The PM-KISAN scheme currently benefits around 10 crore farmers as per the available data. While there is no authentic data on the estimated number of farmers who may be eligible for benefits under the scheme, the data on operational holdings from the Agriculture Census 2015-16 does highlight gaps in coverage from twice the number in states like Punjab to less than 50% coverage in Kerala.
The Government of India launched PM-KISAN (Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi) to provide income support to the landholding farmers in the country. This is to supplement their financial needs to procure various inputs related to agriculture & allied activities along with domestic needs. The scheme is modelled after similar schemes in states like Telangana & Odisha.
Under this scheme, the eligible beneficiaries would receive Rs. 6000 per year in three equal instalments. The first instalment was paid on 01 December 2018. Initially, the scheme was extended to only those farmer families who had a combined farm holding of two Hectares or less i.e. Small & Marginal farmers. However, since 01 June 2020, the scheme was revised to include all the farmers irrespective of the size of their holding.
At the time of revision, the government estimated that the scheme would benefit 14.5 crore farmers in the country. However, the data indicates that the number of beneficiaries is less than this estimate.
Number of beneficiaries for the recent instalment reduced by more than 57 lakhs
Since the inception of PM-KISAN, the government has paid out 6 instilments to the beneficiaries. The payment of the current instalment i.e. 7th instalment started on 01 December 2020.
The number of beneficiaries who received the assistance from the government varied largely over the 6 instalment periods. The change in eligibility criteria can be considered as one of the key factors which could have influenced the difference of the numbers.
While it is a Central Sector Scheme, the responsibility to identifying and validating the beneficiaries is left to the respective states. As on date, all the States & UTs with the exception of West Bengal have joined this Central Sector Scheme.
As per the information published on PM-KISAN portal, there were around 3.16 crore beneficiaries during the first instalment period i.e. during Dec’2018 – Mar’2019.
The period of second instalment coincides with the government’s decision to change the eligibility criteria. As per government estimates, this would add another 2 crores more farmers to the scheme.
By the time of announcement, 2.66 crores beneficiaries received the amount in the second instalment which by the end of period increased to 6.6 crore beneficiaries.
In the next two instalments, the number of beneficiaries under PM-KISAN were 8.7 crores and 8.9 crores. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown, the government of India announced Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY), to provide assistance to marginalized sections during the pandemic. As a part of this scheme, there was a frontal payment of the Rs. 2000, the instalment due to the beneficiaries under PM-KISAN. While the government estimated that 8.7 crore farmers could get benefitted (at the time of announcing PMGKY), data indicates that there were 10.4 crores beneficiaries during April-June’2020. This was also corroborated in response to an RTI application filed by Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI).
An increasing trend has been observed in number of beneficiaries with every instalment period. However, contrary to this trend, for the period August -November’ 2020, the number of beneficiaries fell by about 57 lakhs compared to the previous instalment and fell to 9.8 crores. While the gradual increase over the last few instalments is understandable on account of new farmer addition & validation, the fall in beneficiaries to the tune of more than 57 lakhs raises important questions about the identification & validation of beneficiaries.
Even after two years, coverage of PM-KISAN is about 75% of the estimated number
After making changes to the eligibility criteria to extend the scheme to all farmers irrespective of the size of holding, the government estimated that there would be around 14.5 crore lakh beneficiaries. However, the greatest number of beneficiaries of the scheme so far has been 10.4 crores during the 5th instalment i.e. Apr-Jul 2020. The latest update on PM-KISAN portal shows the number of beneficiaries in upwards of 11 crores for the ongoing 7th instalment for period. This accounts to about 75% of the government’s estimate of 14.5 crore total farmers eligible for the scheme.
So, did the government overestimate the number of beneficiaries? The available data indicates that that the government estimate is close to the figures available from the latest Agricultural Census.
As per the information available from the latest Agriculture Census (2015-16), the total number of land holdings accounted to about 14.6 crores. Considering that there is an increase of 80 lakh land holdings compared to 2010-11 Agriculture Census, it can be estimated that the current numbers in 2020 could be actually higher than 14.6 crores.
West Bengal which is not yet part of PM KISAN accounted for around 72 lakh land holdings in 2015-16 census. Even after excluding this state, the number of operational land holdings and hence the number of farmers in the rest of the country could be around 14 crores, implying that nearly 3 crore farmers are still not covered by the scheme so far.
Even taking into consideration the earlier definition of extending benefit to those with less than 2 hectares of land i.e. Small & Marginal farmers, the 2015-16 census indicates that there are around 12 crore Small & Marginal land holdings. Even by the earlier criteria, we can estimate the PM-KISAN does not cover all the small & marginal farmers under its gambit. The exclusion of certain categories of beneficiaries as per the scheme guidelines also does not explain the gap since the government’s estimate of beneficiaries is also more or less similar to the total number of operational land holdings as per Agricultural Census of 2015-16.
Further, PM-KISAN does not provide data on the size of the holdings, as the benefit is based on individual farmers with farmland and not on the size of the holding.
Southern States along with Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand etc. have lesser coverage of beneficiaries
The coverage of beneficiaries under PM-KISAN is approximately around 75% of the estimated number of beneficiary farmers. It is also 75% of the number of operational land holdings as per the estimate of Agriculture Census 2015-16. However, large variances exist between the states.
Even from a regional perspective, the coverage is higher in the North compared to the other parts of the country. As per the Agriculture Census 2015-16, Punjab had 10.93 lakh operational land holdings. However as per PM-KISAN data, there are around 23.28 lakh beneficiaries i.e. more than double the number agricultural land holdings as of 2015-16. Even factoring a potential increase in the number of land holdings compared to 2015-16, the coverage is very high.
Similarly, other Northern states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh etc. have a higher coverage of PM-KISAN beneficiaries compared to the number of operational land holdings as per 2015-16 Agriculture census.
Gujarat & Rajasthan have 108% and 84% coverage when the number of PM-KISAN beneficiaries are compared with the number of operational land holdings in 2015-16 Agriculture census.
In contrast to these states, almost all the southern states have very less coverage under PM-KISAN scheme, with the highest among them being Telangana with 63% and least Being Kerala with 44% compared to the number of operational land holdings as per the 2015-16 Agriculture census.
Even Maharashtra, another major agricultural state and the one with a recorded history of farmer distress has only 67% coverage.
Variances in the coverage raises important questions
Large scale variances between the states indicates excess coverage as well as widespread under coverage of the Scheme in different states. Among the larger states, the number of beneficiaries in Punjab is almost twice the number of operational land holdings. Though the comparison is with the census of 2015-16, there cannot be such an increase in just 5 years. In fact, between the agricultural census of 2010-11 & 2015-16, there is only an increase of 40000 operational land holdings in Punjab. Such high coverage raises questions about ghost beneficiaries.
On the other hand, the lower number in Southern States and few other states is a worrisome aspect about the scheme. It needs to be ascertained if the support extended by some of the State governments in these States reduces the need for opting for PM-KISAN. It has to be noted that not all states have such state level schemes.
The lower coverage in economically backward states like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh also raises questions on the efforts of both the State & Central governments to ensure benefits for the farmers. As per the 2015-16 Agricultural census, Jharkhand reported around 9.79 Lakh operational holdings for Scheduled Tribes (STs) while the PM-KISAN data indicates only 2.9 Lakh ST farmers who are beneficiaries of the scheme. This also highlights another dimension of possible disparity in availing benefits due to social and economic status among the farmers.
It is high time that all the state governments & the central governments do a thorough review of the beneficiaries with reference to the numbers from the Agricultural census to ensure that all those who are eligible receive benefits under the scheme.