The Chief Minister, Dr Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy announced a series of incentives to fishermen including waiving off loans of Rs 40.72 crore availed by them from Fishermen Finance Corporation.

Prior to announcing the Rs 60,000-crore farm loan waiver package, the finance ministry had toyed with the idea of setting up an Agriculture Credit Guarantee Corporation with a corpus of around Rs 5,000 crore to deal with bad loans. The entity would have insured lenders against borrower defaults with banks making less provisioning for such loans and continuing to offer farm loans. However, the plan was dropped after the amount of the waiver and relief package rose to a massive Rs 60,000 crore. "We then thought of giving direct subsidies to farmers as there will be no leakage in this scheme and the benefits will go directly to farmers,' said a government official. Cooperative banks account for Rs 37,000 crore or about 61 per cent of the Rs 60,000-crore package announced in the Budget. Regional rural banks and scheduled commercial banks account for Rs 12,000 crore and Rs 11,000 crore, respectively. The details of the farm package are likely to be finalised by March 25. As the government will implement this package over a period of three financial years, it may make a provision of up to Rs 25,000 crore in 2008-09. Part of the financial assistance due for restructuring of cooperatives according to the recommendations of the Vaidyanathan Committee is also likely to be part of the package, officials say. Cooperatives and banks may also have to share a little burden in case of default loan accounts, which have been written off for prudential accounting norms.

Congress general secretary Ashok Gehlot has challenged Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje's allegation of the Centre discriminating against the State. The Central allocation to Rajasthan during the past four years had been more than at any time in the past, he said. "The State never had it so good,' Mr. Gehlot said reacting to reports that the Centre had rejected Ms. Raje's appeal to include frost and other cold weather conditions for compensation under the Calamity Relief Fund (CRF). "In fact, her approaching Home Minister Shivraj Patil with the demand was meaningless as the Finance Commission sets the norms for CRF,' he added. Local newspapers here had reported the Centre rejecting a demand from Ms. Raje for changes in the CRF norms with a suggestion that the State could place the matter before the 13th Finance Commission. The Chief Minister had made the demand in a letter written to Mr. Patil saying that farmers in 22 districts of the State had suffered a total loss of Rs.1,000 crore due to frost and extreme weather conditions. The treasury benches had also passed a resolution in the Assembly on the issue. "It is not due to dearth of money that relief is not reaching the affected farmers. The available funds are not utilised properly,' Mr. Gehlot said. Comparing the funds made available by the National Democratic Alliance government to the previous government headed by him , Mr. Gehlot said against a Central allocation of Rs.3,000 crore under rural development during the first four years, this government got Rs.9,000 crores under the same head so far. As for the CRF norms, Mr. Gehlot said there were clear-cut guidelines regarding the use of CRF and NCCF and there was no scope for any confusion.

People in Kapurdi hamlet, some 30 km from Rajasthan's Barmer town, are unusually suspicious of strangers. They stop and question every outsider driving through the area. What is making them so wary

Officials who procured land for construction of a canal under the Handri-Neeva Sujala Sravanti (HNSS) project at Gargeyapuram village in the mandal, refused to pay compensation for about 50 acres, saying that it was government land. Mr Ravindra Reddy, a farmer, said their elders had purchased about 50 acres in the village about 40 years ago. He said officials had given pattadar passbooks for the lands and they had taken bank loans using them. Mr Ravindra Reddy said eight other farmers were also cultivating the land. He said officials had paid Rs 95,000 per acre as compensation to other farmers in the village whose lands were acquired. Mr Ravindra Reddy said officials had promised to give them similar compensation and after three years told them that no compensation would be given. He said farmers, who were cultivating the lands, had no other land and didn't know how to repay their bank loans. Mr Ravindra Reddy said they had been paying land tax for the lands for the last 40 years. He said officials were also refusing to pay compensation being given to those cultivating government land to them. Mr Ravindra Reddy said they would search for alternate livelihood if compensation was paid to them and warned that they would have to commit suicide along with their family members if aid was denied.

Worried over rampant trading of chickens in the bird flu affected blocks in the state, the state animal resources department has asked the authorities of all districts to stop the payment of compensation to the backyard poultry owners who are still involved in trading of chickens.

The Sierra Leone government has called for an inquiry into the unrest over diamond-mining operations in the eastern district of Kono, where residents were killed during protests in the second week of

An argument over a Valentine's Day gift leads shubhranshu choudhary to the politics of an aluminium ladder On the eve of Valentine's Day, a friend of my son persuades me to take my wife "out

US farmers appeal for commercial hemp farming Two farmers in the US state of North Dakota are appealing against a lower court's decision over commercial hemp farming. The lawsuit aims to end

Supa dam was built on the Kali river for supplying water to forest-based industries. In October 1972, prime minister Indira Gandhi promised a compensation package for the 1,113 affected families from 44 villages. Though the families wanted the fertile Gobral village near Dandeli, the state refused since the area was under dense teak plantation. A state government-appointed committee look into the resettlement found Ramnagar unsuitable for cultivable. The government then promised irrigation facilities and the families had to move to Ramnagar in 1981. The promise hasn't materialized.

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