Briefing reporters after a meeting of the state Cabinet, Deputy Chief Minister Kadiam Srihari said the decision to raise the ex-gratia would be effective from today. The 'Kalyana Lakshmi' scheme of providing help for the marriage of young women would be extended to the families of farmers who committed suicide, he said.

Srihari said that the Cabinet expressed regret that farmers are committing suicide due to deficit rainfall, low crop yield or indebtedness. He appealed to the farmers not to take the extreme step of ending their lives.

Farmers' suicides has, of late, become a political issue in the state with opposition Congress, TDP and other parties alleging that hundreds of farmers have committed suicide due to distress in the last over one year since TRS assumed office.

The ruling party, however, has dismissed the allegation. A state government release issued on September 11 said that 141 farmers have committed suicide so far and that ex-gratia was being paid to them.

Srihari said the political parties, media and NGOs should instill courage among farmers and that the issue should not be used for politics.

Highlighting that the state government has taken many pro-farmer measures, he said that seeds and fertilisers have been made available for agriculture and uninterrupted power is being supplied to the extent possible.

The government also waived farmers' loans to the tune of Rs 17,000 crore, the Deputy CM said, adding that the government would wait till September 30 to announce various mandals as drought-hit as per Centre's norms.

He said the Cabinet has decided to appoint 1,000 agriculture extension officers in the state in addition to 1,100 such officers who are working to serve about 41 lakh hectares of cultivable land in the state.

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