HYDERABAD: The Sindh government’s scheme of providing tractors at subsidised rates to agriculturists has hit a controversy as farmers’ representatives allege that the distribution process smacks of favouritism.
In a deviation from the past practice of awarding the tractors through computerised lucky draws, the criteria for award has been changed to first come, first serve basis this time around.
Under the scheme, the Sindh Agriculture Department offers subsidies of Rs200,000 on tractors worth Rs800,000 or less and Rs300,000 for tractors priced at more than Rs800,000. A total of 1,200 tractors will be subsidised by the government. A sum of up to Rs300 million has been allocated for the project.
An advertisement in this regard was published in several newspapers on August 27. The government advised that interested farmers should obtain forms from branches of the Sindh Bank and to submit them with details and a demand draft of Rs25,000. It was stated in the ad that the process of receiving applications will be closed when the 1,200 mark was achieved.
On August 30, the Agriculture Department published another advertisement. It informed the growers that the set target had been achieved in just two days and that no more applications would be accepted.
The growers, however, said that they would challenge what they described as the flawed process in the court of law. “Form Seven is among the required documents which are submitted along with the application. It is not possible for such a large number of applicants to obtain this form from the revenue department within a day or two,” said Abdul Majeed Nizamani, the president of Sindh Abadgar Board.
Nizamani, alleging favouritism and a lack of transparency in the scheme, maintained that the deserving farmers were unlikely to benefit from it. He pointed out a huge disparity in the number of applications submitted to the government last year, suggesting that the current speed of submission was absurd.
In 2012, the government had put on offer approximately 3,000 tractors. By the November 20 deadline, however, less than 500 applications for the lucky draw were received. “The government has been carrying on this scheme from the past four years. Although there were complaints about the lateral issues, the distribution process through computerized draw was acceptable to all,” said Nabi Bux Sathio, a grower and leader of the Sindh Chamber of Agriculture. Another grower, Mian Saleem, called for instituting an inquiry to ascertain why the balloting criteria was replaced with first come first served basis. “The whole exercise should be cancelled and the government should announce anew the scheme for 2013-14 based on the computerized draw process.”
Meanwhile, despite repeated attempts by The Express Tribune to contact the secretary, director general and deputy director of Sindh Agriculture Department, they were not available for comment.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2013.
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