Gargi Parsai

Package is likely to have a total interest waiver and rescheduling of loans for small farmers in debt

Sharad Pawar not to accompany Manmohan to Vidarbha Package to provide for vigorous implementation of major irrigation schemes Proposals for 50 per cent seed replacement, dairying may not form part of package

NEW DELHI: Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar will not accompany Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his two-day visit to the districts in the Vidarbha region in Maharashtra hit by suicides by farmers.

"[Union Minister of State for Aviation and Nationalist Congress Party leader] Praful Patel will go. He is from Vidarbha," Mr. Pawar said after meeting Finance Minister P. Chidambaram to discuss the rehabilitation package that Dr. Singh is to announce there.

"The exercise to finalise the package is still on. It is likely to be firmed up in the next two days," Mr. Pawar said. On his part, Mr. Chidambaram said the package would be finally approved by the Prime Minister and announced by him in Vidarbha.

Sources said what was almost finalised as part of the package for 31 districts in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala were proposals of the Agriculture Ministry that were already part of existing schemes. The package is likely to have a total interest waiver and rescheduling of loans for small and marginal farmers in debt. Also, there would be higher subsidy for drip and sprinkler irrigation.

However, the new proposal for implementing the Modified National Agriculture Insurance Scheme as a pilot project in the affected districts was not likely to form part of the package as it has not been put to the Union Cabinet yet, sources said.

The package will provide for vigorous implementation of the approved major irrigation schemes. The projects that await the Ministry of Environment and Forests' clearance would not form part of the package. Under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme, the three approved projects are Upper Wardha in Amravati and Wardha districts, Wan in Akola and Pen Ganga in Yavatmaal district. On medium projects, the State governments would be consulted.

The Agriculture Ministry proposals for 50 per cent seed replacement and for dairying may not also form part of the package.

These are proposals on which the Agriculture Ministry and the Finance Ministry had been labouring for the last three to four months.

Now, after another round of discussions among Mr. Pawar, Mr. Chidambaram and representatives of the Ministry of Water Resources, the Prime Minister will take a final decision.