The Narendra Modi-led government had started the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana to give ‘minimum income support’ to small and marginal farmers of the country. But under the scheme, which was launched in February 2019, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, money has been dispersed to thousands of ineligible farmers as well.
This was revealed during a recent investigation into the scheme distributions in Maharashtra. Now, to recover the amount, notices are being sent to the farmers. And, if they refuse to return the money, legal action may be taken.
For instance, thousands of farmers have been issued such notices in Sakri Taluka in Dhule district. Similarly, the government has initiated efforts to recover funds from ineligible farmers across the country.
Pressure to Complete Targets Behind Goof-up’
But, why did such a goof-up happen? We spoke to a few officials to understand the reason behind the same and came across a ‘theory.’
Some officials, on the condition of anonymity, said that they were given a target of putting money into accounts of several farmers. In a hurry to fulfil the target, names of ineligible farmers – two people of the same family or farmers who paid income tax – were included in the list of beneficiaries of the scheme.
Pay Attention to Timeline of Scheme Implementation
Under this scheme, farmers falling into a scale fixed by the government are transferred an amount of Rs 6,000 every year. This money is deposited in three installments, of Rs 2,000 each.
- Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, PM Modi had launched the scheme on 24 February 2019.
- Gazette notification of Lok Sabha elections was released on 18 March 2019.
- The elections were decided to take place in seven phases from 11 April to 19 May. The results were to be declared on 23 May.
This means that the scheme was launched exactly one month before the announcement of the Lok Sabha elections. PM Modi launched this scheme with great vigour in Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur. On 18 March 2019, after the notification was released, 'code of conduct' came into force. Because of which, the scheme got postponed.
But now, after 10 months, when six installments of Samman Nidhi have already been received by the farmers, the central government, upon investigation, has found several ineligible beneficiaries and has issued notices of recovery.
Difficulties Faced by Farmers Who Have Been Issued Notices
Now, many of those farmers, who received the notices, are dealing with the double whammy of the coronavirus pandemic and problems of drought or floods. Archana Hire, who lives in Dhule, has been asked to return Rs 12,000.
Archana's husband says:
“When the government gave Rs 2,000 in installments, how is it asking for Rs 12,000 as a whole? No interest is also being paid for this. Last year, the onion crop that I had planted on an acre of land got destroyed due to floods. When the Tehsil officials had then asked for the documents related to the land, we gave it to them. After which, we started receiving benefits from the government. We did not ask for the money ourselves. But now, even after voting for Modi in the elections, the government is asking us to return the money. ”
‘How Do We Return the Money?’
Aruna Khairnar, who hails from a family of farmers, says, "Even though we had received the money, due to crop failure, we are not even able to pay the interest money. So, how do we return Rs 12,000."
Keeping in view the condition of these farmers, some organisations are now requesting the government for help. In the same district, Priyanka Joshi, working on farmers’ issues and known as 'Krishi Kanya,’ has demanded Dhule Collector Sanjay Yadav to stop this recovery of money.
Eligible Farmers Didn’t Receive Scheme’s Benefits
When the scheme was implemented, there was a BJP government in Maharashtra. But things changed when Assembly elections were held in Maharashtra. Now, the state is governed by Maha Vikas Aghadi and, under the Shiv Sena quota, Dadaji Bhuse is the state agriculture minister.
Meanwhile, the state government is accepting that many wrongful beneficiaries received the benefits due to the goof-ups in the scheme.
But, there are some farmers who, despite being eligible, are deprived of the benefits of the scheme. Now, to add the names of such farmers, the agriculture department of the state is initiating a district level drive.
Overall, the major fault in this scheme was that even though the government looked very confident of going digital, under the same system, there was a glitch in distributing money to the right beneficiaries and now, the sword of action is hanging over some people in the name of rectification.
Under the scheme, not more than one member of the family of the farmer receives this benefit. One is also excluded if any of the following conditions holds true:
- Income tax payers
- Serving or retired government employee
- Current or former MP, MLA or minister
- Professional doctor, engineer, lawyer, chartered accountant and architect
- People receiving pension above Rs 10,000
- Institutional landowner
(This story was first published on Quint Hindi.)