PM-KISAN challenge: Centre may end up spending only a fifth before elections -Jitendra

-Down to Earth

Lack of land records, poor Aadhar-linkage can cap disbursement at Rs 3,500 cr this financial year

The Narendra Modi government may have to be content spending less than a fifth of what it allocated for its much-touted Pradhan Mandhri KIsan SAmman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) for whatever remains of the current financial year. The lack of detailed land records and gaps in Aadhar-linkages for bank accounts can be major roadblocks.

Union minister Piyush Goyal announced PM-KISAN to give “vulnerable landholding farmer families” Rs 6,000 a year in the Vote-on-Account he tabled before the Lok Sabha on February 1, 2019. A large section called the scheme a potential game-changer before the 2019 General Elections for the incumbent government.

The programme was made effective retroactively, from December 1, 2018. Thus, every family holding land less than 2 hectares would get Rs 2,000 for the 2018-19 financial year. For this Goyal provided Rs 20,000 crore in his Revised Estimates for the year, considering “around 12 crore small and marginal farmer families are expected to benefit”.

Government sources, however, said only Rs 3,500 crore could be potentially spent by March, when the financial year ends. Anyway, after that the Election Commission’s Model Code of Conduct will kick in, tying up the government machinery.

The lack of data is a major obstacle: According to Agriculture Census 2015-16, 86.2 per cent of landholdings were marginal (up to 1 hectare) or small (1-2 hectare). But they totalled only 47.3 per cent of India’s crop land (157.14 million hectares). Thus, the country’s 12.6 crore small and marginal farmers together owned 74.4 million hectares.

But how does the government reach them? The status of land-holding records are not uniform across states, nor are the levels of bank accounts linked with Aadhar — the potential gateway for the Centre to transfer the money to farmers.

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Down to Earth, 5 February, 2019,

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