ANDHRA PRADESH

YSR to seek drought relief from Centre

HYDERABAD, OCT. 11 . The Chief Minister, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, left for New Delhi on Monday evening where he is expected to take up issues like clearance to projects and other administrative matters with the Centre.

Party leaders speculate that the Chief Minister may also take up key issues such as Cabinet expansion with the AICC president, Sonia Gandhi. According to them, Dr. Reddy is carrying a list of prospective candidates to head the 26 important State-owned corporations. Though he intends to announce the names after Dasara, partymen prefer a pre-festival bonanza to enable the `chosen ones' to assume office during the auspicious `Navaratri' period.

Meeting with officials

Dr. Reddy will also submit a memorandum seeking Rs. 1,093 crores from the National Calamity Fund and 20 lakh tonnes of rice under the Special Component for Wage Employment, in view of the prevailing drought conditions.

An official press release said Dr. Reddy reviewed the relief measures with the Revenue Minister, Dharmana Prasada Rao, and senior officials.

Officials informed the Chief Minister that 478 mm rainfall was registered against the normal of 624 mm during the South-West monsoon -- a deficit of about 23 per cent. In all, 757 of the 1,128 mandals were declared drought-hit and 509 lakh people were affected by drought. A total production loss of 14.37 lakh metric tonnes, valued at Rs.1,044 crores, was estimated. Fodder deficit was to the tune of 14.44 lakh metric tonnesespecially in Rayalaseema and Telangana districts. An estimated 85 lakh agricultural labourers were affected in 734 mandals due to a fall in cropped area in current kharif.

The Government was adopting a new approach of food assistance to poor families in need of employment.

Cabinet expansion

Cabinet expansion is long overdue, but Dr. Reddy is in no mood to take it up now with the Centre. Perhaps, he is waiting for Telangana Rashtra Samithi leaders to make their next move -- of quitting the alliance in view of the differences over the second States Reorganisation Commission (SRC), as the Congress is now pitching for `political consensus' as a prerequisite for the creation of smaller States. Whether the TRS would like to continue in the coalition is uncertain, brightening prospects of more Congress leaders getting a berth in the Cabinet.

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