55-60 lakh AP farmers will benefit from interest waiver: CM

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Hyderabad, Feb 29 (UNI) Welcoming Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram's announcement to provide interest waiver and debt relief for farmers in the 2008-09 budget, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy today said over 55 to 60 lakh farmers in the state would get benefit of Rs 1,000 to Rs 1200 crore.

Describing the waiver as mother of all waivers, Dr Reddy told reporters here, ''given the circumstances, the Finance Minister had done his best. No other Government in Independent India has done this much. I thank UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on behalf of the Andhra Pradesh people, including peasants.'' Admitting that a large number of tenant farmers would still not get the benefit, he said he had suggested to the Centre that subsidy should be provided to farmers at the time of sale of produce by each farmer so that tenants also could be covered.

On the opposition TDP's contention that it was because of its stir, the Centre had provided relief to farmers, Dr Reddy asked why the TDP did not press for interest waiver when the foodgrain production drastically fell from 160 lakh tonnes in 2000-01 to 106 lakh tonnes in 2001-02 due to drought.

Extension of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme to all the districts would be a boon for farm labouers, he added.

The proposed over 80 per cent increase in the allocation for the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme to Rs 20,000 crore would enable Andhra Pradesh to get a Central assistance of Rs 3,000 crore for irrigation projects, he said.

Hailing the Centre's decision to extend the mid-day meal scheme to cover Government schools in all mandals for students up to eighth standard, he announced that the State Government would extend the scheme for students up to tenth class.

Anganwadi workers and helpers in Andhra Pradesh, including the State's contribution, would get Rs 1,900 and Rs 950 respectively following Mr Chidambaram's announcement to hike their honorarium.

He thanked the Centre for announcing a Handicraft cluster in Naraspur, upgradation of the National Plant Protection Institute here and excise duty reduction to benefit pharma, paper and auto industries.


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