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Piyush Goyal calls upon the spices industry to double sector exports to US$10 billion in the next five years

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Union Minister of Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution and Textiles, Piyush Goyal called upon the Spices Industry to double the sector exports to USD 10 Billion in the next five years.

“…we now aspire to meet our ambitious target for spices export – USD 10 bn not by 2030, but maybe even faster; can we aspire to reach it in the next five years? I think we can! Let us aspire to double our exports to $10 Bn in the next five years, by 2027 & then further double our exports (by) USD 10bn in the next five years,” said Shri Goyal, addressing the 35th anniversary function of the Spices Board, through video conference.

Goyal expressed satisfaction over the Spices exports having increased by 115% in volume and 84% in value (USD) between 2014-21, reaching a historic high of USD 4.2 bn in 2020-21. “Now, Indian spices & spices products are reaching over 180 destinations all over the world,” he said.

Quoting the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, Shri Goyalsaid, “During Covid, along with India’s medicines & vaccines, the world experienced the importance of our spices & Kadha.”

“Our grandmother’s home remedies like HaldiDoodh/Turmeric Latte & spices like Cinnamon, Tulsi (Basil leaves), etc. became a household staple in the world. In fact, India recorded a growth of 42% in turmeric exports last year,” Shri Goyal said.

“In these challenging pandemic times, the world took note of the age old and time-tested practices of Ayurveda that involves the use of spices in medicinal products, – AyushKwath, that combines the therapeutic powers of Cinnamon, Tulsi, Dry Ginger and Black Pepper and the Golden Milk which is made using turmeric and pepper etc, have become some of the most searched recipes for immunity boosting during the Covid pandemic,” he added.

Goyal said though India is a leader in Global Spice, the sector is facing challenges too.

“When it comes to export of spices in whole raw form, we do not currently enjoy cost advantage against many countries in Asia and Africa regions, which means we should focus on increasing the export of value added spices products. Also, we face challenges in preparing our production system and manufacturing systems to meet the stringent quality and food safety standards,” said Goyal.

“The aim is to sustain the competitive edge of the Indian spice industry with added thrust on high-end value addition and new product development so as to cater to the specific requirements of varied consumers around the globe, while committed to ensuring food safety, quality and sustainability,” he added.

Goyal said the Government is keen to increase export of spices from the country through resilient and efficient programmes and interventions.

“The Board has initiated collaborative efforts with various national and international agencies on various projects and initiatives— (1) with STDF of WTO and FAO for Strengthening spice value chain in India and improving Market access through capacity building and innovative interventions (2) with the Quality Council of India for INDGAP (Good Agricultural Practices) Certification; (3) with the spice industry and International agencies like IDH and GIZ, Germany on National Sustainable Spice Programme, & (4) The UNDP’s Accelerator Lab, India on “Development of Blockchain enabled traceability platform for Spices” etc.”

During the function Shri Goyal launched the innovative Weather-based crop insurance scheme, a joint initiative of the Spices Board and Agricultural Insurance Company of India for the benefit of Cardamom farmers. He also released the postal stamp to mark the Coral Jubilee of Spices Board. ShriGoyal said the Government has paved the way for the Spices sector to grow and expand India’s footprint as a Global Leader in Spices.

“Export Development & Promotion of Spices scheme supports exporters to adopt high-tech processing. The Board has enabled access to primary processing and value addition in spices, through the eight spices parks set up in the major production centres across India (Puttady in Kerala, Sivagangain TN, Guntur in AP, Chindhwara and Guna in MP, Kota and Jodhpur in Rajasthan) for the benefit of growers and entrepreneurs, thereby aiding in better price realization,” he said.

Goyal urged the Board to expand the reach of the quality testing laboratory network to all regions in India and adhere to the highest standards so as to make a name for quality and efficiency of service.

