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Funds for raising coconut production ‘diverted’

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Agriculture Department allegedly diverts funds allocated by the Coconut Development Board for measures to increase coconut yield and to replace disease-affected palms. This has been going on unnoticed for want of an efficient and scientific auditing system.

According to department sources, substantial sums are being marked as ‘expenditure’ every year and the records ‘set straight’ at the Krishi Bhavans so adroitly that such instances often go undetected. Since most coconut plantations in the State are not well maintained and are affected by mite and root-wilt diseases, the yield is far below the desired levels. The board sanctions funds to remove unproductive palms by paying a compensation of Rs.250 each. Also, a quality seedling priced at Rs.8 should be provided to the farmer for replanting.

There are complaints that the funds are not being utilised in a productive manner. Often, payments are made against a list of beneficiaries drawn up in each locality. When a complaint is made, the department officials verify the signature of the beneficiaries in the list and vouchers but seldom make physical verification of the plantations to ensure if the palms have been removed as claimed by in the official documents.

The claims made by certain Krishi Bhavans in the capital between 2005 and 2007 have been cited as an example. During 2005-06, the Vakkom panchayat made the highest claim of felling 4,000 palms, followed by Azhoor with 2,500, Balaramapuram, 2,000 and Chenkal, Marukil, Pallichal and Mudakkal, 500 each.

During 2006-07, Balaramapuram claimed a figure of 500. Poovar, Thirupuram, Pallichal, Marukil and Kalliyoor claimed 500 each and Maranellor 600. One panchayat has secured almost Rs. 10 lakh in the name of removing palms. The seedlings distributed are often doled out liberally among the local people. If the felling had taken place at this scale, most of these panchayats will not have any palms at all. The situation is almost similar in other districts, sources said.

Lack of transparency in preparing the list and an unscientific auditing system are being pointed out as the major lapses of the department.

Courtesy :: The Hindu

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