The Tamil Nadu government has admitted that around 5.5 lakh ineligible people have received cash benefits from the Prime Minister Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) Yojana to the tune of around Rs 110 crore. But, the farmers’ association have alleged that a higher number of ineligible beneficiaries to the tune of 12 lakh had actually benefitted from the cash relief.
Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami has blamed the Union government for the scam citing the self registration process, but the farmers’ associations have blamed the state government for not acting swiftly on their complaints of irregularities in the month of May itself.
The state government has ordered an enquiry by the Crime Branch Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) while the opposition parties have demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation enquiry into the scam. Many officials of the Agriculture Department and private computer centres have been arrested in the scam since September 2. Around 80 employees of the agriculture scheme works have been dismissed.
‘STATE GOVERNMENT DIDN'T ACT’
The number of farmers registered for the PM-KISAN scheme amounts to around 46 lakh from the state of which 5 lakh registrations have taken place in the months of June and July. The beneficiaries were approved without field visits by the Agriculture Department officials due to the pandemic related duties allotted to them.
Meanwhile, the farmers’ organisations have accused that the political leaders of the state and central ruling parties in collusion with the private computer centres have carried out the work of registering ineligible people in the scheme.
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P Shanmugam, general secretary of Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam said, “The malpractices have started after the lockdown was implemented and peaked in the months of June and July as the second installment was due in August. Our organisation and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) submitted complaints on the irregularities on May 14 to the district collector of Kallakurichi. No action was taken then and now a huge scam has been exposed.”
‘CONDUCT DETAILED ENQUIRY’
The higher officials of the Agricultural Department have also allegedly shared their login credentials with the private computer centre employees on the insistence of the local leaders of the ruling party to approve the beneficiaries. This led to large scale enrollment leading to the transfer of funds to the ineligible people.
Some officials have been dismissed and arrested while few intermediate persons have also been put behind the bars. But, the opposition parties and farmers’ organisations have demanded to bring out the nexus behind the scam.
“The government and the principal secretary of agriculture have informed that 5.5 lakh ineligible persons from 13 districts were registered. But, we suspect that around 12 lakh people have been registered across all districts of the state. This has happened due to the lethargic attitude of the government on complaints submitted earlier itself,” added Shanmugam.
‘PROBE ROLE OF BJP AND AIADMK LEADERS’
The mediators have taken advantage of the lockdown to insist the agriculture department officials approve the applications pushed through by them, the farmers’ associations further alleged. These middlemen have forced the people to pay them Rs 2,000 as commission in two installments, since they would receive Rs 6,000 for the years to come.
The general public which has been left with no work and wages owing to the unplanned lockdown were misguided by these middlemen. The people were informed that the money from the state and Union governments was ‘corona money’, as per the statement of the principal secretary of agriculture.
“The local leaders of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are known for making publicity of the schemes of the government. We demand an investigation on the role of the leaders of these two parties to find the ongoing nexus which cheated the people and the government,” Shanmugam demanded.
The influence of the middlemen was so huge that one computer centre in Sankarapuram taluk in Kallakurichi district alone registered around 25,000 beneficiaries. The district also tops in the list of highest number of ineligible persons with a staggering 2 lakh beneficiaries as per a recent report in Tamil media.
CM BLAMES UNION GOVERNMENT
The CM has squarely blamed the Union government for implementing the scheme with self registration. “The state government wanted the approval to take place on verification of the status of the farmers by the agriculture officer. But the Union government relaxed the procedure and permitted the farmers to register using Aadhar or ration cards. Self registration was the reason behind the issue,” the CM saId to the media in Tiruvannamalai, another district with higher number of ineligible beneficiaries.
The timing of the introduction of the scheme in February 2019, prior to the general elections has also been questioned. The subsequent disparities in disbursing the benefits to the farmers has drawn flak too.
An enquiry has been ordered into the enrolments made in the scheme after April 1. The government has also claimed that around Rs 32 crore have been recovered so far. The farmers’ associations have demanded not to withdraw the benefits for the eligible farmers.
“This is the only scheme of the Union government which provides a minor cash relief to the farmers. The state and union governments must ensure eligible farmers continue to receive the relief and that the remaining eligible farmers are enrolled in the scheme,” Shanmugam said.
Also read: Farmer Suicides in Tamil Nadu Rose 6% During 2019: NCRB