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DateLine Sunday, 30 September 2007

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Government Gazette

'Success in Waga Sangrama could be achieved only through proper management'

The Sunday Observer last week sought the views of politicians as well as the public about the recently launched Waga Sangrama program by the Agricultural Ministry. Here the excerpts of the interview.

Minister Maithripala Sirisena said the Government was committed to implement the Waga Sangrama program on the directive of the President mainly to develop the country's agricultural sector and also to encourage the farmer community.

"Our country has a large number of uncultivated land in almost all Divisional Secretariat areas and they are unattended; no one is focusing any attention to cultivate them,".

He said the country is blessed with natural climatic conditions which help to develop the agricultural sector in a big way, but unfortunately no one is taking any step to develop these lands.

"Our objective is to get a survey of all uncultivated lands and encourage farmers and agricultural organisations to help the Waga Sangrama program," he said.

Galle District UNP MP Vajira Abeyawardana called upon the Government to cut down the taxes of all agricultural equipment for the benefit of the farmer community before the Waga Sangrama is launched.

"The Government must also start new irrigation projects in rural rice producing areas, before commencing this type of agricultural program,". He said the price of fertiliser had gone up and blamed the Government for its inability to provide fertiliser at Rs. 350, as promised during the last election period.

"Even during the time of former President J.R Jayewardene, a Waga Sangramaya program was initiated and 9200 new irrigation canals were constructed in the Victoria, Kotmale and Mahaweli zones and at least one million acres of paddy land were cultivated.

"We also reduce taxes on all agricultural equipment and encourage farmers to produce compost fertiliser,".

"Even today the country is self sufficient in rice to a certain extent due these development plans,".

Abeyawardana, therefore asked the Government to construct more irrigation canals, cut down taxes on agricultural equipment, provide fertiliser at an affordable price and encourage people to manufacture compost fertiliser before this program is implemented.

JVP, Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa said "Although the Waga Sangrama program is good to develop agriculture, but the Government has not yet appointed responsible officials to monitor the program,".

"We need better administrators to monitor any development program; otherwise better results cannot be expected,".

Weerawansa also blamed the Government for not taking any action to stop selling agricultural lands by auctioneers and also to halt polluting the environment by filling useful paddylands for commercial purposes.

A Director in the mercantile firm, Wimaladasa Amarasinghe thanked the Government for initiating this agricultural program even at this juncture and requested the Agricultural Ministry to take immediate steps to bring down the prices of all agricultural equipment and fertiliser.

"Unless the Government brings down the prices of agricultural equipment, this type of program will not be successful," he said. A Professor in Agriculture, Indrajith Mahagamage of Kandy urged the Government to organise `Farmer Associations' in all districts and recruit young and old people.

"These people should be given a monthly salary, so that, they can help the Government's Waga Sangrama program.

The Secretary of a Farmer organisation of Polonnaruwa, Ranasinghalage Piyasiri said there were many uncultivated lands in the district and no official has so far taken any action to cultivate them.

He said many land owners have financial difficulties, and as a result they are unable to cultivate the lands. Piyasena Mudalige of Nikaweratiya said farmers in his area were very poor and wanted the Government to grant bank loans for them without any security. An executive, M.N. Kuthubdeen said some farmers gave up cultivating land due to the high cost of fertiliser and wanted the Government to reduce the price of all varieties of fertilisre so that they would once again resort to their age old profession.

Bimal Thilakaratna of Borelasgamauwa, made a proposal to utilise the service of prisoners to clear forests and cultivate land.

"There are lots of uncultivated land in the rural sector and people do not even visit these areas, he said.

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