In-situ stubble management: 11,000 machines go missing in Punjab, agri dept pushes for VB action
Punjab agricultural department officials have pegged loss due to the missing stubble management machines at ₹140 crore ; to ask VB to look into the matter
With 11,000 of the 90,000 subsidised machines supplied to farmers over the last four years for in-situ stubble management missing, the Punjab agricultural department has decided to rope in the vigilance bureau to look into the matter and take action.
The loss incurred has been pegged at ₹140 crore, as per the agricultural department’s preliminary investigation. Agriculture secretary Dilraj Singh said, “The probe is almost done at our level. The next step is to ask the state’s vigilance bureau to step in and initiate necessary action.”
It is likely that action will be taken against machine manufacturers, dealers, users and some department officials.
Farmers say they sold machines
An officer, who did not wish to be named, said some farmers had told the agricultural department staff that they had sold the machines. “If the machines have been sold, we would like to know to whom they were sold to,” said the officer.
“Machines being missing suggests they were never manufactured. It seems that there is a nexus of stakeholders at all levels,” said the official mentioned above, adding that farmers’ groups had been found to be blatantly involved in pilferage.
The department had carried out the process to physically verify the machines in June and July on the directions of the Enforcement Directorate, after a complaint was received in the matter.
The subsidised machines provided to the farmers include the super-straw management system, happy seeders, super seeders, paddy straw choppers, reversible ploughs, zero till drill, balers, rakes and shrub master, smart seeders and spatial seed drills and crop reapers, and self-propelled reaper-cum-binders.
While an individual farmer was offered a subsidy of 50% on a single machine, custom-hiring centres run by village-level agricultural cooperative societies, farmers’ groups and village panchayats were offering a subsidy of 80% per machine.
‘Max pilferage at Faridkot, Ferozepur, Fazilka, Bathinda’
Director agriculture Gurvinder Singh said reports pertaining to the missing machines are still pending from Mansa and Muktsar, while Faridkot, Ferozepur, Fazilka and Bathinda reported the maximum pilferage. Incidentally, most machine manufacturers belong to the belt. “A final report will be compiled soon, and the number of missing machines will increase,” added the officer.
Meanwhile, the Union agriculture ministry has asked the department to exclude farmers’ groups from the scheme after the groups were found involved in the large-scale stealing of the machines during the past four years (2018-21), during which the Centre has sanctioned funds to the tune of ₹1,145 crore as subsidy on the machines.
During the upcoming kharif harvest (October-November), the Centre has allocated ₹275 crore for subsidised machines and around 25,000 machines will be distributed.