Authorities obstruct farmers from getting tractors

Jun 18, 2008 (DVB), Farmers in Bogalay are still waiting to receive hand tractors after being sent to different places around the township and being asked to pay several admin fees to process their applications.

A farmer from Bogalay said the local agricultural bank had given them approval letters so they could collect the hand tractors.

"Local authorities began approving contracts with farmers to provide hand tractors on 29 May," the farmer said.

"On 14 June, the local agricultural bank handed out approval letters to us to receive permission slips for the tractors from the relief supply management office," he went on.

"We went to the management office with the approval letters but we were told by the office’s deputy director that he couldn’t complete the paperwork for us as he was busy at that time."

On the morning of 15 June, the farmers returned to the office and were told that each farmer had to submit 20 copies of the tractor application form.

The farmers were charged 100 kyat for each form, which meant that each farmer had to pay 2000 kyat for their application.

"After finishing the paperwork we went to the garage set up in the township park where they kept the tractors. When we got there we were told by the garage’s supervisor to register on a waiting list," the farmer said.

"Then we waited in the pouring rain until 5pm that afternoon when they took photos of us with the tractors, but after that they told us there was no time left and we should come again at 8am the next morning."

But when they return the park the next day, they were told by an official , apparently a district coordinator , that they would not receive the tractors in the order they had registered due to a new directive from the military strategic command.

"They said the strategic command had told them to give out the tractors in a lucky draw system , everyone would get different type of tractor depending on what they won," the farmer said.

"They said those who didn’t win didn’t have to worry because there was another tractor garage in a milling factory in the area where we could also apply for tractors," he said.

"We spent half the day at the park and then when we didn’t win anything in the lucky draw we headed on to the milling factory."

At the factory, the farmers were told there were only 53 hand tractors available and they were made to pay for and fill out new application forms.

"We told them we had already paid money for application forms but the officials told us they were no use any more," the farmer said.

"We had to buy new contracts for 1000 kyat each , and each farmer needed four contracts," he said.

"After that, we went to the garage to get our tractors and they told us there were no more left."

The farmers went to the strategic commander's office yesterday to complain but he would not see them.

"We were sent here and there for three days in this horrible rain and the weather in the hope of getting those tractors. But we did not get anything," the farmer said.

The farmers said it took 3-4 gallons of diesel fuel to prepare an acre of farmland but they had only been provided with one gallon per acre by the government.

The official price of diesel fuel from the government is 3000 kyat per gallon but it costs 6400 kyat in the black market.

The farmer said an argument broke out between government officials and the farmers on Monday after the farmers found out that two out of six one-gallon diesel fuel bottles only had water in them.

Reporting by Aye Nai

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