Swiftly Transfer Subsequent Instalments Under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi
The government will pay 100 million farmers Rs 2,000 each by the end of March and will be able to swiftly transfer subsequent instalments under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PMKISAN) scheme for small landholders, minister of state for agriculture Gajendra Shekhawat told ET.
The minister said the first payment may not be as easy as subsequent transfers. “Distribution of the second part would be easier as all the beneficiaries will have their bank accounts linked with Aadhaar to make the process swift,” he said.
Experts and former bureaucrats said the rollout could face challenges, particularly in big states such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where land records may not have been fully digitised.
Speed would be of the essence with polls due in a few months. Shekhawat said the government has asked states for lists of eligible farmers, but the Centre already had a wealth of data for the scheme.“We have the database of majority of the farmers as they are already our beneficiaries of various subsidy schemes,” he said. “Moreover, soil health card is also our main source of data. I don’t think any state would like to lag behind in this exercise.” Economic affairs secretary Subhash Chandra Garg said the agriculture ministry would go all out to implement the scheme. “They would do it on a campaign mode to get it as fast as possible,” Garg told ET in a postbudget interview.
“The basic criterion is ready. Small and marginal farmers owning land of up to 2 hectares need to be identified.” Interim finance minister Piyush Goyal said in his budget speech that in the current fiscal, Rs 20,000 crore will be provided for the scheme, effective December 1, 2018, to help farmers owning up to 2 hectares. This amount is enough to pay 100 million farmers one instalment of Rs 2,000. In the next fiscal, Rs 75,000 crore has been allocated, which can pay 120 million farmers three such instalments.
Experts said the scheme faces challenges. Former agriculture secretary Siraj Hussain said PM-KISAN was a good scheme that could be the precursor to a Universal Basic Income (UBI) in a few years. He said that implementation would be difficult, although the government had asked states on February 1 to prepare a database of small and marginal farmer families and link it to an ID, mobile number and bank details and that Aadhaar would not be required for the first instalment.
“In a normal situation, this exercise would take at least six months even in states having better data of land records,” he said. “Since the Centre is pushing very hard, it is possible that at least in some districts of every state, such a transfer would be possible before March 31.”
Landholding data for farmer eligibility is available in the agriculture census of 2015-16, the last such survey. It shows 86.2% of the farmers cultivate less than 2 hectares each. This makes 125.6 million farmers eligible for the cash transfer scheme. The largest number, 22.1 million, is in Uttar Pradesh, the state that’s key to the 2019 general election.
Officials in some states including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan said they had not received any communication from the Centre so far.
“If we get any message, we will definitely provide them with all the details,” said PK Goyal, additional chief secretary of Rajasthan's agriculture department. “We are there to help our farmers get all the benefits they are eligible for.” Collection of details will involve various levels of the administration. “The key is the time it takes,” said a senior bureaucrat. “The state agriculture department will write to district collectors, who will ask sub divisional magistrates, tehsildars and patwaris (land record keepers) to collect the required information. The process is easier in states with digital land records but would be a big challenge in most of the states.”
Former agriculture secretary PK Basu also said implementation would be a challenge.
“The scheme looks fancy,” he said. “But implementation on the ground would be a big challenge, especially in most populated states such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where digitisation of land records is not in proper order. Implementation in southern and western parts of the country like Karnataka, Kerala, Gujarat and Maharashtra would be much easier.”
He said that in states like Odisha, Jharkhand and Telangana, where state governments have already rolled out similar cash credit schemes, the government can easily make headway. Digitised land records were critical to the Telangana Rythu Bandhu scheme.
“State governments will be under pressure,” Basu said. “If, say, a farmer in Odisha gets the cash benefit, his contemporary in Bihar will curse the state government if he is denied due to delay in furnishing database. There will be a political fallout of this in an election year. So no state government will like to miss the bus.”
By BOA Bureau