Opponents of relief package have vested interests: Gujarat CM

 Gujarat Chief Minister Anandi Patel on Saturday hit back at Congress for terming as a "stunt" the relief package for farmers announced by her government, saying its opponents are serving their "vested interests" by criticising the relief.

PTI| Last Updated: Dec 20, 2014, 23:46 PM IST

Vadodara: Gujarat Chief Minister Anandi Patel on Saturday hit back at Congress for terming as a "stunt" the relief package for farmers announced by her government, saying its opponents are serving their "vested interests" by criticising the relief.

"Only those who have vested interests have been opposing this relief package," the Chief Minister told a gathering of farmers at Bodeli town near here on the occasion of 'Krushi Mela' (agriculture festival), without taking the name of Congress.

The state government declared a relief package of Rs 1,100 crore for all the farmers, including cotton-growers, in the state on Monday.

The package included 50 per cent subsidy on interest on short-term agricultural loans taken by farmers, which comes to around Rs 600 crore. Another relief package includes 50 per cent subsidy on electricity bill of all the farmers, which comes to around Rs 500 crore.

Patel's attack came in the wake of criticism of the package by the Leader of Opposition Shankersinh Vaghela on Tuesday.

"The relief package is just another stunt by the state government. Farmers never asked for such package. They always wanted significant increase in Minimum Support Price (MPS) for cotton. Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) too cheated the farmers by holding secret back door meetings with the government," Vaghela had said.

He had also alleged that the state government was hand-in- glove with BKS which is claiming that no one else except them made a representation on the issue.

The RSS-affiliated farmers' body has been holding agitations in the state demanding a hike in MSP for cotton.

In her address, Patel said that Gujarat farmers are affected due to "oversupply" of cotton owing to its bumper crop in those nations, include China, who import cotton from India.

"Farmers have taken short-term crop loan of Rs 21,000 crore from cooperative banks and nationalised banks this year, for which they have to pay Rs 1100 crore in interest. The state government has taken a decision to pay half of this interest amount from its exchequer to provide relief to farmers," she said.

"The state government gives subsidy of Rs 4,000 crore to farmers in electricity bills, while farmers pay about Rs 900 crore towards power bills. In addition to regular subsidy, the government will now pay 50 per cent of bill (amount) from the state exchequer, which comes at around Rs 500 crore," the chief minister said.

She said her government has already announced an assistance of Rs 700 crore for farmers in Rabi season during ongoing "Krushi Mahotsav" programme.

On the occasion, Patel announced holding of 20 'Shramik Melas' or fairs for unorganised labourers across the state, to coincide with the birthday celebrations of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, falling on December 25.

Under the event, the labourers will be provided with benefits of various welfare schemes, she said.

Patel also announced awarding of plots measuring 300 sq mt to each of the Milk Cooperative Societies being run by women in villages at a token rent of Re 1 per month.

"We will also construct buildings for them (cooperative societies). This will help these women to generate more income from sale of milk, which will be collected from buildings of these societies," the CM said.

She also announced a financial assistance of Rs 90,000 for female candidates and Rs 75,000 for their male counterparts, respectively, who clear UPSC prelims.

"The government will also help them in their final preparation of UPSC (written) exam and (in preparation for) interview," she added.