Unearthing rural corruption

BY Prabhakar Kulkarni| IN Media Practice | 24/06/2009
Marathi newspapers expose corruption and find 60 percent of the employees in Maharashtra¿s agriculture department are unqualified,

The union and state governments have committed to a policy of encouraging the farm sector in general and attending to farmers’ plight in particular. For the first time since independence, agriculture is on the national agenda. It has, however, for long been a state subject and states are expected to implement agricultural development schemes. But are states well-equipped to implement these schemes as per the expectations and standards laid down by policy directives?


While the situation in other states is unknown, in Maharashtra it is reported that 60 percent of the state agriculture department¿s 27,000 employees  are unqualified. Agro One, the only Marathi daily dedicated to agriculture, exposed this harsh reality. As a result, farmers are not receiving proper guidance on government schemes that are in their interest. There is also no arrangement to train unqualified employees in order to equip them to respond to farmers’ needs. A number of employees and officials of the department appear to attend courses in India and abroad but their contribution to the department and benefits to farmers is neither on record nor realised by the farming community.


Now that these inadequacies and inefficiencies have been exposed, special arrangements are being made to train the staff and improve the department’s working style to benefit farmers, and to expedite implementation of agricultural development schemes.    


The prime minister’s scheme for farmers is also being misused by officials who are alleged to have misappropriated funds meant for farmers in distress. Agro One focused on the case of a farmer’s widow, Tibia Manakar, 65, in whose name a subsidy of Rs. 16,000 is recorded as given for the purchase of manure, agricultural equipment and bullocks. But the woman did not receive the money. Five officials in the agriculture department have been held responsible for the scam and the matter is being investigated.


In another deceitful act, farmers were sold fake manure at a high price. The manure was manufactured without a license. Kolhapur-based Pudhari and Pune-based Sakal, both with a network of editions, have exposed the fake-manure manufacturing factory at Tamgaon village in Kolhapur district. Police raided the factory and sealed the stock of fake organic manure, which was being prepared by mixing sand and soil. Pandurang Nalage, the factory owner, has been arrested. Officials are investigating why the factory was allowed to operate for the past two years and are looking into the possibility of bribery. The two dailies have in special features disclosed the fact that 31 officials are appointed to check the quality of manure prepared and sold to farmers in the region.


The absence of qualified staff and the alleged involvement of officials in malpractice indicates that the agriculture department in Maharashtra is not well-equipped with men and motivation required for proper implementation of schemes initiated by both the union and state government for farmers’ benefit. Farmers are neglected as before without any improvement in their lot.


The state ministers and MLAs in the area who are now aiming at the coming Assembly elections are now assuring farmers they will address their problems and consider a new loan-waiver scheme for those did not benefit from the earlier one. They also highlighted government-sponsored schemes to create hope among farmers who form a majority of voters in their constituencies. But if the implementing machinery is both inactive and inefficient, what will be the outcome of these assurances?







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