“The Board’s Quality Evaluation Laboratory network provides analytical services to exporters and other stakeholders across the major ports of India provide. Presently, state-of-the-art Labs are functioning under the Board from 8 locations (Kochi in Kerala, Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, Tuticorin and Chennai in TN, Mumbai in MH, Khandla in Gujarat, Narela near Delhi, and Kolkota in West Bengal),” he said.

Shri Goyal said India is proud to have provided leadership in developing global quality standards for spices.

“India pioneered the efforts which resulted in formation of the Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs (CCSCH) under the Codex Alimentarius Commission of the FAO & WHO in 2014. This committee has been chaired by India and the Spices Board serves as its Secretariat.

The CCSCH has successfully developed global quality standards for 8 spices—black/white/green pepper, cumin, thyme, garlic, cloves, oregano, basil and ginger.”

Goyal said the Spices Board has many digital programs to its credit like the cloud-based live e-auction facility for small cardamom to ensure transparency and Ease Of Doing Business.

“The Board has digitized most of its services and made them online. The Board has recently launched Spice Xchange India which is the First-of-its-kind online portal dedicated to spices trade, that uses Artificial Intelligence tools to enable B2B matchmaking between spice exporters and importers across the world. The portal facilitates ease of doing business as it provides a technology linked platform for connecting Indian exporters and global buyers and is a giant leap in strengthening export transactions of spices from India.”

Goyal said Spices are a part and parcel of Indian food and lifestyle.

“Spices are found in every aspect of our life starting from our morning ginger tea or cardamom tea, to cosmetic applications using turmeric to dental products using cloves & menthol.

In marriage customs across many parts of the country, turmeric paste is applied on the face of bride and groom, In a sense, spices are a part of each one of our lives, and has played a very, very important role in Indian culture, history, tradition and heritage. The story of India is the story of Spices,” he said.

Goyal said, since ages, India has been the Spice Bowl of the World, it is the world’s largest producer & consumer of spices. Saffron from Kashmir is world famous, besides Black Pepper from Kerala, Ginger from Gujarat and the Northeast’s Naga Chilli.

“Spices were the reason Vasco Da Gama ventured to find the Sea route to India and his success in 1498 when he landed in Kerala coast changed the world history forever. Indian spices are used in some of the most famous food items in the world like – Mexican sauces, currie items popular in UK, Kahwa(popular Arabic drink), etc” said Goyal.

“India is leading the world with its unique flavours & spices, – Kochi is often touted as Spice Capital of the world! Guntur is referred to as world’s biggest chilli market, J&K is home to the world’s most expensive spice (saffron), Delhi’s KhariBaoli is Asia’s largest spice market and the Northeast’s Naga chilli is one of the world’s hottest chillies,” he added.

Shri Goyal called upon the Spices industry to obtain GI tag for their distinct products.

“26 Indian spices have received GI like Coorg Green Cardamom, Mizo Ginger, Kanniyakumari Cloves etc., we should capture more such possibilities for traditional Indian produce,” he said.

Goyal said, New India’s vision should be spiced with Tadka, laced with spices! “Friends, food without spices is like life without colors!” he said.

Goyal said, over the years, India has maintained an apex position in the global spice sector, as the pioneer producer, consumer and exporter of spices and spice products as well as a global hub in processing and value addition of spices.

“The Spice Board, under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, has been making proactive interventions, and has worked with all sections of this industry, – different stakeholders, spice growers, exporters, trade promotion and regulatory bodies of importing countries, inter-governmental organizations etc to promote Indian spices,” he said. Paying tributes to the two gems of the spices sector, Mahashay Dharampal of MDH fame and Vadilal Shah of Everest Spices who passed away last year, Goyal said, “Indian spices are spreading the taste, color & aroma of India in the world be it MDH Masala or Lijjat papad or Everest, etc. have diversified world’s taste palate.”

Goyal laid out ‘4 Masalas’ before the Spices Industry to make the sector even more spicy:

• Indian spices to be Brand Ambassador of Quality:“Spices Board must expand the reach of Lab network toall regions in India to ensure highest quality standards.”

