Special Correspondent

Demands “early action” to interlink Ganga and Cauvery

He also asked for additional 800 MW of electricity for farm irrigation

26 of the State’s 32 districts have received scanty and deficient rainfall

CHENNAI: Agriculture Minister Veerapandi S. Arumugam on Friday asked the Centre to allot Rs.325 crore under the National Calamities Relief Fund for “relief assistance to farmers who [had] not taken up cultivation due to drought.”

He also sought additional 800 MW of electricity for farm irrigation supply and allocation of Rs.125 crore [over and above the allotted Rs.127.9 crore] under the National Agriculture Development Programme for 2009-2010.

Addressing at a meeting of State Agriculture Ministers in New Delhi, Mr. Arumugam said 26 of the State’s 32 districts had received scanty and deficient rainfall during the south-west monsoon (total deficit 24 per cent), resulting in only 7.26 lakh ha being brought under cultivation in the kharif season, as against 19.28 lakh ha last year.

He asked for enhancement of relief assistance to Rs.7,500 per ha from Rs.4,000 per ha for paddy, banana and other perennial horticultural crop farmers affected by the natural calamity.

In the cultivated area, the government had taken “effective measures” and sufficient power supply had been ensured, he said. Steps were also being taken to provide diesel subsidy in drought-affected areas.

He asked the Centre to bear the entire subsidy amount of Rs.15 crore in view of the State’s financial situation instead of only 50 per cent under the current policy.

Reiterating the State’s stand that interlinking of national rivers was necessary to produce sufficient food grain, Mr. Arumugam asked the government to bear the expenditure of the projects being undertaken by the State, including the Rs.165-crore Cauvery-Gundaru project and the Rs.369-crore Tamirabarani-Karumeniyaru-Nambiyaru project. He demanded “early action” to interlink the Ganga and the Cauvery.

The Minister also asked for enhancement of subsidies for micro-irrigation, seeds of paddy, cotton, millets, pulses and oilseeds, for mechanisation using tractors and for food processing units.