Hundreds of farmers, angry after a cheque issued to a widow under the Prime Minister relief package bounced, plan to stage a dharna outside the Yavatmal collectorate on Monday.
Under the Rs 3,750-crore package Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced in July last for Vidarbha’s farmers to curb the rising spate of suicides, six districts were to get Rs 50 lakh each.
The Yavatmal district collector gave Vandana Shende a cheque for Rs 10,000 under the scheme in February after her husband, Anil, committed suicide in August last. The 21-year-old, who has two children, deposited the cheque with the Bhadambi branch of the Yavatmal District Central Cooperative Bank in mid-February. When she went to the bank to withdraw the money after a fortnight, bank officials told her the cheque had bounced due to paucity of funds.
"If the state treasury had no sufficient money, why was the cheque issued?" asked Kishore Tiwari of the Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti, which has been documenting farmers’ suicide in the region since 2001.
The cheque was issued under the PM package that provided Rs 50 lakh each to six districts in the region to help distressed farmers and their families, said Tiwari. However, the Centre did not release the money in time, he said. As the collectorate had no funds, the cheque bounced. Tiwari has demanded stern action against the district collector.
Yavatmal District Collector Abha Shukla was unavailable for comment.
"This (the Centre’s failure to release funds) has led the state government to file an affidavit a few months ago before the Supreme Court against the PMO," said Tiwari.
In its affidavit, the state government had said Rs 50 lakh was placed at the disposal of six district collectors in August 2006. "This amount has been disbursed to needy families and the state government has been requesting PMO for additional funds," Tiwari said.