Focusing on the rural poor for the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls, Janata Dal-Secular on Monday announced that it will write off all past loans of small and marginal farmers, borrowed from cooperative and public sector banks from 1991 onwards. JD-S president H D Deve Gowda, while reading out the highlights of the party's manifesto released today, said that the "party will write off all past loans of marginal farmers ... from 1991. The government will repay these loans to banks in installments so that the banking institutions do not suffer".
Gowda said that the JD-S will also create a semi-judicial authority to conduct arbitration proceedings in the case of disputes relating to private money lenders. The JD-S chief also announced that his party "will give top priority to completion of ongoing irrigation projects by doubling the outlay on the accelerated irrigation scheme which was introduced in 1996 (during his prime ministership)".
The former PM also said that a National Agriculture Price Stabilisation Fund will be created by allocating Rs 5,000 crore to provide price support to food grain crops and fruit and vegetable crops. Offering sops to agricultural labourers, JD-S announced that it would launch a nationwide pension scheme to provide Rs 500 monthly pension to all marginal and small farmers and agricultural labourers above the age of 60 years.
Attacking the United Progressive Alliance government's foreign policy, Gowda said it has "done damage to the reputation of India as a non-aligned country, by signing the nuclear energy agreement with the United States ... it is necessary to resurrect India's independence in formulating its own foreign policy".
"The JD-S will announce its pragmatic non-alignment policy of promoting friendship and cooperation with all countries of the world without fear or favour to any country or power-blocks like the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation," the party chief said.
Criticising the UPA government for "failing miserably to modernise and strengthen the armed forces", the JD-S said that it will give top priority to modernise and strengthen the nation's defence preparedness.
"As a first step, our party will build a minimum nuclear deterrence force as a safeguard against any unexpected eventualities. The party will also encourage the development of weapons delivery system like nuclear weapon carrier missiles," the manifesto said.
In what Gowda termed as a "new deal for rural India", Gowda said that his party will treat repair and maintenance of rural roads, rural school buildings and buildings of primary health centres as plan expenditure. The party will also formulate a kind of national rural housing policy for the poor, in which it will rope in private builders to provide environmentally safe houses for the rural poor.