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HomeExpress InvestigationsExpress Investigation | Irrigation scheme unravels in Jharkhand: Aadhaar misused, funds claimed,...

Express Investigation | Irrigation scheme unravels in Jharkhand: Aadhaar misused, funds claimed, farmers clueless

Aadhaar cards being misused to create beneficiaries, new equipment gathering dust, farmers not even aware that money has been collected by private companies in their name, case after case of fraud: this marks the implementation by the JMM-Congress-RJD government of “Per Drop More Crop,” a key element of an ambitious Central micro-irrigation scheme under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, an investigation by The Indian Express has revealed.

Launched by the Centre in 2006 and first implemented by the state in 2011, it was meant to enhance water use and increase farmers’ productivity through the use of drip or sprinkler systems, particularly in arid areas. However, on the ground, in one of Jharkhand’s largest blocks — Chouparan in Hazaribagh — and two neighbouring blocks Churchu and Ichak, the scheme, for many farmers, is only on paper. Indeed, of the 94 farmers here whom the state government claims are beneficiaries of the scheme in 2022-23, only 17 said they were actually using drip irrigation. Each micro-irrigation unit — which includes pipes for drawing water from the source, lateral tubes, a sand filter and a motor – costs upwards of Rs 50,000 for each acre of land.

The Indian Express visited 53 listed beneficiaries in Chouparan, 16 in Churchu, and 25 in Ichak. As many as 60 said they were “misled” into signing up for the scheme or had micro-irrigation equipment just dumped in their farms, and 17 said they did not know how their name made it to the list of beneficiaries.

When contacted, Jharkhand’s Minister of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Cooperatives Badal Patralekh said: “I will initiate action based on the information provided. Any person who commits wrongdoing in non-implementation or ineffective implementation of state or central government schemes will not be spared. I need success stories at any cost, which means implementation at the ground level… Till now, none of the farmers have complained.”

Hazaribagh, Express investigation, irrigation, irrigation project, Per Drop More Crop, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, Indian Express, India news, current affairs Drip irrigation equipment lies unused at the home of a beneficiary in Chouparan’s Poro village. (Abhishek Angad)

The scheme – under which farmers in Jharkhand are required to pay just 10 per cent of the cost of equipment, the Centre funds a third of the cost and the state government the balance – is especially crucial ahead of the sowing season. Going by the state government’s records, in 2022-23, Jharkhand achieved its highest-ever coverage of 6,049 hectares under this scheme with an estimated expenditure of Rs 49.73 crore, benefiting 8,960 farmers.

Hazaribagh, Express investigation, irrigation, irrigation project, Per Drop More Crop, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, Indian Express, India news, current affairs

But a visit to these three blocks threw up several irregularities. Consider these:

👉🏼 Arjun Singh, Ingunia village, Chouparan block. Agriculture department records show 0.8 hectares (2 acres) of his farm is covered by the project at a cost of Rs 1.07 lakh and installation has been done by the company Mohit India. Singh said he never applied for drip irrigation, and there was no equipment at his farm. He told The Indian Express, “An agent of a company or someone from the department came and forced me to take it. The agent asked for my Aadhaar card, which I refused to share. He said if I paid Rs 3,000 or Rs 1,500, I would get some pipes. I did not pay. I don’t understand how they got my Aadhaar number.”

Mohit India’s Jharkhand in-charge Yatindra Tripathi said: “I have understood the issues. Let me get back to you.” He did not respond to calls and messages seeking his comment on specific examples.

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👉🏼 Lalji Thakur, Lasodh village, Churchu block. Agriculture department records show 1.76 hectares covered under the scheme at a cost of Rs 2.35 lakh, with installation done by Balson Polyplast Pvt Limited. Thakur said he has less than an acre and no knowledge of drip irrigation. In his 70s, he said, “Some men in my village asked for my Aadhaar card, saying I would receive benefits from a scheme. I did not apply, and do not know other details.”

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Suresh Kumar, the Jharkhand in-charge of Balson Polyplast, said: “We are conducting training in many areas for farmers. We have got instances of farmers applying for the first year, and the second year their family members apply. However, there are no fake beneficiaries as far as Balson is concerned.” He did not comment on specific examples.

👉🏼 Nitu Kumari, Bhusai village, Ichak block. Her 0.8 hectares are covered under the project at a cost of Rs 1.12 lakh, installed by Irrilink Drip Irrigation Industries. According to her family, Nitu Kumari is married and does not stay in the village. They were not aware of the scheme. Her mother Anita Devi said: “Nitu got married a few months ago. A person from the village asked for my daughter’s Aadhaar card, promising some benefits. He said that at some point I will need to stand with the card on some agricultural land, claiming we do farming. I wasn’t comfortable, but we didn’t receive any call for verification. We don’t have agricultural land under drip nor have I taken or given anything on lease under drip.” Nitu’s father Krishna Prasad Mehta called it “a clear misuse of Aadhaar”.

