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Rs. 60-crore relief for State

By Our Special Correspondent

HYDERABAD, JULY 1. The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, today expressed his Government's unflinching support to the distressed farmers of the State and announced release of Rs. 60 crores from the Calamity Relief Fund and Rs. 1.82 lakh tonnes of foodgrains under the food-for-work programme.

This was part of a package of several relief measures that Dr. Singh unveiled at a press conference at the Raj Bhavan capping a day of interaction with farmers in Kurnool and Mahabubnagar districts besides political leaders and the Government.

He declared that the Centre would bring forward a new Seed Act to regulate and standardise the quality of seeds and provide a mechanism for penalties for violation of norms. Also, steps were being taken to strengthen the system of crop and livestock insurance and to simplify the drought assistance procedure.

The Prime Minister said some of the measures he had announced were his Government's immediate response while others were part of a long-term strategy to revitalise the farm sector. "Our intention is to increase rural incomes and employment and improve the quality of life in the villages. These will be the focus areas of our Government," he added.

Expressing sympathies with the families of farmers who committed suicide, he said while he was happy at visiting a State where his party had been voted back to power, he was, however, distressed that the reason for his visit was the crisis faced by farmers. "I recognise that Andhra Pradesh faces many problems, especially with regard to water management, which must be supported by the Centre, the State Government and financial institutions."

Dr. Singh expressed confidence that once the new Planning Commission was in place, the Centre would look into various options to open new chapters in history which would usher in social and economic change and, above all, eradicate poverty, hunger and disease which afflicts large parts of the State. After hearing political leaders who explained that the State was once called `Annapoorna', the Prime Minister said a second green revolution was needed in India. The Agriculture Commission headed by the eminent scientist, M. S. Swaminathan, had to look at a comprehensive strategy for agricultural transformation of India. "I am sure it will look into issues like crop diversification, mitigation of farmers' risk besides credit and input support so as to bring a new element of dynamism into agriculture."

Answering a question whether he held bad policy or drought responsible for the crisis, the Prime Minister said lack of rain for years at a stretch had undoubtedly precipitated the crisis.

But, the Government should have anticipated the situation and taken timely remedial measures.

He declined to commit himself on the State Government's plea for cutting bank lending rates saying that this fell strictly in the RBI's preserve and that he could not comment on it.

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