Jharkhand: Farmers wait through the night to apply for drought relief scheme

Server glitches mar application process for compensation scheme announced by state government

By Raju Sajwan
Published: Monday 12 December 2022
Tribal farmers standing outside the Common Service Center to apply for the Drought Relief Scheme in Padma town of Palamu district, Jharkhand. Photo: Vikas Choudhary/CSE
Tribal farmers standing outside the Common Service Center to apply for the Drought Relief Scheme in Padma town of Palamu district, Jharkhand. Photo: Vikas Choudhary/CSE Tribal farmers standing outside the Common Service Center to apply for the Drought Relief Scheme in Padma town of Palamu district, Jharkhand. Photo: Vikas Choudhary/CSE

A particularly dry monsoon period that affected the Kharif crops was not the last of troubles for Jharkhand farmers. Server glitches and other technical issues are now standing in the way of compensation announced by the state government and farmers have taken to waiting through the night for a chance to apply. 

State government figures show that 226 blocks in 22 districts, except East Singhbhum and Simdega, were drought-hit. A relief amount of Rs 3,500 each as an advance for 3 million affected farmers was announced in November 2022. 

Read more: Monsoon 2022: Why a drought wasn’t declared in 4 states with drought-like conditions

About 3.8 million hectares are cultivated in the state. About 2.7 million or 71 per cent, is cultivated by small and marginal farmers with land holdings of up to two hectares. Paddy is the main Kharif crop of Jharkhand, besides maize, pulses and oilseeds. Only 1.41 million hectares were sown against a target of sowing 2.82 million hectares — around 50 per cent. 

Jharkhand receives 1,022.9 mm of rainfall in the Kharif season on average from June-September in the monsoon season. This year it received 817.9 mm of rain, 20 per cent less than usual.

Silvanta Devi lost all her crops in the drought this year. She has been trying continuously for the last three days to get her family’s name included in the Chief Minister Drought Relief Scheme, Mukhyamantri Sukhad Rahat Yojana, but she returns disappointed each time. 

“Sometimes, I am told my papers are not complete, other times, the server is not working. I am afraid my family will not get this amount. I will wait through the night to apply if needed,” she said. 

Devi is a resident of Pannadih village in Manatu block of Palamu district in Jharkhand. She has come for three days to apply online for aid at the Common Service Centre (CSC) in Padma town.

Farmers, including women, have taken to spending the nights outside the CSC to apply for the scheme but are still not able to submit their applications.

The last date to apply for the compensation was extended to December 15 from November 30, 2022. Data from the scheme’s website showed 1,334,876 farmers have applied till December 11, 2022. 

Of these, 716,725 farmers could not sow crops at all, while 520,597 farmers suffered more than 33 per cent crop loss. Just three days are left to apply for the relief and about over two-thirds of those affected have been unable to apply at all.

Read more: Kharif sowing period almost over, but huge deficit for paddy and pulses

The link to apply was not working in Padma, said Ravi Shankar Kumar, who runs the CSC in the region. “The link started working on November 29, but then server errors began. The server remains down for six to seven hours daily,” he said. 

The server is usually functional at night, so farmers have started applying late in the day, Kumar added. 

“Almost all farmers in the region have suffered heavy losses. Every day 300 to 400 farmers try to apply, but only 30 to 35 farmers can do so because of the server problems,” he said.

Pratappur block of Chatra district has not been classified as drought-struck and is not eligible for aid. However, the farmers in the region said paddy saplings rotted in the nursery this year. 

Farmers in Pratappur saw a total loss of paddy crops, said Akhilesh Kumar, who works in the CSC in the region. “The Pratappur and Kunda blocks were not declared drought affected, so they can’t apply for the scheme either,” he said. 

The farmers in the block told Down To Earth (DTE) they had prepared the paddy nurseries but had to leave the saplings to rot as there was no rain. “I sowed 5 kilogrammes of seeds to grow saplings, but it all dried up,” said Ramswaroop Yadav of village Satbahini of Pratappur block. 

Farmers said applicants also have to pay a fee of Rs 100, despite statements from the government stating only Re one needs to be paid. The form also states not to pay more than Re 1 for the application.

The farmers told DTE the Rs 100 fee was for ‘KVC’, but none of them knew what it was. 

Tribal farmers cannot cough up Rs 100 to apply for the relief and the government should curb this extortion, said Hemant Das, convenor of Jharkhand Mazdoor Kisan Union. Many tribal farmers are not even aware that the government has announced drought relief

Read more: Monsoon 2022: Jharkhand farmers give up on paddy harvest due to scanty rains

Billu Oraon, a resident of Luduru village in Khunti district, lives just 30 kilometres away from the state capital and assembly. He lost half his crop due to the drought but didn’t apply for the scheme as he had no information about it. 

The documents that need to be submitted at the time of application include an Aadhaar card, biometric (thumb impression), bank passbook, land receipt and genealogy in the name of the applicant, which has to be scanned and uploaded on the website, according to government records.

Genealogy here means the head of the village has to verify that the applicant is related to the affected farmer. 

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