Image courtesy: Basudev Mohapatra @ https://www.villagesquare.in/
Nov 30, 2020
By: Venkatesh Nayak
Come December, the Central Government will begin disbursing the 7th instalment of funds under the Pradhan Mantri- Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana (PM-KISAN). This is a Central scheme implemented through the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare for the benefit of eligible farmers across the country. According to a reply to an Unstarred Question tabled in the Lok Sabha (on 18th September, 2020) during the monsoon session, the Ministry acknowledged that a total of INR 94,119.49 crores (USD 12.63 Billion, where USD 1 = INR 74.49) had been deposited in three instalments of INR 2,000 each per year since its inception in December 2018.Two earlier instalments due this year were front-ended as part of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana package announced on 26th March, 2020 to mitigate their hardships arising from the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic. The reply tabled in the Lok Sabha also stated that a total of 10.21 crore (100.21 million) farmers had benefited from this scheme as on the date of that reply. The website dedicated to display the progress of implementation of this scheme shows This figure has expanded to more than 11 crore beneficiaries at the time of writing this despatch. Names of individual beneficiaries are accessible village-wise on this website.
The RTI Intervention
In order to ascertain more detailed information about the implementation of the PM-KISAN Yojana than what the Ministry is willing to proactively disclose on the dedicated website and after discussing the matter with a group of advocators of transparency across 11 States at a webinar held in April, 2020, I sought information about State-wise disbursals in May 2020. The Ministry supplied free of cost, data about instalment-wise disbursal of funds during the lockdown period starting 26th March 2020. Readers may click here to access media reportage of this data. However, little is known about the gender, religion and caste-wise spread and reach of this scheme. So in June 2020, I submitted another RTI application through the RTI Online Facility seeking the following information from the Ministry. Click here for a copy of the RTI application.
"I. I would like to obtain access to the following information about the implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) under the RTI Act, 2005 in the manner described at para no. II below:
a) The number of men, women and transgenders who are PM-KISAN beneficiaries in every State and Union Territory (UT) as on date,
b) The number of PM-KISAN beneficiaries in every State and UT who belong to the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes, as on date,
c) The number of PM-KISAN beneficiaries in every State and UT who are persons with disabilities (Divyang-Jan), as on date,
d) The number of PM-KISAN beneficiaries in every State and UT who belong to Muslim and Christian communities, as on date,
e) The name and complete postal address of the Accredited Bank through which PM-KISAN is being implemented as on date,
f) The names and complete postal address of the Sponsoring Banks identified by every State and UT for the purpose of implementing PM-KISAN, as on date,
g) The name and postal address of the agency identified by every State and UT for the purpose of receiving administrative expenses under PM-KISAN, as on date,
h) The total number of non-beneficiaries who received payments in every State and UT since the inception of PM-KISAN,
i) The total amount of funds that were deposited in the bank accounts of non-beneficiaries in every State and UT since the inception of PM-KISAN,
j) The total amount of funds that have been reversed from the bank accounts of non-beneficiaries in every State and UT, since the inception of PM-KISAN,
k) The number of failed transactions under PM-KISAN reported by sponsoring banks from every State and UT in relation to each instalment of funds released during the COVID-19 lockdown period, as on date,
l) The instalment-wise number of transactions under PM-KISAN that failed during the COVID-19 reported by sponsoring banks from every State and UT that have been successfully reprocessed as on date,
m) The amount of funds released to every State and UT for the purpose of meeting administrative expenses under PM-KISAN during the COVID-19 lockdown period as on date, and
n) Scanned copies of all correspondence carried out with the Government of West Bengal for the purpose of implementing PM-KISAN in that State.
II. Form of access to information sought: Kindly upload all the information described above on the dedicated website of PM-KISAN and inform me through email, the URL of every webpage containing the information described at para no. I above. Kindly note, the information described at para no. (I) above is in the nature of information that is required to be disclosed proactively under various sub-clauses of Section 4(1)(b) of the RTI Act. As I have not been able to find the said information on PM-KISAN website, I am constrained to submit this formal request for information."
I filed a first appeal after the Ministry failed to send a reply within the statutory deadline of 30 days. Click here for a copy of the 1st appeal.
Less than 10 days later, the First Appellate Authority (FAA) furnished a copy of the reply sent by the Central Public Information Officer stating that most of the queries had been referred to the National Informatics Cell (NIC) which maintains the PM-KISAN database. The FAA also directed the NIC to upload all the beneficiary-related information on the dedicated PM-KISAN website, agreeing with my contention about the necessity of proactive disclosure of detailed information about the implementation of this scheme. Click here for the FAA’s order. The FAA assured that the remaining information would be furnished as and when received from the NIC. Eventually, the Ministry provided gender-wise and caste-wise details of the beneficiaries (numbers only) in October, 2020.
