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Sunday, March 23, 2008

TN Minister Ponmudy hospitalised

Villupuram : Tamil Nadu Higher Education Minister K Ponmudy was admitted to a private hospital here on Sunday after he complained of "chest pain".

The 58-year-old minister, currently camping in his constituency to undertake relief works in rain-ravaged areas, complained of chest pain in the afternoon, hospital sources said.

A team of doctors, headed by leading cardiologist Thanickachalam from Chennai, rushed here to attend on the minister.

"His condition is stable now," the sources said.

Arrangements have been made to take Ponmudy to a private hospital in Chennai for further treatment.

Friday, March 21, 2008

New engineering colleges will be established through Anna University at Villupuram.

VILLUPURAM: New enginerring colleges would be set up at Tindivanam, Villupuram, Panruti, Nagapattinam and Ramanathapuram.

In Perambalur and Sivaganga new government medical colleges will be set up.Tax exemption has been made for the purchase of gold upto 8 grams for Muslim and Christian brides. A similar exemption for Hindu women is already in force.

TN budget on expected lines

VILLUPURAM: K Anbhazhagan, The Tamilnadu Finance Minister, seems to have taken his cue from the Union Finace Minister, as the State budget for the year 2008-09 was pretty much on the lines that Chidambaram had laid — populist, witth plenty of sops and tax cuts.

DA hike for government employees, waiver schemes for farmers, new engineering and medical colleges, more buses (3500), sops for women, new SEZs ...the gravytrain chugged along merrily.

While the total revenue was pegged at Rs.51,505.62 crore, the total revenue expenditure was Rs.51,421.57 crore.

Capital expenditure including loans and advances was at Rs.9,876.35 crore, and total deficit was Rs.9,792.30 crore.


In an effort to rejuvenate the agri-sector, Rs.1500 crore has been set apart for new crop loans.

The rate of interest on crop loan has also been cut to 4 per cent from 5 per cent. Foodgrain production has been estimated to be over 100 lakh tons.

The Finance Minster said efforts will be made continuously to prevail upon the Union government to fix Rs.1000 as procurement price for paddy.

To enable farmers to insure their crop Rs.40 crore has been allotted. A 25 per cent subsidy will be given to farmers who use harvest equipment. Ten thousand self-help groups will be formed with a total membership of one lakh farmers.

Ration cards

An e-service scheme will be implemented at District Collectorates at an estimate of Rs. 5 crore which would enable all eligible families to get ration cards. New initiatives will be taken to prevent road accidents.

In districts like Karur, Tiruchi and Ariyalur, permanent flood prevention initiatives wil be taken up.

Similarly, flood prevention measures would be taken up in all important canals and rivers. In a bid to increase to milk production, under a new scheme, 10,000 hybrid breed milch cows will be given to Women Self Helf Groups.

New Assembly complex

An allocation of Rs.75 crore has been made to facilitate the construction of a new assembly complex. Construction work will begin this financial year.

Schools at various levels will be upgraded. Tuition fee will be abolished in an effort to provide full-fledged free education at government and aided schools.

Similarly, a special fee of Rs.1200 for students at government technical training centres will be waived.

New professional colleges

New enginerring colleges would be set up at Tindivanam, Villupuram, Panruti, Nagapattinam and Ramanathapuram.

In Perambalur and Sivaganga new government medical colleges will be set up.Tax exemption has been made for the purchase of gold upto 8 grams for Muslim and Christian brides. A similar exemption for Hindu women is already in force.

Tax exemption & cut

Soya edible oil, turmeric powder, chilli powder, coriander seed, cocunut milk powder, packed tender coconut, jaggery, rubber blended woven cloth are among the list of items that have been expempted from tax. Bread, bun, rusk, raw materials for siddha medicine, have also been expempted.

A tax cut from 12.5 per cent to 4 per cent has been made for the sale of used vehicels. Appropriate amendments will be made in the Value Added Tax to simplify it.

DA hike for govt staff

The Centre hiked the Dearness Allowance (DA) from 41 to 47 per cent from 1 January 2008.

In an effort to bring parity, the State government decided to hike the DA to six per cent since January.

As a result of the upward revision, the State would have to shell out an additional Rs.136 crore in the current fiscal and Rs.817 crore in the next fiscal.The DA arrears will be disbursed in cash to the State government staff.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Dalit Christians boycott Palm Sunday celebrations

VILLUPURAM: The Palm Sunday celebrations in at least a dozen churches located in the Dalit Christian dominated areas in Cuddalore and Villupuram districts were either obstructed or suspended on Sunday.

Palm Sunday is one of the important church festivals commemorating the entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. The festivities are stretched over a period of one week preceding Easter, which is termed Holy Week. On the occasion the Christians take out processions carrying tender palm leaves to churches as offerings.

The Dalit Christians, observing the day as a ‘black day,’ boycotted the festivities. In some places, they locked up the churches and hoisted black flags to protest the “discriminatory practices” adopted against them and the attack on their houses at Eraiyur near Ulundurpet on March 9. In the subsequent police firing two persons had been killed.

The Dalit Christians also evicted the parish priests and asked them to take up their cause in the meeting convened by Archbishop Anandarayan in Puducherry on Monday.

The Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and the Dalit Christians’ Liberation Movement have given the call to observe the Holy Week as the “untouchability protest week.” State deputy general secretary of the VCK Sinthanai Selvan told The Hindu that the Archdiocese was not following the tenet of Pope John Paul that priests should shun caste bias and discriminatory practices.

The VCK was insisting upon equality in places of worship but the ground reality was contrary to the expectations. Party general secretary Thol. Thirumavalavan would lead a demonstration in Puducherry on March 19, seeking justice for the Dalit Christians, he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Thirumavalavan put off his visit to Eraiyur on Sunday following requests from Villupuram Collector Brajendra Navnit and Superintendent of Police A. Amalraj who felt that the visit might escalate tension and precipitate the issue.

The police said the Palm Sunday fete passed peacefully at Eraiyur Jebamalai Matha Church (of the majority Christians) in which even a handful of Dalit Christians participated.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Two dead in police firing in Tamil Nadu

March 9 (IANS) Two people were killed when police opened fire to quell a clash between two communities over offering worship at a church in Tamil Nadu’s Villupuram district Sunday, police said. According to police, 11 people were also injured in the incident at Ulundurpettai, 200 km south of here. They have been admitted to the district hospital.

“It was a minor clash between converted Christians from the (upper caste) Vanniyar and Dalit communities due to counter claims over rights to offer worship at a church. One person died on the spot and the other on the way to hospital,” state Director General of Police P. Rajendiran told IANS.

“The situation is completely under control as we have rushed reinforcements and are watching the situation,” Rajendiran added.

“Skirmishes like these occur all the time. But this is the first time that police opened fire,” K. Vishnu, an eyewitness belonging to the Vanniyar community said on phone.

Sources from the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), formerly Dalit Panthers of India, said that they were at the receiving end of “oppressive acts” of the Vanniyars.

The Vanniyar dominated PMK led by Ramadoss and the VCK support the DMK regime in the state.

Farmers reap benefits of System Rice Intensification

VILLUPURAM: S. Vijayalakshmi, a middle-aged farmer owning a little over four acres at Vikravandi in Villupuram district, has suddenly become a “very important person” in the area. The reason? The crop she raised recently stood out from others.

In the past two months, tens of farmers have visited her paddy fields, wanting to know the “secret.” System Rice Intensification, or SRI, is her answer.

SRI is a cultivation method that requires less nursery area, water and labour and fewer seeds. More importantly, it yields more than the conventional system, according to a scientist of the Water Technology Centre of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University.

Alternate wetting and drying of fields, use of rolling markers and mechanical weeders and transplanting seedlings less than 15 days old with one seedling in a square of 25x25 cm are some of the characteristics of SRI.

Ms. Vijayalakshmi, who raised the paddy variety BPT5204, achieved a yield of 7.6 tonnes per hectare using SRI. Through the conventional method, she had recorded 5.6 tonnes. Against Rs.20,500 she had incurred for every hectare under the old system, she spent Rs.2,750 less. Her net income was Rs.45,250 a hectare against Rs.26,000 in the conventional system of puddled irrigation.

The farmer, whose test harvest was supported by the State government under the Irrigated Agriculture Modernisation and Water Bodies Restoration and Management Project, has decided to go in for the next crop without government support.

Ms. Vijayalakshmi’s experience is not unique. Farmers of Mathur Thirukkai near Gingee in Tiruvannamalai district, and Abinavam and Thumbal near Athur in Salem district, also have similar stories to narrate. All these areas are covered by the Irrigated Agriculture Modernisation and Water Bodies Restoration and Management Project.

Ranganathan, a farmer of Veedur in Villupuram district, says though farmers were aware of the drawbacks of the conventional cultivation system, they were reluctant to abandon it in view of uncertainties. About 20 years ago, he tried to adopt a new system but was unsuccessful. “This time, I received support and guidance from government officers and TNAU experts.”

About 1,250 hectares have been marked out as SRI demonstration area. This motivated farmers to adopt SRI for 2,595 hectares, for which there is no financial support. The government provides a subsidy of Rs.10,000 a hectare for the demonstration area to raise paddy and pulses. A senior official says the administration is keen on showcasing the success stories to spread SRI.


Talking of the project, the official says it is not just SRI-centric. Increasing the yield and improving livelihood opportunities for farmers are among its objectives. The administration is planning to follow the broad principles of SRI for cultivating pulses and oilseeds.

In its first year of implementation, it seeks to bring the roles of agriculture, agricultural engineering, horticulture, fisheries and animal husbandry departments under the Water Resources Organisation of the Public Works Department. TNAU’s Water Technology Centre is the nodal agency for dissemination and implementation of better farm technologies.

The six-year project, estimated to cost Rs.2,547 crore, covers 63 sub-basins. Of the total cost, Rs.1,500 crore is meant for the Water Resources Organisation to improve irrigation infrastructure and revive 5,760 tanks, and Rs. 300 crore for enhancing agricultural productivity through better seeds, production technology and high-value crops and providing marketing support.

The Agricultural Engineering Department has been charged with increasing farm water use efficiency, and Rs.350 crore has been allocated for this purpose.
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