Sonia flays opposition for not supporting loan waiver

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Loni, Ahmednagar, Jun 19 (UNI) Congress president Sonia Gandhi today lashed out at the opposition for not coming out in support of the loan waiver scheme for farmers.

Addressing a huge rally of farmers and women at the Vikhe patil college ground here, Ms Gandhi said by waiving off farm loans of over Rs 71,000 crore, the UPA government had taken a pro-poor measure, which no non-congress government had done so far.

The UPA Chairperson, who reached here after offering prayers at the Shirdi Saibaba shrine at noon, in her 15 minutes address, outlined the various decisions of the government for the poor and needy and ecomonically backward class people.

She said it was the responsibility of the party to help farmers.

Ms Gandhi expressed satisfaction that Chief Ministers of various states had reduced excise duties on petroleum products. She said that petrol was costlier even in oil producing countries.

''The rising prices are a fall-out of oil price rise,'' she said. The oil prices in the international market were only 30 dollars to 40 dollars during the rule of the erstwhile NDA, while they were now pegged at 130 dollars to 140 dollars, she said.

Earlier, addressing the gathering, Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh urged that farmers, who were declared defaulters before 1997, be also be considered for loan waiver. ''This section has been left out of the present scheme,'' he remarked.

Mr Deshmukh said that the women self help groups were performing a commendable job and the State government was planning to give them loans at 4 to 6 per cent only. He said that SC and ST as well as OBC and financially backward students were getting fee assistance in professional courses even in private institutions.

''This will put an additional burden on the exchequer of Rs 1200 crore within the next four years,'' he said.

Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil and party general secretary Margrat Alwa accompanied the UPA chairperson.

Earlier, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, local MLA, reminded everybody that today was the birthday of the youth leader Rahul Gandhi.

UNI XR OBB RR BST1806

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