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👉🏼 Sentu Kumar Singh, Bonga Panchayat, Ichak block. He is shown to be a beneficiary with Rs 1.97 lakh worth of equipment installed by Irrilink Drip Irrigation Industries to cover 1.4 hectares. He told The Indian Express he is a resident of Bhusai village under Bariyath panchayat. He said he is not a farmer and doesn’t own land; he runs a small grocery shop. He said he was not in the district when a middleman took his Aadhaar card from the panchayat office under a false pretext.

“He called and told me it was needed for some scheme, but I was out of town. I had no clue that a scheme costing lakhs was taken under my name. I am a specially-abled person and I can’t even do farming. I hope this is corrected. On May 10, the same person came and took a signature from me on some piece of paper, stating that I needed training for drip.”

Bonga panchayat Mukhiya Umesh Mehta confirmed, “There is no Sentu Kumar Singh in my panchayat. I don’t know how approval of a family tree or Vanshavali was done based on the panchayat’s recommendation.”

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In Bhusai village, many such instances stood out. Anil Mehta, the husband of panchayat member Nitu Kumari in Ward 9, said: “No one in my village does drip farming, and none have taken land on lease where drip farming is being done. Also, farmers need to be given a recommendation letter and the panchayat has to attest to the Vanshavali (family tree). I haven’t attested anyone’s form. If it has been done, then it is a fraud.”

Mukhiya Nishu Kumari’s husband Abhishek Kumar also denied attesting any application forms. “It is fraud if applications are signed by middlemen themselves,” he said.

Jharkhand in-charge of Irrilink Industries Satya Pal said: “We are in the process to get farmers’ training done and if there are fake beneficiaries, I will get it checked from my level first.” Asked about specific examples, he said: “I will get it checked after speaking to the farmers.”

👉🏼 Karthik Singh, Ingunia village, Chouparan block. Records show 0.8 hectares of his land has been covered at a cost of Rs 1.07 lakh by Mohit India. He said: “I first applied thinking it would be of some use, but later realised I have to pay more than Rs 8,000, so it did not make sense. Plus I had no idea how to use it. Most of the farmers struggle to get a constant supply of water. I have no clue how they verified my farm area with drip installed.” His farm has no equipment either.

👉🏼 Dayanand Kumar, Bhusai village, Ichak block. Records show 1.2 hectares under drip at a cost of Rs 1.74 lakh, installed by M/S Irrilink Drip Irrigation Industries. Dayanand, a driver, said: “I have around an acre of land in small parcels, where we do some farming. I have never entered into drip farming. A villager got my Aadhaar card and put my name for the scheme. I got to know about it when he requested me to stand for verification with my Aadhaar.”

“I gave in since he kept pestering me. I was made to stand at someone else’s drip-based watermelon farm in Bonga Panchayat’s Tepsa village and my fake verification was complete. I saw some others from my village being made to stand in the same parcel of land for ‘verification’,” he said.

At least three of the villagers mentioned above named the same middleman – one Deepak Kumar – who allegedly coaxed them. In fact, Kumar’s wife is shown to be a beneficiary with 1.6 hectares under drip at a cost of Rs 2.03 lakh. Panchayat records suggest she does not own any parcel of land. When contacted, Deepak Kumar said: “Yes, I farm using drip.” He refused to share more details.

👉🏼 As per records, Bela panchayat in Chouparan is supposed to have 20 beneficiaries with 11.279  hectares under drip irrigation, with installation having been done by M/s Makknow Industries at a cost of Rs 15.09 lakh.

A visit to the 20 beneficiaries showed that though the products had been installed or at least dropped at the farms, none of the farmers were using the system, with many claiming they had instead been promised a solar panel water pump.

Ranjeet Kumar Dangi, a kisan mitra in the panchayat, and two of his relatives are among the listed beneficiaries. Kisan mitra is a post created by the state government to help farmers access schemes. Dangi said his reputation has been tarnished because of “fake promises” made by the private company representative.

“That person lured us by saying he has come from the central government and that the panchayat has been ‘adopted’ for five years. He told us we are getting a subsidy of 90% on solar water pumps as well as the drip system. We convened a meeting with farmers… The company installed drip in February but no solar pumps. Plus, no one trained us on how to use this system.”

Mukhiya Mamata Kumari, who is related to Dangi, said: “Why would a farmer pay even 10% of his hard-earned money on a system for which he has no use. No one is using it, some products are just lying at home. We are not able to contact the person concerned as his phone is switched off.”

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Makknow Industries Jharkhand in-charge Sacchidanand Mishra said: “Yes, we have installed in Bela panchayat and if any false promises have been made by our agents, we will take corrective action.”

👉🏼 Similarly, at Banau village under Padariya panchayat in Chouparan, 15 beneficiaries are supposed to have 10.62 hectares under drip irrigation at a cost of Rs 14.5 lakh, installed by M/s Mohit India. The Indian Express met all 15 beneficiaries and found that none were using the system.

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Said farmer Ram Kumar Singh: “Sab khol ke rakh diya hai (I have removed the system and kept it aside). I have 1.8 acres of land in parcels and the company installed a water pipe without a sand filter 15 days ago. They poured water through a bottle and took a video of me saying the drip was functioning very properly,” Singh said, adding that he was “lured into this scheme with the promise of a water pump”.

© The Indian Express (P) Ltd

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