Corruption in Chuadanga‘s eco-friendly safe crop project

Published : 30 Nov 2023 07:33 PM

Irregularities, corruption allegations marked the end of Chuadanga’s environment-friendly Crop Production Project (1st Amendment) with virtually no outcome.

Farmers in the district alleged that the project implemented only in paper huge amount of money has been taken illegally which was meant for the equipment and underprivileged farmers.

Visiting some areas at Damurhuda Upazila in the district, this correspondent witnessed that farmers are using chemical fertilizers and pesticides in all types of crops, including vegetables though the government allocated Tk 70 lakh to prevent chemical fertilizers.

According to the Damurhuda Upazila Agricultural Expansion office, the five year long project was first inaugurated in 2022-23 fiscal year at parkrisnapur union of Damurhuda Upazila. But within a year, the project worth taka 70 lakh has come to a halt for wide irregularities and mismanagement.

The project was commenced with the aim to produce safe crops and vegetables without using the 

chemical fertilizer but nothing has changed yet. 

Local chairman there said that he heard about irregularities in the implementation of the project through the farmers. Investigation is needed as the project is worth Tk 70 lakh . The project was implemented by former Damudhuda Upazila Agriculture Officer M. Moniruzzaman.

To implement this IPM project (Integrated Pest Management), 20 groups have been formed with farmers in the ParKrishnapur-Madna Union. Each group consists of 25 farmers. In total, there are 500 members, including farmers and farmworkers, in these 20 groups who are part of the IPM model union. The Agriculture Extension Department is implementing this project in 20 unions across the country.

At the beginning, each member is involved in forming a group and planning for the implementation of the project. Farmers and farmworkers participate in two sessions for group formation and project planning. Each member got 400 Taka for the two sessions. A total of Tk 2 lakh is allocated for 500 members. For refreshments for 30 people in two sessions, Tk 60,000 is allocated. For the training of 500 farmers in 5 sessions at a rate of Tk 200  per person, 5 lakh Taka is allocated. Facilitators in 20 groups receive Tk 600 per person for 5 sessions, totaling Tk 1 lakh 50 thousand. Training materials for 20 groups are purchased for Tk 50 thousand. For the APO/AEO (Agriculture Program Organizer/Agriculture Extension Officer) in 20 groups, Tk 400 per person is allocated for 5 sessions, totaling Tk 40 thousand . Guest speakers receive a fee of Tk 1,000 per person for 2 people in 5 sessions for a total of Tk 40 thousand. Other expenses amount to Tk 60 thousand. In total, expenses shown in the accounts amount to Tk 11 lakh.

At the end of the training programme, each group receives an allocation of Tk 2 lakh 50 thousand for exhibitions in the seasonal and Kharif seasons. The total allocation for the two seasons was Tk 50 lakh, with an equal expenditure of Tk50 lakh for both seasons. 

Upon discussing with the beneficiary farmers, it is learned that while they received partial support in the Rabi season, they did not receive anything in the Kharif season. 

Farmers express that they have only received partial assistance once. The funds for the tools and equipment for the Kharif season have been pocketed by the project-related officials, according to farmers and locals. The van and carrot supply for the tools and equipment during the Kharif season have been shown to cost 4 lakh 40 thousand Taka. The remaining funds have been pocketed by the project officials, as reported by the farmers and locals.

Despite the promise of providing farmers with 7 training sessions, the project implementation officials have independently managed the program according to their own preferences. The allocated funds have not been provided to the farmers. Safe crop production through environmentally friendly techniques is supposed to be the focus of the project.

The Agriculture Department has undertaken this project for both Rabi and Kharif seasons. However, only partial supply of tools has been provided for the Rabi season among the farmers. The van and carrot for the Kharif season, allocated in the budget, have been distributed among the farmers during the Rabi season by the project implementation officials. All the officials involved in the project implementation have also received allowances. Irregularities have arisen in all aspects, including training, allowances, and equipment distribution. The project is now invisible.

Basinda Aajibar Rahman, a resident of Nastipur village in Damudhuda, says that the project under the name of IPM has not brought any development to our area. Instead, millions of taka were wasted.

Sharmin Akhtar, Agriculture Officer of Damudhuda Upazila, says that she should not be questioned about what implementation has taken place. The previous officer implemented the project, and  need to inquire them about the details of the project.

Salah Uddin Sardar,  Director of the Safe Crop Production Project through Environmental-friendly Techniques, states that there is no irregularity in the project. If there are any allegations of irregularities, we will investigate the matter.