: Finance Minister K.M. Mani said here on Monday that the government would consider the announcement of a new package to address the concerns of coconut and areca nut farmers in the State.
Inaugurating a district convention of the Kerala Congress (M) at Town Hall, Mr. Mani said the government was aware of the plight of farmers in the sector. “We have heard their grievances and there will be a positive feedback from the government in the forthcoming budget,” he said.
The Finance Minister said the State government was preparing several lot of welfare programmes for the farmers community. “We have already introduced a pension scheme and insurance coverage, which the previous government had failed to implement,” he said.
Mr. Mani said the youth force would benefit the most from the initiatives of the State government.
The government would shortly begin an innovative training programme for them to develop their entrepreneurship skills, he added. Mr. Mani said the training programme, in its first phase, would cover 50,000 youths in Kerala. “After training, they would be allowed to form groups to start industrial ventures. A subsidy of Rs.20 lakh would be extended to each group,” he added.
John Poothakkuzhi, district president of the Kerala Congress (M), presided over the convention. Thomas Unniyadan, MLA, was also present.
Mr. Mani sought the immediate intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to settle the Mullaperiyar dam dispute and make the Tamil Nadu government respond creatively to Kerala's offer to construct a new dam to replace the existing 116-year-old structure.
Mr. Mani told presspersons here that the Centre should help find a quick solution, as a failure of the old dam would endanger the lives of over 40 lakh people in five districts of Kerala. He exuded confidence that the Union government would come up with a decision which would help Tamil Nadu change its stance against building a new dam.
The sole solution
“Construction of a new dam is the only solution, and the State government has earmarked a special fund for it in the budget,” he said.
Mr. Mani said the State could never yield to pressure to withdraw its demand that it be allowed to demolish the old structure and build a new dam.
“The dam will be constructed on Kerala's land without causing any damage to the existing one and without disrupting the water-supply schemes of Tamil Nadu,” he said.
The Minister said Kerala was making use of its own financial resources and land to construct a dam at a cost of Rs.600 crore to ensure the security of its people. “If Tamil Nadu is opposing such genuine attempts, we will be compelled to just scoff at their stance and proceed,” he said. Referring to the recent study reports which brought to light the pathetic condition of the dam at a time of frequent tremors, Mr. Mani said the State did not want to entertain further delay on addressing the crucial issue.
“We are ready to give an assurance to the Tamil Nadu government that there will not be any disruption of the water-supply schemes of that State affecting its agriculture sector,” he said.
He urged the Tamil Nadu government to show “broadmindedness” on the issue.