• Focus on packaging to promote Brand India: “‘Jo acchadikhta hai, wo aur bhi Bikta hai’. Packaging serves as a strong first impression. It will help increase the ‘Brand Equity’ of Indian spices.”

• Promote Spice Tourism: “Need to collaborate with State Governments to conduct tours, tasting festivals & exhibitions to create awareness about Indian spices in India & world.”

• Let’s create Unicorns in the Spices sector: “We have many millionaires (Gulati, Vadilal Shah family) in spices sector. Why can’t we take it to next level? Aim to make the spices sector the next unicorn generating sector, creating jobs in Tier II & III cities.” Goyal said, as India moves towards Amrit Kaal with a vision of India@2047, India’s spice sector will add the much-needed tadka to this New India’s vision. “We must collectively work to make the Spices sector the flagbearer of India’s export and the world should recognise Brand India with our delicious spices’ products,” he said.

Goyal quoted Michelin Star Indian chef Vikas Khanna, – “Indian spices not only reflect our evolution but India’s beliefs & traditions also.”

•  “Aim to sustain the competitive edge of the Indian spice industry with added thrust on high-end value addition and new product development”: Piyush Goyal’s message to the Spices Board

• “During Covid, along with India’s medicines & vaccines, the world experienced the importance of our spices & Kadha”, said Goyal, quoting Prime Minister Narendra Modi

•  New India’s vision should be spiced with Tadka, laced with spices!… Food without spices is like life without colors!: Piyush Goyal

• Goyal launches the innovative Weather-based crop insurance scheme for Cardamom farmers

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Policy&Politics

Govt extends date for submission of R&D proposals

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The Government has extended the deadline for submission of proposals related to R&D scheme under the National Green Hydrogen Mission. The R&D scheme seeks to make the production, storage, transportation and utilisation of green hydrogen more affordable. It also aims to improve the efficiency, safety and reliability of the relevant processes and technologies involved in the green hydrogen value chain. Subsequent to the issue of the guidelines, the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy issued a call for proposals on 16 March, 2024.

While the Call for Proposals is receiving encouraging response, some stakeholders have requested more time for submission of R&D proposals. In view of such requests and to allow sufficient time to the institutions for submitting good-quality proposals, the Ministry has extended the deadline for submission of proposals to 27th April, 2024.

The scheme also aims to foster partnerships among industry, academia and government in order to establish an innovation ecosystem for green hydrogen technologies. The scheme will also help the scaling up and commercialisation of green hydrogen technologies by providing the necessary policy and regulatory support.

The R&D scheme will be implemented with a total budgetary outlay of Rs 400 crore till the financial year 2025-26. The support under the R&D programme includes all components of the green hydrogen value chain, namely, production, storage, compression, transportation, and utilisation.

The R&D projects supported under the mission will be goal-oriented, time bound, and suitable to be scaled up. In addition to industrial and institutional research, innovative MSMEs and start-ups working on indigenous technology development will also be encouraged under the Scheme.

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Policy&Politics

India, Brazil, South Africa to press for labour & social issues, sustainability

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The Indian delegation also comprises Rupesh Kumar Thakur, Joint Secretary, and Rakesh Gaur, Deputy Director from the Ministry of Labour & Employment.

India, on Thursday, joined the G20’s two-day 2nd Employment Working Group (EWG) meeting under the Brazilian Presidency which is all set to address labour, employment and social issues for strong, sustainable, balanced and job-rich growth for all. India is co-chairing the 2nd EWG meeting, along with Brazil and South Africa, and is represented by Sumita Dawra, Secretary, Labour & Employment.

The Indian delegation also comprises Rupesh Kumar Thakur, Joint Secretary, and Rakesh Gaur, Deputy Director from the Ministry of Labour & Employment. India has pointed out that the priority areas of the 2nd EWG at Brasilia align with the priority areas and outcomes of previous G20 presidencies including Indian presidency, and commended the continuity in the multi-year agenda to create lasting positive change in the world of work. This not only sustains but also elevates the work initiated by the EWG during the Indian Presidency.

