New Delhi: During the COVID-19 lockdown period, from March 23 to July 31, 2020, when farmers were in the dire need of funds and assistance, as many as 11.2 lakh payment transfers under PM-KISAN scheme, meant to reach the bank accounts of farmers, had failed.
Additionally, till late December 2020, nearly 44% of the transfer failures had not been addressed, the department of agriculture, cooperation and farmers’ welfare stated in a response to a query under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
In his RTI query, Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights in June 2020 had asked the department under the ministry of agriculture for data on failed transactions concerning the transfer of PM-KISAN payouts to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries.
The issue assumes significance since the payment of a PM-KISAN instalment had been made part of the PM-Garib Kalyan Yojana package, which the Central government announced prior to the national lockdown imposed in March 2020.
Under the PM Kisan Yojana, income support of Rs 6,000 per annum is provided to families of eligible farmers – in which a man, wife and minor children are considered a unit – across the country in three equal instalments of Rs 2,000 each every four months.
In the latest reply, the chief public information officer (CPIO) for the department provided details of the failed transactions under the scheme. It revealed that there were a total of 11,29,401 failed transactions of which 11,22,389 were from 27 states and 7,012 from the eight union territories.
No data on beneficiaries who suffered
Nayak said the CPIO did not indicate the amount of funds involved. However, he added to a good measure that “if one were to assume that each case of transfer failure pertains to one instalment of Rs 2,000 which could not be paid, the total figure involved is more than Rs 22.58 lakh”. Also, he said, it was not known exactly as to how many beneficiaries suffered due to these transfer failures.
Reacting to the RTI reply, Nayak said: “At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, although a large number of poor PM-KISAN beneficiaries successfully received funds during the lockdown period, a considerable number of them may not have received their dues. Almost 44% of the transfer failures remained to be sorted out at the time the CPIO sent the dataset.”
Stating that the latest instalment of PM-KISAN funds was released on December 25, 2020, Nayak said, “It is desirable for RTI activists around the country to probe the phenomena of transfer failures and successful reprocessing by seeking information from the Central and state government agencies and banks responsible for implementing the PM-KISAN Yojana.”
Discrepancy in the beneficiary data
He said another “intriguing matter” arose from the comparison of the number of registered beneficiaries as per the dedicated website of PM-KISAN with the number of beneficiaries to whom the latest instalment was actually paid.
“While the Central government has claimed that it paid the latest instalment to more than nine crore farmer households, the latest figure of beneficiaries displayed on the PM-KISAN website is 11.50 crore at the time of writing.”
As such, the RTI activist said, “The government needs to explain this discrepancy.” Also, he demanded that the government “must also proactively publish granular data about transfer failures and instances of successful reprocessing on the website. These steps are crucial for ensuring greater transparency in the implementation of this scheme”.
Five states account for maximum failed transactions
The CPIO in his latest response has provided two more datasets, Nayak informed. One of them contains the state-wise number of instances of failure to transfer the PM-KISAN instalment to the bank account of beneficiaries. The other provides state and union territory-wise data about the caste and gender composition and payments made to undeserving persons.
Nayak said from the response it is clear that while the states in total accounted for more than 99% of the total failures of transfers, the union territories accounted for nearly 0.62%.
Among all states and union territories, he said Madhya Pradesh accounted for the largest number of failed transactions accounting for 7.29 lakh (64.55% of all), followed by Maharashtra with more than 85,000 transfer failures (7.54% of the total).
The other states which recorded a significant number of failures were Karnataka with over 55,000 (4.94%), Bihar with over 51,000 (4.52%) and Uttar Pradesh with almost 48,000 failures (4.24%).
Together, these five states recorded nearly 86% of all transfer failures during the lockdown period.
Among the union territories, Jammu and Kashmir accounted for almost 97% (6,794) of the total failures with Ladakh reporting the second-highest number of transfer failures at 110.