BHUBANESWAR: Agriculture subsidy on farm implements, amounting to several crores of rupees, is being pocketed by unscrupulous elements in Odisha, thanks to absence of physical verification. Farmers are found to be getting a small cut while the lion’s share is headed to dealers and others in the chain.
The recent investigation by Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of Crime Branch has revealed several cases in which farmers received subsidy but never were in possession of the equipment they are supposed to be buying. This effectively meant, no equipment was bought by farmers nor sold by companies which are enlisted for such sale but transaction was made.
With little to no field verification, the online application process for availing subsidy is being exploited by vested interests which take advantage of lack of physical verification by the Agriculture Department.
In the online process, the onus is on beneficiary - and dealer as well - to fill in details and submit an undertaking which is being abused heavily. In absence of any physical verification, deliberately or otherwise, dealers and those in connivance with them have taken over the process by uploading fake information which is never cross-checked.
The EOW unearthed a scam in which dealers were found to have swindled crores meant towards subsidies of agriculture equipment for farmers. In June, the agency arrested a dealer of Kerala- based Redlands Ashlyn Motors Plc and his brother who had uploaded fake engine and chassis numbers of rice transplant machines along with photographs of the beneficiaries on Direct Benefit Transport (DBT) portal.
EOW ascertained that machines were never sold to farmers and were shown only on papers while subsidy of Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1.5 lakh was credited in accounts of 278 farmers. In the second case, two authorised dealers of Bengaluru based Varushapriya Agrotech Private Limited were apprehended this month for allegedly misappropriating subsidy to the tune of Rs 6 crore. Over 500 rice transplanters were shown uploaded on the portals and subsidy transferred.
With no eye on field, crooks pocket crores
Investigation revealed that once the subsidies were credited in accounts of the farmers, accused in both the cases lured beneficiaries by giving them a cut that ranged from Rs 3,000 and Rs 40,000. Then they pocketed remaining subsidy from the farmers.
"The entire procedure to provide subsidies towards purchase of agricultural equipment is online but it has been found that the system has its own limitations. In the two cases, fraud has been committed by dealers but in some instances, farmers have taken cuts as high as Rs 40,000 to be a part of their criminal conspiracy," said an officer.
Once the scam was busted by EOW, some district agriculture officers reported that in one or two instances farmers were not found in possession of machines during field verification but subsidies were deposited in their bank accounts.
The investigation is in its initial stages and all the aspects are being looked into thoroughly, said the EOW sources. Director Agriculture and Food Production M Muthukumar said, field verification is being carried out in such cases. Equipment like power tiller, thresher, harvester, and others are provided to the farmers at subsidised rates.