It was the government 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.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 24 launched the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Scheme from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh. With elections around the corner, Uttar Pradesh and the eastern region, in particular, is crucial for all parties. There are 41 Lok Sabha seats here and the Congress Party has made Priyanka Gandhi the in-charge of this very belt. So the Prime Minister making the announcement from this region also assumes political significance.
Government officials say that over 60 lakh beneficiaries have been identified so far. They claim that states like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Haryana are leading in identifying the list of beneficiaries. States which are governed by the opposition like Kerala, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh seems to be lagging behind.
West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh are likely to skip the launch of the PM-KISAN Scheme with both states having questioned the merits of the scheme. Madhya Pradesh has also raised questions over what it calls an "aggressive deadline" by the central government.
In an interview to CNBC-TV18, Devendra Pant, Chief Economist & Head-Public Finance at India Ratings, Harish Damodaran, Editor- Rural & Agri at Indian Express, Sunita Aron, Sr Resident Editor - UP at Hindustan Times, Prakash Chandra Hota, Editor at News18 Chhattisgarh, Avik Saha, National Convenor of Jai Kisan Andolan, and Ajay Vir Jakhar, Chairman of Bharat Krishak Samaj discussed whether the PM-KISAN Scheme is enough to ease the rural distress.
Pant said, “The scheme, if one sees, the intent is good because ultimately what we had seen, the two steps which were taken by various state governments and the central government, basically the farm debt waiver and MSP increase, they are not benefitting the small and marginal farmers because they do not have that kind of marketable surplus so that they get advantage of higher MSP. Generally, they do not have the loan from the formal banking sector so that they get the advantage from the farm debt waiver. Most of them have a loan from the informal sector or from the private moneylenders. So those schemes were bypassing them and they were not getting the advantage of it. So there is some hope that the small and marginal farmers will get the benefit of it.”
Aron said, “If we take Uttar Pradesh, I think the total number of beneficiaries should have been 2.17 crore; that is the number of agriculture households under the criteria. Of that, I think they had sent a list of 1 crore verified beneficiaries and 35-45 lakhs are getting today. It raises some hope that they have got it and they will get it again and the BJP propaganda machinery is going to work overtime now. Today Smriti Irani soon after the PM session, she is holding a session with farmers explaining the benefit of this scheme.”
Damodaran said, “I think all the BJP ruled states you will see this money getting transferred, the first instalment. If it gets transferred, Modi wins, and if it does not get transferred, then also he wins because then he can blame the opposition governments. So I am sure that all the BJP ruled states I think the first instalment will definitely get transferred.”
Saha said, “The mood has not changed. This was expected, it was clear on February 1 itself that the government would roll out the first tranche before the election at any cost and they would give this money to whoever. What is surprising is that the government has now chosen to turn the tables on state governments and while there was a wailed hint of politics earlier, now this is clearly a political issue. All the BJP ruled states are the champions of farmers and the Congress-ruled states will be cursed by the farmers because of not giving list and data. This will not go down well with the farmers because the farmers are done with politicking on their life, their very survival. So that is one major error area.”
“The primary issue that farmers have been agitating about, which is price, indebtedness, protection from natural calamities, these remain unaddressed and were expected to be unaddressed,” he added.
Jakhar said, “I think it is a progressive measure that farmers are going to get something. However, like it has been said earlier, I think the amount is very insufficient to even cover the losses that farmers have suffered due to government policies in the last 5 years. It is not even a drop in the ocean compared to what the losses have been incurred by farmers on account of government policies to mitigate food inflation. We must also acknowledge that by giving this transfer, the government is acknowledging the failure of other policy programs they have had 5 years to improve farmer livelihood. That is why they have had to come to this point now.”