Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of attempting to mislead the farmers of West Bengal through “half-truths and distorted facts” about why the “PM Kisan Nidhi Samman” scheme was not implemented in the state.
The reaction from Banerjee came after Modi alleged her government did not cooperate with the Centre on implementing the scheme in Bengal, thereby depriving farmers of its benefits. The prime minister made the remarks earlier in the day after releasing over Rs 18,000 crore to more than nine crore agricultural families.
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) chairperson took a dig at Modi, saying he expressed concern for farmers “through a televised address instead of proactively working to resolve their issues” at a time they are on roads demanding the repeal of three farm laws the Centre recently pushed through Parliament.
In a statement, Banerjee said, “While he [Narendra Modi] publicly claimed his intention to help farmers of WB through his PM Kisan Yojana and alleges non-cooperation of the state government, the fact is that he is trying to mislead the people with half-truth and distorted facts. Let me set the record straight – we have always been ready to cooperate in the interest of the farmers. I personally have written two letters and have even spoken to the concerned minister two days ago but they are refusing to cooperate and are instead indulging in malicious propaganda for political gains.”
Banerjee added, “When we are implementing so many schemes with the Central Government, the question of not cooperating on a scheme that is benefitting farmers seems absurd. The fact is that this BJP-led Central Government is used to indulging in politicking even at the cost of violating the established practices and norms regarding the implementation of Central schemes by state governments.”
Tearing into the Centre for not releasing funds that it owes, she said, “For all the posturing of the Central government, the fact is that the Modi government has done nothing to help the state of West Bengal. They are yet to release even a portion of the Rs 85,000 crore of outstanding dues that includes unpaid GST dues of Rs 8,000 crore. If he genuinely wants to help the state, he must release at least a part of these funds so that we are in a better position to address our needs.”
Banerjee added, “Let me reiterate, that in the interest of the people of Bengal, we will do everything that is needed on our part, even if it means supporting schemes of the Central government that are purely meant to further their political agenda, are at odds with the spirit of federalism, and are definitely not guided by their desire to help the people at large; so long it ensures even incremental benefit for the people of Bengal.”
Under the PM-KISAN scheme, Rs 6,000 is paid to small and marginal farmers annually in three instalments of Rs 2,000 each. The fund is transferred directly to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries.
Referring to the protests, Banerjee said, “Lakhs of farmers are protesting on the roads, demanding the withdrawal of the new farm laws which are anti-farmers as they threaten to dilute the MSP, the state procurement system, and take away the basic protective mechanisms of the farmers hence, leaving them at the mercy of big private players. And today, the prime minister showed his apparent concern for the farmers through a televised address, instead of proactively working to resolve their issues.”
Earlier in the day, following Modi’s speech, TMC MP Saugata Roy accused the BJP of repeatedly claiming falsely that farmers of West Bengal were being deprived of cash under the Central scheme. “That is not true. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had asked the Centre to route the cash benefits through the state government and not directly to the farmers. The intention of the Central government is to reap political benefits out of this,” he added.
The MP said the state government’s “Krishak Bandhu” scheme had disbursed Rs 2,642 crore to farmers in the state and budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector had increased five times.
In response, the BJP reiterated its allegation that the TMC government had deprived farmers of the state because of the chief minister’s “ego”. In a tweet, BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya said, “Of the approx 72 lakh farmers in WB, nearly 23 lakh have self-registered on the central portal seeking benefits under the #PMKisan Samman Nidhi, but ‘Pishi’ [aunt, a reference to Banerjee] wouldn’t certify them! Each farmer in WB has so far lost Rs 14,000 (including latest instalment) and the state 9,800 crore.”
He added, “Today, when the PM will transfer Rs 18,000 crore to 9 crore farmer families across the country, farmers of West Bengal will be deprived because the CM has refused to identify and submit the list of beneficiaries to the central government. Pishi’s ego means farmers suffer!”
Malviya said, “In terms of the average monthly income of farmers as reported by NABARD in 2016-’17, WB ranks low at 24 among 29 states. Pishi has failed farmers.”
Meanwhile, state Congress chief and the party’s Lok Sabha leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury dared Modi to directly speak to the farmers protesting near Delhi. Chowdhury alleged that PM-KISAN funds do not reach the accounts of all farmers as claimed by the Centre.
“You do not have the guts to talk to farmers face-to-face and find out a solution. Sitting far away, you distribute Rs.18,000 crore from the government treasury and say that this is your government’s favour for the farmers. This money doesn’t go into the accounts of the farmers. The middlemen still exist. Thousands of farmers still do not get the funds. A notice has been sent to 50,000 farmers telling them to give back the money, citing that it was sent to them by mistake,” he added.
CPI(M) leader Mohammed Salim said, “Providing Rs 6,000 to farmers is not the solution to their problems. The Centre first has to admit that there is an agrarian crisis. Nothing has been said on MSP and there is no power before farmers to have a say on this. The farmers will decide what crop they will cultivate on their land and not the corporates. Through farm laws only the interest of the corporates have been looked after. The PM is doing politics for his corporate friends. Farmers are protesting independently and the Centre is sitting unfazed.”
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