The central government has paid a massive amount to the tune of Rs 1,364 crore to 20.48 lakh “undeserving beneficiaries” under its much-touted PM-KISAN scheme between 2019 and 2020, the Agriculture Ministry’s reply to a Right to Information (RTI) query filed by the activist Venkatesh Nayak revealed.
Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sammann Nidhi (PM-KISAN), launched by the Narendra Modi-led government in December 2018, is supposed to provide income support of Rs 6,000 per year in three equal installments to small and marginal farmer families who own land up to 2 hectares. The fund is directly transferred to the bank account of beneficiaries.
RTI applicant Nayak, who is associated with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), told PTI, "More than half (55.58%) of these undeserving persons belong to the ‘income tax payee category’."
The rest 44.41% of the undeserving beneficiaries belong to the ‘ineligible farmers’ category’. The RTI reply indicates that since the commencement of the PM-KISAN Yojana, Rs 1,364.13 crore has been paid to ‘ineligible persons’ and ‘income tax payee farmers’ till July 31, 2020.
"Government's own data indicates money went into the wrong hands," Nayak said.
According to him, Punjab topped the list accounting for 23.16% (4.74 lakh) of undeserving persons across the country who received the cash transfers under the scheme. Punjab is followed by Assam with 16.87%, and Maharashtra with 13.99% The three states together account for more than half (54.03%) of the number of undeserving beneficiaries. These three states are followed by Gujarat with 8.05% and Uttar Pradesh with 8.01% of undeserving beneficiaries.
A total amount of Rs 1,364.13 crore was paid to such recipients across the states in 68.20 lakh installments, each having an amount of Rs 2,000 till July last year, according to the RTI data. The 6th round of installment was disbursed in August 2020.
Nayak said that according to certain media reports, proceedings have been initiated to recover these funds transferred to undeserving beneficiaries.
The scheme was formally launched on February 24, 2019, by PM Narendra Modi at a grand function in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh.
The scheme excludes certain categories of beneficiaries belonging to a “higher economic status,” according to the official PM-KISAN website. These categories include institutional landholders, farmer families which has persons who are former and present holders of constitutional post, former and present union or state ministers, and former or present MPs and MLAs, mayors of municipal corporations, and chairpersons of district Panchayats. It also excludes all serving or retired officers and employees of central and states government, autonomous Institutions under the government as well as regular employees of local bodies among other categories of people.
Most importantly, the PM-KISAN scheme excludes all persons who paid Income Tax in the last assessment year. At present, even after the new tax regime was introduced, individual taxpayers with a net taxable income of up to Rs 5 lakh have to pay zero tax in both the tax regimes.
(With inputs from PTI)