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Central team to visit Kerala Vidarbha-like aid sought

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, July 7: A central team will visit Kerala on July 11 for an on-the-spot study of the losses in the pre-monsoon fury that caused widespread damage to property and death of 120 people across the state.

The decision was conveyed to Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan, who met Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil today to apprise him of the losses as well as demand a Vidarbha-like central aid to the tune of Rs 2,000 crore to help the distressed farmers in the state.

Earlier, Mr Achuthanandan in his first official visit to the national capital after becoming Chief Minister in May, met Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia to restore the state plan size of Rs 7,246 crore for this year, which had been cut by about Rs 2,500 crore saying the state didn't have the borrowing power.

The Chief Minister, who is leading a high-level ministerial delegation, also met President APJ Abdul Kalam and Finance Minister P Chidambaram.

He will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to seek clearance for the Vizhinjam port and an AIIMS-like hospital and research institute in the state.

''The central team will visit the state on July 11 to assess the losses in the rains,'' Mr Achuthanandan told a news conference at the Kerala House after the meetings.

During his meeting with the Home Minister, Mr Achuthanandan sought central assistance to overcome the agricultural crisis and price slump of cash crops. As many as 1,500 farmers have committed suicide in the state unable to meet crop losses and mounting debts.

A central team had visited Kerala last month to study the farmers' suicides in Wayanad district, but the Chief Minister said the crisis has also affected other districts---Kasargod, Idukki and Palakkad.

Mr Achuthanandan demanded a Rs 2,000 crore package for Kerala to fund its long-term strategy to rehabilitate distressed farmers as well as restructure the agriculture sector in the state.

On July 1, the Prime Minister had announced a Rs 3,750 crore assistance for Vidarbha, which is also hit by farmers' suicides, during a visit there.

During his meeting with Mr Ahluwalia, the Chief Minister told him that the Plan shortage was a matter of ''serious concern'' for his government. ''The previous UDF government only wrote letters to Mr Ahluwalia, we wanted to meet him to bring a solution,'' Mr Achuthanandan told reporters.

According to him, the new government has been left with only Rs 290 crore in the state treasury and arrears to contractors worth Rs 1,200 crore and pension arrears of Rs 400 crore.

''The previous government didn't hide these arrears, but forgot to mention them,'' he said adding his government has now to find resources to pay the money.

Mr Ahluwalia has told him that his demand would be considered in all seriousness, Mr Achuthanandan said.

The Chief Minister, who is accompanied by state Revenue Minister K P Rajendran, Education Minister M A Baby, Law Minister M Vijayakumar and Health Minister P K Sreemathi, also urged the Home Minister to ease immigration clearance for Keralites going abroad for work.

Describing his meeting with Dr Kalam as ''cordial'', Mr Achuthanandan said the President told him that it was his dream that Kerala should achieve its potential and become a fully developed state.

''We told him that we will work towards fulfilling his dream,'' he said.

During his meeting with the Prime Minister tomorrow, Mr Achuthanandan will seek speedy clearance for the construction of the Vizhinjam port.''We will invite him to lay the foundation stone of the port,'' he said.

He will also demand Rs 150 crore for the AIIMS-like institute sanctioned by the Centre for Kerala in capital Thiruvananthapuram.


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