Last October, after heavy unseasonal rainfall damaged kharif crops in Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal promised monetary relief of upto Rs 20,000 per acre to the affected farmers. “We will make sure that the money is disbursed within one and a half months or so,” the .
Many farmers are still waiting for the money, seven months on.
In January, while handing out cheques to some of the farmers, Kejriwal said that his government had set aside Rs 55.35 crore to pay 45,000 farmers thus far. While the farmers assessed to have suffered over 70% crop damage would get the full amount, the rest would get Rs 14,000 per acre.
The assessment of damage and identification of farmers eligible for compensation was done by patwaris and tehsildars in the respective subdivision. Delhi has 23 , 10 of which contain most of the state’s 30,000 hectares of cultivable farmland in the north and northwest. Except Alipur and Narela, revenue officials in these subdivisions didn’t respond to questions about whether the patwaris consulted the farmers before assessing damage, how many farmers were identified for relief and if they were paid. Calls and messages to revenue minister Kailash Gahlot did not elicit a response either.
In Narela, tehsildar Dinesh Kumar said the assessment lasted until early November. In Alipur, an official at the SDM office said the damage was assessed between September 1 and October 15, and compensation was paid “as per their assessment”. The assessors in each subdivision prepared lists of eligible farmers after surveying the fields of all those who had applied for compensation.
“There’s no clarity on what basis the revenue department has approved or rejected applications,” said Paras Tyagi from the NGO Centre for Youth Culture Law and Environment, which is helping the affected farmers get relief. “I have filed an RTI to find out when the assessment was done and how many farmers are eligible for compensation. The RTI and the appeal are travelling from one department to another. They are being transferred to SDM offices in Hauz Khas and Dwarka. Does the government not know there are no farmlands in those places?”
In Alipur subdivision, 1,207 farmers have received compensation so far, said an official in the subdivisional magistrate’s office who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak with the press.
In Narela, 4,178 farmers will receive a total Rs 6.43 crore, according to a list prepared by the SDM’s office. “Sanctions of 3,702 farmers have been sent to the accounts branch while sanctions of 476 farmers are under approval and are yet to be submitted to the account branch,” said the tehsildar, Dinesh Kumar.
But many farmers Newslaundry spoke with in Alipur and Narela and in the other affected subdivisions are frustrated with how the Kejriwal government has handled the whole compensation exercise. In contrast, they recalled how the same administration had provided relief within two months to farmers whose crops suffered damage from unseasonal rainfall in 2015.
Gyanender Singh, a farmer in Nangal Thakran, Narela, said he had spent Rs 90,000 to cultivate paddy on his five-acre field and would have earned about Rs 2 lakh “had the rains not completely ravaged the crop in October”. He applied for compensation and visited the SDM’s office thrice to follow up, but has not received the money yet. “I don't know if they surveyed the field without consulting me,” he added. “I wasn’t contacted by any patwari.”
To worsen the blow, his rabi crop was damaged by rainfall as well. He had grown wheat on 2.5 acres, spending Rs 45,000 and expecting Rs 2 lakh in return. “Every year, after saving wheat for the house, I get Rs 2.5 lakh,” he said. “This time I got less than Rs 40,000.”
Now he’s left with a Rs 2 lakh loan on his Kisan Credit Card and no means to repay it. “Besides the principal amount, I have to pay 7% annual interest,” he said. “It is giving me sleepless nights.”
There are 227 names from Nangal Thakran village on the list of 4,178 people due to receive compensation in Narela. But the villagers complain that nearly 1,000 of them lost over 70% of their kharif crop.
Gyanender Singh is a farmer in Nangal Thakran.
Devinder Singh had spent Rs 75,000 cultivating paddy on three acres. “It was destroyed by the rains just days before the harvest in October,” he said. “The crop was healthy and I expected to make over Rs 1 lakh. I barely managed to get Rs 30,000,” he said. Disaster struck again in the rabi season, when heavy rainfall in November and December damaged his wheat crop. He had spent another Rs 75,000 and only made back Rs 60,000 at harvest. “I didn’t even get back the input cost,” he rued.
He applied for compensation in the hope that it would help him repay the debts he had incurred. “I provided the ownership documents, bank details and Aadhaar card with my application as directed. But I haven’t received any money,” Devinder said, adding that no revenue official ever came to assess his crop for damage.
“How can they compensate only 227 farmers in a village where more than 1,000 farmers lost their crops?” Devinder questioned. “On what basis was the survey conducted?”
Nearly 20 km away in Bakhtawarpur village, Ritesh Rana has had to borrow from moneylenders to sow his land this year. Last kharif season, he spent Rs 60,000 to grow paddy on three acres of land, expecting to earn Rs 1.25 lakh like every year. “I got nothing. My crop was completely submerged in water. A drainage pond nearby overflowed and my field was under knee-deep water for three months,” he said.
In the rabi season, he cultivated wheat on five acres, spending Rs 75,000. “I harvested in April and made some profit. I earned Rs 1.5 lakh,” he said. “But I haven’t yet recovered from the previous crop’s loss. It will take years for me to recover. So I have had to borrow from moneylenders at high interest rates.”
Ritesh has made several rounds of the Alipur SDM’s office over the past six months to check the status of his application for compensation. Each time, he said, the officials have told him they are “working on it”.
Ritesh complained that Bakhtawarpur’s farmers were not informed about the assessment. “The patwaris say they have completed the inspection. But they didn’t call any farmer during the inspection,” he said. “How could they have assessed the damage fairly?”
Indeed, even farmers who have received the money are unhappy with the assessment. “Crops on nearly 500 acres were destroyed in Dichaon Kalan,” said Shiv Kumar Shokleen, who received compensation two months ago. “But we have been compensated for only 250 acres.”
The assessment was done nearly two months after the rainfall by which time the water level in the fields had gone down, Shiv complained. “We learnt about the visit of the patwaris from the SDM’s office. The patwaris had inspected the land without even telling us,” he added.
Dichaon Kalan’s farmers have repeatedly visited the SDM’s office to raise these complaints, Shiv said, to no avail.
Asked about these complaints, R Menaka, district magistrate, North, said patwaris conducted the assessment survey immediately after the rainfall last year and identified about 38,152 farmers as being eligible for compensation across Delhi. As of May 21, she said, "18,070 farmers have received a total compensation of Rs 31.21 crore,” she said, adding, “We have not been able to compensate the farmers who have not yet submitted their bank account details and whose land ownership has changed.”
As for complaints that the assessment survey was done without consulting the affected farmers, she said, “The survey was conducted by patwaris who went on the ground, assessed the crop damage and submitted reports based on the survey. When they were on the ground, views of the farmers were taken into consideration. That’s how the consultation process happens.”
Update: The report has been updated with the latest compensation figures provided by the district magistrate.
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