Two agriculture graduates given 25-acre land leases in Rahim Yar Khan have stopped payment of lease in 2012, Affected Rahim Yar Khan Agri Graduates Association President Zee Waqar Hamdani told The Express Tribune.
He said the number of lessees who have stopped payment has now risen to 16. Eight of them never paid any installments after they were granted leases, six stopped payment after the first installment and two opted out of the programme this year.
He said the association now has 92 members. He said most of the other members were also considering boycotting the programme by stopping lease payments.
He said only three recipients were actually cultivating their lands.
He said a request for provision of canal water to irrigate the lands had been pending with the government for two years.
“Even after there is water we’ll need money to purchase farm machinery like bulldozers and tractors as well as inputs like seeds and fertilisers,” they said.
He said most of the land leased to the graduates was uneven including ridges between 30 and 40 feet high. He said a considerable investment was needed to flatten the plots.
He said joblessness was a prerequisite for a person to be eligible for the allotment of the plots. Therefore, he said, most of the recipients lacked resources of their own to spend on the land. Once the government had refused to arrange any loan for them the scheme was quite hopeless.
An Irrigation Department official said digging of canals to irrigate these lands required a huge investment. The funds available to the department were not enough for this.
Rahim Yar Khan District Coordination Officer Ahmad Javed Qazi admitted that most of the land leased under the scheme was barren and uneven. However, he said, the allotments were made to agriculture graduates in the hope that they would use their superior skills and innovation to cultivate the land.
“They are taught about the use of modern farming technologies. The government expected them to put such technologies to use in cultivating the leased land,” he said. ‘
Some of the members said they would continue to pay for the five-year period. Muhammad Irshad, Imran Ahmed and Habib Ahmed said they hoped the government would provide funds for provision of canal water and for farm loans. “If we stop payments now we’ll lose the leases,” they said. The 25-acre plots in Chaman Minor area of Cholistan were given to 108 people on an annual lease of Rs12,500. The land has been leased for five years.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2012.