It was the government’s most ambitious announcement in the interim budget, a Rs 75,000 crore scheme promising direct cash transfer to an estimated 12 crore small and marginal farmers across India. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojna in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh (UP) and with the elections around the corner, UP and the eastern region in particular are crucial for all parties.
The government’s officials have passed on Rs 1.01 crore beneficiaries as identified, they claimed that the states like UP, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana are leading in identifying the list of beneficiaries. States governed by the opposition like Kerala, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh seems to be lagging behind.
West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh (MP) are likely to skip the launch with both states having questioned the merits of the scheme. MP has also raised questions over what it calls an aggressive deadline by the central government.
Siraj Hussain, the former agricultural secretary discussed the scheme further.
“In 2014, this government had set up Shanta Kumar Committee under the chairmanship of Mr Shanta Kumar who was minister for food and public distribution in Vajpayee government. That committee had given several recommendations including reduction in food subsidy by reducing the number of people covered under national food security act from 67 percent to about 40 percent. Similarly, they had made several recommendations relating to direct benefit transfer (DBT) of fertiliser subsidy. However, the government did not make much effort to build a consensus for direct payment of subsidies and as a result of that these subsidies have continued and now this scheme has come. I very much doubt – this government of course cannot do it but even for the next government it is not going to be easy especially if there is no clear majority,” he said.
In terms of prices of many of the commodities, he added that, “The rabi crop arrivals will start in about a month’s time especially in Gujarat and Rajasthan where arrivals take place a little earlier than Punjab and Haryana. In Punjab and Haryana, the major wheat crop growing areas – the arrivals peak in the middle of April. It is not realistic to think that the government will be able to procure all the commodities. However, I do think that this year the mustard crop is going to be very good. As a result of that, it is possible that the prices of mustard may go much below minimum support price (MSP). Some tinkering of import duty may also be allowed because I understand that due to a bilateral treaty with Indonesia and Malaysia, the duty rates have come down even in comparison to other Southeast Asian countries. So a lot of tweaking of these things will require. I only hope that even during the election campaign, the officers will find time and the ministers will give them the authority to take these decisions.”