Even as a large number of farmers from Punjab are protesting against the newly introduced Farm Bills, an RTI response by the Agriculture Ministry revealed that Punjab farmers form a major chunk of the total undeserving beneficiaries to receive payouts under the PM KISAN scheme. The RTI response revealed that the government had paid Rs 1,364 crores to 20.48 lakh undeserving beneficiaries under the ambitious PM-Kisan scheme.
The RTI was filed by applicant Venkatesh Nayak of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative(CHRI) seeking the list of beneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sammann Nidhi(PM-KISAN) scheme which was launched by the central government in 2019. Under this scheme, income support of Rs 6,000 per year in three equal instalments is paid to small and marginal farmer families having combined landholding or ownership of up to 2 hectares.
In its response to the RTI application, the Union Agriculture Ministry stratified into two categories of undeserving beneficiaries who received PM-KISAN payouts as “ineligible farmers” and “income tax payee farmers”. The RTI response mentioned that more than half of the undeserving beneficiaries belong to the “income tax payee category”. Institutional farmers, farmer families holding constitutional positions, serving or retired government employees as well as professionals are ineligible under the scheme.
“The remaining 44.41% belong to the ‘ineligible farmers’ category’,” Nayak said. He also cited media reports to contend that proceedings have been initiated to recover the funds transferred to undeserving beneficiaries.
Punjab farmers highest among the list of 20 lakh undeserving beneficiaries
As per data, a major part of these unqualified recipients belongs to five states—Punjab, Assam, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. However, Punjab tops the list accounting for 23.16 per cent(4.74 lakh) of total ineligible beneficiaries across the country who received payouts. Trailing Punjab is Assam with 16.87 per cent(3.45 lakh) and then Maharashtra where 13.99 per cent of 2.86 lakh beneficiaries have wrongly received the payouts.
Gujarat is the fourth position with 8.05 per cent(1.64 lakh beneficiaries), followed by Uttar Pradesh at fifth position with 8.01 per cent or 1.64 lakh beneficiaries. Sikkim has registered the lowest figure with just one undeserving beneficiary.
“The total amount of ₹1,364.13 crores was paid to recipients across the states in 68.20 lakh instalments (where each instalment of ₹2,000 paid out per recipient is counted separately). Out of this, 49.25 lakh instalments were paid to ‘IT payee farmers’ while 18.95 lakh instalments were paid to ‘ineligible farmers’ across the country,” Nayak said quoting the RTI data.
PM Kisan scheme launched to provide income support to small and marginal farmers
Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sammann Nidhi is an initiative launched by the central government under which an amount of Rs 6,000 per year is transferred in three instalments of Rs 2,000 each every four months through direct benefits transfers(DBT) directly into the bank accounts of the farmers, based on exclusion criteria related to higher-income status.
The scheme excludes several categories of farmers such as institutional landholders, farmer families in which one or more members is among beneficiaries, former and present holders of constitutional posts; former and present ministers, MPs, MLAs, MLCs, mayors and chairmen of district panchayat; serving and retired government employees; pensioners receiving over ₹10,000 monthly pensions; income tax payees and professionals such as doctors, engineers, chartered accountants and architects etc.