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Farmer-the most endangered species

Aid for farmers of Vidarbha milked by netas

Posted by Ramoo on September 13, 2008

13 Sep 2008, 0103 hrs IST,TNN

NAGPUR: In a bitter twist to the Vidarbha farmers’ tragedy, a simple RTI query has revealed a huge scam in cash and kind in the CM’s and PM’s special relief packages.
A six-time former MP and relatives of a sitting MLA and several former MLAs are among the ‘well-off’ people who have helped themselves to the relief measures meant for poor, bereaved families in Yavatmal district, the epicentre of the farmers’ suicides.
The revelations point to large-scale corruption and irregularities in implementation of the schemes. Social activist and journalist Vilas Wankhede, who made the RTI query, alleged that undeserving beneficiaries had abused the scheme in which 50% of the cost of purchase of a cow or a buffalo is subsidised by the government.
The scheme was meant to help the near and dear ones of those indebted farmers who were the sole breadwinners of their families and who had ended their lives, or other BPL families living along the state dairy’s milk procurement route. Its purpose was to enable the distressed families to supplement their income as farming had become uneconomical in this mainly unirrigated cotton-growing region.
After Wankhede applied under RTI Act, the deputy commissioner of Yavatmal’s animal husbandry department provided the list of beneficiaries. While former Congress MP Uttamrao Patil and his family members got ten cows under the subsidy scheme, sitting MLA of Digras Sanjay Deshmukh’s wife and mother got a cow each, ex-minister and former guardian minister of Nagpur district Shivajirao Moghe’s near relations got eight cows. Wani ex-MLA Wamanrao Kasawar’s four relatives got eight cows, while Congress leader Suresh Lonkar’s relatives bagged six.
More surprisingly, the contractor who supplied the cows, Amol Kshirsagar, was himself a beneficiary and got subsidy for two cows. All the leaders belong to the Congress, the NCP or other parties in the ruling alliance.

State BJP president Nitin Gadkari, who introduced Wankhede at a crowded press conference here on Friday, said the RTI data only related to one district. “This is the tip of a scam iceberg, since the packages were to be implemented in six suicide-affected districts of Vidarbha,” he said. Demanding a CBI probe into the relief packages, Gadkari also sought the PM’s intervention. “If the government fails to order a CBI enquiry, we will file a public interest litigation,” he added.
“What is disturbing in the whole affair is that needy and deserving people were left out and well-heeled politicians mainly from the Congress and the NCP misused the scheme,” said Gadkari.
More shockingly, Wankhede pointed out that despite distributing thousands of milch cows, each costing around Rs 14,000, the milk collection in the district actually showed a decline. The collection figure on June 1, 2006 was 6,521 litres, but on the last day of that month, it was 5,359 litres. The beneficiaries also took advantage of funds provided for fodder and many availed of insurance by claiming that the animal had died!
Gadkari said that the Narendra Jadhav committee report on implementation of relief schemes in Vidarbha had also mentioned widespread corruption and supply of relief material at inflated costs.

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