New Delhi: On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi direct income support scheme for farmers.
While addressing a rally in Gorakhpur, Modi transferred the first instalment of Rs 2,000 per small and marginal farmer under the scheme. The scheme was announced in the 2019-20 Budget, with retrospective effect implying that the first instalment could be transferred for the December 2018 to March 2019 period – before the country votes for the Lok Sabha 2019.
“Today I had the privilege of transferring the first instalment of the scheme to the bank accounts of over one crore farmers,” Modi said at the launch.
While announcing the scheme on February 1, acting finance minister Piyush Goyal had said that over 12 crore small and marginal farmers will benefit from the scheme. However, as of now, only one crore farmers have benefitted.
This is due to the difficulty of implementing a targeted scheme such as PM Kisan. Identification of eligible small and marginal farmers is to be done through verifiable land records. These then have to be linked to a proof of identity and ultimately both have to be linked to a bank account.
The Centre had asked states to send the verified list of small and marginal farmers who will benefit from the scheme by February 20.
However, verifiable land records themselves in India are hard to come by. Before launching its income transfer scheme Rythu Bandhu, Telangana took one year to update land records.
“Anyone who knows anything about land records, knows that they are unusable in most states. Updation of land records in a country as large as ours is a massive exercise. It can’t be done in 20 days, as the Centre would like to think,” said a former agriculture ministry official who was involved in the implementation of Rythu Bandhu.
According to NDTV, on February 23, states had submitted 3.2 crore entries to the Centre’s web portal, of which 55 lakh were pending verification. Eighty-four lakh entries, or 33% of the verified entries, were rejected. The rejections happened because of incorrect land records or failure to link to a bank account.
The number of entries that have been verified and stand to benefit, as of now, in the first instalment are 1.7 crore – 14% of the 12 crore that Goyal had claimed as beneficiaries in his budget speech.
The data accessed by NDTV also shows that BJP-ruled states have been more proactive in submitting entries to the Centre’s web portal. For instance, Uttar Pradesh accounts for 30% of all submissions. Sixty-seven percent of all submissions have come from BJP-ruled states, while only 2% have come from Congress-ruled states.
The agriculture ministry, however, remains hopeful that the scope will expand. “Yes, 12 crore might not be getting the transfer on February 24. But, that’s not the end of the road. The first instalment will be transferred in phases and we are hopeful that by March 31 we would have covered 10 crore farmers,” said an agriculture ministry official.
In his speech, Modi also recognised that not all intended beneficiaries would receive the benefit immediately. But, he said, those who have been left out today will receive the benefit in coming weeks.
However, with the model code of conduct likely to take effect in the first week of March, it remains to be seen if the Election Commission will permit the transfer under the scheme.
Former finance minister and leader of the Congress party P. Chidambaram launched an attack on the government calling the PM kisan, “a bribe for votes”.
“Today is the ”Cash for Vote” day. The BJP government will officially give a bribe of Rs 2000 per agricultural family to get their votes. The money Will go the cultivating farmer as well as absentee landlord,” Chidambaram wrote on Twitter.
He also pointed fingers at the election commission. “Nothing can be more shameful in a democracy than ”Bribe for Votes”. The greater shame is that the Election Commission is unable to stop the ”Bribe for Vote”.”