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Package to prevent suicide by farmers

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CHIEF MINISTERS' MEET: Union Minister of Agriculture Sharad Pawar greeting Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy at the meeting of four States on farmers' suicide in Hyderabad on Monday. Photo : K. Ramesh Babu
CHIEF MINISTERS' MEET: Union Minister of Agriculture Sharad Pawar greeting Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy at the meeting of four States on farmers' suicide in Hyderabad on Monday. Photo : K. Ramesh Babu

Special Correspondent

To address problems of irrigation, crop insurance and improving productivity

Pawar meets Ministers from Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra Refuses to divulge exact size of proposed package It might offer Rs. 3,000 crores for irrigation

HYDERABAD: Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Monday said the Centre's package for preventing farmers' suicides in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala would be in place in two months.

Aimed at supplementing and supporting the State Governments' efforts in this direction, he said, the package would address problems relating to agriculture credit, irrigation, crop insurance, improving agriculture productivity, extension services and health insurance coverage.

Briefing press persons after discussing the package proposals with the Chief Ministers and Agriculture Ministers of the four States, Mr. Pawar said there was agreement on the steps to be taken to improve the lot of farmers in 30 to 35 districts in these States where the suicides were on the higher side. The meeting followed his promise in Parliament that he would consult the affected States before finalising the package.

Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy and his Maharashtra counterpart Vilas Rao Deshmukh attended the meeting, while Karnataka was represented by its Agriculture Minister Bandeppa Khashampur.

Mr. Pawar said the States presented their own proposals, some of which were "interesting." The Centre would study these proposals and incorporate them in the package. He refused to divulge the size of the package but indicated that it could run into a "few thousand crores."

Referring to areas where the States required support, he said the package might offer Rs. 3,000 crores for irrigation. The credit component could include rescheduling of crop loans, interest waiver and moratorium.

Making it clear that there was difference of opinion over the figures of suicides between the Centre and the State Governments, he said Karnataka registered 5,910 suicides, followed by Andhra Pradesh (1,835), Maharashtra (981) and Kerala (201) during the five years from 2001-02 to 2005-06. Karnataka disputed the figure, he said.

Of the 30 to 35 districts where the package will be implemented, 15 were in Andhra Pradesh, six each in Maharashtra and Karnataka, and three in Kerala.

Presentation

The proposal would be presented to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The Union Ministers of Finance, Rural Development, Water Resources and Health, Chief Ministers of four States and Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission would attend the presentation. The proposals would then go to the Union Cabinet for approval and "we hope to implement the package in two months".

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