CM offers relief package for drought-hit

HYDERABAD JULY 26. The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu, has ruled out deferment of electricity bills on agricultural pumpsets in the drought-affected mandals as fervently sought by the Opposition, but announced a relief package benefiting farmers in particular and the areas in general.

The package includes rescheduling of crop loans "as per the Government of India'' guidelines, extension of the one-time settlement of the arrears due from farmers to cooperative banks up to December-end, immediate grounding of the contingency plan to be implemented with alternative crops and fresh allotments for drinking water and fodder.

Replying to a six-and-a-half-hour debate on drought conditions in the State in the Assembly on Friday, Mr. Naidu rejected postponement of power bills on the ground that it would hamper the AP Transco's output plan but, as an alternative, he extended the benefit if the farmers of dried-up borewells or open wells surrendered their pumpsets which could be activated as and when water was available in the wells.

A record number of 41 members participated in the debate. Cutting across party lines, they highlighted one problem or other of farmers or of the areas represented by them. The Panel Speaker, M. V. Krishna Rao, who was in the chair, adjourned the House abruptly when the Leader of the Opposition, Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy, was about to say something.

Mr. Naidu announced Government guarantee for Rs. 32 crores to enable sugar factories to pay arrears due to farmers and allotment of Rs. 20 crores for input subsidy, Rs. 25 crores for drinking water supply in addition to Rs. 20 crores already made available and Rs. 5 crores exclusively for fodder supply.

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