While the non-release of subsidy dues by the government towards drip irrigation has already been an issue, a large section of farmers have alleged their pleas for subsidies have been turned down by the state agriculture department for want of GST paid bills even if the purchase was made during VAT regime.
During the VAT regime, these agricultural equipment attracted tax to the tune of six per cent but with the implementation of GST since July this year, the tax for the same set of equipment has increased three-fold to 18 per cent.
The farmers allege that even if they had purchased drip-irrigation equipment months before GST was introduced, they are now being asked to submit GST paid bills for claiming subsidy.
In spite of several attempts, agriculture commissioner SP Singh could not be reached for comment.
Under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, the state government runs Sukshma Sinchan Yojana and they together bear around 45-55% cost of drip irrigation system installed by the farmers in the form of subsidy. Out of the total subsidy to the farmers, 80 per cent is borne by the central government, while the remaining 20 per cent is shared by the state government.
This year several lakh farmers, especially from Marathwada and Vidarbha, have adopted water efficient techniques in the wake of deficient monsoon for consecutive years. However, they are now in a fix as their online files claiming subsidy are being rejected for want of GST paid bills.
Deepak Joshi (55) of Devgaon in Paithan tehsil in the district told TOI, “We have formed a group of 25 farmers and after completing the procedure of intimating the agriculture department and bagging permission and together purchased a sprinkler for Rs 26, 000 by paying six per cent VAT. But now our online file has been rejected since we do not have GST paid bills.”
The farmers are in a dilemma as the difference between VAT and currently applicable GST is not less than 12 per cent. Ghansham Ramkishan Gite (35), who owns about 2.5 acres of land, is one of the several thousand farmers whose applications for subsidy have been turned down.
While the cost of laying the drip irrigation system varies from crop to crop, many farmers opted for loans with the hope that they would repay the same as soon as subsidy is given to them.
Balu Shinde of Varudi village in neighbouring Jalna district said it is an irony that they are being forced to make rounds of agriculture department on the issue of subsidy, while some of the progressive states in the country have been promoting drip irrigation on a war footing. He said, nobody knows as to why the farmers are being harassed in a situation when they are not at fault. Already some crops, including cotton, have taken a serious toll due to insects and pests and also due to unseasonal drizzling.
Another woman farmer, Sharda Pralhad Piwla, said that the agriculture department officials too are clueless about it. When we are asking them to help us with solution to the problem, they are asking us to submit GST paid bills. Now we will have to either give up subsidy claim or submit forged bills to bag it, she said.Aurangabad district agriculture superintendent SG Padwal confirmed that several farmers are facing the problem and now they have shot a letter to the higher-ups seeking their guidelines on the issue. He said, “As the entire system is online, we cannot do much about it. We have written a letter to the higher ups seeking guidelines to deal with the issue.”
The issue is not limited to the regions of Marathwada and Vidarbha, but if a senior agriculture officer is to be believed, each and every district in the state is plagued with the problem.