THE department of chemicals and petrochemicals (DoCP) seems to have put a damper on the attempts of an empowered group of ministers to expeditiously clinch the price of ethanol supplied to oil marketing companies (OMCs) by sugar mills.

NEW DELHI: State-owned oil companies will pay Rs. 27 a litre, or 25 per cent higher from the existing level, for buying ethanol from sugar mills for blending with petrol, it is learnt.

: State agriculture minister, Mr Naren Dey today said that though a potato farmer had committed suicide in the state, it is yet to be established whether financial distress, due to a bumper potato pro

In a massive propaganda drive to claim credit for the 60000 crore loan waiver, NCP which is the alliance partner in the state said that the government was ready to share any additional burden, if so directed by the Centre, to provide further succour to distressed farmers in Vidarbha region. Addressing a mammoth farmers' rally, organised by the NCP here, Deputy Chief Minister R R Patil on Wednesday said the state government would 'fulfil any responsibility' that the Centre gave it while increasing the relief to farmers. Describing as 'historic' the decision to waive loans of farmers holding up to five acres of land, Patil said the state had requested the union government to initiate measures that would benefit more farmers. The state government would seriously consider granting loan waiver to small artisans like cobblers, ironsmiths and carpenters, living in villages, who also had a debt burden but had not benefited from the waiver for farmers, he said. The Deputy Chief Minister, who also holds the Home portfolio, said he had given 15 days for all private money lenders to return all goods and land pledged by hapless cultivators to them to get loans. The police would take strict action against such money lenders afterwards if they did not comply with the instructions, he said. Admitting that the milch cattle given to farmers under the relief packages had become a 'burden' for the beneficiaries since they did not know where to sell the milk, Patil said it was necessary to train these farmers to help them market the output and earn a profit thereon. Patil said government would increase the grant under the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Yojana and extend concessions to women's self-help groups (SHG's) to provide succour to the downtrodden Nearly four crore farmers in Maharashtra would benefit from the loan waiver announced by the Centre, Patil said. Saying that the pains of cultivators in Western Maharashtra and in Vidarbha were different, he said farmers in Vidarbha had to battle an unfavourable nature on top of the debt burden. Patil assured that the state government would provide all the funds necessary to ensure that the ambitious Gosikhurd project, which is expected to irrigate 1.90 lakh hectares of land in Nagpur, Bhandara and Chandrapur districts, was completed in the next 4 years. Addressing the gathering, Minister for Water Resources Ajit Pawar said his department had asked the Finance Department to allocate more than Rs 3,000 crore in the forthcoming state budget for completion of various irrigation schemes in Vidarbha, including medium and large projects, canals and lift irrigation projects. Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Praful Patel said a request had been made to the Prime Minister to initiate measures to provide succour to more farmers. ''We are happy, but not satisfied with the loan waiver. We should not stop here,'' he said. The government must take steps to help farmers holding more than five acres of land, he said. The Government of Maharashtra must also help in this direction, he added. Earlier, Maharashtra Minister for Public Works Anil Deshmukh said the rally was being held to express thanks to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, Union Minister for Finance P Chidambaram and Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar for the historic decision of loan waiver for farmers.

UPA's mega poll sop for farmers has got bigger. The loan waiver for "small and marginal farmers' will now add up to a staggering Rs 65,000 crore even as the government is preparing to enlist banks as primary agents in identifying the scheme's four crore beneficiaries. The figure for the one-time settlement, which will benefit farmers who are willing to make a payment of loans to get a rebate, is yet to be finalized and discussions at the top echelons of government have seen the total write-off range up to Rs 100,000 crore. As of now, the figure has been revised to Rs 65,000 crore. The other key issue of identifying the beneficiaries, crucial to the waiver's success, will be largely entrusted to the banks. Banks to identify beneficiaries New Delhi: A large part of identifying the beneficiaries, crucial for the success of the Rs 60,000-crore loan waiver to farmers, will be entrusted to banks. It is felt that this would be the best option for the government as banks are expected to have records of persons they have given loans to, and in the case of farmers, would also have the size of their holdings. Having set 2 hectares or 5 acres as the size of holdings for the waiver's beneficiaries, the government has the mammoth task of getting accurate lists ready so as to facilitate a complete rollout by the June 30 deadline. Commercial and rural banks and cooperatives would have an incentive to draw up lists as they would be paid money for loans which had suffered defaults. Official sources pointed out that most of the loans being targeted were anyway "basket cases' for the banks. With little hope of recovery, the banks should be more than willing to divert resources to identify farmers who can benefit from UPA's largesse. In this way, the government would not have to depend on land and revenue records, which were not always well maintained and could be open to manipulation as well. Though payment to the banks will be staggered, in the first year, the banks will be given Rs 40,000 crore. Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar told the media that in the next three years, the figure would be Rs 8,800 crore for 2008-09 and 2009-10 while the final amount to be paid in 2010-11 was expected to be Rs 2,400 crore. While the effectiveness of the loan waiver, and its potential political benefit, is being discussed, the Congress leadership is in an upbeat mood. Scenes of farmers celebrating and dancing have helped waiver enthusiasts argue that the Budget announcement was a popular hit. The massive giveaway, along with the pro-middle class decision to raise incometax exemption limits, could deliver a formidable advantage to the ruling combine. Those who feel somewhat differently point out that most of the really distressed farmers were engaged in dry-land farming. In normal circumstances, they were not eligible for high loan amounts and in contrast, farmers in irrigated areas, with holdings of similar size, would get larger loans. Dry-land farmers had to depend on private money lenders and these debts were outside the waiver. On the other hand, farmers in irrigated areas would now benefit from the waiver while also being in a position to raise regular loans from banks.

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh has announced waiver of the pending penalty on electricity bills of farmers, payment of their fifty percent pending electricity bills, arrangement for payment of electricity bills by farmers twice in a year, extension of benefit of Deen Dayal Upchar Yojana to farmers owning upto one hectare of land, additional bonus of Rs. 100 per quintal on procurement of wheat on minimum support price this year. The Chief Minister also announced to reduce the interest rate on cooperative farm loans from seven to five percent from April one next.

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