The focus areas for the 2nd EWG meeting are — creating quality employment and promoting decent labour, addressing a just transition amidst digital and energy transformations, leveraging technologies to enhance the quality of life for al and the emphasis on gender equity and promoting diversity in the world of employment for inclusivity, driving innovation and growth. On the first day of the meeting, deliberations were held on the over-arching theme of promotion of gender equality and promoting diversity in the workplace.

The Indian delegation emphasized the need for creating inclusive environments by ensuring equal representation and empowerment for all, irrespective of race, gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic background. To increase female labour force participation, India has enacted occupational safety health and working conditions code, 2020 which entitles women to be employed in all establishments for all types of work with their consent at night time. This provision has already been implemented in underground mines.

In 2017, the Government amended the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961, which increased the ‘maternity leave with pay protection’ from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for all women working in establishments employing 10 or more workers. This is expected to reduce the motherhood pay gap among the working mothers. To aid migrant workers, India’s innovative policy ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ allows migrants to access their entitled food grains from anywhere in the Public Distribution System network in the country.

A landmark step in fostering inclusion in the workforce is the e-Shram portal, launched to create a national database of unorganized workers, especially migrant and construction workers. This initiative, providing the e-Shram card, enables access to benefits under various social security schemes.

The portal allows an unorganized worker to register himself or herself on the portal on self-declaration basis, under 400 occupations in 30 broad occupation sectors. More than 290 million unorganized workers have been registered on this portal so far.

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Policy&Politics

India to spend USD 3.7 billion to fence Myanmar border

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India plans to spend nearly $3.7 billion to fence its 1,610-km (1,000-mile) porous border with Myanmar within about a decade, said a source with direct knowledge of the matter, to prevent smuggling and other illegal activities. New Delhi said earlier this year it would fence the border and end a decades-old visa-free movement policy with coup-hit Myanmar for border citizens for reasons of national security and to maintain the demographic structure of its northeastern region.

A government committee earlier this month approved the cost for the fencing, which needs to be approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, said the source who declined to be named as they were not authorised to talk to the media. The prime minister’s office and the ministries of home, finance, foreign affairs and information and broadcasting did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Myanmar has so far not commented on India’s fencing plans. Since a military coup in Myanmar in 2021, thousands of civilians and hundreds of troops have fled from there to Indian states where people on both sides share ethnic and familial ties. This has worried New Delhi because of risk of communal tensions spreading to India. Some members of the Indian government have also blamed the porous border for abetting the tense situation in the restive north-eastern Indian state of Manipur, abutting Myanmar.

For nearly a year, Manipur has been engulfed by a civil war-like situation between two ethnic groups, one of which shares lineage with Myanmar’s Chin tribe. The committee of senior Indian officials also agreed to build parallel roads along the fence and 1,700 km (1,050 miles) of feeder roads connecting military bases to the border, the source said.

The fence and the adjoining road will cost nearly 125 million rupees per km, more than double that of the 55 million per km cost for the border fence with Bangladesh built in 2020, the source said, because of the difficult hilly terrain and the use of technology to prevent intrusion and corrosion.

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Policy&Politics

ONLY 2-3% RECOVERED FROM $2-3 TN ANNUAL ILLEGAL TRADE THROUGH BANKING: INTERPOL

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However, Stock highlighted the enormity of the challenge, noting that between 40% and 70% of criminal profits are reinvested, perpetuating the cycle of illicit financial activity.

In a press briefing held on Wednesday, Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock unveiled alarming statistics regarding the extent of undetected money laundering and illegal trade transactions plaguing the global banking network. Stock revealed that over 96% of the money transacted through this network remains undetected, with only 2-3% of the estimated USD 2-3 trillion from illegal trade being tracked and returned to victims.

Interpol, working in conjunction with law enforcement agencies and private financial sectors across its 196 member countries, is committed to combating the rising tide of fraud perpetrated by illicit traders. These criminal activities encompass a wide spectrum, including drug trafficking, human trafficking, arms dealing, and the illicit movement of financial assets.

