Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Enterprising UP official gets farmers their loan waivers

                       Enterprising UP official gets farmers their loan waivers

Saturday, February 22, 2014

My Experiment For Good Governance: Jai-Jawan Jai-Kisan.

India enjoyed good GDP growth rate, but the boom has bypassed many rural areas. Farmers' distress and suicides have made newspaper headlines. Various attempts to provide relief (MNREGA, PDS etc) have madelittle impact. So, many economists think that the loan waiver is a worthwhile alternative to provide relief.
The aim is worthy. But IRDP loans to the rural poor in the 1980s demonstrated that crooked officials demanded bribes amounting to around one-third the intended benefits.The UP government issued a government order (GO) to waive farmers' loan on December 12, 2012. The scheme is named as ‘Debt waiver scheme’ for farmers with flowing criteria to realise its benefits:
1.    Farmer has mortgaged his productive agricultural land to raise the farm loan.
2.    Upper limit of loan is fifty thousand.
3.    Minimum repayment by farmer must be 10% of the loan amount.
        The UP Sahkari Gram Vikas Bank Private Limited waived loans worth 1650 crores of approximately 7,10,000 farmers in the above mentioned scheme. Clause five of the GO says that all benefited farmers will get a certificate as proof to this effect. The certificates would be provided by the bank head office at Lucknow.
This scheme sounds many merits. But poor implementation is a big hurdle to send the real and intended benefits to the targeted farmers. As per provisions, no certificate of loan waiving was given to the farmers for long-more than a year. Illiterate, Poor and less aware farmers don’t have any proof. Hence, chances of their blackmailing by vicious circles are bright.
The share of district Firozabad is 12026 farmers amounting 34,55,89,246 rupees. Most of the small farmers who took loan are not in a position to repay. Hence, they have to sell their mortgaged productive land to clear their debts.  This situation would make them landless.

This small help to farmers in the form of loan waiving minimized the corruption. Most of the farmers are not able to approach directly to bankers and deal without any middleman.  So, they take loans via some middleman who operates between them and bankers.
They are known by different names. They are famous as authorized dealers of bank, facilitators, deed writers, touts (Dalal). They do have the patronage of branch officials as they act as link between banks & loanees.
In the name of managing, processing and sanctioning loan, they charge fee in the name of documentation and to oblige officials. This fee varies depending upon the loan amount. In a very rough estimation, on an average Rs 2500/per loanee in code name of fee, amounts approximately Rs 3.0 crores (bribe included) was saved by the certificate distribution in a single shot.

          District President of ruling party called for details of loan distribution on February 1, 2014. I collected the detail and I found that loan waiving certificate was not given to debtor whose loan was waived off about one year back. Hence, they don’t have any proof or document to prove their case of loan waive off. Hence, they are prey (soft target) to the so called Link between them and banks.
          On my request, assistant registrar (co-operative) contact head office of bank at Lucknow. He got information that printed certificates were ready for distribution. We collected the printed certificates within two days from General Manager Alok Dixit of the bank posted at HQ Lucknow and in charge of this scheme at state level. Bank officials informed that no certificate was given in any district.
 I decided to take lead in my District Firozabad (UP).  We planned a distribution ceremony to give all 12026 certificates in one day at one place. To achieve this aim, we started preparation.
The six branches distributed loans to 12026 loanees. District has  9 blocks. I appointed Block Development Officers (BDO’s) as nodal for this. One district level official from Agricultural department was attached with each block to assist BDOs. All six Branch managers were directed to prepare certificates and handover them to BDOs. At the level of each block ,a team under BDOs was entrusted with the task of successful distribution.
Distribution plan was architected. For each farmer, two slips were prepared. One was sent to farmer as invitation and other onw was pasted on chair at distribution site in allocated block space. A team of village secretary, Sereatary Sadhan Sahkari Samiti, Kisan Sahayak under village Pradhan was formed to follow and execute the direction of BDO. BDO acted as link between me and village team headed by Pradhan.
         The village team under pradhan was directed to work under full control of BDO’s and in coordination with branch managers. Team was entrusted with responsibilities of invitation, bringing and sending back farmers safely and respectfully from their village to distribution site Ram Lila ground, Shikohabad.                   
Distribution site was divided into nine blocks with display cards. Each block has seating arrangements for each loanee with peculiar slip number. They came and went to their block and sat on their chair matching with their invitation slip number.  To assist them block level workers were employed to facilitate them.
After lectures of guests and chief guests, certificates were distributed in one shot. A public representative MLA, MP and party officials along with Block Pramukh distributed certificates simultaneously in each block as planned, while Chief guest distributed to 45 farmers on stage. Farmers got proof in their hand about their loan waive off in the form of this certificate.

