Saturday, June 19, 2010

[ZESTCaste] UP govt officials cheat Dalit farmers

UP govt officials cheat Dalit farmers
Piyush Srivastava
Lucknow, June 19, 2010

Officials of the Uttar Pradesh government cheated at least 12,500
marginal Scheduled Caste farmers in Kanpur- Rural district on the
pretext of supporting them under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural
Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA).

The scam could touch Rs 50 crore, the Central Employment Guarantee
Council of the NREGA said.

Last year, the Centre had introduced some amendments in the Act for
those SC/ST farmers who have a land holding of less than 1 hectare.

They were eligible to get high quality seeds and other assistance to
cultivate their land.

An inquiry conducted by the state government has found most of the
farmers who were shown as beneficiaries were landless labourers.

On the other hand, the few farmers who got seeds and invested their
own money hoping to earn returns discovered the seeds were

The officials also purchased the seeds at a much higher price than
rates fixed by the government's horticulture department.

Misuse or parking of fund was also detected in the construction of
model ponds in each gram sabha of the Kanpur- Rural district under the
NREGA. Vinod Shankar Chaubey, a retired IAS officer whom the
government assigned to probe irregularities in the area, has raised
these glaring embezzlements.

His report is backed by physical verification, affidavits of the
farmers and reports of the district, block and village officials.

"The farmers were not lying when they said they didn't get seeds.
Shankar Dayal of Mohana village has given an affidavit that he got Rs
1,400 as daily wage.

But he didn't get potato seeds as mentioned in official records.

Brijesh Kumar of Mohana took land on rent from another person.

He received 1 kg of potato seed from village secretary Arvind Kumar.
He also invested Rs 8,000 on it. But it went waste because the seed
was of poor quality. Brijendra Kumar got less than 10 grams of tomato
seeds," Chaubey reported.

"We have received complaints that some officials took a bribe of Rs
300 from the farmers to provide them benefits under the scheme," the
report submitted this week stated.

"According to the government rate, coriander seeds cost Rs 80 per kg.
But it was purchased by the officers for Rs 584 per kg from
Uttaranchal Seeds and Terai Development Corporation Limited in

Tomato seeds cost Rs 27,500 per kg but it was purchased at Rs 30,600
per kg," Chaubey said.

"A pond in Mohana was shown on paper as being repaired in 2007-08 at
the cost of Rs 1.94 lakh. It was repaired again in 2008- 09 for Rs
2.71 lakh, and in 2009-10 for Rs 1.66 lakh," he said.

Besides, Rs 6,720 was fixed for building eight cement benches around
each model pond. However, the authorities released Rs 6,000 for each
iron bench even though the market price of one iron bench is not more
than Rs 3,500," the report noted.

Rural development minister Daddu Prasad said action would be taken
against the corrupt officers. "We want proper and honest
implementation of the NREGA," he added.

Sanjay Dixit, a member of the Central Employment Guarantee Council,
said the officials had parked more than Rs 50 crore by one or the
other means in Kanpur-Rural under the NREGA. "About Rs 4 crore out of
Rs 4.71 crore, which was approved for seeds, was misused. They also
siphoned off about Rs 10 crore in the purchase of substandard seeds.

A similar amount was misappropriated in repairing the same ponds again
and again. I think the scam involves about Rs 50 crore. I have urged
the state government to suspend all the corrupt officials. Kanpur-
Rural was the pilot district for the project. Now, its implementation
in 35 districts has been withheld," he said.

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