April 8, According to a recent news report, Modi government’s much hyped scheme of giving small and marginal farmers Rs. 6,000 as ‘income support’ has started functioning and Rs. 5,940 crore have been transferred to 2.97 crore farmers – Rs. 2,000 each as first instalment. Sounds good till you start digging deeper.
Only A Third of Target Farmers Got Money – And Modi Knew It
The report quotes an unnamed “senior agriculture department official” as saying that actually various states had sent data of 4.76 crore farmers out of which “discrepancies” were found in the data of 76 lakh farmers. So, these have been junked. That left 4 crore farmers. Out of that 2.97 crore have been given the dole and the remaining 1.03 crore will get it this month. He is also quoted as saying that the second instalment will also be given out this month to all 4 crore farmers.
The scheme, officially called PM Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN), was announced in the Budget Session of Parliament in February this year, with the first instalment for January to March covered under the financial year 2018-19, and subsequent ones in the next financial year 2019-20.
It was also declared with great fanfare that all small and marginal farmers – numbering some 12.5 crore – will get this money. (Modi forgot about the tenant farmers who are all small and marginal and number some 2.1 crore as per estimates.) There have been reports of how quickly the government has moved and how it is supposedly spreading goodwill and cheer among the hapless small farmer communities across the country.
But just about one fourth of the target 12.5 crore farmers have received the first instalment. And, already 76 lakh farmers have been rejected.
Only Handful of States Get All ‘Benefits’
A look at the state-wise breakup provided by the same report brings out a bizarre fact. Of the 2.97 crore farmers who got the money, 1.11 crore or nearly a third were from a single state – Uttar Pradesh. Another 1.15 crore were from five states (Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Gujarat and Maharashtra). The rest – 71 lakh – were thinly distributed across the remaining 30 states and Union Territories.
Is this some political ploy or what? It appears that the high-flying scheme is meeting real India in a hurry. The political ploy was the scheme itself – announced just weeks before the Lok Sabha elections and with intent of assuaging angry farmers. But the only way it could have delivered was to identify the small and marginal farmers (those with 2 hectares or less land possessed) quickly before the Model Code of Conduct kicked in.
Now, land records in India are going through a tortuous process of digitisation for several years, since UPA times. There are several problems – infrastructure is not yet in place, lakhs of land disputes are in court, titles are in the name of ancestors, mutations have not been recorded and so on. According to a Parliament reply, among the larger states, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Kerala, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand are still in the process of digitisation while in the North East, some states haven’t even started yet.
That is why, only 4.76 crore farmers were actually the target in the first instalment, with 76 lakh getting rejected. Of that, money transfer could be affected only for 2.9 crore farmers.
So – take a step back and have a look again. Of the much tomtommed 12.5 crore small and marginal farmers, only 2.97 crore have actually got the paltry Rs. 2,000 and – so says the unnamed official – another 1.03 crore will get it this month.
Why Was PM Kisan Doomed?
Modi has been trying to give the impression that he has ordered the money to be delivered to bank accounts of all the 12.5 crore farmers but some states are creating obstacles. That’s not correct. Most states have not been able to create digital land records, including many of the BJP ruled states and those (like MP and Chhattisgarh) that had BJP rule for 15 years continuously till they lost last December. Modi’s party, the BJP itself is an obstacle to the delivery of this money.
Surely, Modi and his party’s ministers would have known that this was the dismal state of affairs of digital land records and hence it would be impossible to deliver the promise. Yet, they blithely went ahead in claiming that income support will be given to 12.5 crore farmers.
The possibility that the remaining 8.5 crore or so farmers will get the money in this election season is zero. The Election Commission has said that only those beneficiaries whose names were received by the Central Government before the Model Code of Conduct kicked in on March 10 are allowed to get the money. In any case, it is impossible that in this election season any substantial number of digitisations could be added.
Finally, the question is this: does the money transfer to 4 crore farmers really swing the vote towards a beleaguered Modi and his BJP? It is doubtful going by ground reports from across the country. While many farmers are reportedly saying that Rs. 2,000 is nothing considering their losses and debt, there are an equally large number who are angry at not having got anything at all.
Recent opinions by talking heads on TV talk shows and even so called opinion polls are making a forced effort to suggest that PM-KISAN scheme and its meagre charity will create an uptick in popularity. This looks very unlikely. Even among the states where substantial number of farmers have got the dole, Modi and his party are struggling to stem the erosion.