The Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN), the Modi government's new programme promising Rs 6,000 per year in three instalments to small and marginal farmer families, is key to the ruling party's upcoming election campaign. Hence, it is eager to get as many beneficiaries as possible at the earliest before the poll juggernaut gets underway.
The government has earmarked Rs 20,000 crore in the current year's budget itself for this programme and, as Business Today reported yesterday, the first instalment of Rs 2,000 is slated to reach the farmers' bank accounts before March 31. But the latest buzz is that the Centre may even push out the second instalment before the polls.
According to The Economic Times, the government sees no stumbling blocks to these accelerated plans - once the first payment is made ahead of the formal announcement of polls, it sees no conflict with the Election Commission of India's Model Code of Conduct.
"We are working out modalities to swiftly transfer the first instalment to identified beneficiaries and roll out the second payment of Rs 2,000 before the elections," a senior official of the agriculture department privy to developments told the daily, adding, "Since the first instalment would be distributed before the Code of Conduct, the implementation of this scheme would become a routine exercise. This would not stop the second disbursement."
If this comes to pass, the small and marginal farmer families will have bagged Rs 4,000 each before the polls. That's a politically astute move given that farmer distress was among the key causes for the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) recent losses in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
State governments have already been asked to prepare a database of beneficiaries. For the purpose of the calculation of the benefit, the Centre has defined a small and marginal landholder family as the one comprising of husband, wife and minor children up to 18 years of age, who collectively own cultivable land up to two hectare as per the land records of the concerned states
In fact, the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh is reportedly confident of sending the list of eligible farmers by the middle of this month itself, clearly with an eye on maximising political gains from the programme, the daily reported. The BJP-ruled state boasts the highest number of farmers so the party hopes PM Kisan will help counter the formidable electoral alliance forged by leading rivals BSP and SP.
Meanwhile, the government has already dandled another candy in terms of a bigger allocation for PM Kisan in future. "We are starting off with (a budgetary allocation of) Rs 75,000 crore a year (for 2019-20) and I foresee this amount increasing in the years to come. And if the states top it up, some states have already started with the scheme, I think the others must emulate them, (and then) it will increase," Union minister Arun Jaitley said on Sunday.
(Edited by Sushmita Choudhury Agarwal; with PTI inputs)