Chennai, Mar 20: The Tamil Nadu budget for 2008-09, presented by state Finance Minister K Anbazhagan today, proved to be a farmer-friendly one with the Government announcing various concessions for the ryots, including reduction in the rate of interest for crop loans, and launching various schemes.
Presenting the budget in the Assembly, Mr Anbazhagan said the Government proposed to disburse new crop loans to the tune of Rs 1,500 crore during the next fiscal and further reduce the rate of interest from five per cent to four per cent. He said following the waiver of cooperative crop loans to the tune of Rs 7,000 crore in the State, the Government had compensated Rs 3,304 crore to cooperative institutions in the last two years and a further sum of Rs 1,150 crore had been allocated for 2008-09 for the purpose.
Under the scheme of Government bearing 50 per cent of the insurance premium in case of natural calamities, financial support would be provided to 25 lakh farmers to insure their crops in the coming financial year, the Minister said, adding that a sum of Rs 40 crore had been allotted for this purpose.
A sum of Rs 152 crore had been allocated in the budget estimates for farmers' assistance like scholarships, marriage assistance, pension, assistance for funeral expense and compensation.
Mr Anbazhagan announced that necessary measures would be taken in the coming year to extend the System of Rice Intensification to 18.75 lakh acres of land under paddy cultivation. Under the National Agriculture Development Programme (NADP), precision farming, which reduced water consumption while increasing agricultural production, would be extended to all districts of the State at an estimated cost of Rs 64 crore.
A subsidy of 25 per cent would be provided to farmers, who come foward to purchase and use machinery under the NADP programme, he added.
Mr Anbazhagan informed that for preserving vegetables and fruits meant for sale, cold storage facilities would be provided to 22 important 'Uzhavar Sandhais' (farmers' shandies) by the Tamil Nadu State Agriculture Marketing Board.
With a view to encourage farmers to cultivate pulses, the Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation and Tamil Nadu Cooperative Marketing Federation would procure pulses from farmers from this year at a Minimum Support Price (MSP) announced by the Centre, he said.
''If our farmers are organised into Self Help Groups (SHGs), they will be able to derive many benefits as in the case of the successful women SHGs in the State,'' the Minister said.
Considering the possibility, farmers SHGs would be formed in the coming financial year. In the first phase, 10,000 SHGs would be formed, comprising one lakh farmers availing crop loans from Primary Agricultural Cooperative Banks, Mr Anbazhagan disclosed. ''They will act as Joint Liability Groups and will be able to easily access cridit from cooperative and public sector banks,'' he said, adding that these groups would be provided with Rs ten crore revolving fund through cooperative banks.