Stock emphasized the urgent need to establish mechanisms for monitoring transactions within the global banking network. Currently, efforts are underway to engage banking associations worldwide in setting up such a framework. However, Stock highlighted the enormity of the challenge, noting that between 40% and 70% of criminal profits are reinvested, perpetuating the cycle of illicit financial activity. The lack of real-time information sharing poses a significant obstacle to law enforcement agencies in their efforts to combat money laundering and illegal trade.

Stock underscored the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in exacerbating this problem, citing its use in voice cloning and other fraudulent activities. Criminal organizations are leveraging AI technologies to expand their operations and evade detection on a global scale. Stock emphasized the importance of enhanced cooperation between law enforcement agencies and private sector banking groups. Realtime information sharing is crucial in the fight against illegal wealth accumulation.

Drawing inspiration from initiatives such as the “Singapore Anti-Scam Centre,” Stock called for the adoption of similar models in other countries to strengthen the collective response to financial crimes. In conclusion, Stock’s revelations underscore the pressing need for concerted action to combat global financial crimes. Enhanced cooperation between public and private sectors, coupled with innovative strategies for monitoring and combating illicit transactions, is essential to safeguarding the integrity of the global financial system.

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Policy&Politics

FM defends Atal Pension Scheme, highlights guaranteed returns

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman defended the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) against Congress criticism, asserting its design based on choice architecture and a guaranteed minimum 8% return. She emphasized the scheme’s opt-out feature, facilitating automatic premium continuation unless subscribers choose otherwise, promoting retirement savings. Sitharaman countered Congress allegations of coercion, stating the APY’s guaranteed returns irrespective of market conditions, supplemented by government subsidies.

Responding to Congress’s claim of scheme misuse, Sitharaman highlighted its intended beneficiaries – the lower-income groups. She criticized Congress for its alleged elitist mindset and emphasized the scheme’s success in targeting the needy. Sitharaman accused Congress of exploiting vote bank politics and coercive tactics, contrasting it with the APY’s transparent framework. The exchange underscores the political debate surrounding social welfare schemes, with the government defending its approach while opposition parties raise concerns about implementation and efficacy.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s robust defense of the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) against Congress criticism highlights the ongoing debate over social welfare schemes in India. Sitharaman’s assertion of the APY’s design principles, including its opt-out feature and guaranteed minimum return, underscores the government’s commitment to promoting retirement savings among lower-income groups. The Atal Pension Yojana, named after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was launched in 2015 to provide pension benefits to workers in the unorganized sector. It aims to address the significant gap in pension coverage among India’s workforce, particularly those employed in informal and low-income sectors. The scheme offers subscribers fixed pension amounts ranging from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 5,000 per month, depending on their contribution and age at entry, after attaining the age of 60. Sitharaman’s response comes after Congress criticism alleging the APY’s inefficacy and coercive tactics in enrolment.

Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh described the scheme as poorly designed, citing instances of subscribers dropping out due to unauthorized account openings. However, Sitharaman refuted these claims, emphasizing the APY’s transparent and beneficiary-oriented approach. The finance minister’s defense focuses on three key aspects of the APY: Choice Architecture: Sitharaman highlights the opt-out feature of the APY, which automatically continues premium payments unless subscribers choose to discontinue.

This design element aims to encourage long-term participation and ensure consistent retirement savings among subscribers. By simplifying the decision-making process, the scheme seeks to overcome inertia and promote financial discipline among participants. Guaranteed Minimum Return: Sitharaman underscores the APY’s guarantee of a minimum 8% return, irrespective of prevailing interest rates. This assurance provides subscribers with confidence in the scheme’s financial viability and incentivizes long-term savings.

