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Banks not doing justice to farmers, says Minister

By Our Staff Correspondent

KATEEL (DAKSHINA KANNADA), JAN. 6. The Union Minister for Rural Development, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, today criticised the policy of banks with regard to the interest rate on loans to farmers.

Inaugurating a three-day "Krishi Mela'' organised by Sri Kshetra Dharmasthala Rural Development Project (SKDRDP) here, Mr. Singh said banks' policy on loans is biased against farmers. While they have reduced the rates of interest for housing schemes and purchase of vehicles, the interest rates on agricultural loans and loans given to those below the poverty line continue to be high. In a majority of cases, banks hesitate to extend loans to rural people, he added.

He said banks have not ventured into many rural areas to provide service. In such a situation, how could they extend loans to self-help groups and other groups helping the poor? he asked. Villages need attention, and drinking water, housing and sanitation projects have to be taken up, he added.

Job guarantee

The Minister said that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government at the Centre is committed to enacting a law to ensure at least 100 days of casual employment at a prescribed wage to one member of every poor family in rural areas. It has framed a draft National Rural Employment Guarantee Bill (approved by the Union Cabinet recently). The focus of the scheme will be on projects related to water conservation, creation of additional irrigation potential through micro and mini irrigation schemes, drought proofing and wasteland development. It is planned to implement the job guarantee scheme in 150 districts initially, he added.

He said that the common minimum programme of the UPA government lays stress on development programmes for villages.

The minister appreciated the activities of the "Siri'' project of the SKDRDP taken up under the Swarnajayanthi Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY) of the Centre. Women in rural areas are benefiting from the project, he said.

Mr. Singh said there is a need to create employment opportunities in rural areas. The number of families below the poverty line is increasing at the rate of 10 lakh families each year.

D. Veerendra Heggade, Dharmadhikari of Sri Kshetra Dharmastala, presided over the function.

The annual Krishi Mela is the 25th such programme being organised by the SKDRDP in Dakshina Kannada.

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