Ludhiana, Sep 27 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, beginning a two-day visit of his home state of Punjab Wednesday, launched or inaugurated half a dozen key projects, including a dedicated railway freight corridor project and an agricultural research centre.
He also flagged off of the Amritsar-Haridwar Jan Shatabdi Express, inaugurated the Chandigarh-Morinda railway line and laid the foundation stone of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Eesearch at Mohali.
Punjab is due to go to assembly polls in February-March next year and the ruling Congress hopes the prime minister's visit will help its prospects.
The Rs.220 billion eastern corridor project, linking the industrial city of Ludhiana with Kolkata, is part of the national dedicated freight corridor that will cost nearly Rs.660 billion.
Addressing a rally here after launching the project, Manmohan Singh said the corridor would help in faster transportation of goods and raw material to and from ports.
The prime minister praised Railway Minister Lalu Prasad for making the Indian Railways a profit-making organisation.
From Ludhiana, the prime minister flagged of the Amritsar-Haridwar Jan Shatabdi Express with a remote control.
The new train's starting point, the Amritsar railway station, witnessed dramatic scenes before the formal flagging off of the train as local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Navjot Singh Sidhu did his own 'flagging off'.
The prime minister then flew to the 300-acre research and development centre of the Bharti Telecom-promoted Fieldfresh group at Ladowal village near here.
Addressing corporate representatives, agriculture experts and farmers there, Manmohan Singh called upon the corporate sector to involve itself more in the farm sector with technological help to enhance productivity.
'The corporate sector can help in enhancing productivity and diversification of the farm sector,' he said.
Referring to the green revolution in the country in the 1960s and 70s, the prime minister said it was time to put modern technology to use in the agriculture sector to enhance productivity.
He added that this would also help eliminate poverty from the rural areas.
However, the farming community in the state, expecting a loan waiver to bail them out of indebtedness, was disappointed as Manmohan Singh did not make any specific announcement in this regard.
In a speech in Punjabi, he said the government had extended schemes for farmers to avail loans at 7 to 8 percent rate of interest.
The state government estimates farmers' indebtedness at over Rs.250 billion.
Scores of farmers have committed suicide over the last few years due to financial distress.
The state government has been demanding a bailout package for farmers on the lines of the one announced for those of Vidarbha region in Maharashtra.
The prime minister, however, provided a ray of hope saying that the state government was preparing a report on the issue and the central government would soon work out a scheme to help them.
Later Wednesday evening, Manmohan Singh laid the foundation stone of