War of words between Jharkhand government and opposition over drought aid
After months, Jharkhand has got drought relief funds — now opposition says the state government is dragging its heels over helping farmers.Updated: Apr 08, 2019 16:57 IST
Opposition parties in Jharkhand have hit out at the BJP-led government, alleging that lakhs of farmers were being deprived of the drought relief package given by the Centre.
They alleged that not a single farmer in the state has as yet received any drought compensation even four months after the declaration of drought. The ruling BJP, however, termed it a baseless allegation.
The Centre had approved Rs 272.42 crore as drought relief to Jharkhand at the end of February. Officials at the state disaster management department said that they had received the fund from the Centre a week ago. Distribution of compensation to the farmers could be initiated only after the completion of a few formalities, they said.
In November 2018, the state government declared 129 blocks out of 264 blocks in Jharkhand as drought-hit. Of these, 93 blocks were declared severely affected.
Then, three central teams assessed the drought situation in 21 blocks of seven districts in Jharkhand between December 7-9. The team accepted the state’s claim of major crop loss. The state had sought an assistance of Rs 818.93 crore from the Centre to deal with the crisis. Later, the state revised the relief estimate and demanded Rs 1,535 crore from the Centre. However, the Centre has approved only Rs 272. 42 crore so far as drought relief.
While the aid has reached the state, it appears that the model code of conduct for the general elections is keeping the money from going to the farmers. “Since the model code of conduct for the Lok Sabha polls is in place, we need the Election Commission’s permission to begin the allotment of compensation to farmers. The process of seeking permission has started,” said Manish Tiwary, special secretary at the disaster management department.
Meanwhile, unrest is simmering among farmers due to the delay in the release of compensation for crop loss. The farmers said that they were facing a double whammy due to drought in two consecutive crop seasons: kharif (last year) and rabi (this year). Sowing of rabi crops was recorded in only 7.58 hectares of land against the target of 11.69 lakh hectares this year.
“We have lost hope of getting the drought compensation from the government,” said Pradip Viswakarma, a farmer from Nawa Bazar block, Palamu.
State Congress spokesperson Kishor Nath Shahdeo said, “The BJP governments in the state as well as the Centre have been apathetic about the farmers’ issue. Even as the Centre has allocated the drought relief fund, the state is yet to approach the Election Commission to seek permission for distribution of the compensation among farmers.”
He said that the farmers had suffered a lot already. “We would like to appeal to the Election Commission to take cognisance of this, so that the farmers get immediate relief,” said Shahdeo. JMM general secretary Supriyo Bhattacharya said, “This is the reality of this BJP government. On one hand, it bribes farmers in the name of Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana. On the other hand, it keeps deprived farmers from getting their right to drought compensation.”
BJP spokesperson Pratul Shahdeo termed all the allegations baseless and illogical. He said, “Acting promptly upon farmers’ problems, the Jharkhand government had sent a detailed drought report to the Centre in November. Based on that, central teams visited here, and approved the drought package a month back. The state received the fund a few days ago. The fund can only be distributed among farmers with permission of the Election Commission, as the model code is in place.” Shahdeo said that the state had sent its proposal to the screening committee (a state committee that seeks permission from EC), four days ago. “As soon as the state gets permission, it will start distribution of relief among farmers,” Shahdeo said. He added that EC had approved the state’s separate proposal of Rs 120 crore to carry out drinking water-related works in drought hit areas.