The Centre, as per its announcement in the Union Budget, will relieve debt-ridden farmers from their loans within three weeks by issuing final orders, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said here on Saturday. Pawar, who was here to participate in the golden jubilee celebration of Ahmednagar District Central Co-operative Bank, said the Congress and NCP have decided to jointly contest the forthcoming Parliament and Assembly elections.

Suicides continue in the land of white gold. It has been 8 two months since Finance Minister P. Chidambaram announced a Rs 60,000-crore loan waiver for farmers. It was meant to prevent debt-ridden ryots from committing suicide. But in Vidarbha, where a large number of cotton farmers have committed suicide, the script has not changed.

The issue of reduction in foodgrain allocation to Kerala rocked both the Houses of Parliament. While the Left members staged a walkout in the Rajya Sabha, their counterparts in the Lok Sabha also registered their protest asking the government to raise the allocation to the State.

Giving a rosy picture of things to come that should quell doubts about food security of the country, the agriculture ministry today said the country would have a record all-time production in wheat, rice, oilseeds, pulses, cotton, soya bean and even coarse cereals during 2007-08. The Third Advance Estimates of production of major crops grown in the country, released by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, suggested that food grain production in the current fiscal had touched a record 227.32 MT.

The government on Monday said it was not in a position to undertake any new responsibility by way of another loan waiver scheme for farmers as the priority before it was to implement the Rs. 60,000-crore scheme announced during the budget. Replying to supplementaries during the question hour in the Lok Sabha, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said the immediate task was to fulfil the commitment made to small and marginal farmers. "Let us implement the loan waiver scheme first and see the results before initiating any new scheme.'

The list of world's richest is never complete today without some Indians among the top. Forbes released yet another list on March 6, 2008 which saw India's Anil Ambani as the biggest wealth creator. As many as four Indians made it to top ten positions in the billionaire club as against just one, Lakshmi Mittal, a year ago. The other three were Mukesh Ambani, Anil Ambani and realty baron KP Singh.

The latest data on foodgrains production released by the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, estimate that wheat production in India would fall by 1 million tonnes to 74.81 million tonnes compared with the previous estimates. Though it is not a marked decline compared with the previous estimates, what is significant is that it comes on the back of lowest grain stocks held by the Food Corporation of India during the current year.

SPECIAL AGRICULTURAL ZONE It is easier to pay integrated attention to natural resources conservation, eco-farming and small farmer-friendly commerce in SAZs, with the aim of strengthening the income security of farm families. D. K. Roy Contrary to many policy pundits playing down the spectre of the looming foodgrains shortage that consumers will face, the Prime Minister, with his characteristic candour, recently expressed his apprehension on the efficacy of the agriculture policy pursued in the last four years.

The government on Thursday rejected the Left parties' plea to restore the universal public distribution system (PDS) and was lukewarm to their second major demand for scrapping futures trading in agricultural commodities. Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar's reply in the Rajya Sabha to a short duration discussion on the "unprecedented price rise of commodities' left the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Left parties and the United National Progressive Alliance dissatisfied leading to separate walkouts.

Allaying fears of possible food riots, Union Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Minister Sharad Pawar on Wednesday said there was no shortage of food grains in the country and claimed that the prices of essential commodities had shown a stabilising trend in the past one month.

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