Union Cabinet hikes MSPs for rabi crops, approves BSNL-MTNL merger, regularises unauthorised Delhi colonies: 5 key decisions taken today

  • The government on Wednesday decided to merge loss-making telecom firms MTNL and BSNL as part of a revival package that includes raising sovereign bonds, monetising assets and voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) for employees

  • The government also opened up fuel retailing norms, allowing non-oil companies to set up petrol pumps to increase competition

  • It also hiked the minimum support price for wheat by Rs 85 to Rs 1,925 a quintal and for pulses by up to Rs 325 per quintal

The Union Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday took major decisions aimed at reviving the economy. The major decisions include a hike in minimum support prices of rabi crops, merger of ailing telecom PSUs BSNL and MTNL, opening of fuel retailing to non-oil companies and regularisation of Delhi colonies.

MSPs for rabi crops hiked

The government on Wednesday hiked the minimum support price for wheat by Rs 85 to Rs 1,925 a quintal and for pulses by up to Rs 325 per quintal.

A decision in this regard was taken at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The MSP is the rate at which the government buys grains from farmers. "In a move to increase farmers' income, the Cabinet has increased the MSP of rabi (winter-sown) crops for the current year," Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters after the meeting.

 Union Cabinet hikes MSPs for rabi crops, approves BSNL-MTNL merger, regularises unauthorised Delhi colonies: 5 key decisions taken today

Union ministers announcing Cabinet decisions on Wednesday. PIB image.

The CCEA has approved Rs 85 per quintal hike in wheat MSP to Rs 1,925 per quintal for the 2019-20 rabi crop, up from Rs 1,840 per quintal last year. Barley MSP has also been increased by Rs 85 to Rs 1,525 per quintal from Rs 1,440 per quintal last year.

To encourage cultivation of pulses, the support price of masoor has been increased by Rs 325 to Rs 4,800 per quintal from Rs 4,475 per quintal last year. Similarly, the MSP for gram has been hiked by Rs 255 to Rs 4,875 per quintal for this year from Rs 4,620 per quintal last year.

Among oilseeds, rapeseed/mustard MSP has been increased by Rs 225 to Rs 4,425 per quintal for 2019-20 rabi crop from Rs 4,200 per quintal during 2018-19. The minimum support price for safflower has been hiked by Rs 270 to Rs 5,215 per quintal from Rs 4,945 per quintal last year.

The MSP for rabi crops announced for this year is in line with the recommendation of the government's farm price advisory body CACP. Wheat is the main rabi crop, sowing of which will begin next month. The crop will be marketed from next April onwards.

BSNL, MTNL to be merged

The government also decided to merge loss-making telecom firms MTNL and BSNL as part of a revival package that includes raising sovereign bonds, monetising assets and voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) for employees.

Briefing reporters on decisions taken by the Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government will put in Rs 29,937 crore for revival of the two state-owned telecom companies.

The revival package includes raising of Rs 15,000 crore sovereign bonds and monetising Rs 38,000 crore of assets in next four years.

Also, voluntary retirement will be offered to employees to cut cost, he said.

He said BSNL and MTNL will be merged. Pending this, MTNL will act as a subsidiary of BSNL.

Govt opens up fuel retailing to non-oil companies

The government on Wednesday opened up fuel retailing, allowing non-oil companies to set up petrol pumps to increase competition.

Briefing reporters about the decisions taken by the Cabinet, I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar said the opening up the fuel retailing will increase investment and competition.

At present, to obtain a fuel retailing licence in India, a company needs to invest Rs 2,000 crore in either hydrocarbon exploration and production, refining, pipelines or liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals.

"The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved review of guidelines for giving authorisation for marketing of transportation fuel," he said.

Companies with Rs 250 crore turnover can enter fuel retailing, subject to condition that 5 per cent of the outlets will be in rural areas.

State-owned oil marketing companies - Indian Oil Corp (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL) - currently own most of 65,000 petrol pumps in the country.

Reliance Industries, Nayara Energy - formerly Essar Oil and Royal Dutch Shell are the private players in the market but with limited presence. Reliance, which operates the world's largest oil refining complex, has less than 1,400 outlets.

Govt to grant ownership rights to people in unauthorised colonies in Delhi

In a move that will benefit 40 lakh people, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a proposal to grant ownership rights to people living in unauthorised colonies in Delhi, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said.

The proposal is based on the recommendations of a committee, he said. Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said the Centre would also bring a bill in the Winter Session of Parliament to give relief to the residents of the unauthorised colonies in the national capital.

The move comes ahead of the Assembly polls in the national capital, scheduled for early next year. The decision "is applicable to 1,797 identified unauthorised colonies" spread over 175 square km inhabited by people from lower-income groups, he said.

It does not apply to 69 affluent colonies identified by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) including Sainik Farms, Mahendru Enclave and Anantram Dairy, Puri added. In July, the Delhi government proposed a set of parameters to regularise the 1,797 colonies, which include charging one per cent cost of circle rate of land for up to 200 square metre plot from occupants besides a nominal penalty.

Cabinet approves agreement with other countries in various fields

The Cabinet on Wednesday gave approval to agreements signed with other countries in various fields like traditional medicine, and science and technology.

These included administrative arrangement on cooperation in the field of Railways between the Ministry of Railways and the Directorate General for Mobility and Transport of the European Commission.

According to an official statement, a proposal for an agreement on Science and Technology Cooperation between India and the US was also approved, it said.

The agreement would provide an opportunity to promote ‘high quality' and ‘high impact' research and innovation partnerships as well as broadening and expanding relationships between the extensive scientific and technological communities, it said.

It will "open a new chapter" in bilateral relations with the US as both sides will leverage complementary strengths spurred by a significant convergence of mutual interests, the statement said.

The Cabinet also approved a Memorandum of Understanding to provide a framework for cooperation between India and St Vincent and the Grenadines for the promotion of traditional systems of medicines and will mutually benefit the two countries in the said field.

"It will lead to promotion and propagation of Traditional Systems of Medicine in St. Vincent & the Grenadines. Activities mentioned in the MoU will boost the importance of AYUSH Systems of Medicine in St Vincent and the Grenadines," the statement said.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Oct 23, 2019 18:30:29 IST