HYDERABAD: A division bench of the Sindh High Court Hyderabad circuit comprising Justice Salahuddin Panhwar and Justice Fahim Ahmed Siddiqui has issued notices to Sindh agriculture department’s functionaries to produce record of their World Bank funded projects as well as expenditures on Oct 3.

The order was passed on a constitutional petition filed by Sindh Agriculture Research Council (SARC) through its members, Mohammad Hayat Khan and six others.

The court has fixed the petition for hearing with an identical matter in which the project director for livestock component of the World Bank funded Sindh Agriculture Growth Project has been restrained from work.

They have cited secretary irrigation, additional secretary planning and development, secretaries agriculture and livestock, project director World Bank funded Sindh Agriculture Growth Project (livestock component), director general Agriculture (Extension) Sindh, director general Water & Engineering, who is also WB funded project director Sindh Irrigated Agriculture Productivity Enhancement Project (SIAPEP) and director general National Accountability Bureau Sindh.

According to petitioners, they are small growers and members of SARC and are aggrieved that respondents who are running different projects in livestock and agriculture sectors to develop small farmers through exposure visits at national and international level, are costing billions of rupees.

They said that the project being executed by respondent secretary livestock and fisheries has not delivered due to corruption. Small growers are neglected.

Billions of rupees are provided by WB under accelerated action plan for reducing malnutrition in livestock of Sindh, especially in Kohistan and Tharparkar.

Another WB funded project, Sindh Agriculture Growth Project (SAGP), involves expenditure of Rs6-8 billion for four crops of chilli, onion, dates and rice. They said that exposure visits are to be arranged for small growers who cultivate these crops.

The SAGP aims at improving productivity and ensuring access to market and establish value chains. They said that the project which started in 2014 would end in June 2019.

They added that ten project directors have so far been changed in SAGP due to political interference, favouritism and corruption which affected the project.

Delay in project’s execution had caused cost overruns.

The estimated number of targeted farmers to be benefited from the project is approximately 112,000 and around 66,000 hectares of the area would be covered in the project.

They said that the project aims to minimise losses in crops and ensure improved per acre productivity but these goals are eluding petitioners and small growers.

They said that this project covers women farmers but nothing is done in this regard.

The SIAPEP was being funded by the World Bank to improve irrigation water management at tertiary levels in Sindh. The project started in 2015 and would be completed by Dec 2021 at a cost of US187 million dollars. They said it aims to ensure modernization of irrigation system in the farm sector by introducing high efficiency irrigation system.

They further said that the DG agriculture engineering is project director of SIAPEP and he is already preoccupied with management of huge wing of agriculture sector thus he would not be able to supervise this WB funded project simultaneously.

They said that being small growers they are aware of the fact that these projects have not served the purpose as far as growers are concerned.

They added that field assistants of agriculture extension department are supposed to create awareness among growers about enhancement in productivity but they are not performing duties because agriculture extension department is performing poorly due to corruption and political interference.

They said that since these projects are in shape of loan, it is the Sindh government which has to pay back the loan money to World Bank and if these funds are not utilized properly, Sindh would suffer because federal government would deduct this amount from the National Finance Commission award.

They said that Sindh government has appointed those officers to deal these projects who are already at the helm of affairs but failed to bring about qualitative changes in their sectors. They prayed the court to direct secretary agriculture to appoint some dedicated and qualified project directors of SAGP and SIAPEP without any political consideration to meet the objectives of these projects.

They said that secretary agriculture should ensure that DGs agriculture extension and engineering wings should primarily focus on responsibilities of their departments. They said that both these DGs should be directed to furnish records of funds received and utilized alongwith list of beneficiaries to analyze current status of project and see whether small growers are indeed benefited.

They prayed the court to direct DGs to furnish list of national and international level exposure visits paid by growers and how many farmers are benefited. They said that secretary agriculture should explain frequent changes replacements of PDs between 2014 and 2017.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2017