THE STATE agriculture department has lodged an FIR against two people for their alleged involvement in an elaborate fraud, in which they claimed compensation under Weather-Based Crop Insurance Scheme (WBCIS) for pomegranate crop that was not even sown. The taluka agriculture officer of Badnapur in Jalna district lodged the complaint, claiming that the fraud was committed using a fake lease deed executed without the knowledge of the original landowner.
According to the agriculture department, the fraud came to light in July when the district superintendent of agriculture in Jalna decided to cancel the registration of Manohar Ramrao Kulkarni’s pomegranate crop over 2.4 hectares in Kusali village.
In this case, the registration was supposed to have been cancelled due to issues in paperwork. The district superintendent of agriculture recommended against Kulkarni for the alleged fraud.
Under the WBCIS, which is mainly targeted at horticulture crops with growers of pomegranate, grapes and banana being major beneficiaries, registrations take place at village-level citizen facilitation centres (CFC). Operators of these centres must check authenticity of documents. Farmers register online for the crop, using land documents, bank passbook, and so on. In case of loss due to weather-based events like excess rain or drought, the government directly pays compensation into accounts of registered farmers.
According to the FIR, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, in August, the agriculture assistant of Kusali village inspected Kulkarni’s fields and found cotton and soybean growing there instead of the pomegranate crop for which the insurance had been claimed. Also, during interrogation, Kulkarni denied having executed any lease deed for his land, the FIR states.
The FIR further states that the taluka agriculture officer of Badnapur started an investigation into the case, and found that this piece of land was registered online between June and July using a 10-year lease deed on a Rs 100 bond paper. The lease was used by two people, identified as Rekha Hanumant Agale of Aurangabad and Vinod Magare of Jalna, to register under WBCIS, the FIR states. In the FIR, the taluka agriculture department has named Hanumant and Agale for defrauding Kulkarni and insurance companies.
Officials of the agriculture department said since rabi 2019-20, the state had integrated the national portal of crop insurance with that for land records, allowing for the prevention and detection of fraud. They said they could find the anomaly because of this link.
“Since land records are linked, double entry or trying to enroll the same land twice for the scheme would throw up an error, and this is how we found out about the fraud,” they added. D R Shinde, district superintendent of agriculture, confirmed the incident while some officers said there could be more such cases in the district.
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