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`Toddy crisis will blow over soon'

Our Bureau

Of over 4,000 shops for which bids were sought, 800-odd did not receive any bids.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, July 8

THE crisis in Kerala's toddy sector will be resolved within a week by initiating effective measures for auctioning the 809 toddy shops which have not already been brought under the hammer, the Finance Minister, Mr K. Sankaranarayanan, informed the State Assembly on Monday.

The State Government intends to go ahead with the programme even at the risk of incurring some losses, Mr Sankaranarayanan said while replying to discussions on demands for grants for the departments of Agriculture, Sales Tax and Excise in the House.

"The toddy shops would be auctioned soon and talks would be held with labourers to find an amicable solution to end the crisis,'' he added.

It may be recalled that subsequent to the current Congress-led Government under Mr A.K. Antony taking over, the toddy co-operatives constituted by the previous administration were disbanded and the system of auctioning was reintroduced.

But, of over 4,000 shops for which bids were sought, 800-odd did not receive any bids.

Reacting to criticism over the Rs 3,600-crore loan being advanced to the State Government by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), he reminded the Opposition CPI and CPM Members that China was one of the major beneficiaries of the ADB dole. It has received $11.3 billion as loan from foreign agencies over the last 15 years.

"If China and West Bengal can take loan from ADB, why can't Kerala?'' he asked.

Study on express highway: Feasibility studies for taking up construction of an express highway along the length of the State was going on, the Public Works Minister, Dr M.K. Muneer, told the Assembly.

Replying to questions by Mr A.N. Rajan Babu and others, the Minister said that the high-speed, access-controlled motorway envisages avoidance of turnings, steep ascents and descents and construction of overbridges or underpasses at every 1.5 or two km stretch.

The alignment is expected to mostly cover the sparsely populated areas.

Dr Muneer said that a pre-feasibility study had been conducted earlier and visual documentation prepared.

Even as the feasibility study was on, a consultant has been examining whether stretches of existing highways could be utilised for the high-speed motorway.

"A report in this connection is expected towards the month-end," he added.

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