TAMIL NADU

Naidu announces Rs. 236-cr. relief package

HYDERABAD NOV. 13. The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu, today announced a drought relief package of Rs. 236 crores to alleviate the suffering of farmers and solve the drinking water scarcity.

Replying to a three-day-long discussion in the Assembly, Mr. Naidu said this amount would be spent on drinking water supply (Rs. 50 crores), drought pension of Rs. 75 each to four lakh people (Rs. 20 crores), seed subsidy (Rs. 30 crores), rural roads (Rs. 100 crores), dairy and veterinary (Rs.10 crores) and material component for works taken up under the Food-for-work programme (FFW).

He said additional funds to the tune of Rs. 1268 crores were available with the Government for relief-related works in the current fiscal. The latest relief package was in addition to Rs. 205 crores sanctioned earlier, he added.

The House unanimously passed a resolution requesting the Centre to render timely and liberal assistance to Andhra Pradesh to overcome the grim situation caused by 37 per cent rainfall deficit during the south-west monsoon and 17 per cent during the north-east monsoon. In particular, it urged expeditious sanction of financial assistance of Rs. 1860 crores and 22 lakh tonnes of rice for drought relief as sought by the State Government.

It was only on this resolution that there was some common ground between the Treasury Benches and the Opposition in a highly acrimonious debate which witnessed verbal clashes between Mr. Naidu and the Leader of the Opposition, Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy. As a result the central issue — drought — frequently got sidetracked. Mr. Naidu's reply, which was laced with a sharp political attack on the Congress, did not satisfy the Congress, CPI (M) and Majlis members who staged a walk-out. Stating that the package did not address crucial issues like compensation for crop loss, Dr. Rajasekhara Reddy accused the TDP Government of all-round failure in the face of starvation deaths and suicide by farmers. The Chief Minister dubbed the walk-out politically motivated.

In his 100-minute long reply, the Chief Minister said he would hold the Congress party squarely responsible if the Centre did not release the needed aid under pressure from the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, who had complained at Mt. Abu that the NDA Government was showering plenty on Andhra Pradesh while doling out very little to Rajasthan.

Mr. Naidu said he would also press the Centre for waiver of interest on loans taken by farmers.

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