The Government has paid Rs 1,364 crore to 20.48 lakh undeserving beneficiaries under its ambitious PM-KISAN scheme, a reply to a Right to Information (RTI) query by the Union Agriculture Ministry reveals.
Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sammann Nidhi (PM-KISAN) was launched by the Centre in 2019 and under the scheme, an income support of Rs 6,000 per year in three equal installments is paid to small and marginal farmer families having combined land holding or ownership of up to 2 hectares.
The Union Agriculture Ministry, in response to the RTI application, identified two categories of undeserving beneficiaries who received PM-KISAN payouts as "ineligible farmers" and "income tax payee farmers”.
RTI applicant Venkatesh Nayak of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) who received the data from the government said, "More than half (55.58 per cent) of these undeserving persons belong to the ‘income tax payee category’." "The remaining 44.41 per cent belong to the ‘ineligible farmers’ category’," he added.
Nayak said, according to media reports, proceedings have been initiated to recover these funds transferred to undeserving persons.
He said data obtained under RTI Act, 2005, indicated that since the commencement of the PM-KISAN Yojana in 2019, Rs 1,364.13 crore ($186.59 million) has been paid to ‘ineligible persons’ and ‘income tax payee farmers’ till July 31, 2020.
"Government's own data indicates money went into the wrong hands," he added.
A major chunk of these ineligible beneficiaries belongs to five states -- Punjab, Assam, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, as per the data.
"Punjab tops the list accounting for 23.16 per cent (4.74 lakh) of the total number of undeserving persons across the country who received payouts, followed by Assam with 16.87 per cent (3.45 lakh beneficiaries) and Maharashtra with 13.99 per cent (2.86 lakh beneficiaries). These three states account for more than half (54.03 per cent) of the number of undeserving persons who received payouts," Nayak said Gujarat is at the fourth position with 8.05 per cent (1.64 lakh beneficiaries), followed by Uttar Pradesh at fifth position with 8.01 per cent (1.64 lakh beneficiaries), he said.
Sikkim with just one undeserving beneficiary reported the lowest figure, Nayak said.
"The total amount of Rs 1,364.13 crore was paid to recipients across the states in 68.20 lakh installments (where each installment of Rs 2,000 paid out per recipient is counted separately). Out of this, 49.25 lakh installments were paid to ‘IT payee farmers’ while 18.95 lakh installments were paid to ‘ineligible farmers’ across the country," he said quoting the RTI data.
Under the scheme, an amount of Rs 6,000 per year is transferred in three installments of Rs 2,000 every four months directly into the bank accounts of the farmers, subject to certain exclusion criteria relating to higher income status, a PIB statement had said.
The scheme was formally launched on February 24, 2019, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a grand function in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh.
Several categories of farmers are excluded from the scheme like institutional landholders; farmer families in which one or more members is among beneficiaries -- former and present holders of constitutional posts; former and present ministers, MPs, MLAs, MLCs, mayors and chairmen of district panchayat; serving and retired government employees; pensioners receiving over Rs 10,000 monthly pension; income tax payees and professionals such as doctors, engineers, chartered accountants and architects etc.