COVID-19: Fin Min Disguised Existing Entitlement of Farmers as ‘New’ Relief Package
Amid the ongoing country-wide lockdown to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 26, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a package amounting to Rs 1.7 lakh crore claiming to provide some relief to the poorer and disadvantaged sections of the people. As part of this, she stated, Rs 2,000 will be transferred to each of the accounts of 8.6 crore farmers registered under the PM-KISAN scheme.
However, this announcement does not qualify to be a relief but just data fiddling as the move is simply paying the first installment of the income support scheme to the farmers, which is already allocated in the Budget 2020-21. Besides, the government did not even mention what it is going to do for crores of eligible farmers who have not been included in the scheme.
As per the Ministry of Agriculture data, there are over 14 crore farmers eligible for the PM-KISAN scheme. That is, nearly six crore farmers (only 8.6 crore farmers, who are beneficiaries, will receive the first installment) will not receive even this meagre amount in these telling times. Under the scheme, an income support of Rs 6,000 per year is to be provided to over 14 crore farmers across the country in three equal installments of Rs 2,000 each every four months.
“It is shocking that the Finance Minister attempted to disguise the existing entitlement of farmers under PM-KISAN to receive Rs 2000 in April as a new relief and misled the nation. Even if there was no pandemic in India, farmers would have received this sum of Rs 2,000 in April,” said Yogendra Yadav of Jai Kisan Andolan in a statement.
It is to be noted that the rabi crop across the country is now in different stages of harvesting, rendering this time very crucial for farmers. They are now tasked with cutting the crop, processing and selling the crop produce in respective markets. But the lockdown has already introduced several hurdles for farmers from doing so.
“Standing crop worth thousands of crores is ready for harvesting. But the restriction imposed by state governments and the central government is going to make the task of harvesting impossible in many parts of the country,” stated the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) and All India Agricultural Workers’ Union (AIAWU) in a letter to the Prime Minister on Thursday, March 27, demanding the government to ensure immediate financial allocation for food and livelihood support to the communities associated with agriculture.
AIKS and AIAWU are demanding the central government to provide Rs 5,000 as assistance for one month to ensure food and livelihood security to 70 crore adult citizens.
In contrast to the central government, several state governments are taking up the concerns of farmers. For instance, the Left front-led Kerala Government has declared the harvest of standing crops as an essential service during this lockdown, while the Telangana Government under the Telangans Rashtra Samithi has promised to procure all the farm produce directly from farmers in their respective villages.
Farmers’ bodies are also demanding the central and state governments to declare moratorium on all loans for a period of one year, subject to review after control of the pandemic.
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