Monday, April 28, 2008

Farmer relief package turns suicidal: CAG

Farmer relief package turns suicidal: CAG
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Farmer relief package turns suicidal: CAG

Narendra Ch

27 April 2008, Sunday

THE GOVERNMENT has pumped in Rs 5,000 crore in the suicide belts of Vidarbha over the last two years. Yet, farmers continue to kill themselves. Now, a performance audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has exposed the futility of the package..

A report titled Performance Audit of Farmers Package by the CAG of India, has concluded that the package has failed in its basic purpose, that of reducing the agrarian crisis in the six affected districts of Vidarbha. The districts are Yavatmal, Amravati, Wardha, Akola, Buldhana and Washim

"Reduction in farmers distress in Vidarbha does not inspire confidence,” the report emphatically states. Adding that unless corrective measures are taken, "The agrarian distress would start rising again in the closing years of the package. Such distress could increase significantly particularly after the moratorium of loan repayment expires," cautions Sunil Dadhe, the accountant general (audit) in his concluding remarks.

A survey, covering 41,663 farmers in 383 villages of the six districts worst hit by cotton failures in Vidarbha, was part of the CAG audit of the farmers packages announced by the state and central governments in 2006. It found that 36 per cent of farmers were not even aware of the state and central government packages.

The audit slams the government for weak monitoring, delays in payments of compensation and lack of coordination in implementing the packages. The audit conducted between March and June 2007 highlights some glaring deficiencies. It is the first report evaluating implementation of the packages since they were announced two years back.

The CAG report says that government directives for moneylenders to free farmers lands were turned down by the High Court when moneylenders approached it. Neither did the government challenge the court ruling nor did it strengthen the existing laws in favour of the farmers.

A door-to-door survey in 2006 by the state showed there were 13.48 lakh distressed and 4.34 lakh very distressed farmers in these six districts. But they were not considered when benefits were handed out. Short-term measures like help-lines and rescheduling loans were ineffective for most farmers. The report also questioned long-term goals, like creating irrigation potential and subsidiary occupations for farmers.

As per CAG report, it is now official that all claims made by the state administration as per as implementation of relief packages are concern were misleading and far away from the ground reality that has killed more innocent distressed Vidarbha farmers. Here is the detail of CAG report officially released by Maharashtran government.

Suicides by debt-ridden Vidarbha farmers have actually accelerated after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the multi-crore relief package in 2006. The state administration is blamed for lack of co-ordination and a faulty implementation of plans.

The CAG statistics reveal that the suicide graph has been on the rise. From 712 farmers in 2005-06, to 1414 suicides in 2006-07 the total suicide deaths reported from April-July 2007-08 stood at 608. The report was tabled in the state legislature on Friday, hours before the seven-week budget session was prorogued.

Dadhe has demolished the state government’s claim, that alls well after funds flow from the relief package. In fact the CAG team has asserted that there is no monitoring of the implementation of the packages.

"Though the state created the Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swawalamban Mission (VNSSM) for monitoring of the implementation of the packages, it had no dedicated staff apart from its director general and a driver. Consequently, it failed to even watch the expenditure incurred by the implementing departments under various components,’ ’ the report said.

The auditors, who surveyed 363 villages covering 41,663 farmers, said the state failed to implement its announcements that farmers who took loans from unregistered moneylenders can treat themselves free from that loan. In fact, the CAG survey revealed that 75 per cent of their respondents were unaware of this announcement in absence of adequate and effective publicity.

The CAG report reveals that illegal money lenders have got relief from the courts after the assistant registrars of the cooperative societies (ARCS) declared the farmers free from debts. In 18 writ petitions filed by the money lenders the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court passed orders setting aside the orders of the ARCS.
"The government neither appealed against the orders (in the Supreme Court) nor took any remedial action like amendment of the relevant acts to secure the interests of the indebted farmers. Consequently the affected farmers did not get the intended benefit of the government decision of December 2005,’’ it said.