Key features of the initial RTI reply and documents provided by the Ministry
1) State Bank of India (SB), Shastri Bhawan Branch, New Delhi is the accredited Bank through which the PM-KISAN Yojana is being implemented across the country. Funds are routed through this branch of SBI to the beneficiaries who maintain accounts in the branches of the Sponsoring Banks identified by the State Governments and the administration of the Union Territories (UTs);
2) The States and UTs implementing PM-KISAN Yojana are entitled to receive administrative expenses as per its guidelines. States and UTs have the responsibility of identifying potential beneficiaries according to the eligibility criteria of the scheme, issue funds transfer orders (FTOs) for disbursing the instalments, issue Letter of Authority to the Sponsoring Banks to credit the amounts due in the accounts of beneficiaries without waiting for further instructions and undertake verifications in relation to failed transactions and update beneficiary details to enable crediting of funds successfully. States and UTs are entitled to identify their own agencies to receive administrative expenses involved in the aforementioned tasks. However according to the Ministry's FAA, the States and UTs were not paid any Administrative Expenses for implementing PM-KISAN Yojana during the COVID-19 lockdown period.
3) Between February 2019 and February 2020, the Union Agriculture Minister and Secretary wrote at least four letters to the Chief Minister of West Bengal urging the State Government to identify farmers in that State for inclusion in PM-KISAN. Click here for copies of this communication.The State is yet to respond positively to include the more than 69 lakh farmers of the State in this scheme. This figure was reported to the Lok Sabha in response to an Unstarred Query raised by an MP in March 2020.
4) The FAA also supplied the name, contact details and the email address of Nodal Officers in every State and UT designated for the purpose of implementing the PM-KISAN Yojana;
6) The FAA of the Ministry replied that there was no provision for collecting details about the religious identity of beneficiaries covered by the scheme. So unlike the PM Ujjwala Yojana for which this author has obtained religion-wise implementation data during the COVID-19 lockdown period (the data is currently under analysis), it is not possible to gauge the religious community-wise outreach of PM-KISAN Yojana.
5) The FAA of the Ministry also replied that there is no provision for a separate category of "persons with disabilities" under PM-KISAN Yojana, so no information about "Divyangjan" is being collected.
What is problematic with this reply?
According to Section 24 of The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPwD Act), every government is under a statutory duty to provide additional support to persons with disabilities in any welfare scheme that is floated for the rest of the population. Section 24 is reproduced below:
"24. (1) The appropriate Government shall within the limit of its economic capacity and development formulate necessary schemes and programmes to safeguard and promote the right of persons with disabilities for adequate standard of living to enable them to live independently or in the community:
Provided that the quantum of assistance to the persons with disabilities under such schemes and programmes shall be at least twenty-five per cent higher than the similar schemes applicable to others." (emphasis supplied)
Although the above statutory requirement is subject to the Government's economic capacity, surely, where it can marshal resources to make payments to more than 10 crore farmers, it can spend a little extra on farmers with disabilities. According to a Statistical Profile of Persons with Disabilities published by the Union Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation in 2016, the 2011 Census counted 22.74 lakh cultivators who are persons with disabilities (see page 31 of the Stats Profile). They constitute 23% of the larger grouping of 97.44 lakh workers who are persons with disabilities. Calculating at the rate of Rs. 1,500 per beneficiary (being the 25% hike required by the RPwD Act) another INR 341.10 crores will have to be added to the total expenditure on PM-KISAN Yojana incurred per year. Surely, the Government will be able to afford this additional expenditure. The first step towards ensuring this statutory compliance of providing extra support to farmers with disabilities is to identify them from the PM-KISAN beneficiary database across all States and UTs. Perhaps the numbers might have increased slightly as the original enumeration was done nine years ago. The 2021 Census exercise provides a golden opportunity to pinpoint farmers with disabilities and ascertain the exact numbers of eligible persons and disburse the additional funds due to them since the commencement of PM-KISAN Yojana. Such a counting exercise will not involve additional financial burden on the exchequer. What is required is the political will to implement Section 24 of the RPwD Act in its letter and spirit in relation to PM-KISAN Yojana.
Analysis of further data received under the RTI Act
In October, 2020, almost two months after the FAA of the Ministry of Agriculture issued his decision on my 1st appeal, the CPIO of the Ministry sent gender-wise and caste-wise details of beneficiaries of PM-KISAN Yojana for every State and Union Territory. The data supplied free of cost by the CPIO is current as on 7th September 2020. Interestingly, district-wise numbers of beneficiaries and the total payouts made across all States and UTs were tabled in the Lok Sabha 11 days later (on 18th September). Although the CPIO sent the data two weeks after the Lok Sabha reply was tabled, the number of PM-KISAN beneficiaries is 48.60 lakhs shorter than the figures tabled in Parliament. This data discrepancy is analysed at the end of this email alert. The preliminary analysis of the region-wise and gender and caste-wise data received from the CPIO is given below. Click here for the gender and caste-wise data supplied by the CPIO. Click here to see the spreadsheets containing calculations made. Click here to view an MS PPT containing a graphical representation of some of the findings.
