KOLKATA: Sticking to her stand not to attend the important Niti Ayog meeting in New Delhi to secure funds from the Centre, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday allocated several hundred crore as dole to build goat stables.
At a function in Sports Authority of India( SAI) stadium in Burdwan, 18,000 breeders of Black Bengal goats from 12 districts were given `1,500 each for breeding and building stables.Christened ‘Ma, Maati, Krishi Katha’ (Mother, land and agriculture discussion), organising the function cost the exchequer a whopping `200 crore, which was spent on for ferrying the farmers to the venue and providing food to them free of cost.
Officials of the state Animal Husbandry Department could not recall any such meet for goat breeders held before in the state. In fact, some of them, on condition of anonymity, pointed out that the freebies were just an excuse to mobilise farmers for Mamata’s public meeting. Allegations have surfaced that Central for various purposes had been squandered.
However, the meet was justified by some bureaucrats as an attempt to supplement the income of farmers, who also reared goats and lambs. They said that 500 poor farmers in each of the state’s 100 blocks would benefit from the project and `7 crore had been allotted for it. Out of `1,500 given to the breeders, `500 is for building the stables. Besides, distribution of free ducklings and chicks were included under the project. `one crore was spent on providing food to around 25,000 farmers and an additional `3 crore for transporting them to Burdwan .
Some of the officials, however, felt that the manner in which the funds were being spent on agriculture and animal husbandry were not of much benefit to the farmers. Other than listening to Mamata’s speech, which was more about politics and the Centre’s neglect and receiving advice on agriculture and animal husbandry, the farmers, besides receiving the freebies, did not seem to benefit much from the meeting. The Burdwan meeting will be followed by another one at Rampurhat in Birbhum district on Wednesday.
The district administration has been directed from ‘Nabanna’, the State Secretariat, to ensure the presence of thousands of farmers from all blocks, who are also goat breeders. At the meeting, Mamata will again dole out freebies under various Central projects. All these meetings will culminate in a “farmers’ festival” in North Bengal.
However, ther organisers of the meeting felt that separate meetings in each district to educate the farmers on the latest technology to improve farming and their training would have entailed much more costs.
According to state MoS for Animal Husbandry Development Swapan Debnath, “Our CM will increase the consciousness of the farmers at the meetings. Several lakh farmers will benefit from the meeting and such an attempt should be saluted.”