This is now a model. The general manger Mr Alok Dixit who came and represented the head office told other district officials are contacting him to know its details to organize this program in their districts. Many district officials contacted me to know whole process. Kannauj, Sambhal, Manpuri, Allahabad and Badaun are in the process to replicate this model.
          This is social as well as political product. It helped the last man of the society/line- poor and unaware farmers. The best part is that all are farmers.
          Seeing a gathering of 12026 farmers from 506 villages along with their Pradhan gave me an immense pleasure and I felt elated.
Serving such a big crowd of farmers was a lifetime event and  a great achievement for me. Well organized and properly managed distribution ceremony was praised by all stakeholders.
Public representatives, media persons, farmers and officials, all were quite happy with the methodology and management of the program. We created huge happiness and a win-win situation for all involved and stakeholders.
Farmers were the focus of all activities. All actions conducted around farmers. This program liberated them form clutches of touts. Certificate is proof with them to avoid future blackmail. They got a chance to be part of debt waive fair. They saved their fee to acquire this certificate. Hence, it helped in reducing the corruption.
Therefore, it is a part of experimenting good governance.Whatever could not be done in a year, happened in a day. Jai-Jawan Jai-Kisan.

Heera Lal (Views are personal and based on different sources)     


Friday, February 7, 2014

My Experiment For Good Governance: ICT in Rural Development

   Management Improvement: ICT in Rural Development
ICT has been proven a boon. It has touched all walks of  life. Urban areahas more communication facilities than rural.  Rural communication infrastructure is far behind than its counterpart in urban. This communication gap between urban and rural is wide. It is a big hurdle in rural development.
Still whatever facilities we do have, they are not harnessed properly. They are underutilized. Keeping this in view, I took an initiative how to use video calling without any extra recurring expenditure with prevailing facilities. The idea was conceptualized and practised during my previous posting as Chief  Development Officer (CDO) Ballia.
Now, I am repeating the same at my current position as CDO Firozabad. It is just a management improvement and nothing else. No new facilities are required. Hence, unutilized and underutilized capacities of the system are used to improve its utility and efficiency. 
For video calling or video conferencing, we need net points, desktop with web cam and headphones or speakers. is a free site which provides communication facilities. Under  MNREGA, these all facilities are already  in place in each development Block. Our   Block head quarters are manned with an additional program officer, an accountant and a computer assistant.  
By opening Skype account at each block and  head office  and interconnecting with each other, we are managing effective communication. It is very simple. Some blocks did not have web cam and headphones.  Buying it from the market requires hardly two thousand Rupees. This is managed from contingency fund of MNREGA allocated to blocks as per norm.

This step fetched many benefits: one, it has a psychological effect on officials; two, attendance of officials improved; three, it helps in disciplining the employees; four, it improves system efficiency and utility; five, progress is improved; six, time management is improved; seven, it inspires and motivates officials as it is a  new tool for them; eight, it helps in promoting new technology adoption in rural development; nine, it saves time and money; ten, it is an effective tool for monitoring the progress.

Local Hindi daily papers highlighted this innovation. All papers pointed different beauties of this system in their published news. 
Hindustan highlighted it as new Scheme. It revealed its monitoring capacity.

Danik Jagran published news on this as an initiative. It says it is a new management. Workers would not be able to take French leave.

Daily Hindi Amar Ujala pointed this step has stirred block officials as it is a great check on them.

Video conferencing/ calling from Firozabad office with Ballia officials.

I addressed a press conference in Ballia as I/C DM. This was new for the officers, employees and media. So, it generated a new vigor in all. It was taken as a fanfare in a very positive way by all stakeholders.
Heera Lal
Chief  Development  Officer Firozabad, UP.

