Nagpur, Maharashtra: A farmer whose house and crops were damaged in heavy floods in Vidarbha, Maharashtra, received a relief cheque from the state government recently - a princely sum of Rs 80.
Sonba Ganpat Bawne, 55, says he spent more on tea and snacks for the government official who surveyed his losses a month ago, to assess whether he was a fit case for compensation. He also spent Rs 14,000 to repair his home.
"This is a cruel joke on us. If the government is so hard-up for money, we should collect some funds to help them out," said Bawne's son Ruprao. The family is yet to receive any financial help for the Soyabean crop that was washed away in their two-acre farm.
Nearly 250 people died in floods in Maharashtra in July. Of these, over 100 were from Vidarbha, a region where poverty and desperation has driven some two lakh farmers to suicide in a decade, according to some reports.
The government, which had set aside a Rs 2,000 crore package for Vidarbha last month, offers a curious justification for the pittance it settled on as 'relief.'
"According to our survey there was just one per cent damage, which, according to the government General Resolution, amounts to only Rs 83. We gave a round figure of Rs 80," said Ramesh Wandile, a district revenue officer.
Many angry recipients of the flood relief cheques have refused to encash them.
Over 15,000 houses were damaged in the eastern part of Vidarbha, but farmers claim any help from the government has been either too little or non-existent. Activists blamed it on poorly done surveys and corruption.
"There is a three-member committee for such surveys, but they never came together. The surveys were done on the table, and money was pocketed by the wrong people," said Kishore Tiwari, a member of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti.