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Higher allocation `to boost' rural sector

Our Bureau

The three key components of rural development — agriculture, rural infrastructure and poverty alleviation — had been identified as the thrust areas and allocations had been made accordingly, the Union Minister for Rural Development, Mr M. Venkaiah Naidu, said.

HYDERABAD, March 1

THE slew of measures announced by the Finance Minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha, in his Budget for 2002-03 augurs well for the rural sector, the Union Minister for Rural Development, Mr M. Venkaiah Naidu, said here on Friday.

The three key components of rural development — agriculture, rural infrastructure and poverty alleviation — had been identified as the thrust areas and allocations had been made accordingly, he said.

The Ministry of Rural Development itself had been given a 11 per cent hike in allocation. The total provision for 2002-03 was Rs 13,670 crore up from Rs 12,265 crore the previous year. The increase had come after the transfer of three important schemes of the Ministry to the States, he told newspersons.

Expressing hope that the States would implement the schemes — national old age pension, family benefit and annapurna — in a meaningful manner, he said the Budgetary allocation for these was Rs 1,135 crore.

The Minister identified the one-time settlement for farmer's loans up to Rs 50,000; increased allocation to the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) from Rs 5,000 crore to Rs 55,00 crore; creation of an agriculture insurance corporation and launch of Jai Prakash Rozgar Guarantee Yojana as important measures that would spur development in rural areas.

He said a string of rural product marketing centres and sub-centres at the district and block levels would be set up to provide infrastructure for marketing the products of self-help groups. Village haats would also be upgraded.

In rural infrastructure, a sum of Rs 2,500 crore had been allocated for the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana for developing rural roads. Similarly, an amount of Rs 164 crore had been provided for an interest-free subsidy scheme for accelerated rural electrification.

For the Jai Prakash Rozgar Yojana scheme, a task force with the Rural Development Minister as Chairman would be constituted. The idea was to provide self-employment to youths in around 100 districts, which had been declared as most backward, he said.

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