Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday, launched the Rs 75,000-crore Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) scheme in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, by transferring the first installment of Rs 2,000 each to over one crore farmers.

The first installment of Rs 2,000 each to over one crore farmers will be transferred on Sunday, according to PTI. Another one crore farmers are expected to be covered in the next two to three days.

The scheme, which was announced in the Interim Budget on February 1, proposes to give farmers with land up to two hectares Rs 6,000 per year in their bank accounts in three equal installments. Around 12 crore farmers are expected to benefit from the scheme. The scheme will cost the government Rs 75,000 crore in 2019-’20.

Modi addressed farmers through a video conference from Gorakhpur after launching the scheme. Chief Minister Adityanath, who was also present at the launch, praised Modi. “We would like to wish Prime Minister Narendra Modi as after gaining respect of the world as “champion of earth”, he was honoured with Seoul Peace Prize last week,” ANI quoted him as saying.

A day before he launched the scheme, Modi had said it would be be a “historic day”. “This is a scheme that will give wings to the aspirations of crores of hardworking farmers of India who feed our nation,” he had tweeted.

PM-Kisan

Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi(PM-Kisan) Scheme is an initiative by the Government of India in which 120 million small and marginal Indian farmers who have less than 2 hectares (4.9 acres) of landholding will get up to Rs. 6,000 per year as minimum income support.

The Kisan Yojna will be effective retrospectively from December 1, 2018 for transfer of benefit to eligible beneficiaries. The government has recognized 12.5 crore such beneficiaries.

The first installment – for the four-month period ending March 31, 2019 – under the scheme will be transferred to the eligible beneficiaries in the current financial year (2018-19) itself. The first installment will be transferred immediately on identification of the beneficiaries, according to the scheme document.

Quoting Aadhaar is mandatory for claiming benefits under the PM-KISAN scheme, according to the government. The transfer of subsequent installments will be done only on basis of Aadhaar-seeded database, and beneficiaries not having an Aadhaar card will have to be compulsorily enrolled under Aadhaar, according to the scheme document.

The scheme was announced by Piyush Goyal during the 2019 Interim Union budget of India on 1 February 2019. It was said that the scheme will cost Rs. 75,000 crore per annum. INR 6,000 per year will be paid to each eligible farmer in three installments and will be deposited directly to their bank accounts.

The Mammoth Task of Living Up to Its Claims

Details of only 2.4 crore of an expected 10 crore beneficiaries were uploaded to the center’s database as of February 21, according to a report in Business Standard. Most of these are from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, the report said.

The success of this scheme hinges on digitized land record databases which are linked to Aadhaar numbers so that beneficiaries can be first identified and later verified. Land records in India, however, are notoriously complicated, with each state having inherited different methods of recording ownership from before Independence.

The United Progressive Alliance government started a programme to digitize land records in 2008. This is still ongoing. According to department of land resources, across India 72.4% of all land records have been digitized but only 5.6% of these have been linked to Aadhaar. The purification or ground verification of these databases is a process that can take years.

For now, the Centre has waived the requirement for Aadhaar for the PM-KISAN scheme until the next installment in the coming financial year. It has also defined a long list of exclusions. Households in which a member has or had a government job, pensioners, income tax payers and private working professionals will be excluded from the scheme. However, these exclusions will only be self-certified, raising questions about how many will be excluded.

A Hurried Decision

In Uttar Pradesh, where the scheme has been inaugurated, 92.57% of land records have been computerized, but only 1% have been linked with Aadhaar. State revenue officials have been working overtime on the scheme since its announcement, said the pradhan of a village in the state’s Kaushambi district. Districts have been conducting contests for the best-performing tehsils (sub-districts), to encourage the scheme.

Everyone from the district magistrate to the lekhpals are engaged only in this scheme to complete uploading the names,” the sarpanch, who asked not to be identified, said. While land records have been digitized, they have not been verified, she added. This means that if a husband and wife are working on the same land, it is possible that they could both get the benefit in the first installment.

Meanwhile, given the scale of work, lekhpals – the clerks who typically are responsible for maintaining land records of around 10 to 15 villages – have outsourced the work of uploading applications to local people who in turn charge applicants for the work, she said.

The decision to provide Minimum Income Support hence comes as a spontaneous move in order to boost Narendra Modi’s campaign for 2019 Lok Sabha elections. This also comes across as desperate measures being taken in order to please the lower strata of the society who were extensively involved in BJP’s shock defeat in the recent state election results of Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan wherein BJP lost all three.

