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PM announces package for farmers
Sharat Pradhan in Nainital | September 23, 2006 19:28 IST
Close on the heels of the Rs 3750-crore package for the well-being of farmers in six suicide affected districts of Vidharbha area in Maharastra, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday announced a similar package for farmers in 31 other such affected districts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala.
Dr Singh, addressing a two-day meet of chief ministers of 14 Congress-ruled states in Nainital, declared, "The package includes waiver of interest on overdue loans, rescheduling of loans, enhancing credit flow, irrigation, watershed development, horticulture, besides subsidiary income through animal husbandry."
Terming agriculture indebtedness as a major cause of concern, Dr Singh said the government had formed an expert group to look into the problems of agriculture indebtedness in its totality. "I am hopeful that we will have its recommendations within the next few months," he said.
Referring to other measures taken by the United Progressive Alliance government, alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi said agriculture credit has been doubled in just about two years and interest rates have been lowered. "A package has been announced to revive the short-term cooperative credit structure," she said.
Describing farming as a "no longer financially rewarding occupation" on account of demographic pressure and fragmentation of holdings, Sonia felt that agriculture had become a "high risk livelihood".
The prime minister expressed deep concern over the agriculture growth rate in the country. "It is certainly not comparable with that of the rest of the economy," he said, adding, "Although we have succeeded in arresting the decline in public investment in this sector, we need much more investment � particularly in irrigation."
Public investment, he said, had increased in the agriculture sector, from Rs 3000 crores in 2004-04 to Rs 5500 crores in 2005-06.
"The government has taken a number of measures to support farmers on the price front," he said.