NEW DELHI: 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, income support of Rs 6,000 per year in three equal instalments is paid to small and marginal farmer families having combined landholding 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%) of these undeserving persons belong to the income tax payee category'."
"The remaining 44.41% 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 (USD 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% (3.45 lakh beneficiaries) and Maharashtra with 13.99% (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.
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.