MUZAFFARGARH: The much-trumpeted prime minister’s relief package for farmers has failed to inspire most growers who claim to have been left out of the incentive.

A good number of farmers turned up at a ceremony held to distribute cheques on Friday but a majority of them had to return disappointed as only 12 cheques could be distributed because of ‘cumbersome’ verification process and erratic biometric machines. Twelve centres have been set up to facilitate the farmers.

District Coordination Officer Hafiz Shaukat, along with two PML-N MPAs, launched the cheque distribution process and claimed that the government would distribute aid among 85,800 farmers in Muzaffargarh.

On Friday, as many as 500 people were invited to get pay order by the DCO and MPAs at Faisal Stadium and promised pick and drop facility and refreshments but only 12 people could get cheques and the remaining were rejected because their thumb impressions could not be verified by the biometric machine.

An official at the distribution desk said the link of biometric machine remained down for most part of the event. He said the requirement of verification of thumb impression was unnecessary as the cheques were ready and the identity of the person concerned could be checked through identity card.

MPA Imran Qureshi told reporters that it was a historic package which would boost the PML-N image in public eye.

DCO Hafiz Shaukat said Muzaffargarh was the worst-hit district in south Punjab in terms of crops loss and his teams recommended more than 100,000 farmers to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) for relief package out of which 86,000 names were okayed.

Allah Ditta was one of those farmers who failed to get the cheque as his thumb impression was not verified and he was told to get a new CNIC.

Hundreds of people rushed to the disbursement centres to check their status but they faced disappointment as their names were not in the list.

Sajid Hussain, a farmer of Mauza Umer Budh, said a district administration team visited his village last month and found seven acres of cotton crop badly damaged. He said the patwari and monitoring team assured him that his name was included in the list but on Friday he found it missing. He said he contacted patwari Razzak who told him to wait for a week.

Mohammad Shakeel said he was naib tehsildar of Baseera Kannongoi from where only 30 people had been selected by the PDMA and 6,000 missed. He said most farmers had been left out and they would have no option other than protest.

Meanwhile, the opposition parties took no time castigating the authorities for the mess. Irshad Sial, a former PPP MPA, said the ruling party MPAs were trying to cash in on the relief package to influence people to have support for local polls and demanded that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) take notice.

PTI candidates and local leader Nawabzada Mansoor said this little relief would not make farmers change mind (as far as electoral choice is concerned).

A district official said only 86 people had been selected in Multan, where the administration sent more than 110,000 names and there was not a single beneficiary in Layyah.

Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2015

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