Sushil Kumar heard that the government was about to offer drought-hit
farmers compensation in the form of monetary relief, his hopes rose.
Production may have been poor, but all was not lost. With the compensation
amount he would get, Kumar thought he would buy better seeds to sow for the
next cropping season. And if there was still any extra left, he may even
consider buying a thresher.
That was before the Lekhpal of Kumars Tendwari village
came knocking at his door. The crisp yellow leaf bearing Kumar's name
promised him drought compensation worth Rs 30. For a failed crop and the
loss of several thousand rupees that was to be Kumar's government dole.
"The Lekhpal told me we would have to open a bank account
worth Rs 500 for depositing a cheque for Rs 30. He told me to go to the
Block Development Officer for clarification, if I had doubts. I spent petrol
worth over Rs 100 to visit the officer, but his response was the same. Take
it or leave it. I took the cheque, but didn't bother to encash it," Kumar,
Kumar wasn't the only beneficiary. Through UP's worst affected drought years
2002 and 2004 other farmers received even lesser drought compensation. In
Banda's Madhopur village, Babu walked away with a drought relief cheque
worth Rs 10.
"We didn't have the money to open an account. We decided
we are better off without such a magnanimous dole," Badri, another
beneficiary from the village, said. A large number of these farmers have
kept such cheques as souvenirs.