipments are likely to decline following completion of the order, the report added.

OPPO shipments also increased during the quarter driven by refreshed product lines, notably the F9 series.

IANS

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Proposed Khurja coal power plant overpriced, threat to Delhi’s air quality: IEEFA

The Khurja proposal relies on a prohibitively expensive 900-km-long rail haul to bring coal to the plant. Additionally, the market price of coal continues to increase globally.

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Coal Power plant Picture

New Delhi, Oct 23 : The state-run THDCIL’s proposed Khurja coal power plant in Uttar Pradesh would not only push up the cost of electricity at a time when renewable energy options are cheaper but will also be a threat to Delhi’s air quality, a report said on Tuesday.

THDCIL, formerly known as Tehri Hydro Development Corporation Ltd, is a joint venture of the Central and Uttar Pradesh governments with a 75:25 equity sharing ratio.

Releasing the report titled “The Khurja Thermal Power Project: A Recipe for an Indian Stranded Asset”, the US-based the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) recommended that the 1,320 MW proposal should be re-evaluated against severe air pollution levels in Delhi.

Also, the real threat of government financing wasted on another expensive stranded asset, increasingly cheaper renewable energy options and India’s ambitious sustainable energy goals.

The Khurja project entails an investment of Rs 12,676 crore. While the first unit is scheduled to be commissioned in November 2022, the second unit would go on steam in April 2023.

The electricity users — the state and central governments — and project’s lenders should not be burdened with yet another expensive stranded asset at a time when local residents need cleaner energy options, IEEFA Director of Energy Finance Studies Tim Buckley told reporters here.

“Delhi already has the dubious reputation of having the worst air pollution of any city in the world. If the Khurja coal plant is built as planned near Delhi, this will increase the impact on local residents, emergency workers and the local government.

“The Khurja power plant was feasible when first proposed eight years ago in response to power supply shortages and outages across northern India, but technology has moved on,” he said.

According to Buckley, renewable energy generation in India is now cheaper than Khurja’s non-minemouth coal, with ongoing price declines prompting states, including Uttar Pradesh, to seek solar and wind options to meet incremental demand growth.

“The Khurja proposal relies on a prohibitively expensive 900-km-long rail haul to bring coal to the plant. Additionally, the market price of coal continues to increase globally,” he said.

“Our analysis shows any power generated at the Khurja plant would likely be sold for Rs 5.67 per kilowatt hours, while renewable energy prices today are only plus or minus Rs 3 per kilowatt hours.

“The economics of the project look dim. The Khurja proposal must be re-evaluated,” Buckley said.

Kashish Shah, IEEFA Energy Research Associate and co-author of the report, said India’s ambition to sustain double digit economic growth hinges on improving energy security and reducing the cost of power and that requires sensible investment.

“India is aiming to achieve 40 per cent of its electricity generation needs by 2030 from non-fossil fuel sources including wind and solar. As a coal-fired power station takes significant time to ramp up power generation, the Khurja power station cannot help with grid stabilisation and peak demands, one of the new requirements of the Paris commitments,” Shah told IANS.

“As the share of renewable energy options increase, India will need additional firming capacity and wider national grid inter-connectivity to integrate increasing amounts of variable solar and wind generation, and prevent frequency and voltage fluctuations that adversely affect grid stability.

“The long delayed, excessively expensive and redundant Khurja project should be cancelled before it becomes another expensive stranded asset in India,” he added.

IANS

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