(NEWS) Rs.5 for Bundelkhand drought relief?

KANPUR: Here's a case of state compassion trickling down — quite literally. Villagers in the drought-hit districts of UP are in a state of shock after receiving paltry sums of money as "relief"—like cheques of Rs 5.

The luckier ones among them have received Rs 26 and some have been fortunate enough even to bag cheques of Rs 55.

The cheques, all drawn in favour of Grameen Bank, have been distributed mainly in the four districts of Banda, Chitrakoot, Hamirpur and Jalaun.

Ironically, these villagers had bribed local officials with amounts many times higher than what they have received in the name of drought relief.

"I paid Rs 100 to the lekhpal (the critical local official who keeps land records)," alleged Sonwa, a resident of Pandavi village who received a cheque for Rs 26 two months ago.

The cheque (TGV/SB/1007981) was signed by the BDO of Mahuwa in Banda. Like Sonwa, Jodhan also got Rs 26 (915188) while another villager, Lalu, was among the luckier ones who got Rs 55 (915196).

Bhurelal was handed over a cheque for Rs 39 (915225). Cheques of similar amounts have been distributed in several of the drought-affected districts.

If the villagers are to be believed, the number of such cheques may well run in the thousands. "You will find people with cheques below Rs 100 in almost every village of Bundelkhand which has been drought-stricken for four consecutive years," claimed Pushpendra, the convener of Gram Swaraj Prahari, an NGO that helps poor farmers.

He alleged that he had also come across cheques for Rs 2, which were turned down by bank officials.

He claimed that the relief amount was determined on the lekhpal ’s assessment and subsequently cleared by revenue department officials.

Bribes determined the extent of loss suffered by the farmers. He alleged that cheques of such low amounts had been given only to those farmers who could not cough up the bribe demanded.

As a majority of the farmers are illiterate, the matter had come to light only about 15 days ago when the cheques were rejected by local banks, he added.