Rahul bats for marginal farmers

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New Delhi, Mar 13 (UNI) Congress member Rahul Gandhi today urged the government to adopt a variable land ceiling based on productivity for the purpose of extending benefit of the Rs 60,000 crore farm loan waiver announced in the Budget for 2008-09.

Participating in the General Discussion on the Budget in the Lok Sabha, he also suggested that the cut off date of March 31,2007, should not be the same for the entire country and there must be a localised cut off date to ensure that the loan waiver scheme benefitted the deserving farmers.

Referring to the land ceiling of two hectares proposed as eligibility for farm loan waiver, Mr Gandhi said this would not be practical in many cases, especially in dryland area like the Vidarbha region where the farmers normally held more than two hectares. But in such cases the productivity would be very less.

Therefore, variable land ceiling should be fixed by taking into account the productivity of the land and cropping circle.

Congress President and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi was in her seat during her son's ten-minute long speech as the members from both the Opposition and Treasury members keenly listened to him.

He said the budgetary proposal was to extend the loan waiver benefit to only those who had taken loans before March 31, 2007.

However, he pointed out that many farmers had taken loan after the cut off date. The present cut off date unfairly penalised the farmers and therefore, localised cut off date should be fixed.

Mr Gandhi said the loan waiver scheme would benefit 40 million poor debt-ridden farmers. ''The farmers can now look their future with hope.'' Making a strong case for the poor, downtrodden and the farmers, Mr Gandhi said ''our government believes that India's growth can be symbiotic. Our Philosophy is to grow together.'' Amid applause from the treasury benches, he said, ''Freedom from poverty is not charity...it is as a matter of right. Our government recognised and institutionalised this idea,'' he said.

In this context, he referred to the Tribal Rights Act and the Right to Information Act.

Mr Gandhi lauded the government for its achievements and said speed and continuity of economic growth depended on inclusion.

He complemented Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P Chidambaram for a higher allocation for the education sector. ''The UPA government has given an allocation for education which is three times higher than what we had inherited. Though the country's economic growth now was 8.8 per cent, the UPA government would continue to blster the growth,'' Mr Gandhi said.

He concluded his speech with an appeal to the government to improve service delivery, accountability and transparency in administration.

UNI SH Mir AS1531

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