Analysis of Region-wise RTI data of PM-KISAN Beneficiaries (as of 7th September 2020)
The analysis given below is limited to the data that the CPIO supplied under the RTI Act. If the statistics of the newly enrolled beneficiaries (as on 18th September, 2020) is included in this analysis the difference in the percentages mentioned below is only a few decimal points. So, some analytical findings from this larger dataset are presented at the bottom of this email alert.
Analysis of Gender-wise RTI data of PM-KISAN Beneficiaries (as of 7th September 2020)
Although the PM-KISAN website displays village-wise, the name and gender of the beneficiaries, pulling out macro-level statistics is a tedious exercise requiring considerable investment of time and human resources. However, the data supplied under the RTI Act provides a snapshot of the gender-break-up of the PM-KISAN beneficiaries.
According to Sections 4 and 5 of The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, transgender persons have the right to be recognised as such based on self-perceived identity. If such a person does not want to be recognised as ‘male’ or ‘female’ but as “transgender” that right is guaranteed by law. UIDAI facilitates such persons to apply for Aadhaar registration under “transgender” category. Further Section 8(3) of this Act obligates the Central Government to formulate welfare schemes and programmes that are transgender persons sensitive, non-stigmatising and non-discriminatory. Without an iota of doubt, PM-KISAN Yojana must become compliant with these provisions. When transgender persons can register as such to get Aadhaar numbers, there is no reason why the PM-KISAN registration facility should not be tweaked to include transgender among the ‘gender’ selection options. If this is done, collation of statistics about transgender persons who are beneficiaries of PM-KISAN will become possible.
Analysis of Category-wise RTI data of PM-KISAN Beneficiaries (as of 7th September 2020)
The PM-KISAN website does not indicate the social background of its beneficiaries. To the best of my knowledge such information has not been tabled in Parliament either. Thanks to RTI, for the first time it is possible to ascertain the category-wise breakup of the PM-KISAN beneficiaries across the States and UTs. Our preliminary findings based on an analysis of the data furnished by the CPIO are given below:
Other Backward Classes
Analysis of trends in beneficiary registration made after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic
Prior to the commencement of the nation-wide lockdown in March, 2020, the Lok Sabha was informed in response to an Unstarred Question that funds had been disbursed to a total of 8.69 crore farmers under the PM-KISAN Yojana as on 11th March, 2020. When the CPIO sent the beneficiary-related data in October, the number of beneficiaries had risen to 10.16 crores. While compiling this despatch I came across a very detailed reply to an Unstarred tabled in the Lok Sabha containing district-wise information about the beneficiaries. The total figure had expanded to 10.21 crores. Strangely, the CPIO had not supplied data that matches the figures tabled in the Lok Sabha. Yet, the State and UT-wise data received under the RTI Act show a slightly lesser figure- a difference of 4.86 lakhs. Nevertheless, I have analysed the trends in additions made to the list of registered beneficiaries during the lockdown period i.e., between March 2020 and 7th September, 2020 (the date of the status update on beneficiaries mentioned in the RTI reply). The main findings are given below:
Analysis of district-wise trends in the number of PM-KISAN beneficiaries (as of 18th September 2020)
As the difference between the figures supplied by the CPIO under the RTI Act and those tabled in the Lok Sabha on 18th September 2020 is only 4.86 lakh beneficiaries this latest dataset is not subjected to the kind of analysis described above. The difference would be of only a few decimal points. However, the district-wise data tabled for the first time in Parliament in September 2020 has been analysed and the preliminary findings are given below:
It may be noted that the comparison with population is based on the 2011 Census figures. Surely, these figures would have increased considerably over the last nine years. These percentages will have to be revised when the 2020 Census is conducted and the district-wise census data is published.
As additions to the list of PM-KISAN beneficiaries continue to be made on a daily basis the aforementioned statistics and trends will have to be revised regularly. I leave that to readers to make the effort to collect the updated gender, caste and district-wise statistics from time to time and publish it until such information is proactively disclosed on the PM-KISAN website itself. However, the PM-KISAN beneficiary data opens up a number of opportunities for scholars and academics to research the socio-economic situation of farmers across the country and the landholding patterns of the beneficiaries of the Yojana and its impact on the rural economy. The injection of more than INR 94,000 crores into the rural economy since December 2018 is bound to have visible impact which requires deeper probing.
"Note: 1 crore = 10 million; 10 lakh = 1 million; 1 lakh= 100,000".
CHRI's Trail of Inquiry: LokSabha-PMKY-Q&A-Sep20 | PMKY-RTIappln | PMKY-1stappeal | PMKY-FAAorder | PMKY-WBletters | LokSabha-PMKY-Q&A-Mar20 | PMKY-NodalOfficers-List | PMKY-DemoData-Analysis | PMKY-CPIOdata-Gender&Caste | PMKY-PPT