New Delhi: A right to information (RTI) query filed by The Wire has revealed that crores of rupees credited into farmers’ accounts under the Modi government’s ambitious PM Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan) scheme were reversed within a few hours.
The BJP has been championing the PM-Kisan Yojana as a major accomplishment in its rallies for the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. Launched on February 24, PM Modi described the scheme as a significant step towards improving the condition of farmers.
However, documents accessed by The Wire reveal that the deposits of Rs 2,000 – given to thousands of farmers in the form of the first instalment – were reversed within a few hours, or a few days in some cases. The scheme provides Rs 6,000 annually, in three instalments of Rs 2,000, to farmers who own land totalling two hectares or less.
In response to the RTI query, of the 19 national banks in the country, the State Bank of India, Bank of Maharashtra, UCO Bank, Syndicate Bank, and Canara Bank admitted that for a number of beneficiaries, the money credited in the farmers’ accounts under the PM-Kisan Yojana has since been debited.
Banks claim ignorance about debited funds
The State Bank of India (SBI), India’s largest bank, said that there were 27,307 such accounts till March 8, 2019, and a total of Rs 5.46 crore had been deposited and then reversed. The SBI also said that it had credited Rs 854.85 crore in about 42,74,000 accounts till March 8, 2019, under the PM-Kisan scheme.
Similarly, the Bank of Maharashtra confirmed that some of the money deposited in the farmers’ accounts under the scheme has been deducted. The bank said that it had deposited around Rs 37.70 crore in 1,88,000 accounts so far of which Rs 61.2 lakh has been reversed.
According to this response, the money deposited under the PM’s farmer scheme has been debited by the Bank of Maharashtra from nearly 3,060 farmers’ accounts.
Meanwhile, the UCO Bank, in response to the RTI query, said that by February 24, Rs 58.38 lakh was debited from 2,919 accounts. The assistant general manager of the bank, A.K. Barua, said that the payment was reversed due to incorrect account numbers of the beneficiaries or other issues regarding Aadhaar cards.
However, upon further inquiries by The Wire about whether the account number of the beneficiaries was later corrected and payments processed again, the bank did not respond. According to data, the UCO bank had deposited Rs 30.28 crore in 1,51,000 accounts under the PM-Kisan scheme till February 24.
Another national bank, Syndicate Bank, responded to the RTI query by saying that since it needed to collect the information from different branches across the country, the information cannot be given under Section 7 (9).
In response to the RTI, Andhra Bank claimed that it had deposited around Rs 170 crore in nearly 8,54,000 accounts. Of this, Rs 90,50,02,178 had been “withdrawn”. When The Wire sought clarification, the bank’s general manager M. Satyanarayan Reddy claimed that the debited amount – which is more than Rs 90 crore – had been withdrawn by farmers.
However, he was unable to explain how the bank determined whether the withdrawal of Rs 2,000 from an account had been made from the amount deposited under the PM-Kisan scheme instead of a regular withdrawal by the account holder from his or her own savings.
Another nationalised bank, Canara Bank, has acknowledged the fact that several such cases have surfaced where the money deposited under PM-Kisan scheme was debited. However, the bank failed to provide information about the total number of such cases.
While Canara Bank has maintained that the payment was reversed because the farmers’ account numbers were incorrect, several cases have come to light where the money had been withdrawn from accounts of eligible beneficiary farmers. But the bank gave no explanation in this context. The bank claimed that a total of Rs 1,43,77,84,000 was deposited in around 7,18,892 accounts till March 20 under the PM-Kisan scheme.
Funds mysteriously deducted from farmers’ accounts
Despite an enormous number of cases of withdrawal of funds deposited under the PM-Kisan scheme, the Union agriculture ministry claims to have no knowledge of it. The Farmers’ Welfare Department of the agriculture ministry said, in response to an RTI query, that the state government is responsible for reporting such cases and that no such information has been received by the department so far.
The ministry said that Rs 60,05,48,58,000 had been deposited in the accounts of nearly 3,00,27,429 farmers as the first instalment under the PM-Kisan scheme between December 2018 and 31 March 31.
During the month of February, several media reports claimed that farmers had complained about the fact that Rs 2,000 deposited in their accounts was reversed within a few hours or days.
Mirror Now spoke to farmers in Maharashtra who showed the messages they had received on their phones and alleged that the money was withdrawn from their account without their knowledge.
Ashok Lahamage, a Maharashtra farmer, told the Hindu BusinessLine that he had received an SMS from the State Bank of India’s Sinnar (Nashik) branch, stating that Rs 2,000 had been deposited into his account. But, to his surprise, he received another text message from the bank, a few hours later, stating that the money deposited had been debited.
The news portal wrote that he was not the only farmer in Maharashtra with this complaint. Over 1,000 farmers in Nanded district in the Marathwada region of the state were shocked when they came to know that the money deposited in their accounts was withdrawn.
The National Herald also reported several such cases from the Jaunpur district in Uttar Pradesh where the money deposited in farmers’ accounts was deducted a few hours later.
Ramashankar Sharma, a resident of Baripar, said that there was a sigh of relief in his family as soon as they got a message saying that Rs 2,000 had been credited into their account.
But when he went to his bank (Union Bank of India) to update the passbook, he discovered that the credited amount had been debited back a few minutes later. Sharma has less than 0.3 acres of land. He runs a barbershop alongside to support his family.
Shamnath Pandey, who owns 1.5 acres of land in Jaunpur district, too had a similar experience. When the first instalment of Rs 2,000 was taken back, Shamnath went to the District Agricultural Officer but wasn’t given a satisfactory answer.
The Wire has e-mailed a list of questions to the CEO of the PM-Kisan scheme and the joint secretary of the ministry of agriculture. But no response has been received yet.
Responses have also been sought from several banks including the SBI and the Canara Bank. But they have not responded either.
The story will be updated if and when a response is received.
Translated from the Hindi original by Naushin Rehman.