The government’s commitment to subsidizing any shortfall in actual returns further strengthens the attractiveness of the APY as a retirement planning tool. Targeting the Needy: Sitharaman defends the predominance of pension accounts in lower income slabs, arguing that it reflects the scheme’s successful targeting of its intended beneficiaries – the poor and lower-middle class. She criticizes Congress for its alleged elitist mindset and suggests that the party’s opposition to welfare schemes like the APY stems from a disconnect with the needs of marginalized communities. Sitharaman’s rebuttal also addresses broader political narratives surrounding social welfare policies in India.

She accuses Congress of exploiting vote bank politics and coercive tactics, contrasting it with the transparent and inclusive framework of the APY. The exchange underscores the ideological differences between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress, with each side advocating for their vision of social welfare and economic development. In addition to defending the APY, Sitharaman’s remarks shed light on the broader challenges and opportunities facing India’s pension sector.

Despite significant progress in expanding pension coverage through schemes like the APY, the country still grapples with issues such as financial literacy, informal employment, and pension portability. Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach involving government intervention, private sector participation, and civil society engagement.

As India strives to achieve its vision of inclusive and sustainable development, initiatives like the APY play a crucial role in promoting economic security and social equity. Sitharaman’s defense of the scheme underscores the government’s commitment to addressing the needs of vulnerable populations and ensuring their financial well-being in the long run.

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Economic

Regulatory steps will make financial sector strong, but raise cost of capital

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India’s financial system regulator, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), is demonstrating a serious commitment to improving governance and transparency at finance companies and banks, with the RBI’s recent measures aimed at curtailing lenders’ overexuberance, enhancing compliance culture and safeguarding customers.

While the global ratings firm has appreciated the RBI’s “diminishing tolerance for non-compliance, customer complaints, data privacy, governance, know-your-customer (KYC), and anti-money laundering issues”, it has cautioned that increased regulatory risk could impede growth and raise the cost of capital for financial institutions. “Governance and transparency are key weaknesses for the Indian financial sector and weigh on our analysis. The RBI’s new measures are creating a more robust and transparent financial system,” says S&P Global Credit Analyst, Geeta Chugh. “India’s regulator has underscored its commitment to strengthening the financial sector. The drawback will be higher capital costs for institutions,” Chugh cautions.

The RBI measures include restraining IIFL Finance and JM Financial Products from disbursing gold loan and loans against shares respectively and asking Paytm Payments Bank (PPBL) to stop onboarding of new customers. Earlier in December 2020, the RBI suspended HDFC Bank from sourcing new credit card customers after repeated technological outages. These actions are a departure from the historically nominal financial penalties imposed for breaches, S&P Global notes.

Besides, as the global agency points out, the RBI has decided to publicly disclose the key issues that lead to suspensions or other strict actions against concerned entities and become more vocal in calling out conduct that it deems detrimental to the interests of customers and investors. “We believe that increased transparency will create additional pressure on the entire financial sector to enhance compliance and governance practices,” adds Chugh. The global agency has also lauded the RBI’s recent actions demonstrating scant tolerance for any potential window-dressing of accounts.

These actions include the provisioning requirement on alternative investment funds that lend to the same borrower as the bank finance company. Amidst the possibility of some retail loans, such as personal loans, loans against property, and gold loans getting diverted to invest in stock markets and difficulty of ascertaining the end-use of money in these products, S&P Global underlines the faith of market participants that the RBI and market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, want to protect small investors by scrutinizing these activities more cautiously.

On the flip side, at a time of tight liquidity, the RBI’s new measures are likely to limit credit growth in fiscal 2025 (year ending March 2025). “We expect loan growth to decline to 14 per cent in fiscal 2025 from 16 per cent in fiscal 2024, reflecting the cumulative impact of all these actions,” says Chugh. The other side of the story is that stricter rules may disrupt affected entities and increase caution among fintechs and other regulated entities and the RBI’s decision to raise risk weights on unsecured personal loans and credit cards may constrain growth. Household debt to GDP in India (excluding agriculture and small and midsize enterprises) increased to an estimated 24 per cent in March 2024 from 19 per cent in March 2019. Growth in unsecured loans has also been excessive and now forms close to 10 per cent of total banking sector loans.

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