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Irrigation Scheme Fails, Villagers Sink in Debt
Each Family Wilts under Rs 1 Lakh Loan at Pipalipara Village in Jhabua District
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Sravani Sarkar
Bhopal, July 6

Pipalipara villagers in Petlawad block of tribal dominated Jhabua district are living on the brink. More than 100 families of the village are neck deep in debt – each owing Rs one lakh on an average. A delayed intervention of the state government might reduce half of their burden, but would not bring back their life on track for a long time.

Similar stories abound in 81 villages of Petlawad block that like other parts of the district has seen the failure of a lift irrigation scheme (LIS), implemented in 1995-96.

The Pipalipara villagers claim that ‘they were tricked into accepting an overall loan of R s37.70 lakh for the scheme that did not work even for a day’. The loan due on 100 families has risen to Rs 56.40 lakh. Besides, each family has a debt ranging between Rs 30,000 and Rs 50,000, taken from moneylenders, as they do not have access to bank loans now.

“We have no life. Roti hai toh mirach nahi, mirach hai toh roti nahi. (If we have roti, we don’t have the chilly and if we have the chilly, we don’t have the roti,” laments Gyarsi Bai of Pipalipara.

Two years ago, the frustrated villagers had offered to give up their land and houses for rehabilitation of dam oustees and leave the area forever. “We had no other alternative,” Babu Ram says.

The intervention of Petlawad based NGO Sampark has mitigated their distress to some extent. Following sustained efforts by Sampark the state government conceded that the scheme had failed and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan as assured to waive off the loan of the affected people in Petlawad tehsil under the Madhya Pradesh Anusuchit Kshetra Dayitwa Nirdharan Niyam 1979.

“Eradication of poverty is the first target of the Millennium Development Goal. The Centre has decided on giving credit access to the poor as a means to reduce poverty. But the experience in Petlawad perhaps come as a lesson,” Sampark director Nilesh Desai told the Hindustan Times.

About a week ago, district collector Rajkumar Pathak ordered that an FIR be lodged against the suppliers, bank officials and government employees involved in the LIS scheme in four villages of Petlawad block including Pipalipara. Pathak said inquiry into the failed scheme was going on in other parts of the district and due action would be initiated.

9 villages, Rs 4-cr debt

Rs 4,18,26,898
total debt till December 2006

Rs 3,06,39,348
farm loan

Rs 58,57,600
loan for fulfilling social responsibilities like bride money, rakhi, community feast following deaths

Rs 25,69,650
for health reasons

Rs 38,233
average loan on each family (total families 1,094)

Rs 7,219
loan on each person including even children

total population of nine villages

(Source: A study by Sampark in nine villages of Petlawad tehsil. Analysed by Bhopal-based NGO Vikas Samvad)