The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh,
today announced a series of immediate and long term relief measures for alleviating
distress of farmers in the six affected districts of Vidarbha region.
Following is the text of the Prime
Minister’s statement at the Press Conference in Nagpur.
“I have been travelling for the last
two days in Vidarbha to see at first hand the distress of farmers in this
region. I visited Dhaman Gaon in Amravati
District, Waifed in Wardha District and Yavatmal. I had an opportunity to interact with families
and widows of farmers who had committed suicide and also heard many farmers
who were in acute distress. The interactions have left a deep impression on
my mind. The farmers who form the
backbone of the economy of these districts, are in acute distress forcing
many of them to take the extreme step of committing suicide when they see
all avenues for relief blocked.
The causes of the crisis seem to be many. The primary ones seem to be continual crop
failure, low yields, poor irrigation, medical expenses, cost of weddings in
families, delays in getting electricity connections, and unremunerative prices.
These have pushed many farmers deep into debt and my heart was moved
when I heard the harrowing tales of suicide affected families who were struggling
to educate their children.
We need to take steps to provide immediate
relief to the farmers of the region. The
immediate priority must be to restart the process of credit flow so that farmers
can resume normal agricultural activities and obtain regular livelihood. For this, we need to address the issue of debt
relief. At the same time, we need
to address the long term issues of enhancing livelihoods by providing additional
avenues of income and improving the prospects for agriculture so that agriculture
can become a viable enterprise.
We are announcing a series of measures
for the 6 affected districts of Vidarbha namely, Amravati, Wardha, Yavatmal,
Akola, Washim and Buldhana.
The suffering of families affected
by suicides and of debt stressed farmers are immense and they face innumerable
problems in carrying on with their daily lives. I have heard mothers crying to meet their children’s costs of education,
fathers struggling to meet health expenses. I propose to place a sum of Rs. 50 lakhs each
at the disposal of each Collector in the 6 suicide affected districts to be
used judiciously for alleviating the distress of such families. This would be released as a grant directly
from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund.
There is a cry all around for providing
relief from debt. In many cases, the
overdue interest exceeds the original loan. The overdue interest in the 6 affected districts
is around Rs.712 crores as on June
30, 2006. The entire overdue interest
will be waived and all farmers will have no past interest burden as on today
so that they will be immediately eligible for fresh loan from the banking
system. The burden of this will be
shared equally by the Central and State Governments.
In addition to waiving overdue interest,
Rs.1300 crores of overdue loans as on June
30, 2006 will also be rescheduled over a period of 3-5 years with a one year
We will ensure an additional credit
flow of Rs.1275 crores in 2006-07 in the 6 districts. Special Teams will be deputed from NABARD and the lead banks to
Long Term Relief Measures
There is a crying demand all around for improving irrigation.
We are allocating Rs.2177 crores from the Central Government for completion
of major, medium and minor irrigation projects in these districts over the
next 3 years.
There seems to be a problem of quality
inputs, particularly in cotton. A
massive Quality Seed Replacement Programme costing Rs. 180 crores will be
started so that the problem of obtaining quality seeds is reduced.
Rs. 240 crores will be provided for
watershed development, check dam construction and rain water harvesting in
the 6 districts.
Vidarbha has been known to be the orange
capital of India. There seem to be
problems in orange cultivation. The
National Horticulture Mission will cover all the 6 districts including Buldhana
and the problems in orange cultivation will be addressed. Over Rs. 225 crores will
be spent for this purpose.
Drip and sprinkler irrigation will
be expanded extensively to cover over 50,000 hectares in these 6 districts.
It is extremely important that farmers
have additional sources of livelihood in addition to farming. We propose to start a major programme costing
Rs.135 crores for improving the cattle and fisheries activities in these districts.
Hopefully this would ensure that there would be parallel streams of
income which would reduce the dependence on agriculture.
I do realise that the success of this approach depends
on the implementation. In addition
to state and local implementation and monitoring mechanisms, my office will
monitor implementation of the package of relief measures. I have already asked my Principal Secretary
to take a meeting of the officers concerned to avoid bureaucratic delays.
The Problem of Indebtedness
to providing interest waiver and debt rescheduling in these districts, I recognize
that there is a nation wide problem of agricultural indebtedness.
This is the result of a variety of factors and has many consequences
for the agriculture sector as a whole. We
need to treat this as a national problem and address it on a war footing. We need to ensure that our farmers become bankable once again so
that they can cultivate their land without falling into the clutches of money
lenders and their extortionary interest rates.I recognize that there is a problem of debt overhang which
we need to address if we have to revive our farming community.
I have discussed this matter with the
Finance Minister and the Agriculture Minister. The Government will be setting up an Expert Group in the next few
days to look into the problem of agricultural indebtedness in its totality
and suggest measures for providing relief to farmers across the country. I
expect the Expert Group to give its recommendations in the next 3 months after
consulting State Governments. Based
on its recommendations, our Government will take effective measures to ensure
that the farming community is provided substantial relief from its debt problem.
NAGPUR SPECIFIC ANNOUNCEMENTS
Nagpur has an airport which is centrally
located and has the potential to be a transport hub. It has already been made an international airport.
Boeing is setting up a maintenance facility here.
I have discussed the matter regarding the development of Nagpur airport
as a Multi-Modal Cargo and Travel hub. The
Ministry of Civil Aviation has assured me that they will work in cooperation
with and support all efforts of the Government of Maharashtra to develop the
airport including the transfer of any assets to the State Government.
Irrigation is a pressing need of the
region. The Indira Sagar Dam and the
Gosi Khurd Project are close to the hearts of the people of Nagpur. Its foundation stone was laid by the late Shri
Rajiv Gandhiji. I request the Government
of Maharashtra to speed up the work on the project and we will provide all
necessary assistance from the Government of India for the speedy completion
of the project.
As for other issues regarding the
development of Nagpur, this city is part of the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal
Mission and I request the state to utilize this window to the maximum
extent. If Nagpur develops rapidly, I
am confident that this will improve the economic prospects of Vidarbha as a
(Release ID :18663)