(Report) Bundelkhand: Currupt officials exploit the grieving families of dead farmers

http://media2.intoday.in/indiatoday/images/stories/bundelkhand_farmers-125_071411010126.jpgBundelkhand Currupt officials exploit the grieving families of 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.

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Courtesy: intoday.in