Even while declaring Cuddalore and Villupuram as “cyclone-affected districts,” Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Saturday unveiled a massive comprehensive agricultural package estimated at Rs.790 crore to rehabilitate farmers.

She announced in the Assembly that land tax would be waived for agriculturists in both districts. The arrears of farmers to co-operative banks, amounting to about Rs.440 crore, would be rescheduled. While short-term loans would be converted into medium-term ones, medium-term loans would be converted into long-term ones. In addition, new loans would be issued. “This will benefit 1.1 lakh farmers.”

Explaining how badly agriculture suffered in the State because of the cyclone, Ms. Jayalalithaa said that paddy was damaged on 1.47 lakh hectares, sugarcane (12,326 hectares), cashew (34,096 hectares) and banana, pulse, cotton and oil seeds (39,939 hectares).

In January, she had announced a special package to rehabilitate the affected farmers. “But, as that package alone will not able to restore their livelihood, I have decided to extend a bigger relief package.”

Mini-kits would be provided for paddy crop on 54,490 acres and pulses on 3, 83,660 acres. For horticultural crops, mini-kits worth Rs.1,540 each, containing hybrid seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, would be provided for February alone. In addition, she mooted a long-term package as well for horticultural crops as these farmers had lost virtually their entire livelihood.

For coconut, Rs.16.03 crore would be allocated for removing fallen trees. As many as 3.2 lakh saplings would be distributed free of cost. Besides, fertilizers costing Rs.13.53 crore would be provided for five years.

As cashew happens to be one of the major crops of Cuddalore and Villupuram, the Chief Minister has accorded special focus to it. While announcing allotment of Rs.54.78 crore for removal of fallen trees, she said 70 lakh seedlings would also be distributed free of cost.

In a bid to promote irrigation facilities, Ms. Jayalalithaa announced a subsidy Rs.27 crore for sinking borewells. The Tamil Nadu Electricity Board would give them priority in extending power connection and charges for new connection would be waived.

For farmers who have no water sources, watering would be taken up for four months under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme at a total cost of Rs.62.57 crore.

Mini-kits for raising intercrops of species such as cashew, jack fruit and mango on 91,000 acres, at least for two seasons, would be extended and they would cost Rs.13.88 crore.

In a major initiative, the Chief Minister announced that the government would beat the expenses for the maintenance of newly-planted seedlings and saplings from the second year to fifth year.

It would spend Rs.334.60 crore on removal of flawed seedlings, planting new ones, and application of fertilisers and pesticides.

It would take care of watering them too.

In order to implement this package expeditiously, a Project Management Unit, comprising officials of various implementing agencies and headed by an officer in the rank of Additional Collector, would be formed with Cuddalore as its headquarters.