First batch leaves for Jerusalem
Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy has said that the plan of the State government to extend subsidised tour for Christians to Jerusalem next year would depend on this year’s experience.
A thousand pilgrims would be sent to the holy place this year for which the government had allotted Rs. two crore towards subsidy component, Dr. Reddy said at a function here on Monday to mark the departure of the first batch of 51 pilgrims.
Of the Rs. 56,000 required for the trip, he said each individual would have to bear Rs. 36,000 while the government would meet the remaining cost as subsidy. The government had decided to promote the programme as it recognised the right of people to freedom of religion. He hoped the pilgrims would return from Jerusalem with the blessings of Christ.
Minority Welfare Minister Mohammed Ali Shabbir said the government put into action the Chief Minister’s promise to subsidise tours to Jerusalem in less than a year. Dr. Reddy had given the promise on December 21 last year. He also kept his promise to set up a minorities finance corporation exclusively for Christians.
Archbishop of Hyderabad Marampudi Joji said the Christians had been requesting the government to sponsor their visit to Jerusalem for the last ten years. Their wish was fulfilled only now. He recalled that the Chief Minister took up several reformist measures only after visiting Jerusalem after assuming office.
YSR’s pet sector may take a hit
The Congress government which has been taking pride for maintaining tight fiscal discipline during the last four years may, after all, seek exemptions from the Centre from the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act during the current fiscal.
A debate is raging in the higher echelons of the government whether to exercise this option or put in place a ‘contingency plan’ to tide over the shortfall of 15-20 per cent in revenue (Rs. 70,927-crore target) triggered by the overall economic slowdown. The FRBM Act stipulates that States should bring the revenue deficit to zero level by 2008-09.
The Congress government had the distinction of reaching the zero level and even attaining revenues surplus in 2006-07. But it may end this year with a deficit, leave alone achieving the Rs. 709-crore surplus anticipated in the 2008-09 budget.
The first casualty may be the Rs. 16,500-crore budget for Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s pet irrigation sector which may be re-worked by axing some projects.
It is significant that Finance Minister K. Rosaiah had recently denied reports of differences with Dr. Reddy on the issue of downsizing the allocation for irrigation.
When asked for his views, Principal Secretary, Finance, I. Y. R. Krishna Rao said there was no cause for panic.
“No one is denying that there are no problems. But they are manageable. The government can seek funds under ‘ways and means’, ‘special ways and means’ from the Centre or avail of the overdraft facility. But we have not sought funds even under ‘ways and means’. We will find money for all the priority programmes of the government as also the salary bill.”
He said the remaining four months of the present fiscal may not pose a problem but mobilising adequate resources for the next financial year may present challenges.
The Finance Secretary pointed out that the Rs. one lakh crore budget for this year includes plan expenditure of Rs. 44,000 crore.
“The situation is good so far with commercial taxes, mines and minerals, transport, devolution of central taxes contributing to more than 80 per cent of the targets in spite of slowdown,” he said.
However, the shortfall has been in the revenue expected from land auctions and the Stamps & Registration department due to a slump in real estate market.
YSR real hero, says Ponnala
Minister for Irrigation, Ponnala Lakshmaiah, feels that the Chief Minister, Y S Rajasekhara Reddy fits the definition of hero better than any cine hero. Addressing a meeting got up on the occasion of inaugurating Rs. 600 crore Gundlakamma irrigation project near here today, Mr Lakhsmaiah raised the question as who is the real hero. Answering the question himself, he said that hero is one who wins accolades of people by doing good things. He said that Dr Rajasekhara Reddy launched Jalayagnam to take up several irrigation projects and completed several of them winning the appreciation of all people. Cinema heroes perform impossible feats like jumping from seven storied buildings unscathed which are more imaginary than real.
27,000 acres needed for Godavari lift project: CM
To irrigate 3.21 lakh acres in Visakhaptnam
339 MW needed for lifting water
‘Project a ‘New Year-eve gift’
Chief Minsiter Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy on Monday said the Godavari lift irrigation project being grounded exclusively for North Andhra would need acquisition of 27,000 acres.
After a night halt at Tangedu near Narsipatnam in the bungalow of Congress leader D.V. Suryanarayana Raju, he told reporters that UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi would lay the stone for Uttara Andhra Sujala Sravanti project costing Rs.6, 952 crores in the second week of December. Dr. Reddy was here on a road show in the rural areas of the district.
The project will be a New Year-eve gift to the region.
He said the project sanctioned following representation by local leaders, would bring 63.2 tmc water from the Godavari.
It will irrigate 3.21 lakh acres in Visakhapatnam, 3.94 lakh acres in Vizianagaram and 85,000 acres in Srikakulam.
He said Ms. Gandhi would come to Visakhapatnam in the second week of December after finalisation of tenders for the project.
Stating that the project would need 339 mw, he said water would be lifted first at Purushottapatnam near Sitanagaram in East Godavari.
It will be followed by at Tallapalem and Papayyapalem near Anakapalle in Visakhapatnam and Gadigedda in Vizianagaram district.
On the widening of Yeleru Left Main Canal, he said investigation work was going on to extend the area from 113 km to 160 km.
He said it would provide irrigation to 36,000 acres with an investment of Rs.150 crores.
Dr. Reddy said lift irrigation projects cost less in North Andhra and it was very expensive in Telangana as it had to be taken up at more height. However, he said the government was not hesitant to spend amounts liberally in backward areas.
He said work had already been started on the Pranahita-Chevella Sujanadhara to irrigate 16 lakh acres.
It needed 2300 mw involving an expenditure of Rs.10,000 crores to Rs.12,000 crores. Of 17 Jala Yagnam projects, 14 had been completed over past four and half years providing irrigation to 17 lakh acres.
‘People are with us’
Dr. Reddy on Monday said the people were keen on continuing the Congress rule in the State.
Ruling out any anti-incumbency factor on the eve of elections. He said that the record number of projects taken up by his government, particularly the Jala Yagnam had brought cheers among the masses.
The benefits extended under the Indiramma housing, Rajiv Arogyasri, free rice and power schemes have also made many happy.
Accusing the Opposition parties of ideological bankruptcy in desperation to capture power, he said there was no negative trend in the State.