PMO denies lack of funds led to bounce of Vidarbha cheque


New Delhi : Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's office Saturday said that a cheque issued to the widow of a debt-ridden farmer in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra had bounced not because of paucity of funds but due to "local issues".

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Denying newspaper reports that a cheque issued by Prime Minister's National Relief Fund (PMNRF) for relief to farmers in Vidarbha had bounced as there was delay in releasing the money, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said: "The cheque under reference was issued by the local district authorities in Maharashtra, and not honoured because of local issues, and not on account of any delay in release of funds from PMNRF.

"The district authorities are taking action to disburse relief in cash immediately," said a statement issued by the prime minister's media advisor.

According to earlier reports, a cheque released by PMNRF to Vandana Anil Shende, whose farmer husband had committed suicide, had bounced. Insufficiency of funds was cited as the reason.

Elaborating the measures taken to help indebted farmers in Vidarbha, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala, the statement said: "Rs.30 million was disbursed to six districts of Vidarbha in July 2006 itself, and there was no delay in releasing the funds. It was a one-time grant of funds of Rs.5 million at the disposal of the concerned district collector."

Reacting to reports that the Maharashtra government had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that the funds were insufficient, the PMO said: "As far as the filing of an affidavit by the state government before the Supreme Court is concerned, it was acknowledged by the state government in March 2007 that there was no delay on the part of the PMO to release funds, and an additional affidavit was filed to clarify the position."

Several debt-ridden farmers have committed suicide in the drought-hit Vidarbha region, forcing the central government to announce a special relief package. Reports say around 1,130 farmers have ended their lives since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh toured the area last year.