States sore over farmers' suicides, seek central help

Updated on May 30, 2007 01:24 AM IST
The National Development Council okays a Rs 25,000-crore plan for development in the agriculture sector, reports Sutirtho Patranobis.
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Hindustan Times | BySutirtho Patranobis, New Delhi

Maharashtra wants its farmers to move away from agriculture and look for alternative employment in industry and services sectors. The reason being that there are more people working in agriculture than the sector can take care of, Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said at the National Development Council meet on Tuesday.

He added that all the steps taken by the government to increase farmers’ income might not be enough to improve the quality of life of families dependent on agriculture. Thousands of farmers in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra have committed suicide in the last few years because of indebtedness.

Deshmukh said the Centre should launch a programme to identify areas and train up youth from farm families in other vocations.

Voicing a similar concern, Y. S. Rajasekhar Reddy, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, where thousand of farmers have also committed suicides, said while farm credit has doubled in last three years, the debt burden on farmers has gone up due to erratic rains and uncertain markets. He said “all farmers should be given credit at the interest rate of 3 per cent per year, instead of the current 7 per cent.”

Talking about the plight of the farmers in his state, J&K CM Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Centre should enhance the delivery of credit to the state and also wanted it announce a package for cooperative banks.

He said terrorism has given way to a “fresh dawn.” Although farmers continued agriculture operations, they did it in circumstances of uncertainty. But now, he said many banks, which had closed because of terrorism, were restarting activities.

The Delhi government suggested that the feasibility of setting up rooftop kitchen gardens on buildings in the Capital to tap the full potential of agriculture should be looked into.

“The successful examples of roof-top kitchen gardens in many cities would be studied for exploring its implementation in Delhi,’’ CM Sheila Dikshit said.

Tamil Nadu CM M. Karunanidhi took the opportunity to highlight the Cauvery controversy, saying that the state’s dependency on its neighbours for water was adversely affecting agriculture.

He urged the Centre to extend Special Central Assistance for a scheme to promote agro-forestry, horticulture and water-efficient crops in the state.

The Punjab government asked the Centre to make farm loans cheaper and announce minimum support price for more commodities such as maize and oilseeds. CM Parkash Singh Badal agreed with Reddy that the interest rate on crop loans should be reduced. For this, the Centre should provide an additional subvention of 2 per cent.

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