PM assures Punjab Congress leaders package for small farmers

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New Delhi, Feb 25 (UNI) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today assured a delegation of Punjab farmers that his government would come out with some package to salvage crisis-ridden agriculture.

Dr Singh gave a broad hint to the farmers' delegation led by State Congress chief Rajinder Kaur Bhattal that loans of small farmers would be waived off and an announcement to this effect was expected in the coming General Budget on February 29.

Mrs Bhattal told mediapersons later that they were demanding writing off outstanding loans of the marginal and small farmers cultivating five or less acre of land in Punjab, besides other financialbenefits to the beleaguered farming community.

The Akali Dal and BJP were planning to put out a 'big farmers' show claiming to bring 50,000 farmers at the Parliament Street here tomorrow and have named their rally as ''Insaf Rally'' thereby shifting the blame for the farmers plight on the ruling UPA government, she said and sought to remind the Akalis and BJP leaders that their NDA government never bothered about the farmers and their government never waived off the farmer loans during six-year regime.

According to Mrs Bhattal, the Prime Minister had told them that he would discuss the package in detail with them.

''The budget is expected in another three days and it would be inappropriate for me to discuss these issues in detail. But I would like to assure you that under the leadership of Mrs Sonia Gandhi, our government would pay attention to demands listed in the memorandum that has been submitted to me,'' Dr Singh added.

The Prime Minister told the delegation to convey the UPA government's desire to see that Punjab farmers should progress and prosper.

Mrs Bhattal said the delegation was a part of their ''thanks-giving rally of the Punjab farmers'' which was organised to express gratitute to the Central government for ''waiving off the loans of Punjab farmers.'' The memorandum also sought continuance of 'free power concession' to the farmers, raising of compensation for the cultivable land acquired for any government or private project, devising of a comprehensive insurance health scheme covering the landless labourer and a crop insurance scheme with a provision of premium to be paid by the government.

She alleged that the Akalis and BJP leaders seek to take credit for what is being done by the UPA government for Punjab.

Several other senior Congress leaders from the state accompanied the delegation. They included Mr Avtar Singh Brar, Inderjit Singh Baaserke, Tej Prakash Singh, Malkiat Singh Dhakha and Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar.

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