State to seek more funds for drought relief

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Manmohan Singh
Manmohan Singh

Nagesh Prabhu

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arriving today

BANGALORE: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who will be here on a day’s visit on Friday, is expected to review the whole gamut of issues relating to the agricultural scenario in the State, including implementation of the Rs. 2,689.64-crore Farmers’ Package for six “distressed” districts in the State.

Towards reversing the declining growth rate in the farm sector and preventing farmers’ suicides, Dr. Singh is expected to suggest to the State Government to step up investment in the sector and ensure institutional credit delivery to farmers for achieving four per cent annual growth rate in the sector during the Eleventh Five Year Plan period.

The State Government will submit a memorandum to the Prime Minister seeking additional funds to tackle drought and implementation of various infrastructure projects in Bangalore and other parts of the State, sources in the Secretariat told The Hindu.

Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, Deputy Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa, Agriculture Minister Bandeppa Kashempur, Horticulture Minister Shashikanth A. Naik, Public Works Minister H.D. Revanna, senior government officials, officials of the Union Agricultural Ministry and members of the Planning Commission will participate in the meeting. Dr. Singh will be taken through a power-point presentation on the state of agriculture.

The meeting will deliberate upon implementation of the three-year rehabilitation package for farmers in the suicide-prone districts of Chikmagalur, Shimoga, Belgaum, Kodagu, Hassan and Chitradurga districts.

Mr. Revanna, who is heading the Cabinet sub-committee on farmers’ package, said there was delay in the execution of irrigation projects as the Centre was yet to approve the project reports submitted by the State.

The Government would urge Dr. Singh to clear all pending proposals for speedy execution, Mr. Revanna said. Karnataka ranks next only to Rajasthan in terms of the total geographical area which is drought-prone. The Government envisages providing irrigation facilities to over 90 lakh hectares in the next 10 years. As many as 128 taluks have been declared as “drought-hit” in 2007 and the State Government is expected to seek funds to tackle recurring droughts. Like many other States, the agricultural sector is passing through a difficult phase in Karnataka. The sector was adversely affected by declining public investment, consecutive droughts, spate of farmers’ suicides, and sharp drop in prices of several crops. According to an official sources, 2,630 farmers committed suicide in 2000-01, 2,505 suicide cases were reported in 2001-02, 2,340 in 2002-03, 708 in 2003-04, 271 in 2004-05 and 217 cases in 2005-06 and more than 150 cases in 2006-07. Debt is one of the reasons for farmers committing suicide. Nearly 62 per cent of farm households are indebted in Karnataka against the national average of 48.6 per cent. Disbursement of farm loans at 4 per cent by state cooperative societies could be one of the reasons for declining number of suicide cases.

The State has brought a new Agricultural Policy 2006, second in 11 years, and amended the Karnataka Agriculture Produce and Marketing Committee Act, 1966, to accelerate the growth in the sector.

The policy is called “Farmer Centric” more due to the fact that it deals with farm, rather than farmer as such. The policy aims at annual growth rate of 4.5 per cent in the next 10 years, proudly with the hope that the agricultural sector will receive 10 per cent of the budgetary support in the coming decade.

The 2007-08 State Budget has set aside 7.06 per cent of the plan outlay to the sector.

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