ANDHRA PRADESH

Cabinet for status quo on panchayats

Special Correspondent

HYDERABAD: The Cabinet on Saturday decided not to reduce the number of gram panchayats in the State, thus allaying apprehensions expressed by parties and citizen groups.

Speculation is rife that the Government is contemplating reducing the number as a strategy to win the forthcoming local body elections in the guise of more effectively implementing the constitutional amendments.

At a press briefing, Information and Agriculture Ministers - Mohd. Ali Shabbir and N. Raghuveera Reddy - stated that the Government had no such plan and that the 21,000 gram panchayats would continue.

"However, if there is any suggestion from political parties and organisations for cutting down the number for making the administration effective at the local level, we will certainly consider," they said quoting Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy.

Houses for weavers

The Cabinet cleared the decisions taken at Friday's brain-storming session on the Indiramma scheme but resolved to implement the benefits like drainage, drinking water and roads as part of the village/town plan regardless of the scheme.

It gave green signal for construction of 10,000 houses for weavers this year with the unit cost at Rs. 40,000. The beneficiary would have to contribute only Rs. 3,000, as Rs. 30,000 would come in as loan and Rs. 7,000 as subsidy.

Crucial weeks

The Cabinet considered the next four weeks as "crucial" regarding vegetables' availability in the market and finalised strategy to stabilise the prices.

The meeting noted that the spiralling of vegetable prices was due to drastic fall in production following heavy rain.

As part of the strategy, the Government would make four "interventions" immediately - supply of seed at subsidised rates so that farmers could raise fresh crops, opening of special counters at all rythu bazaars, selling scarce vegetables and sale of vegetables at thickly populated areas by mobile vans.