From: mohanlal panda <email@example.com>
Date: Tue, Jul 12, 2011 at 7:27 AM
Subject: Corrupt Bundelkhand officials feed off aid for dead farmers
Greetings from PVCHR.
Please refer to the following news link and the attached report: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/story/up-officials-feast-on-dead-farmers-in-bundelkhand/1/144431.html
Corrupt Bundelkhand officials feed off aid for dead farmers
In Uttar Pradesh's most impoverished region, Bundelkhand, government officials feed off not just the living but also the dead. Headlines Today has exposed how corrupt officials exploit the grieving families of farmers, who have committed suicide.
In a visit to Bundelkhand in 2008, AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi repeated a phrase borrowed from his father Rajiv Gandhi: "Out of 100 paise, only 15 paise reaches the poor".
While travelling through this dustbowl in UP, it is easy to see why. As Headlines Today weaved its way through large tracts of Bundelkhand, it encountered a familiar story.
Bundelkhand is the place that was most frequented by politicians last year including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Eighty per cent of the population in Bundelkhand is dependent on agriculture out of which 76 farmers are debt-ridden.
Bundelkhand also got a relief package of Rs 7000 crore and yet eight out of every 10 farmers cannot repay their loan. Above all, this is the place where 1400 farmers have committed suicide in the last two-and-a-half years, but the UP government has not acknowledged even a single one of them.
Says Omprakash Singh, DC, Chitrakoot-Banda region, says, "Not a single farmer in Bundelkhand has committed suicide because of debt. We have investigated a lot of cases and found out that the reason for suicides is not indebtedness but personal reasons like family disputes and illness."
Q: It has been reported that a lot of government officials are taking commission in the relief schemes for the farmers. Are you aware of it?
DC: We have no such information. If we get complaints, we take action, but we haven't got one till date."
It's a claim that is disputed by several families in the area.
"The monsoon does not reach on time, which wasn't the case back then. Those who have committed suicide incurred heavy losses in farming. They couldn't repay their loans and have to sell their land at times. Just a meal of plain chapattis will at least cost Rs 10. How will they eat? The money borrowed for seeds itself is not reimbursed, forget the profit," says Ganesh Prasad Dwivedi, a farmer.
The UP government has schemes that BPL families can apply for if the earning member of the family dies. The first step in claiming this compensation is to acquire a nakal or a land record. The naked dance of corruption begins at this very stage.
Headlines Today accompanied families of impoverished farmers, who had committed suicide but were still struggling to get compensation under several schemes. It was winess to the rot, caught on camera.
Surajdeen (kin of a farmer): So, how much do I need to pay you?
Munna Lal (a clerk): I told you earlier also, Rs 3,000.
Surajdeen: Rs 3,000?
Munna Lal nods his head.
The nakal or land record is crucial to get welfare payments from schemes like the Krishi Bima Yojana, which compensates money to the BPL farmers according the size of the land they possess.
The widow's pension scheme entitles the dead farmer's wife to Rs 300 per month. The Parivarik Labh Yojana grants a compensation of Rs 20,000 to the next of kin of a dead farmer. Finally, there's the Anusuchit Jaati Shaadi Anudaan yojana. Chief Minister Mayawati's flagship scheme is meant to support BPL farmers financially for the wedding of their daughters. A sum of Rs 20,000 is handed out when all the papers along with the wedding card are submitted.
Shockingly, Headlines Today discovered, not one scheme remains untainted by greed.
Raja Bhaiya of Vidyadham Samiti says "There has been a drought for the last eight years. We have carried out an independent survey according to which 500 farmers have committed suicide and 800 people have died due to starvation in the last two years. The more the number of relief schemes, the more chance for officials to propagate corruption."
The nonchalance of the government is limitless. It demands alcohol for granting an audience, token money for appointments and a big fat amount for sanctioning relief schemes from farmers who live on less than Rs 30 a day. For those battling abject poverty, life in Bundelkhand is worse than death itself.
Government schemes meant for those below the poverty line yield nothing till palms are greased. It is easy to turn a blind eye, since 1400 suicides have gone unacknowledged by the government.
Politicians want to farm Bundelkhand for votes.The region won a Rs 7000-crore package from the Center, but families surviving on less than Rs 30 a day grovel before government officials, sometimes to avail of a scheme to get a daughter married.
Farmers in Bundelkhand commit suicide to terminate the cycle of drought, debt and suffering and yet, death does not end it. In fact, the Headlines Today investigation finds, it is the beginning of a fresh new ordeal for those left behind.
"SDM says we are not eligible to get papers. We did not even get death certificate or a post-mortem report, because I have not paid the money yet," said Nandlal.
Orphaned children, old hapless mothers, and young widows borrow money from the same moneylenders, who are responsible for driving farmers to their deaths.
The BSP's Anusuchit Jaati Shaadi Anudaan Yojana gives away Rs 20,000 to farmers as a financial assistance for daughter's wedding. But it is racked with corruption.
Posing as a relative of Ram Khilawan, a poor farmer, whose daughter is about to get married, Headlines Today visited Vikas Bhawan in Banda to collect funds for the wedding.
Ram Khilawan: Take these papers. I have come to you so many times.
Phoolchand (a clerk): Yes, I know you have come a lot of times. (Goes through the papers) You will have to give five percent of the entire amount later.
