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Wednesday, December 20, 2000

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Govt. cannot take support for granted: TDP

By Our Special Correspondent

HYDERABAD, DEC. 19. The TDP president, Mr. N. Chandrababu Naidu, made it clear today that the NDA Government could not take his party's support for granted if it continues to neglect the interests of paddy farmers in Andhra Pradesh.

Mr. Naidu's response came in reply to a question at a news conference whether the TDP would withdraw support to the BJP-led Government if its 60-day-old dispute over payment of minimum support price (MSP) to paddy farmers was not resolved to the State Government's satisfaction. ``We will not compromise on the State's interests'', he added.

The State Government is peeved at the Centre's failure to clear the confusion over grading rice brought to purchase centres by farmers. To cite an example, the Union Ministry of Food and Civil Supplies instructed the FCI on Monday to pay Rs. 540 a quintal for Swarna Masuri rice till March 31 without declaring it as Grade `A' as sought by the State Government.

The Minister for Civil Supplies, Dr. N. Janardhan Reddy, and the Minister for Agriculture, Mr. V. Sobhanadreeswara Rao, who returned here after airdashing to New Delhi on Sunday, said they were ``not fully satisfied'' with the Centre's response to their suggestions. They had asked Food Ministry officials to issue a comprehensive order clarifying various points raised by them to put an end to the confusion caused by the five orders issued earlier so that the FCI's field staff could carry out the instructions in both letter and spirit.

The Ministers pointed out that last year the FCI procured 55 lakh tonnes of rice out of which 50 lakh tonnes was Grade `A'. But, this year, it had procured 13 lakh tonnes so far of which already three lakh tonnes was graded as common (MSP of Rs. 510 a quintal).

The State Government is planning to fax a letter to the Food Ministry tomorrow morning formally seeking a comprehensive order. ``If this order too does not meet the farmers' requirements of the paddy farmers, the Government will chalk out its future course of action. The Ministers wanted the Centre to treat A.P. farmers on par with wheat farmers in Punjab who were provided incentives like free transport and weighment. The FCI procured the entire wheat stocks in a record period of 26 days.

Meanwhile, the TDP spokesman, Mr. R. Chandrasekhara Reddy, said the TDP would to go to any extent, including withdrawing support to the NDA Government, if there is any deviation from the Common Minimum Agenda or the interests of A.P. farmers harmed. This view, already articulated in the Rajya Sabha the other day by the TDP member, Mr. K.M. Saifullah, represented the consensus of the party.

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