By Prabhudatta Mishra
When the Narendra Modi government chose not to hike the amount for the PM-Kisan scheme in the latest Budget despite its extension to ‘all farmers’ (about 14 crore) in its first Cabinet meeting on May 31, many thought it was a case of under-funding. However, the government could end up saving a tidy amount from the Rs 75,000 crore budgeted for the popular scheme that helped the NDA return to power.
According to sources, among the major states, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh have uploaded only 11% and 9%, respectively, of the relevant farmer data on the official portal so far.
West Bengal is sticking to its decision not to participate in the scheme. So, for the four-month period of April-July 2019, the scheme’s beneficiaries will be around 8 crore only. That leaves some Rs 5.8 crore potentially eligible farmers out, and would mean a saving of some Rs 11,500 crore for the government right away.
An official source, however, said faster the scheme’s beneficiary list widens in the remaining period of the fiscal, the government could end up saving at least Rs 15,000 crore from the estimated cost of Rs 83,000 crore to transfer Rs 6,000 each to the bank accounts of all the target population.
“We have made it clear to states that the instalment of Rs 2,000 each for the April-July period will be paid only on the basis of data available on the portal as on July 31,” an agriculture ministry official said. Anyone who finds herself in the beneficiary list after July will be paid only for the August-November period, he said adding that benefits won’t be distributed with retrospective effect.
So far, states have submitted data of 7.4 crore farmers, of which 5.5 crore have been validated by the Centre and the remaining are under different stages of the verification process, the official said.
When the scheme was announced by the then finance minister Piyush Goyal during his interim Budget speech in February, he said it would benefit 12 crore farmers owning up to 2 hectares land, with each getting Rs 6,000 in a year in three equal instalment of Rs 2,000 each. The scheme, estimated to cost Rs 75,000 crore annually, took retrospective effect from December 1, 2018. In its first Cabinet meeting after returning to power in May, the NDA government approved inclusion of an additional two crore farmers under the PM-Kisan scheme.
Out of an estimated 1.64 crore farmers in Bihar, only about 18 lakh data have been validated while in Madhya Pradesh the validation has been concluded for about 13 lakh out of 1.45 crore farmers. Even Maharashtra has uploaded data of only 23% of its 1.44 crore farmers until July 18. West Bengal is the only state which has not furnished any data to the Centre for PM-Kisan.
Uttar Pradesh has been able to pass on the PM-Kisan benefit to nearly half of its 2.33 crore farmers. In Gujarat, nearly 60% of the estimated 53.4 lakh farmers have got the benefit so far. In Punjab, the beneficiary data submitted by the state and even validated by the Centre is higher than estimated beneficiaries.
Former Union agriculture secretary Siraj Hussain said Punjab’s land holding pattern is different from other states. There is large scale leasing out of land that resulted in lower number of operational holdings than the actual number of farmers.