Why Punjab suspended disbursing bonus to farmers who didn’t set paddy stubble to fire

Kanchan Vasdev
The government has so far disbursed a little over Rs 19 crore to 29,343 small and marginal farmers who did not defy the ban on stubble burning.

The Punjab government has suspended payment of compensation to farmers for not burning paddy stubble after complaints that some ineligible people had received the amount, an official said on Tuesday. It has ordered reverification of the beneficiaries who have been paid Rs 2,500 per acre for not burning paddy straw and has also made more stringent the process to seek compensation and the claim’s verification. The Indian Express explains:

How many farmers have been compensated till the irregularities came to fore?

The government has so far disbursed a little over Rs 19 crore to 29,343 small and marginal farmers who did not defy the ban on stubble burning. Each beneficiary was paid Rs 2,500 per acre as compensation. Out of this the government estimates that about 5,000 farmers submitted wrong or fake claims. The money was transferred in their accounts and some have also withdrawn the amount.

How did the fraud come to light?

It came to light after some panchayats reported that some farmers have received compensation despite burning the paddy stubble. Also, in Fazilka, a retired government employee reported that his password for the government portal used to upload the claim form was misused. The police in Fazilka district has registered a case of cheating against two shopkeepers for allegedly making fake entries of compensation claims on the government website. Two computers were seized from their shops and sent to a forensic lab in Chandigarh for examination.

What next?

The government has ordered reverification of all beneficiaries. Senior agriculture department officials held a meeting with with the Deputy Commissioners Tuesday evening. It has been decided that officials would ensure physical verification in order to weed out any undeserving claim.

The department would also rely on data received from the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre to verify whether the paddy stubble was burnt or not on a particular piece of farm land, an official said, adding the government would recover the money claimed wrongly by the farmers.

Is the compensation still being paid?

The portal was shut the after the fraud came to light Friday. It was restarted Tuesday.

What is the new procedure?

To become eligible for claiming compensation, a farmer has to meet three conditions: his total landholding should not exceed five acres, he has not burnt paddy residue and he must be a non-basmati crop grower. After a farmer submits his claim for seeking compensation, the panchayat secretary concerned would verify his claim and also maintain a record of crop residue burning in his area.

The forms would then be uploaded. PACS secretary will then transfer these forms to the respective Assistant Registrar Cooperative Societies for their reference and validation.

The Patwari concerned will verify the landholding eligibility of the farmer and also check red entry in girdawri (done in case of farmers who burn paddy stubble). After revenue verification, the software application will calculate the compensation of each farmer and submit it into SDM’s login.

The SDM will verify the claim by ensuring that the farmer hasn’t burnt any part of his non-basmati crop residue in his field(s). SDM will then submit the claim to DC for his approval. The DC will submit the cases to Director Agriculture for the release of compensation to the farmers. Director Agriculture will issue payment instructions to Nodal Bank for payment.

Punjab has estimated that it may have to disburse nearly Rs 5000 crore this year to farmers who have not burnt paddy straw as compensation this year.