The Rs.1,840 crore-Kuttanad Package, said to be among the largest financial packages sanctioned to a single region, was launched by Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan at the Mankombu Mini Civil Station here on Sunday.
The package to ensure overall development of the region and its people was designed by renowned agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan.
Union Minister for Water Resources Pawan Kumar Bansal inaugurated irrigation projects worth about Rs.150 crore, which are part of the package.
Mr. Achuthanandan said that since the Kuttanad Package was finally on its wheels after much delay, the Centre should now expedite financial approval for projects under the Idukki Agricultural Rehabilitation Package, which was also recommended by Dr. Swaminathan.
The Left Democratic Front government, which was contemplating yet another hike in the minimum support price for paddy from the existing Rs.12 a kg, was doing all that was possible to implement the Kuttanad Package and to turn Kerala into the “Brindavan of India.”
The Kuttanad Package, which he said was designed by the son of the soil and “member of the famed Mankombu family” M.S. Swaminathan, was a comprehensive project. It would conclusively deal with the flood threats that were for long plaguing Kuttanad, the second place in the world where cultivation was done below the sea level, and ensure overall development of the region.
Reacting to a statement by Union Minister of State for Agriculture K.V. Thomas that the Centre's green card for farmers offered agricultural loans at an interest rate of only 5 per cent, Mr. Achuthanandan said the LDF government was already giving farmers interest-free agricultural loans. The Centre should also think of similar farmer-friendly loans, he said.
Mr. Bansal, who assured “top priority and concern” to projects submitted by the State under the Kuttanad Package, urged the State and its officials to avoid “protracted correspondence and related delays.” They must, instead, interact directly with Central officials or representatives of the Central Water Commission to ensure speedy implementation of the package.
Professor Thomas presided over the function. Kerala's Water Resources Minister N.K. Premachandran and Agriculture Minister Mullakara Ratnakaran were among others who spoke.