The Pradhan Mantri-Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme will cover 1.06 crore out of a total of 1.37 crore farmers in Maharashtra.
With 78 per cent of the farmers in Maharashtra meeting the condition of having less than 2 hectare (5 acres), the Centre will need to disburse Rs 6,368 crore of the total allocation of Rs 75,000 crore for the scheme. A senior agriculture official said, “Of the total Rs 75,000 crore, the state’s share will be Rs 6,386 crore. It accounts up to 8.48 per cent of the total amount. It can be perceived as a bonus in a drought year.”
However, the ceiling of 2 hectare could end up benefiting farmers in better off western Maharashtra more compared to the drought-stricken Vidarbha and Marathwada, where more farmers have larger, but drier and less productive land holdings.
“Almost 83 per cent of the agriculture land on Maharashtra is totally dependent on rain. Therefore, even with large land holdings, the farmers, specially in Vidarbha and Marathwada, face financial constrains,” said Maharashtra Agriculture Price Commission Chairman Pasha Patel, who believes the scheme should be extended to all farmers.
Notwithstanding the criticism from Opposition parties about the meagre amount, Patel said, “In rural areas, Rs 6,000 is not a small amount. Instead of releasing in three installments, the government should give the entire amount in June during the sowing of kharif crops. It will help farmers to cover the cost of seeds and partly fertilisers.”
He hailed the decision to directly transfer Rs 6,000 in accounts of eligible farmers. “In the past, UPA’s Rs 70,000-crore loan waiver, which worked to Rs 6,400 crore for the state, had invited CAG strictures following irregularities in disbursement of funds. Then also, the 2 hectare condition had put farmers from Vidarbha and Marathwada at a disadvantage compared to their counterparts in western Maharashtra. The Vidarbha and Marathwada farmers had then received a pittance of Rs 284 crore,” said Patel.
Kishore Tiwari, who heads the Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swavlambhan Yojna, said agriculturally prosperous states or regions should have been excluded from the scheme and the Centre should have targeted farmers in drought-prone and dry land areas.
“In western Maharashtra, farmers having two hectare produce more crops and get better remuneration. Whereas farmers in Vidarbha and Marathawada, with even parcels of five hectare, are at a disadvantage because of rainshadow area,” he said.
Officials said the government is working on higher capital investment in agriculture to tackle the regional disparity in the 2019-20 state Budget. The Budget Session of the Assembly will begin from February 25.