Farmers' welfare is UPA's top priority: Manmohan Singh

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New Delhi, Mar 9 : Addressing a huge farmers rally here today, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government has given top priority for the welfare of the farmers by focusing on development of agriculture.

Charging the previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime for neglecting the farmers' interests, Singh outlined various actions undertaken by his government for the welfare of the farmers.

The Central Government has announced a loan waiver package of 600 billion rupees aimed at benefiting around 40 million small and marginal farmers, the Prime Minister pointed out.

Dr Singh said that his government was committed to implement the massive agriculture loan waiver scheme by July.

"I pledge that there will be no dilly dallying in the implementation of the farm loan waiver scheme. It will be implemented by July," he said.

Agriculture sector has witnessed a four per cent growth during the UPA regime, Singh said at the rally named 'Dhanyawad Abhinandan'.

The Government has launched the National Food Security Mission and the National Krishi Yojana at an estimated cost of 350 billion rupees, said Dr Singh, adding that during the last four years his government has repeatedly increased the minimum support price (MSP) of wheat and paddy.

Listing out the steps taken by his government for the welfare of farmers, he said the UPA government had doubled agriculture credit and implemented the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) for the benefit of the poor.

The Indian budget 2008-09 reads: "The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) will be rolled out to all 596 rural districts in India. Initially, we will provide Rs. 160 billion. Let there be no apprehension in any one's mind; as demand rises, more money will be provided to meet the legal guarantee of employment".

Addressing the rally, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson and the Congress party chief, Sonia Gandhi termed the UPA Government's debt waiver package to the farmers as a historic step.

While addressing the 'Kisan Rally' at the Ramlila Maidan, she praised the features of the Union Budget saying that it has kept interests of all sections of the society in mind.

"Our farmers are distressed because of the wrong policies of the previous government," said Sonia Gandhi.

Sonia Gandhi also said that millions of people were reaping benefits from the UPA Government flagship programme NREGS, adding that the scheme would soon be implemented in all districts of the country.

The crowds intermittently broke into thunderous slogans, lauding the government's move, which brought a smile on the faces of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Minister for State for Personnel and Public Grievances Suresh Pachouri, and other party leaders that were present on the dais.

"The huge turnout suggests how much faith farmers and poor people have in the present government," said Rampal Singh, a farmer from Alwar, Rajasthan.

It is believed that the rally was organised by the Congress party to send across the message of a farmer-friendly government ahead of Lok Sabha elections due next year. A majority of participants in the rally came from Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, and Delhi.

ANI

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