Staff Reporter

They paid fee for a government scheme

Scheme, to attract youth to farming, did not take off

‘Fee paid by 1 lakh farmers has grown to Rs.85 crore’

KOLLAM: The Orulaksham Yuva Karshaka Samithi (one lakh young farmers’ association), whose members allege being cheated by the State government after enrolling them in 1994 for an agricultural employment programme, will take out a march to the Collectorate here on Thursday.

The association says it is planning protest demonstrations in the headquarters of all districts, demanding Rs.6.3 lakh as compensation to each member, a sum arrived at by taking into the account the minimum daily wage of Rs.125 for 14 years.

Kadavur Sivadasan, president, District Congress Committee, will inaugurate a dharna in front of the Collectorate.

K.P. Baiju, president of the association, said 1,04,213 young farmers had joined the programme called “Laksham Thozhildana Padhathi” (scheme to provide one lakh job opportunities), announced with much fanfare to attract youth to farming and retain them in the sector. Each of them had to pay Rs.1,110 as registration fee, upon which the Agriculture Department would issue an identity card. But the scheme had not been implemented and it had assumed the proportions of a scam.

Mr. Baiju said that data obtained by him by invoking the Right to Information Act showed that the registration fee had grown to Rs.85 crore as the money was deposited in a social security scheme.

The fee was meant to be spent on training. To run the scheme, the government had, at that time, appointed 91 officers in the Agriculture Department. These officers still conducted regular departmental meetings on the scheme. Several vehicles had also been bought.