Congress in Andhra Pradesh hopes to gain from debt waiver

March 1st, 2008 - 9:51 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of P. Chidambaram

Hyderabad, March 1 (IANS) The ruling Congress party in Andhra Pradesh is celebrating the massive farm loan waiver scheme announced in the union budget as it hopes the “mother of all waivers” will yield rich dividends in the next year’s state assembly elections. The southern state will be the biggest beneficiary of the Rs.600 billion farm loan waiver. This is expected to benefit six million small and marginal farmers, 60 percent of the total farmers in the state.

The state is expected to get Rs.100-120 billion, around one-sixth of the package for the entire country.

Ruling party leaders in the state capital and districts distributed sweets and congratulated each other after Finance Minister P. Chidambaram presented the budget in parliament Friday.

A large number of party activists along with farmers from a few districts reached here Saturday to felicitate Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy.

Addressing the gathering, the chief minister termed the debt waiver and debt relief as the “mother of all waivers” and said he would devise a policy to ensure that the benefits also reach tenant farmers.

He recalled that his government’s pro-farmer steps such as free electricity supply, waiver of electricity arrears and rescheduling of farm loans, coupled with good rains over the last four years helped the agriculture sector overcome the crisis.

He said the food production in the state this year, therefore, will touch 19 million tonnes, about three million tonnes more than four years ago.

YSR, as the chief minister is popularly known, had a dig at leader of opposition and Telugu Desam Party president N. Chandrababu Naidu for claiming the credit for the debt wavier.

He pointed out that the sector was facing crisis during Naidu’s rule (1995-2004) due to his lopsided priorities. “What prevented the then NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government supported by Naidu from providing the relief when the agriculture sector was reeling under a crisis?

“In 2002 when the state was in the grip of acute drought, he ignored farmers and the common man to welcome Bill Clinton and Bill Gates,” he said referring to the visits by the then US president and the Microsoft chairman.

Naidu has said that the Central government announced the debt waiver thanks to the pressure mounted by the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA), of which TDP is a constituent.

YSR, who was pressing for an input subsidy instead of a debt waiver, earlier argued that the waiver would benefit only 50 percent of small and marginal farmers, especially those not regular in their repayments.

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