New Delhi, Sep 29 (IANS) The central cabinet Friday announced a rehabilitation package Rs.160.9 billion for farmers in 31-suicide prone districts of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
'Under the rehabilitation package, Rs.90.6 billion have been allotted for 16 districts of Andhra Pradesh, 20.6 billion for six districts of Karnataka, Rs.7.6 billion for three districts of Kerala and Rs.30.8 billion for six districts of Maharashtra,' Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters.
It also involves waiver of interest worth Rs.2 billion in the 25 debt ridden districts of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka. The centre and states will share this burden equally.
'The package also involves rehabilitation of families of farmers who have committed suicide. It will check the spate of suicide by the farmers,' the minister said.
It comprises Rs.100 billion as subsidy or grants and Rs.60.3 billion as loan.
Under the package, to be undertaken over a period of three years, 12 major, 13 medium and 2,565 minor irrigation schemes will be started.
The finance minister also announced a special package of intervention for Alappuzha and Idukki districts of Kerala.
He said, 'The agriculture minister has visited these two districts to make an on-the-spot assessment. After extensive deliberations the government felt that specific packages are required for these two districts.'
'The implementation of the rehabilitation package for Maharashtra has already been initiated after announcement of the package by the prime minister on July 1,' said an official statement. The action to implement the rehabilitation package for the other three states will be taken soon.
Meanwhile, agriculture secretary Radha Singh said Friday that recent suicides by farmers should not be blown out of proportion.
Singh was speaking at an agriculture summit organised by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII).
She said an analysis of the suicide records of the past 10 years shows that the number of suicides in rural India has not exceeded 16 percent of the total number of suicides in the country.
In 2003-04, the records of the National Crime Records Bureau show there were 187,000 suicides in India.
'Of this, only 16 percent were in rural India. This debunks the current perception that there has been an unprecedented rise in the number of farmers' suicides in India,' Singh said.
She, however, said suicides linked to indebtedness of farmers is a major cause for concern to the government.
The government would bring more farmers under the purview of agricultural credit schemes to improve the situation. The target is to raise the coverage to 70 percent from 45 percent, Singh added.
'We will deal with issues of access to finance and interest rates especially for the small and marginal farmers.'
Gokul Patnaik, an agricultural expert, said that the contract farming system in India has to be rationalised, as there are 130 models of contract farming in India.
'Contracts need to cover basics like price, quality, quantity and delivery times. Farmers need access to market information as well as critical inpu