Maintaining the political momentum generated by its pro-farmers 2008 Union Budget, the government sanctioned funds to implement the Rs60,314 crore farm debt relief package as well as the Rs3,780 crore programme for development of 90 minority-concentration districts over the 11th Plan period.
The Union cabinet gave its nod to the creation of a farmers’ debt relief fund with an initial corpus of Rs10,000 crore, to be transferred from the Consolidated Fund of India to public accounts during the financial year ending 31 March, and also approved subsequent additions to the fund.
The Union government had earlier announced that the debt waiver and debt relief under the one-time settlement scheme, which would together benefit around 30 million farmers, would be implemented by 30 June.
The cabinet committee on economic affairs approved the introduction of a new Centrally sponsored scheme, the multi-sectoral development programme, with a sum of Rs120 crore for 2007-08.
An additional Rs15,000 crore has been sanctioned for the farm debt relief package for 2008-09, and Rs800 crore for the minority-concentration districts’ development programme.
However, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) outside supporters among the Left parties found little to cheer. Mohammad Salim, a Lok Sabha member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, which leads the four-party Left Front that supports the UPA, said it was a case of too little, too late.
“The problem is that on the eve of the examinations, the UPA is talking about the curriculum while it should be talking about its progress report,” Salim said.
The CPM is set to review its support to the UPA at a six-day party congress in Coimbatore starting 29 March. According to the party’s draft political resolution, the party, along with its other Left Front partners, would favour a third alternative to the two national parties.
“This is a shameless election gimmick,” reacted Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, a vice-president of the principal opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party.
“The Congress party is making promises for five years while it has just a year left in office.”