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Cabinet sanctions Rs. 31 cr. for drought relief

By Our Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, MARCH 10. The Cabinet today decided to allocate an amount of additional Rs. 80 crores, including Rs. 49 crores granted by the Centre, for drought relief in the State.

The Chief Minister, A.K. Antony, told presspersons after a Cabinet meeting that the Government had already allocated Rs. 120 crores for relief activities in the districts. The State was allocating Rs. 31 crores additionally.

The Chief Minister announced that revenue recovery proceedings over defaulted farm loans would be suspended for six months. The money allocated by the Centre for drought relief, Mr. Antony said, was not satisfactory. The Government would be submitting a special memorandum to the Centre seeking additional funds for drinking water supply, as expenses on this count were going up with further severity of the drought. Higher losses on account of crop loss were likely. Increased relief would be sought in this regard as well.

He said that district-level relief committees would be formed to rush urgent relief to the affected people. A crisis management team had been formed with the Chief Secretary as chairman and the Revenue Secretary as convener. Secretaries of all departments concerned would be its members. Besides, Ministers have been put in direct charge of relief efforts in each district.

Candidates list soon

Mr. Antony said the list of Congress candidates for the Lok Sabha constituencies in the State would be finalised within a week. He said the Union Ministers of State, O. Rajagopal and P. C. Thomas, and others had done little for the State in getting its due share in the Union Budget or drought relief. No project for Kerala had been included in the Budget. The Chief Minister said he had concerns about the Bharat Uday Yatra of the Deputy Prime Minister, L. K. Advani. Steps had been taken to maintain law and order in the State. The concerns about law and order also seemed to have been noticed by the organisers of the yatra.

Mr. Antony said the Government would enquire whether there were any lapses in the conduct of cases connected to the operation of online lotteries in the State. It would also appeal to the Supreme Court for a ban on the operations of online lotteries in the State. The State lotteries were running at a loss now and it had plans to start an online lottery. He said that four coastal police stations, the first of its type in the State, would start functioning from April at Vizhinjam, Fort Kochi, Kodungallur and Beypore.

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