(Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint)
(Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint)

Scope of PM-Kisan may be wider than perceived

  • Govt aims to reach all beneficiaries before model code of conduct comes into force
  • The PM-Kisan scheme is expected to cost 20,000 crore in 2018-19, and 75,000 crore in 2019-20

NEW DELHI : The scope of benefits under the newly minted Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi, or PM-Kisan scheme, is much broader than initially believed, government clarifications reveal. Multiple families in a household would be entitled to the benefits, implying a much larger accrual than the annual 6,000 per family.

Revealing this, Vivek Agrawal, chief executive officer of PM-Kisan scheme, said in an interview that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will release the first tranche of direct income transfer of 2,000 from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh on 24 February. The government proposes to reach all beneficiaries before the model code of conduct comes into effect for the general elections. “The basic structure is that you have to conform to the definition of a family. The definition of the family is husband, wife and minor children. So, if there is a major child, who may have his own family and he is part of the common khaata (revenue record)…then he or she will be treated as a separate family," said Agrawal.

Such families can avail a direct income transfer of 6,000 per year if they meet the criteria. In a bid to win back the support of disgruntled farmers after poll defeats ahead of general election due in April-May, the government in its interim budget announced an 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, with the scheme having an eligibility cut-off date of 1 February.

“And if married or unmarried, but he is major and his name is in the khaata of land records and he also owns less than 2 hectares of land, then he is eligible for taking the benefit. So, there may be people living in the same house, tilling land which is commonly tilled but having different names in the khaata and being major, they will all be eligible for the benefit," added Agrawal.

The political optics around the scheme’s launch venue is not lost, given that UP sends the largest number of MPs to Parliament. The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) that provides free cooking gas connections to the poor was also launched from UP. The PM-Kisan scheme is expected to help 120 million farmer families.

Experts termed the scheme as marking a good beginning.

“Over a period of time, one would also expect a reform in subsidies. It will not stop here and is the beginning towards the universal basic income (UBI)," said Siraj Hussain, former secretary, agriculture to government of India. UBI is a form of social security guaranteed to all citizens and transferred directly to their bank accounts.

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 Bharatiya Janata Party in the recently held state elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, where agrarian distress and the lack of jobs were major poll issues. In the recent past, several states have launched their own farm income support schemes—for instance, 8,000 per acre per year in Telangana and 10,000 per farmer family per year in Odisha.

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