Published: Sunday 30 September 2007

Commerce minstry's subsidy package to bail out vanilla farmers
The commerce ministry will bring out a subsidy package to bail out vanilla farmers who have been badly hit by the falling prices of vanilla worldwide (see 'Dark essence', Down To Earth, August 15, 2007). According to P C Thomas, Lok Sabha member from Kochi, who met the Union minister of state for commerce Jairam Ramesh on September 7, told Down To Earth that that ministry is in talks with the finance ministry to iron out a subsidy package that will be aimed at promoting export of vanilla. He said a similar package is also being worked out to improve the domestic consumption of vanilla in the country.

"The government will help the export of 100 tonnes of cured vanilla beans through subsidy, and is also planning to create a market for 100 tonnes within the country," Thomas said.He said Ramesh had promised that the ministry was working on a new policy whereby all products using synthetic vanilla would be required to say it on their labels. The ministry is looking in to ways to bail out Vanilla India Producer Company (Vanilco), the first vanilla farmers cooperative in Kerala, Thomas added.

Unease over leasing of lakes in Bangalore
There has been much hue and cry over the 'leasing out' of lakes in Bangalore, including the Hebbal lake--among the largest humanmade lakes in the city (see 'Great lake sellout', Down To Earth, August 31, 2007). It was announced recently that the Oberoi group had withdrawn its plans to construct a floating restaurant there.

Rohan D'Souza of Collaborative for Advancement of Studies in Urbanism through Mixed-Media, a local ngo, feels this is a positive step but the lake development authority in Bangalore should be questioned. "They devised the model which is questionable," he says. For other environmentalists the withdrawal doesn't bring much hope because the practice of leasing out common property resources to private firms still remains a cause for concern.

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