Neither New Nor Path Breaking

Rythu BIMA: Farmers Insurance scheme, introduced by Telangana government with no exceptions and exclusions

Chanting ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan‘, Modi slammed the opposition alleging that they remember farmers once in 10 years – just before elections. 

Although as claimed, Modi’s ‘historic‘ scheme is not the first of its kind. Telangana’s experience might be representative of the level of scrutiny other states will ideally have to bring to the scheme. The state already has a database of farmers with their bank records thanks to its Rythu Bandhu scheme, which provides Rs 9,500 per annum to all agricultural landholders, with no exclusions. The state will take a few days over the deadline to finish uploading the list of beneficiaries to the Center’s website.

We have a database of around 50 lakh farmers who are beneficiaries of the Rythu Bandhu scheme,” said C Partha Sarathi, Agriculture Production Commissioner of Telangana. “We expect around half of these to be eligible for the PM-KISAN scheme.

Odisha had also already begun to implement direct benefit transfer schemes before the Budget announcement. Its KALIA scheme, short for the Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation, provides assistance to four categories of beneficiaries: small and marginal farmers, landless agriculture workers, sharecroppers and vulnerable agricultural households. The first payments under this scheme were sent out on January 26 and the second in the middle of February.

The exclusions in the first set of beneficiaries KALIA are very similar to that of PM-KISAN,” said Sourav Garg, secretary of agriculture in the state. “We engaged thousands of staff for two months to verify this database, which is how we identified 32.2 lakh people. We will upload this database for PM-KISAN.

Quoting the Opposition

Many opposition leaders took to twitter to slam BJP’s move to provide minimum income support.

Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of CPI said,” Modi throws a pittance to few land owners as a sop just before elections, with no concern for our annadatas as we have seen since 2014. Farmers have never suffered after independence, as in the last few years and the only thing Modi cares for are his PR shoots and rich friends.

Mayawati, Former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh also took jibes at the scheme saying, “Giving @ Rs 17 per day to few farmers just before Lok Sabha elections is pure hoodwinking. BJP reflects poor in their thinking towards farmers and solving their misery. BJP misused govt power & machinery in a brazen manner and still not hesitating.

Akhilesh Yadav, Former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and leader of Samajwadi Party, P. Chidambaram, former Finance Minister and member of opposition and Rahul Gandhi, leader of opposition followed suit to criticize the government on the populist short term measures being taken to please the masses before the elections by providing them meager amount of money.

A Commendable Step With Many Loopholes

The government is self aware of the job crisis that is prevalent in the country and the NSSO (National Sample Survey Office) data is evidence to it, citing unemployment rate at a 45-year high. According to India Economic Survey 2018, the agriculture sector alone provides employment to 50% of the Indian work force and contributes 17-18% to country’s GDP. If the migration from farmlands towards urban areas increases, there would be an employment crisis in the country.

Hence, by providing a basic income support for the farmers, the government can bring a halt to the massive migration patterns that are prevalent in India.

It remains debatable that the Minimum Support is only a political showdown before the elections and is criticized by the farmers union who have been extremely disappointed as they had hoped for a complete loan waiver from the interim Budget.

As per the census of 2010-11, Maharashtra has over one crore agricultural labourers, 1,08,15,262 to be exact, and majority of them are landless labourers. So, while they are the first to feel the brunt of an agricultural crisis, landless labourers will not be eligible for the scheme.
Finally, this scheme amounts to little less than Rs 17 per day, and has been called a ‘joke’ and a ‘pittance’ by farmers from Maharashtra.

Despite all the loopholes, the move to provide basic income support to the farmers can be understood to be the first stepping stone at a union level with lots of amendments to be made.

For the past one decade, over 15,000 farmers in India have been taking their own lives each year. The report of the National Crime Records Bureau, Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India – 2010, says 15,964 farmers committed suicide in 2010. The report has drawn a baseline of 15,000 farmer suicides each year since 2001 which accounts to 45 suicides everyday.  Farmer suicides have been increasing at an alarming rate through the last two decades and any step taken to provide relief to the farmers should be lauded.

Image Credits: DownToEarth, RythuBandhu.telengana.gov.in, DNA News, ZeeBusiness

Sources: Scroll.in, KrishiJagran.com, NDTV, FirstPost

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