The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Free-meal scheme for drought-hit

Chennai, Jan. 8: Chief minister Jayalalithaa today announced a free meal programme from January 15 for families of drought-hit farmers, even as one more farmer committed suicide in the Cauvery delta region, taking the toll to two in the past one week.

The announcement comes in the wake of Madras High Court asking for a report on the plight of farmers crippled by debts following the ‘samba (long-term)’ paddy crop failure. Insufficient rainfall and the lack of Cauvery waters, particularly in the delta districts, have destroyed the crops, Jayalalithaa said.

TN ban on lotteries

In a sudden development, the Tamil Nadu government has banned the sale of lotteries of all states within its territory, including lotteries from the state. Prohibiting the sale of lotteries “organised, conducted or promoted by every state”, Governor P.S. Ramamohan Rao issued a notification tonight.

Emerging from a Cabinet meeting this evening, the chief minister announced that “one free meal during daytime would be provided” to all family members of drought-affected farmers in all the 28 districts of the state, except Chennai.

The provisions will be supplied at local noon-meal centres, Jayalalithaa said, directing landless agricultural labourers and small and marginal farmers to register themselves in the respective panchayat and town panchayat offices by January 13 in order to avail the food coupons.

The chief minister also announced a new food-for-work programme to gainfully employ farmers in all the districts. The works to be taken up would include de-silting of tanks, lakes and canals.

State CPM secretary N. Varadarajan had made a request for the same to assist the “thousands of farmers facing the unseemly prospect of starvation”.

Jayalalithaa said cash relief would to provided to coconut farmers whose crops had been destroyed and to the devastated farmers in the Cauvery delta areas after details of their crop position was known by February-end.

Earlier in the day, the Madras High Court admitted a public interest litigation by a Chennai-based lawyer, T. Rajendran, regarding the suicide by two farmers in Thanjavur district after their paddy crop was destroyed due to lack of sufficient water in the Cauvery irrigation system.

Asserting that “such starvation deaths should not be allowed to happen by a welfare state”, Chief Justice Subashan Reddy directed the Tamil Nadu government to file a detailed report on the issue by January 20.

Farmers’ organisations in the Cauvery delta districts, meanwhile, have called a bandh tomorrow to protest Karnataka’s refusal to release Cauvery waters.

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