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Relief package of no use, says Nage Gowda

By Our Special Correspondent

Bangalore Sept. 3. The President of the State unit of the All-India Progressive Janata Dal, K.N. Nage Gowda, has said that the State Government's relief package announced for farmers recently will neither benefit them nor help prevent farmers from committing suicide.

Participating in a "Meet the press'' programme organised by the Bangalore Reporters' Guild and the Press Club of Bangalore here today, he said that if the Government wanted to help farmers, it should immediately reduce the interest on farm loans. It should announce waiver of interest on farm loans obtained in the current season, he added.

Farmers were in distress because of the drought in the past three years and the steep fall in the prices of agricultural produce. Fifty per cent of the nearly 26,000 cooperative institutions in the State were defunct, and most farmers had to obtain loans from private financiers since neither nationalised banks nor cooperative banks extended loans to them, Mr. Nage Gowda said. He said the Union and State governments had failed to come to the rescue of farmers. The Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee's announcement that the interest on short-term and long-term farm loans would not be more than four per cent and nine per cent, respectively, had not been implemented. Mr. Nage Gowda said that despite availing of loans of Rs. 38,000 crore in the past four years, the Government had only allocated Rs. 78 crore for interest waiver on farm loans. The claim that electricity dues of farmers to the tune of Rs. 331 crore had been waived by the Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Ltd. was "bogus", he alleged. The Government had no other choice but to write off the dues since the KPTCL was in no position to recover them, according to Mr. Nage Gowda.

On the announcement that Rs. 40 crore had been allocated for providing relief for the sugarcane sector, he said the amount had been set apart for sugar factories which exported sugar. However, no sugar factory could make exports and earn the incentive of Rs. 1,000 per tonne of sugar. The Centre had discriminated against Karnataka in disbursement from the Sugar Development Fund. While allocations had been made to the northern States, no funds had been given to the southern States and Maharashtra, he said.

Asked about the merger of the Janata Dal groups, he said he had no opposition to it, and was ready to make any sacrifice. However, the merger should be on equal terms.

The AIPJD, Mr. Nage Gowa said, would field candidates in the byelections to the Hungund and Vemgal Assembly constituencies. Krishne Gowda would be the party's nominee in Vemgal. The candidate for Hungund would be announced in two days.

He was confident that his party would win with support from likeminded parties. The AIPJD would hold discussions with parties other than the Congress and the BJP, and seek their cooperation, he added.

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