21st Oct, 2020

Asafoetida (Heeng) cultivation to be introduced in India

CSIR constituent laboratory, Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT), Palampur, recently made history by introducing asafoetida (Heeng) cultivation in Indian Himalayan region.

The cultivation shall take place in the Lahaul valley in Himachal Pradesh.

India imports about 1200 tonnes of raw asafoetida annually from Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan and spends approximately 100 million USD per year.

CSIR-IHBT has now introduced six accessions of seeds from Iran through ICAR-National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (ICAR-NBPGR), New Delhi.

In the past thirty years, this has been the first attempt for introduction of asafoetida (Ferula assa-foetida) seeds in the country.

However, the challenge for the scientists is that heeng seeds remain under a prolonged dormant phase and the rate of seed germination is just 1%.


It is a herbaceous plant of the umbelliferae family. 

It is a perennial plant.

Its oleo gum resin is extracted from its thick roots and rhizome.

The plant stores most of its nutrients inside its deep fleshy roots.

It is endemic to Iran and Afghanistan, which are also the main global suppliers of it. 

It thrives in dry and cold desert conditions. 

It can tolerate temperatures between 35 and 40 degrees. It can also survive in temperatures up to minus 4 degrees.

Ideal growth conditions: Sandy soil, very little moisture and annual rainfall of not more than 200mm 

However, during extreme weather, the plant can get dormant.

It has medicinal properties, including relief for digestive, spasmodic and stomach disorders, asthma and bronchitis.

The herb is used to help with painful or excessive bleeding during menstruation and premature labour.

Asafoetida is one of the top condiments and is a high value spice crop in India.

Although there are about 130 species of Ferula found in the world, only Ferula assa-foetida is the economically important species used for the production of asafoetida.

In India, Ferula assa-foetida is not found, but other species Ferula jaeschkeana is reported from the western Himalaya (Chamba, HP), and Ferula narthex from Kashmir and Ladakh


Ayushman Sahakar scheme launched

Ayushman Sahakar scheme was recently launched.

Launched by: Ministry for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare

Formulated by: National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC), the apex autonomous development finance institution under the Ministry of Agriculture.

It is a unique scheme to assist cooperatives to play an important role in creation of healthcare infrastructure in the country.

NCDC would extend term loans to prospective cooperatives to the tune of Rs.10, 000 Crore in the coming years.

There are about 52 hospitals across the country run by cooperatives.

The NCDC fund would give a boost to provision of healthcare services by cooperatives.

Ayushman Sahakar specifically covers establishment, modernization, expansion, repairs, renovation of hospitals and healthcare and education infrastructure.

Any Cooperative Society with suitable provision in its byelaws to undertake healthcare related activities would be able to access the NCDC fund. 

NCDC assistance will flow either through the State Governments/ UT Administrations or directly to the eligible cooperatives.

The scheme shall provide working capital and margin money to meet operational requirements.

The scheme shall also provide interest subvention of 1% to women majority cooperatives.

It is in line with the National Digital Health Mission and National Health Policy, 2017.

NCDC was set up under an Act of Parliament in 1963 for promotion and development of cooperatives. 

Since 1963, it has extended around Rs.1.60 lakh crore as loans to cooperatives.


District Development Councils (DDCs) to be set up in J&K

The Central Government recently amended the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989.

The amendment shall facilitate the setting up of District Development Councils (DDC).

The members will be directly elected by voters in J&K.

The DDCs will act as a new unit of governance in J&K. 

This structure will include a DDC and a District Planning Committee (DPC).

J&K Panchayati Raj Rules, 1996, have also been amended to establish DDCs.

This system shall replace the District Planning and Development Boards in all districts.

It will also prepare and approve district plans and capital expenditure.

The term of the DDC will be five years. 

The electoral process will allow for reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women.

The Additional District Development Commissioner (or the Additional DC) of the district shall be the Chief Executive Officer of the District Development Council.


CMIE data highlights paradoxes in Indian Economy

Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) data has recently highlighted some paradoxes for India during the economic recovery after the lockdown. 

The data shows that there is a revival in employment but a fall in labour force participation. 

However, the usual trend is when more people find jobs, a greater number should have looked for jobs.

This unusual trend could be due to a rural-urban disaggregation of the data. 

Rural India is seeing an increase in jobs due to post harvest activity whereas employment in urban India is decreasing.

Besides, better quality and higher paying jobs in urban areas are not available.

These are getting replaced by lower-paid rural jobs.

This also points to the fact that a reversal of migration back to the cities is not happening as expected level.

The lower rates of supply side due to lockdown have led to an increase in headline inflation leading to increase in food prices.

However, there is a rise in core inflation also which is unusual.

Ideally, the reduced demand due to lockdown should have decreased core inflation.

Also, households have reported better prospects or hopes for the future.

Headline inflation is a measure of the total inflation within an economy, including commodities such as food and energy prices.

Core inflation is the change in the costs of goods and services but does not include those from the food and energy sectors.