A scrutiny of the state government records in Amravati by the CAG has revealed that 224 eligible farmers were deprived of the compensation of Rs 2.14 lakh due to non-availability of funds, speaking volumes about the state administration’ s handling of the issue. The report said that many banks claimed interest without extending fresh loans to the distressed farmers. Of the 17.64 lakh farmers in the six districts, 9.29 lakh cases of loan having outstanding principle amount of Rs 1,369 crore were proposed to be rescheduled after waiver of interests.

However, fresh loans of Rs 673 crore (43 per cent) were given in 4.84 lakh cases. "The waiver of interest in all these cases did not help the families of the farmers concerned in income augmentation since loan was not rescheduled. Further the government waived interest on 1.92 lakh farm workers, though the packages did not envisage assistance to those who were not farmers,’’ the report said.

The Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) president Kishor Tiwari urged UPA government to order CBI. inquiry in this matter as issue of huge malpractices in more than Rs.5000 crore. This failure of relief package has resulted to more than 3000 suicides of farmers.

In fact VJAS has demanding that due to total apathy of administration and causal attitude, coupled with massive corruption has made this condition of rural Vidarbha so pathetic and aggravated that the agrarian crisis grew more after the announcement of relief package;as the relief did not reached the dying farmers in time even after the lapse of two year. It is the need of the time to provide food security health care to minimum 4.34 lakh farming families who are identified by administration as farmers in deep distress, Tiwari added.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

PM's relief turns sour-DNA on vidarbha agrarian crisis

Full Story can be found at

PM's relief turns sour

NAGPUR: Mahadev Nago Kumre, a Gond tribal farmer, is waging a losing battle against land acquisition that will render him landless.

"What's the use of the paltry compensation that I am getting for my land? With it I can't buy any land anywhere in the district. And, at this age, where do I go?" the septuagenarian asks.

Kumre is not the only one losing land in Katli Borgaon village for a government project. There are 13 others who have already become landless.

This village in Yavatmal's Zari tahsil is losing its fertile land along a rivulet for a 300-acre pond under construction for a minor irrigation project which will provide water to a few neighbouring villages in Kelapur block. The project is funded by the Prime Minister's relief package.

Suddenly, there's a flood of irrigation projects in the six crisis-ridden districts of Vidarbha. There's ample money for irrigation in the PM's package - Rs2275 crore. And it has to be used within three years.

But even as the government is now in a rush to complete old and new projects, this is creating conflicts between beneficiaries and those displaced by these projects.

"The officials assured us good compensation for our land," says Baliram Bhima Chandekar, who is set to lose his five acres. While the promise was for Rs3 lakh compensation per acre, the government awarded Rs30,000 an acre. Baliram, Kumre and others losing their land are on a fast to protest the acquisition, while 500 metres away, work on the pond goes on.

People are angry with the local MLA, Vasant Purke, who is also the state education minister. "Everyone is busy drawing money into his constituency for such irrigation projects, without studying the technical and economic detail," says Kishor Tiwari of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti.

Vidarbha has historically suffered from neglect of irrigation. A planning commission fact-finding mission in 2006 found that only three per cent of the cotton area in western Vidarbha came under captive irrigation. But now, when the region has finally got some money earmarked for irrigation under the PM's package, it is plagued by mindless planning, says Tiwari.

Vidarbha gets an average 850 mm annual rainfall; it has two perennial rivers, a series of seasonal rivers, tributaries and rivulets, and a network of natural water tanks. Yet, it is among the most backward regions in water resource utilisation.

Take for instance the case of the Upper Wardha dam, built ten years ago and expected to irrigate 2 lakh hectares. Today, it is irrigating just 10,000 hectares, because the canal network is not ready. Also, the demand for water in the command area is dying down due to spiraling costs. As a result, the water resource remains under-utilised.

The project is at best fulfilling the drinking water needs of Amravati, Badnera and Morshi.

But water resources expert AK Shenolikar feels development of water resources is the foremost need for agricultural growth. "History shows us that people, mainly farmers, take time to utilise harnessed water resources," he said.

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