The central government will on the same day make the first instalment of Rs. 2000 in the bank account of beneficiary farmers.
It is expected that nearly 25 million farmers will get the first instalment in the account by March 31.
Agriculture continues to be the main driver of the rural economy. Our hard-working farmers, supported by pro-farmer policies of our Government, have produced agriculture commodities in record quantities and led India to become one of the leading producers of food crops in the world.
Farmer in crisis
Declining prices of agricultural commodities in the international market and fall in food inflation in India since 2017-18, relative to the non-food sector, have, however, reduced the farmer’s income. Small and fragmented land holding on account of repeated divisions has also contributed in a reduced income of the farmer family. Hence, there is a need for providing structured income support to the poor land-holder farmer families in the country for procuring inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, equipment, labour etc. and to meet other needs. Such support will help them in avoiding indebtedness as well and falling into clutches of money lenders.
The government has launched a historic welfare programme named Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) to provide assured income support to the small and marginal farmers, funded by the Government of India.
Under PM-KISAN programme, vulnerable landholding farmer families, having cultivable land up to 2 hectares, will be provided direct income support at the rate of Rs 6,000 per year. This income support will be transferred directly into the bank accounts of beneficiary farmers, in three equal instalments of Rs 2,000 each.
It has been estimated that around 12 crore small and marginal farmer families in the country will be benefitted from this. The programme became effective from 1st December 2018 and the first instalment for the period up to 31st March 2019 would be paid in due course.
Following the release of the first instalment soon after the launch, the second instalment under the scheme can also be transferred after April 1.
This programme will entail an annual expenditure of Rs 75,000 crore.
The Budgetary allocation of the Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Ministry has been raised by around 2.5 times from Rs 58,358 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 1,41,174.37 crore in 2019-20. Comparing five year period, during UPA government (2009-14), it was Rs 1,21,082 crore and during Modi government (2014-19), it is an increase of 74.5% to Rs 2,11,694 crore. In fact, the budgetary allocation of Rs 1, 41,174.37 crore in 2019-20 is 16.6% more than Rs 1,21,082 crore during UPA (2009-14).
Some issues related to the PM-KISAN scheme
The Centre’s newly launched PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana, an assured income support scheme for farmers, has come down with the criticism that it will barely cover the per-hectare expenses on pesticides in many states, leave alone operational or overall cultivation costs.
The cost of cultivation widely varies from state to state. For instance, operational costs that include labour, fertiliser, pesticides, irrigation of paddy is Rs52,678/hectare in Andhra Pradesh and Rs24,843/hectare in Jharkhand, according to data provided by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices. The cost will be higher if we include rental value of owned land, interest on fixed capital and land revenue.
Amid the rising cost of cultivation, while the income support is too little, another problem that has surfaced is that the government may find it more challenging to transfer the amount since most states do not have any credible database of farmland holdings.
According to NITI Aayog vice-chairman Rajiv Kumar, the Centre has written to all the states to prepare database of beneficiaries of small and marginal farmers in villages under the PM-KISAN which will be displayed in the gram panchayat notice board. According to the agriculture census 2015-16, small and marginal farmers constitute about 86% of the total number of farmers in the country, estimated at 14.57 crore.
“There has been a database of farmers in states like Telangana and Karnataka on the basis of landholding. The Centre will have to depend on secondary data from other schemes like soil health card and the Prime Minister Fasal Bima Yojana to identify beneficiaries,” said former Union agriculture secretary Siraj Hussain. The secondary data may not be foolproof and it is even unlikely to be available for the entire 12 crores in such a short period as by March, he said.
For the scheme, a Budget outlay of Rs75,000 crore has been provided for 2019-20 and Rs20,000 crore for December-March this fiscal. The idea is to transfer Rs 6,000 in three equal instalments in a year to some 12 crore small and marginal farmers with less than 2 hectares of land. The scheme has been implemented with retrospective effect from December 2018 and the first tranche is expected to be transferred to the bank accounts of farmers before March 31.
The government intends to pay beneficiaries through a direct transfer to their bank accounts. From the second instalment, Aadhaar numbers will be compulsory to access benefits.
The central government had already written a letter to all state governments asking for details of farmers falling under the ambit of this scheme.
States like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu have shown an active interest in sending the list.