(Photo: PTI)
(Photo: PTI)

Punjab an exception as most non-BJP states shun PM-Kisan

  • The Congress-ruled state has enrolled three-and-a-half times the number of expected beneficiaries
  • The reason behind the sharp rise in the number of beneficiaries in Punjab is the state government’s 2015 waiver of stamp duty for land registration in favour of blood relative

NEW DELHI: Though the Congress has been critical of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s marque Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi, or PM-Kisan scheme, the Captain Amarinder Singh-led Punjab government has emerged as the top performer of the income support scheme for small farmers.

In what has caught the Union government’s attention is Punjab enrolling more than three-and-a-half times the number of potential beneficiaries expected in the agrarian state.

Nitish Kumar’s Janatal Dal (United)-ruled Bihar has, meanwhile, shared details of only 2% of the beneficiaries expected in the state, which accounts for 40 Lok Sabha seats. JD(U) is the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) ally.

A controversy has also broken out over the non-BJP ruled states and Union territories, such as West Bengal, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Sikkim, over delaying the rollout of the scheme.

The reason behind the sharp rise in the number of beneficiaries in Punjab is the state government’s 2015 waiver of stamp duty for land registration in favour of blood relatives. This resulted in farmers getting their land registered in the name of their adult children, which also contributed towards smaller land holdings of less than two hectares.

According to data reviewed (as on 18 March) by Mint, against an expected potential beneficiaries list of 358,500 small and marginal farmers, the Punjab government shared data of 1.29 million farmers. Of this, the Public Financial Management System (PFMS) accepted 1.16 million as beneficiaries, and the fund transfer request for the first tranche of 2,000 was generated for 1.14 million farmers. PFMS is the government’s web-based payment-cum-accounting network.

“The scheme is doing very well except for those states which are not cooperating. Among the Congress-ruled states, Punjab has done very well. Punjab also got more beneficiaries than what was earlier envisioned," said a government official, who did not want to be named.

Mint had reported on 19 February that the scope of benefits under PM-Kisan scheme will be much broader than was initially estimated, with multiple families in a household entitled to the benefits.

“Punjab was expected to have a certain number of potential beneficiaries based on the crop census. However, the definition of holdings and farmer families are different. If there are adult children in a farmer family, even they will be considered as a beneficiary if their name is in the khaata of land records and they also own less than 2 hectares of land," the official added.

In a bid to win back the support of disgruntled farmers ahead of the general elections due in April-May, the NDA government, in its interim budget, had announced the income support scheme for small farmers. Small and marginal farmers who own less than five acres (two hectares) of land will receive three instalments of 2,000 each every year. The first tranche of 2,000 was released by Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh on 24 February. The scheme is expected to help 125 million farmer families.

“The Punjab government justified the numbers after their survey in the villages," the official said.

Till date (as on 18 March), 5,400 crore has been released into the bank accounts of 27.4 million farmers across India. Of these, around 400,000 were failed transactions, considering that some accounts were found to be deactivated and some were fixed deposit accounts.

“Potential beneficiary is only an indicative number. While the census data is based on holdings, the benefits under PM-Kisan accrue to families. So, there can be a difference in the census data and actual number of families, which has come in Punjab in a different way. In other states, it can be less or more," the official added.

With 21.48 million potential beneficiaries under the scheme in the state, UP leads the pecking order for small and marginal farmers. Of these, the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government has shared details of 16 million beneficiaries. The two heartland states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar not only account for a huge chunk of Lok Sabha seats (120), but have also been bearing the brunt of the agrarian distress.

“The maximum beneficiaries till date have been in Uttar Pradesh of around 10.65 million," added the government official cited above.

The PM-Kisan scheme is expected to cost 20,000 crore in 2018-19, and 75,000 crore in 2019-20. It will cover 86% of all farm households in India and follows the defeat of the BJP in the state elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, where agrarian distress and lack of jobs were major poll issues.

At the launch of the scheme last month, Modi had made a special mention of the BJP- and its allies-ruled state governments for having according priority to the scheme. He had also criticized the state governments ruled by the opposition parties for delaying the PM-Kisan scheme’s implementation.

Of the 8.01 potential beneficiaries in Congress-ruled Madhya Pradesh, the Kamal Nath government has shared data for only 102,046 farmer families. Similarly, another Congress-ruled state, Rajasthan, has shared details of only 127,988 farmers, compared to the potential beneficiary base of 5.01 million. The Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government and Pawan Kumar Chamling-headed Sikkim government have updated ‘zero beneficiaries’ details under the scheme. The Aam Aadmi Party-ruled Delhi government has updated the details of only ‘four beneficiaries’.

Bihar, on its part, has shared details of only 334,778 farmers, off the 15.71 million potential beneficiaries in the state.

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