The tedious process of filling forms online for various schemes is making it difficult for the farmers from Maharashtra to benefit from these government schemes. Farmers say that the E-Seva centres remain closed for the most part, or owners of these centres charge exorbitantly.
Many schemes like Pradhan Mantri Pik Vima Yojna, loan waiver scheme, Ujjawala Gas Yojana etc. require the applicants to submit their forms online, and do not offer the option of doing it manually. Hence, the farmers, who are not familiar with the internet or the computers, have to go to the Maha E-Seva centres.
The owners of thsese centres are not supposed to charge at all for registration for the schemes like Pik Vima Yojana and the loan waiver scheme, while the cost is fixed at Rs 30 for other schemes. These are the standard rates specified by state government. However, the farmers say that these rules are never followed and any amount above Rs 50 is charged by manty of the centres.
Umesh Shinde, a youth from Khalegoan of Gevrai Taluka of Beed district, told Newsclick: “Internet services often get disabled because of digging on the roads, as the cables get disconnected. Mobile towers collapse. Due to rain or storms, service is interrupted. And the major problem is the electricity cuts. So, the villagers have to be on their toes to find out when these Maha E Seva Centres are open and functional.”
Manik Kadam of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, Parbhani, said, “There is one such centre for 5-6 villages, and each village has at least 1,000 farmers. Once the scheme is announced, farmers have to submit their application forms within a specific window – like 15 days or a month. Hence, all the farmers throng this one seva centre in their vicinity. And they have to stand in long queues. Besides, general public or students too go to the same centre for their certificates. This is wastage of their time.”
Another issues Kadam pointed to is that the government websites often collapse or run slowly, as the designers fail in anticipating the magnitude of the traffic they will attract. “Farmers had to wait at the E-Seva centres till 3-4 am to fill the forms for the loan waiver last year because of all these issues,” he said.
As per the information available with the Collector Office in Beed, the district has 450 Maha E-Seva centres, and district has over 1400 villages, 11 talukas and the district headquarter. On average, there is one seva centre for four villages, approximately.
Astik Pandey, collector, Beed, told Newsclick, “It is not possible to say the exact number of schemes for which the forms need to be filled online because various departments have their own schemes. But number is big.”
Dharmraj Aher, a farmer from Khalegoan, Gevrai, Beed, said, “I had to go to the E-Seva centre at least five times to fill a form for the Pik Vima Yojna. Though I was told that no fee is charged for the scheme, the centre owner would charge me Rs 100-300, depending on his mood. The process to fill the forms is also very complex, and I would sometimes forget one or the other certificate. I must have lost more than Rs 1500 in this process, and I have not got crop insurance still.”
A youth, who runs the seva centre in Beed, admitted that villagers struggle to get through this process, as the documentation required can be quite tedious.
Sunita Ashok from Talegoan of Shirur Taluka in Beed district reiterated this problem. She said, “I have four kids and my husband has committed suicide due to the loans. I had to go through the E-Seva Centre to get benefits of the schemes meant for me. To complete all the formalities, I had to travel to Shirur, which is 10 km away. I was struggling to feed my children, as I had to spend my money on this commute. There is no seva centre in our village.”
In the context of this ground reality, Kadam opined that until there is availability of fast internet speed and electricity and until the farmers become internet-friendly, filling of the forms online should not be made compulsory. “Right now, the farmers are just getting exploited at the hands of E-Seva Centre owners and the photocopy centre owners,” he said.
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