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Thiruvananthapuram, March 3

TEH Centre has extended `in-principle' approval to the State Government's proposal for mandating the State Civil Supplies Corporation to procure and mill paddy for supply to the Food Corporation of India and for onward delivery into the public distribution system.

This will be part of the effort aimed at institutionalising a permanent mechanism for paddy procurement from next year, the Chief Minister, Mr Oommen Chandy, informed the State Assembly on Tuesday.

He said this while replying to an Opposition notice seeking leave for an adjournment motion over what the latter described as callous response to grievous problems faced by farmers in recent times.

Intervening, the Agriculture Minister, Ms K.R. Gowri, said that paddy procurement was proceeding smoothly and farmers have been getting higher prices than in the previous year. A number of initiatives had also been taken to encourage paddy cultivation in the State.

In the light of these observations, the Speaker, Mr Therambil Ramakrishnan, refused to grant leave for the motion. But the Opposition walked out, protesting the Government's failure to tackling the situation arising from plunging prices of farm produce, delay in procurement and compensating crop loss.

In his reply, the Chief Minister had also said that steps had already been initiated to resume paddy procurement. To facilitate this, the Government would sanction in the next two days the payout of arrears of Rs 6 crore that it owed to cooperative societies.

Apart from cooperative societies, other agencies would also be encouraged to procure paddy from farmers. The crop insurance premium would be remitted to help farmers get compensation from insurance for crop loss, the Chief Minister added.

Meet on fish import: The State Government intends to convene a conference of fisheries ministers of coastal States to discuss the implications of import of fish from Thailand.

Replying to a submission, the Chief Minister said the Centre had, in October 2003, entered into an agreement with Thailand for import of 84 varieties of fish, including the locally available mackerel and oil sardines.

The State Government had conveyed its concern that this would affect the livelihood of traditional fishermen in the Sate. The Prime Minister had also been apprised of the situation.

Tsunami aid: The Revenue Minister, Mr K.M. Mani, told the House that the State has not received any tsunami assistance from multilateral agencies, including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

In a written reply, the Minister said representatives of the World Bank, ADB, the United Nations and the Commonwealth had visited the tsunami-affected areas in the State. Their mandate was to assess the rehabilitation activities in the wake of the Centre's policy decision to go for assistance from multilateral agencies.

But there was no information on how much money would be made available to the State from these agencies, the Minister added.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 2, 2005)
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