Enlarging its freebies domain, Tamil Nadu again took the lead among States in the country to come up with a new scheme of giving interest-free crop loans to farmers on Tuesday and slashed land revenue to rock-bottom level.
With an eye on the coming Lok Sabha polls, the DMK Government in yet another populist stroke decided to waive interest on all crop loans given by cooperative sector banks. The interest rate on such loans has already been cut from 9 to 4 per cent.
"As yet another example of our concern towards the farmers, for the first time in our Country, this (DMK) Government has decided not to charge interest on cooperative loans hereafter to all farmers who repay their cop loans on time from the ensuing financial year,” State Finance Minister, Mr. K. Anbazhagan, announced in the Assembly.
Instead, the Government will pay the interest amount to the Cooperative institutions, he said presenting the Tamil Nadu Budget for 2009-10, after the main opposition AIADMK boycotted the proceedings, protesting various omissions and commissions by the DMK regime. He set apart Rs.140 Crore in the Budget for the new scheme, while fresh crop loans to the extent of Rs.2000 crores will be disbursed in the coming year.
Another major relief to the farm sector announced by Mr. Anbazhagan is the simplifying of the highly cumbersome land revenue system. Farmers will henceforth need to pay just a flat rate of Rs.2 per acre for dry land against the present Rs.15 per acre and Rs.5 per acre of wet land against the average levy of Rs.50 per acre now.
Farmers will not be burdened with any other levy like ‘local cess’ and ‘local cess surcharge’, and the measure will benefit 50 lakh farmers, he said. People manning ‘Revenue administration’ have been crying for simplifying the land revenue collection for the last 50 years and at last “we have made a historic breakthrough,” even if it meant fall in revenue, the State Finance Secretary, Mr. K. Gnanadesikan, explained later.
The other freebies and sops will continue including free electricity to all farmers, PDS rice at Rs.1 per kg to 1.86 crore ration card holders, and giving free colour TVs’ to over 56 lakhs poor families. However, to meet the economic downturn, Mr. Anbazhagan unveiled initiatives for massive public spending, particularly in road infrastructure. It involves a capital outlay of over Rs.10,000 crores for the first time. Work on a new Rs.14,600 Crores ‘metro rail’ project for Chennai on the lines of Delhi will start soon.
Significantly, to further promote good neighbourly relations, the Chief Minister, Mr M Karunanidhi, has agreed to install a statue of the Kannada poet, Sarvajna in Chennai. Karnataka has agreed to reciprocate this gesture by installing a statue of the ancient Tamil poet-saint, Thiruvalluvar in Bangalore, Mr. Anbazhagan added.