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Lapses galore in rural project implementation in State

By Rituraj Borthakur

GUWAHATI, Oct 13 - Lapses have come to the fore in the implementation of the World Bank-funded Assam Agribusiness & Rural Transformation (APART) project and the international financial institution is learnt to have taken a stern view of it.

One component of the US$ 262.40 million project is �polyculture technology development�, and the ARIAS (Assam Rural Infrastructure and Agricultural Services) Society which is implementing the project has accorded sanction of Rs 12.50 crore for the purpose for 2019-20.

Even though the component states that there needs to be a technology demonstration under polyculture, field staff said there is hardly any scientific fish culture by the beneficiaries who have been still following the traditional methods. The �polyculture technology development� is being implemented in 15 districts of the State.

According to the annual work calendar of the Directorate of Fisheries, stocking of carps and barbs � releasing of fingerlings in the ponds � should be done in March. However, many beneficiaries have not received the fish seeds until October.

�Of late, the seeds are being distributed in some blocks. But they would be of no use, given the onset of winter. Fishes normally do not grow in winter. By November end and December, the ponds and beels go dry. The whole objective of increasing productivity is being defeated,� a source privy to the developments said. This delay in providing seeds to the farmers was also reported last year.

A similar abnormal delay in supply of seeds � in implementation of the Matshya Jagaran scheme � was also reported last year. The procurement of seed and feed, with a whopping Rs 75 lakh, was done in winter, thus serving no purpose whatsoever. A majority of the farmers did not receive the fishery inputs.

Questions are also being raised on an order issued by the Directorate of Fisheries which tweaked the guidelines for input supply under APART.

According to the guidelines issued for APART, the executive committees of the Farmer Producer Groups would call for quotations from a minimum of three suppliers and the most responsive supplier will be selected based on price, quality and efficiency.

However, the fishery directorate asked the farmers to call for tenders. The tender papers were then brought to the district headquarters where they were opened. Interestingly, the bulk of the contracts went to one particular firm.

Another component of the scheme that has come under scrutiny is the residential training part. Under the scheme, residential training of three days is given to the farmers at Raha Fishery College. However, many of the farmers, most of whom are daily wage earners, are reported to have dropped out on the first day.

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