My Experiment For Good Governance: Knowledge Is Power

   Application Of “Knowledge Is Power” On Farmers
India is an agricultural country. Almost seventy percent population is engaged in this sector directly or indirectly. Government of India (GoI) and Government of Uttar Pradesh (GoUP) are running many projects and program to promote farmers. Agriculture and associated departments are trying to provide all helps to enrich knowledge of our peasants. Fast changing farms’ tools, technology and methodology are affecting our farmers continuously. New research and development in agro inputs has revolutionized this sector. Green revolution and White revolution are enough to prove the point.
Our farmers are gentlemen in general. Most of them are not quickly adopting the fast new development. It is due to lack of awareness, knowledge and connects of the programs and projects. This situation acts as brakes in their progress. Although different departments are engaged in transmitting knowledge to our farmers, but it is not working as expected. To supplement this shortcoming, I took an initiative. This new initiative was started from January 1, 2014.
In district, Vikas Bhawan housed all departments related to rural development. The Chief Development Officer (CDO) is a link among them to facilitate, coordinate and promote all projects and programs for implementing them as designed. CDO is treated as head and supervises all developmental departments. He is held responsible for the progress. He is accountable for all developmental activities.
Ideally, it is expected that farmers would visit Vikas bhawan to update their knowledge. But it is not found in practice. To supplement it and to apprise about the ongoing activities of all departments to our farmers, special farmers’ fairs are organized. In 2013 one day farmers fair was organized in each Block with a financial assistance of one lakh for each Block.

A three day farmer’s fair was organized at district level without any funding with the cooperation and coordination of departments.

Experiencing the bottleneck of knowledge, farmers training program is initiated. This idea is conceived and drafted by me. Under this, the field worker of agriculture department, popularly known as Kisan Sahayak ( KS), has to bring minimum five farmers from one village every day. In choosing farmers KS will have to follow some minimum criteria. One, he should be literate; Two, good communication skill; Three, keen to learn; four, have desire to serve the society. 

 We announced this program on December 23, 2013 while speaking at three day farmer’s fair at Firozabad. One week time was given for preparation. First of all KS brings farmers to CDO office. CDO motivates them by telling the theme of the program. He explains how this will enrich them by enhancing their knowledge related to their agriculture practices. In absence of CDO, Deputy Director Agriculture does this job. This very outset intro with CDO motivates and inspires the farmers and converts them into a serious learner. They feel elated meeting with CDO. This psychological therapy works a lot in tuning the farmers into the learning mode.

There after KS takes them to different departments. Each department teaches the farmers group about their programs and projects in detail. They handover them reading items like hand bills, pamphlets and other writing materials available. KS takes them to following departments:
1.    District Panchyatat Raj Office- DPRO.
2.     DRDA-PD.
3.    Animal husbandry office - CVO.
4.    District Agriculture office-DAO.
5.    District Plant Protection office-PPO.
6.    NEDA office -PO’
7.    Deputy Director Agriculture office-DD Ag.
8.    District Social Welfare office -DSWO.
9.    District Agriculture Diversify Project office- PM.
10.                       District Horticulture office- DHO.
11.                       Fishery office- AD Fisheries
12.                       Co operative office - AR Cooperative.
13.                       District Progam office, ICDS- DPO.
Hindi daily news paper Danik Jagran published a news as:

DAO is nominated nodal for managing this program. Dr Subhanjna Pandey, DAO, is coordinating well. She is converting this idea into a ground reality under the direction of CDO. We have observed that farmers feel happy visiting different offices. They are getting knowledge, respect along with welcome by office head and employees. This enhances the learning capacity of the group.
This program brings many benefits to farmers. One, It updates them; Two, helps in removing their hesitation; three, establishes a link between farmers and different offices; four, reduces gap and remove barriers between officials and farmers; five, it enriches and emboldens them; six, by receiving knowhow they are empowered as knowledge is power; seven, they will act as agent between government and villagers by transmitting their acquired knowhow to rest of the villagers; eight, a connect is establishing between remote villages with different offices; nine; all office are getting a data base as they are maintaining a register to take their details including cell number; ten, lack of beneficiaries problem will not be in future for the departments.
Farmers are happy with this initiative. Discussion with farmers reveals this. Feel good emotions have been observed among visiting farmers. Peasants assure that they would practice the acquired knowledge to enhance their income. Farmers promise to extend and share to other villagers who don’t visit. Hence, they are ready to play the role of an agent or connect between Vikas Bhawan and Villagers. They also say they will keep in touch with Vikas Bhawan as they have seen the doors and their hesitation evaporate. Experience depicts that it is a step of win-win situation for all stakeholders.
Heera Lal
Chief Development Officer Firozabad, UP.