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Double-benefit for Wayanad district

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Biju Govind

Loan wavers for farmers and multi-sectoral plan

KOZHIKODE: The hill district of Wayanad will gain tremendously from the Union budget proposals announced by Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram in Parliament last week.

Apart from obtaining a portion of the Rs.60,000 crore loan waiver package, the district will get a share from the funds allocated for the multi-sectoral development plan for 90 minority concentration districts in the country.

Wayanad is the lone minority concentration district in the State that has been selected by the Union Ministry of Minorities based on the census data on population, socio-economic indicators and basic amenities indicators. The district has a low socio-economic status.

Malappuram district, in fact, has the largest concentration of minorities in the State at 70 per cent. But Wayanad district, which has both Muslim and Christian population, has been identified as more backward than Malappuram.

The Ministry has decided to prepare and implement area or problem-specific special development plans for these districts. It will ensure that the benefit of programmes on poverty alleviation, education, health and provision of basic amenities, etc., reached the districts in a focussed manner.

As per the budget proposal, a sum of Rs.3,780 crore had been drawn up for the multi-sectoral development plan. The allocation next fiscal will be Rs.540 crore.

The allocation to the Ministry will be increased to Rs.1,000 crore from Rs.500 crore for the next financial year.

The proposal to waive loans amounting to Rs.60,000 crore will free 90 per cent of farmers in the district from the burden of repaying loans. The budget proposal says all agricultural loans disbursed by scheduled commercial banks, regional rural banks and cooperative credit institutions up to March 31, 2007, and overdue as on December 31, 2007 will be covered under the scheme.

Marginal farmers who hold up to one hectare and small farmers having one to two hectares will be given waiver of the loans that were overdue on December 31, 2007 and which remained unpaid until February 29, 2008.

There will be a one-time settlement (OTS) scheme for all loans overdue on December 31, 2007 and which remained unpaid until February 29, 2008. Under the OTS, a rebate of 25 per cent will be given against payment of the balance of 75 per cent, the proposal says.

Farmers Relief Forum spokesman A.C. Varkey said the proposal would benefit a majority of farmers who had taken loans from banks. The average land possession of a farmer is in the range of 5 to 7 acres.

The proposal has come at a time when banks are compelling farmers to re-schedule the loans, he said.

A large number of farmers have already paid back their loans and have taken new ones offered by the banks. The budget has not clarified whether these farmers will also benefit from the waiver scheme.

The budget proposal to set up a Special Purpose Fund (SPF) for re-plantation and rejuvenation for cardamom and coffee will also benefit the farmers of Wayanad. Another proposal is the crop insurance scheme announced for ginger, turmeric, pepper and cardamom.

The scheme will pave the way for breathing life into the agricultural sector in the hilly regions, said Mr. Varkey.

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