A series of new welfare measures and schemes -- including houses for those living in huts, a Rs.50 per quintal hike in procurement price of paddy, payment of tuition fees in professional colleges for students who do not have a single graduate in their families, waiving of non-farm loans given by TAHDCO, and a reduction in number of years in residence for a house patta – marked the Governor’s address in the State Assembly on Wednesday.

About 21 lakh mud-walled houses with thatched roof will be converted into permanent houses in the next six years, Governor Surjit Singh Barnala informed the Legislative Assembly.

The scheme, ‘Kalaignar Housing Scheme,’ will commence in the coming financial year, 2010-2011. In the first year, three lakh permanent houses will be constructed at a cost of Rs.1800 crore.

“If all these huts are to be converted into permanent houses in our state, only under the present centrally assisted scheme of Indira Awaz Yojana executed all over the country, then it would take another 30 years. Considering this aspect, in the first phase, with a view to bringing light in the lives of the poor living in these 21 lakh huts, the Government has now designed a fully State Government funded, mega project to convert all these huts into concrete roofed permanent houses which will be given free of cost to the beneficiaries,” the Governor said.

The Governor announced that the requirement of minimum number of years of residence will be reduced from five years to three years for the grant of house site pattas. Earlier, the government had reduced this stipulation from 10 years to five years and had also removed the income ceiling. This resulted in nearly seven lakh house site pattas being distributed in the past three and a half years.

Based on a request made by Adi Dravidar entrepreneurs to waive the non-farm sector loans they had availed from the Tamil Nadu Adi Dravidar Housing and Development Corporation (TAHDCO), the government has decided to accept their request. The government has “decided to waive the loans … amounting to Rs.83 crore being the overdue principal and interest as on March 31, 2009,” the Governor said. Over 53,000 Adi Dravidar entrepreneurs will benefit from this waiver. The government will also pay back the loans taken by fishermen post-tsunami for buying boats and other equipment. The Banks will waive the interest part. This will cost the government Rs.80 crore.

PTI adds

The opening day of the Tamil Nadu assembly session was marred by a walkout by the main Opposition AIADMK and its ally, MDMK, accusing the ruling DMK government of failing on several fronts.

AIADMK members led by Deputy Leader O Panneerselvam read out a statment alleging that the government had failed to protect the interests of the state on the Mullaperiyar dam issue with Kerala, among others, just as Governor Surjit Singh Barnala was about to deliver his customary address.

They also blamed DMK Government for ‘failing to control the rising prices and not taking steps to protect Indian fishermen from attacks by Sri lankan navy’ before staging the walkout.

The MDMK also followed suit.