The CAG reports of around 20 per cent misappropriation in the funds disbursed under the farm debt waiver scheme launch by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in May 2008. The report is already tabled in the Parliament and as expected is creating problems for the ruling coalition which is expecting to sail through the next parliamentary election by offering some more cash dole-outs.
Even the members from the Congress party had to criticise the shoddy implementation of the scheme and our comfortably-numb-economist prime minister had to come forward to issue yet another ‘those responsible will not be spared’ dud.
But yet another aspiring prime minister who is known for issuing statements fueling the price rise and whose whole family is facing huge corruption allegations came forward and refuted that there was any wrongdoing – the Maratha satrap and the minister of agriculture in the Union Government, Sharad Pawar. He said:
“Government of India has taken the decision and money has been sent to banks. Accounts and beneficiary list has been selected by banks under the supervision of RBI and NABARD. Money has directly been transfered to accounts. Where is the question of misappropriation? We have to understand out of 3.7 crore accounts, CAG has taken sample of 90,576 accounts. That means 0.25 per cent accounts have been audited. With such a big scheme announced throughout India, coming to conclusion with such small figure! I think I should get more information.”*
It was expected from the senior Pawar.
After all, why won’t he do so after seeing the precedent set by his party in Maharastra where his Nationalist Congress Party is an alliance partner with the Congress party run government in the state?
The whole country saw the mockery of procedures in the probe of Maharashtra irrigation scam in which his nephew and the deputy chief minister of the state Ajit Pawar was implicated. After the reports about the Rs. 70,000 scam first surfaced, Pawar junior stepped down under pressure, but only to be reinstated after few months with a clean chit. A white paper prepared by the state government says there was indeed no irregularity at all, though very pertinent questions remain demanding an independent probe.
And Pawar senior follows the same streak here. He has dismissed the CAG report on the farm debt waiver questioning the methods adopted by the CAG.
The CAG says on the sampling:
“Since debt relief and waiver mechanisms involved a huge amount, Performance Audit was undertaken to assess whether the management of claims for debt waiver and relief under the scheme was in accordance with relevant guidelines and requirements. The review, carried out from April 2011 to March 2012, covered 25 states involving field audit of a total of 90,576 beneficiaries’/farmers’ accounts in 715 branches of lending institutions situated in 92 districts. The sample included 80,299 accounts of such farmers who were extended benefit under the scheme, 9,334 accounts of such farmers who were not selected as beneficiaries even though they had received agricultural loans between 1 April 1997 to 31 March 2007 and 943 cases where complaints were received.”
Now that is a good enough size given the fact that this a preliminary report on the performance audit. When we see it in the historical perspective of the fund misappropriations in various government schemes including the MNREGA and NRHM, it only indicates for a bigger anomaly to surface say when the sample size is increased to 2 per cent of the universe of the covered 3.45 crore farmers (that would be a sample size of 6,90,000!) or who knows Mr. Pawar will ask for a 5 per cent sample size (with 17,25,000 cases!).
Sure, a more comprehensive report should and would follow and no matter what the sample size is, the country is going to see more dirt on the scam. UPA’s history of scams says the misappropriation level is only bound to go up.
Also, Mr. Pawar’s statement is fundamentally flawed. Even the audited 0.25 per cent of sample size (from a comprehensive number of 90,576 beneficiaries spread over 92 districts) establishes irregularities in the fund management of the farm debt waiver scheme and Mr. Pawar’s denial or any justification falls flat.
But do politicians care about it?
Precedent says – NO! Contemporary political history of India says – NO!
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/
* No misappropriation of funds in farm debt waiver scheme: Pawar