Himachal promises relief to rain-hit farmers

Shimla, July 2 (IANS) Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh Tuesday said compensation would be provided to farmers of the rain-ravaged Kinnaur district.

"Apple, peas and rajma (kidney beans) crops were severely damaged in the natural calamity in Kinnaur. The government would provide cash incentives to the farmers at their doorsteps on a priority," Virbhadra Singh told reporters here.

He said teams of officials from horticulture and agriculture departments have reached the rain-hit areas to evaluate the losses.

"There also are reports of heavy damage to the orchards. We would adequately compensate the farmers," said the chief minister on his return from New Delhi.

Official sources said Virbhadra Singh met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi and sought financial relief of Rs.1,000 crore.

The chief minister said the central government promised to provide financial help to the state.

More than 10,000 head of animal were killed and 1,000 houses damaged in the June 16-18 heavy rains that triggered massive landslides, blocking many roads, in the hill state.

Virbhadra Singh said the loss of private and public property in the unprecedented rains was estimated at Rs.2,575 crore.

"There is no shortage of essential items in the disaster-hit areas. It was just a wrong propaganda to defame the government. If there is a need, we will even airlift the ration," he said.

According to estimates of the horticulture department, 90 percent of the apple crop in Kinnaur district has been destroyed.

The wellknown red and golden apples of Kinnaur, the mainstay of local growers, are known for their natural sweetness, colour, succulence and prolonged shelf-life.

On restoration of road links, the chief minister said work was being carried out on war-footing.

"The government is also going to restore the Old Hindustan-Tibet Road right up to China. The state has taken up the issue with the Government of India to develop it as an all weather-road," he said.

The existing National Highway-22, which provides the only road link to remote areas of the state, is highly prone to damages due to landslides and rains.

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