Ram Khilawan: Five per cent? But I have given all the papers.
Phoolchand: Yes, then too.
Phoolchand: Now I will have to put the stamp now. (Checks the papers, gets up to get the stamp) Now, pay me some money for doing all this, no?
Ram Khilawan: I don't have any.
Phoolchand: How did you presume that the work will get done without any money?
Ram Khilawan: How much do I need to pay?
(Ram Khilawan opens his bag to take out the money. Phoolchand comes and snatches all the money from his hand.)
Bundelkhand is teeming with stories such as that of Ram Khilawan's. Shyam Singh first took a loan of Rs 75,000 from a bank for his crop and another Rs 1.50 lakh from moneylenders to get his daughter married. Unable to cope with three consecutive crop failures and the constant threat from loan recovery agents, Singh ended his life.
With absolute penury and loan of about Rs two lakh, Shyam Singh and his wife Vinod had no option but to end their lives. Shyam Singh first killed his wife at this very spot and then hung himself inside that room. His four children have no money and may have to drop out of school very soon.
Headlines Today visited the Gudhakala branch of UP-Allahabad Gramin posing as an NGO official. It was accompanied by Bhikhu, whose brother had committed suicide last year in March. Bhikhu wanted to apply for a kisaan credit card. Mahesh Prasad Guha is a clerk at UP-Allahabad Gramin Bank, Gudhakala branch.
Bhikhu (a farmer's kin): Please speak to the bank manager. He is simply refusing.
Mahesh Prasad: It will be done. But let me tell you that you will have to pay five percent of the credit card limit. I have told you people so many times to get your files along. There is no need to argue with the manager. That is the commission rate and you will have to pay it. Nothing doing about it and anyway, it's not that we are keeping the entire amount. You are getting most of it. Get the papers and I will get it done. This branch manager is new. I will convince him. Everyone takes loan for farming only. What is the harm in giving away a small portion?
Bhiku: Sir, my brother had a lot of loan to pay and he committed suicide because of this.
Mahesh: Hmmm? Really?
Bhiku: The bank sent him a notice to repay it immediately.
Mahesh: If you are taking a loan, be prepared to pay interest. What can the bank do in that? The thing is for this work. You will have to pay five percent.
How many more farmers need to commit suicide before this government acknowledges that its farmers are actually debt-ridden and poverty stricken?
Then, there are six children, hungry for two days, bodies burning with fever. A remorseless rain beats down. Headlines Today met Bhupat Arak's family. It was the drought that killed the 40-year-old breadwinner of the family. He put himself out of his misery in May when the crop he sowed failed again. Arak had a loan of over Rs one lakh and had received a bank notice to repay it.
"He was tensed about the loans and our daughter's wedding. When he couldn't find a way out, he ended his life," said Vimla, Bhupat Arak's widow.
Due to incessant rains, Bhupat Arak's kaccha house is falling apart. His six children and his wife are in desperate need of a roof over their head, but no respite seems to be coming from the government's side.
Veer Singh (a relative) says, "Many officials came, the district magistrate too. But till date, they haven't reverted. The Lekhpal (field officer) took the papers away. It's been a week but he hasn't come back."
The family neither has a death certificate nor the money to bribe officials to get it made.
In Bundelkhand, village after village has the same story to tell. Pramod Tiwari committed suicide on May 18. Tiwari was specially-abled with a rod fitted in his hand. Tiwari immolated himself six weeks back. He received a notice from the State Bank of India agriculture branch that if he does not repay the loan that he took to buy this tractor, his land and property will be seized. The family neither has a death certificate or a post-mortem report and no government official has visited them yet.
Arvind Tiwari, Pramod's brother, said, "Neither have we availed widow's pension nor have we got compensation. The government officials ask for 25 per cent commission as bribe. We don't even have death certificate or post-mortem report. When we asked for it, we were told that we can't get it."
Just 40 km away in Gajpatipur, Deshkumari is battling despair. Her 29-year old son hung himself on June 26, unable to pay back Rs 20,000 that he had borrowed from a bank.
Deshkumari, mother of Shyam Singh, says "I stepped outside to see a baraat procession. When I came back, I called for him and there was no response. When I came inside, I saw that he had hung himself."
Shyam was threatened both by the bank and the recovery agents. The bank had even announced the auction of his only piece of land.
Bani Singh, Shyam Singh's cousin, says, "Recovery agents came and threatened him that if does not pay the loan, his land will be taken."
While Deshkumari has two more sons to take care of her, Jaggi Devi's only son Chhutku committed suicide on May 9. "With a loan of Rs 60,000 and with an agricultural produce of 15 kg in all, Chhutku saw no option, but to commit suicide just two days before his wedding."
When officials did visit, they made a mockery of their misery. Ramesh, a neighbour, says, "When the officials came and asked if the family was BPL, they villagers answered in the positive, but some favoured people of the officials said no. So the officials declared that there is no financial problem and denied any compensation."
Jaggi feels abandoned by a son, who is no more, and a state that remains callous to her plight.
The special investigation report in the Headlines Today shows how the government officials are making money which is meant for the development of the farmers in Bundelkhand area. The area has witnessed suicide death of 1400 farmers in three years
The state instead of helping the poor is exploiting its own people. This is a case of serious human rights violation. On behalf of PVCHR, I request you to look into the matter and take immediate action.
Dr. Mohanlal Panda
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