Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi- an ambitious project launched by the centre in the Interim Budget to provide income support to peasants has hit a roadblock after farmer organisations on Thursday, February 21, alleged that a significant part of peasants will not be able to get the financial assistance till the end of this financial year.
The All India Kisan Sabha stated that a letter issued by the centre, mandating uploading of documents by February 20, was received by most states on February 16, with the intervening period including a Sunday.
Around 12 crore farmer households holding less than 2 hectares of land are eligible to get the annual income assistance of Rs. 6,000 in three instalments under the scheme. The AIKS has argued that carrying out the mammoth exercise of uploading documents within such a short period is not possible and dates must be extended if the Centre is serious about providing any relief to the peasantry which is facing an unprecedented crisis. In a statement, it said that the farmers are entitled to get a meagre Rs. 500 a month or Rs. 17 a day, and even then, it is not serious about the help.
A closer observation of the scheme reveals that the uploading of peasants’ documents is not the only obstacle in providing the relief due to the peasants. The scheme appears to be replete with lacunae which may deprive large sections of peasantry.
In his interim budget speech, Piyush Goel said the scheme will require Rs 25,000 crore to pay the first instalment of Rs 2000 to 12.5 crore peasant households. But the centre has only allotted Rs 20,000 crore to implement it. Thus, it is likely that all peasant families will not get the promised entitlement. It is interesting that the centre made a provision for Rs 75000 crore in the next fiscal year but kept a deficit of Rs 5000 crore in the present year. It is still unclear if NDA will be re-elected in the general elections likely to take place in April- May this year.
Also Read: Budget 2019: Behind Chest Thumping, Cuts in Welfare and Silence on Jobs
The scheme also mandates that the beneficiaries will be chosen by the state. The state can make its list based on the digital land records but Ministry of Rural Development data suggest that only 89 per cent villages have their land records digitised and approximately 19,000 villages still lack digital records. Additionally, only 47 per cent approved modern record rooms are working in different districts which will subsequently make completion of digitisation of land records more difficult.
Aadhaar, Civil Disputes and Bank Accounts: The Interesting Trinity
Another glaring defect of the scheme appears in the form of claiming the ownership of land by their owners. Since the scheme will only entertain the owners of the land, the legal heir who have inherited the land after their father's demise and failed to update land records may also lose out the entitlement. As per the law ministry data, two-thirds of civil disputes in courts deal with land disputes over ownership and determination of beneficiary still remains a distant task.
Another big obstacle in the way of universal implementation lies in Aadhaar and bank Accounts. The scheme makes it mandatory for beneficiaries to possess Aadhaar card or Aadhaar enrolment number. Simultaneously, the number must be linked with land records and bank accounts. While the centre may claim that crores of accounts were opened but their link to facilitate social exclusion is still missing.
But the most important aspect is related with landless tenants or sharecroppers who have been completely left out from the ambit of the scheme. Talking to NewsClick, Sanjay Parate, President of Chhattisgarh Kisan Sabha said that the scheme was introduced by the centre after a collective peasants’ movement demanded a pension of Rs. 5,000 per peasant.
He said, "Our foremost concern is that the government is asking peasants to make applications for the scheme. It clearly indicates that it is an election gimmick and the central government is using it to attract voters. The government has land records and the help of gram panchayats should have been sought in case of any confusion, and the funds could have been easily transferred. By inviting applications, the centre has made it a long exercise which will not be completed before elections."
Read More: Interim Budget: A Blast of Hot Air