Widespread rain lashed most parts of Odisha for the past 48 hours, creating a favourable condition for farming and bringing down temperature levels.The State, which recorded over 30% deficit rainfall in June, has started receiving good rainfall from July largely due to a well-marked low pressure area that lies over southeast Jharkhand and adjoining areas of Odisha and gangetic West Bengal.Under the influence of the atmospheric system, almost all parts of Odisha received rains. Highest precipitation was recorded at Chandbali where 122.3 mm rainfall was measured. Balangir, Phulbani, Bhubaneswar, Sonepur, Angul, Sambalpur and Cuttack received rainfall above 50 mm during 24 hours ending Tuesday morning.The rains brought cheer to farmers as they are getting ready for the Kharif season.Rainfall deficitAccording to the State Revenue and Disaster Management Department, six districts — Balangir, Nayagarh, Nuapada, Kandhamal, Keonjhar and Sundargarh — had rainfall deficit ranging between 39% and 59%. As many as 18 out of 30 districts had recorded rainfall deficit between 19% and 39%. The Bhubaneswar Meteorological Centre had predicted rainfall in the interior areas, especially over central and western districts, over next 24 hours.“The rainfall is critical for furthering farm operations. It restored soil moisture up to some extent,” said Subhendu Rout, a farmer in Jagatsinghpur district.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter Member of Parliament for North West St. Ann, Dr. Dayton Campbell, is recommending that adjustments be made to the Student Loan Bureau (SLB) to focus on areas of study that are critical to nation development.“I believe the SLB should first concern itself with making loans available to persons pursuing tertiary studies in areas…such as Mathematics, Pharmacy, Engineering, the Sciences,” he stated.Dr. Campbell was opening the debate on a private members motion on funding for tertiary education, on June 11 in the House of Representatives.He stated that new programmes should be assessed for relevance, in terms of whether they “respond to labour market needs, foster innovation or serve community aspirations, before approval”.Dr. Campbell said that while he is not suggesting that persons pursuing degrees that are “oversubscribed” or those with “a low employment potential” should be denied tertiary education, the SLB’s limited resources should be directed to those areas which are of strategic importance to the country, and at lower interest rates.These rates, he noted further, “should be inversely proportionate to the need of the area for national development thus the higher the need the lower the interest rate”.According to Dr. Campbell, the country is in need of Mathematics and Science teachers and in order to increase enrolment in these areas, students should get incentives to pursue these subjects at the tertiary level.“I want to take it a step further and propose that no income tax be collected for the first three years of employment for Mathematics and Science teachers, who needed state financing to complete their studies. This portion would instead go straight to the Bureau as a part of their repayment,” Dr. Campbell said.He also proposed the establishment of an income-contingency repayment plan, which would base the monthly loan repayments on the salaries of borrowers. He noted that such a loansystem addresses risk and uncertainty faced by individuals by providing insurance against inability to repay and improves progressiveness by providing a lower public subsidy for graduates that obtain higher private returns.Demand for student loans has increased over the last six years, moving from 6,600 persons in 2007 to 16,600 in 2012, and is projected to swell to over 20,000 persons for the upcoming academic year.The growth in demand, coupled with the annual increase in tuition costs, has significantly increased the pressure on the limited resources of the SLB to provide loans, which is estimated to reach $20 billion in the 2015/16 financial year.For the 2013/14 academic year, approximately $4.9 billion is required to fully cover the projected demand, which will be financed by the Education Tax and loan inflows from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).On March 19, the House of Representatives approved a Government guarantee of a US$20 million loan from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to the SLB.