Baikuntpur : In Koriya district of Chhattisgarh, under District Mineral Fund (DMF) floating the norms, sprinkler set have been purchased. It has also been distributed to more than 700 farmers mainly forest dwellers of the district. Congress has raised the demand for probe in all districts of state.In Koriya district, north Chhattisgarh, the norms apparently were flouted while purchasing sprinkler sets under the District Mineral Fund (DMF). The sets were distributed to over 700 farmers mainly the tribals and forest dwellers of the district. Suspecting fraudulent conducts, the opposition Congress cited such corrupt practices could be rife in other districts of the state and demanded thorough probe into the alleged fraud.

The surprising fact is that on other side before the DMF fund utilisation was diversified, under the pet scheme of water harvesting and utilisation of all natural water sources for agriculture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ‘Prime Minister Agriculture Irrigation Scheme’ (PMKSY), there is a provision to provide sprinklers and other irrigation facilities related equipment to the farmers.

Sprinkler Set

The norms laid down by state government states that all the purchases in state of Chhattisgarh for agriculture department have to be made through Chhattisgarh Agriculture Mechanisation and Micro-irrigation Monitoring Process System (CHAMPS). The CHAMPS has been formed in line of Gujarat Green Revolution Company Limited. It has been constituted for transparent purchases and supply after the farmers select the necessary agriculture related equipment for purchase and providing it to them within the specified time period.
As per available information, in the district no purchases have been made under PMKSY citing some objections raised by CHAMPS, as the supply has been blocked. District Seed Corporation chief Santosh Bhagat states that through CHAMPS only the sprinklers should have been purchased utilising the DMF. He said around 250 sprinklers have been purchased and around 750 more have to be distributed to the farmers. He confirmed the fact that but under PMKSY no purchase had been made till date.

Agriculture deputy Director D K Ramteke told that the scheme was made by earlier officers who were appointed in the district under which the Rs 2 crore had been received through the DMF. The remaining details can be confirmed only after seeing the records.
Congress PCC member Gulab Kamro said that putting aside the Central Scheme how can one justify the fact that utilising the DMF fund, the target is being achieved. The district is facing drought like situation on one side and the other side the farmers are even unable to get drinking water how come they are going to irrigate the land. Sprinkler can be used by farmers having tube-well, pond or any other adequate source of water. Making the purchase through DMF, the amount has been wasted. The district has been facing drought like situation in year 2014-15 and current year.

Additional to it, as per information received district administration had prepared a scheme for the forest land title holders that is to provide sprinklers set. Under utilising the Rs 2 crore from the DMF, the funds sanctioned were Rs 70 lakh Baikuntpur, Manendragarh Rs 40 lakh, Sonhat Rs 20 lakh, Khadgaon Rs 40 lakh Bharatpur Rs 30 lakh. The number of sprinklers set was fixed as 1000 farmers against the total number of 12206 land title holders. Out of which the contribution from the farmers is just 10 percent that is around Rs 24 lakh while the remaining amount would be given through DMF.

Till date around 700 cases for forest land title holders were prepared and distribution has been done among 250 farmers. From each farmer Rs 2243 has been charged and they had been given sprinkler set costing Rs 22,423 per individual. The administration handed over the supply to few selected contractors. In another case under the PMKSY scheme around 450 cases for providing sprinklers set to farmers has been made. The district administration has been the order for purchase to State Seed Corporation through CHAMPS. Meanwhile, the CHAMPS had raised few objections due to which no purchase has been made. The funds to be utilised was of same DMF. With the financial year ending in March 2018, if the purchase is not sanctioned, the district would fall short of its target under the PMKSY.

As per sources, the forest land title holders when came to know that sprinkler set is being provided at Rs 2243, there was heavy rush. Instead those involved had taken around Rs 5000-Rs 6000 from each farmer to hand over the set. When complaint was received, then excess amount charged from the farmers were handed over to them back. The farmers had alleged that under Prime Minister Irrigation Scheme the forms are bit tough as one has to fill the technical aspects which should also be the updated ones. So, they had to take assistance from those knowing how to fill it. Few had to pay additional charges for filling it accordingly. The locals have raised serious objection on mode of distribution as maximum beneficiaries are the forest land title holders were there is no source of water for use of sprinklers.

Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition T S Singhdeo in a letter to Chhattisgarh Chief Secretary has highlighted the scam in agriculture department in fiscal year 2016-17 regarding the subsidy amount to be provided to the farmers on purchase of agriculture equipment. He through the letter had alleged that agriculture department officials and equipment

Chhattisgarh Leader of Opposition and Congress leader T. S. Singhdeo

supplying firms hand in gloves are involved in corruption in tune to crores. This issue had emerged out during the third party physical verification carried out in Kanker and Bilaspur districts. During the physical verification in both these districts out of the total 3239 beneficiary farmers, around 2152 farmers have been denied benefit of the scheme. That means the amount have been withdrawn in their name. The amount may reach around Rs 100 crores.
Congress leader alleged that agriculture department might be involved in state-wide such a scam and would have caused crores of loss to the exchequer while the benefits to farmers might have been denied.

The modus through which the amount has been withdrawn, now these farmers would not receiving any benefits from department schemes for next five years, he pointed out in the letter. The way such schemes are being handled raises question over the implementation of the schemes by state government. He has urged the Chief Secretary to immediately take action against the misuse of government funds and make an enquiry of the scheme in all the districts of state. The accountability and responsibility of those involved officers should be fixed. The amount should be recovered through legal mode from such involved officials. The firms should also be blacklisted.

(Inputs from Chandrakant Pargir, Baikuntpur)