IN ITS first Cabinet meeting, the new government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday decided to extend the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) scheme to all farmers across the country, regardless of the size of their landholding.
Announced ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in the Interim Budget this February, the scheme provided Rs 6,000 a year in income support — to be distributed in three instalments of Rs 2,000 each every four months — to small and marginal farmers, who owned 2 hectares or less.
Friday’s decision will increase the number of beneficiaries to 14.5 crore from 12.5 crore earlier, and will cost the government an additional Rs 12,000 crore. The total cost to the exchequer in 2019-20 under the PM-KISAN scheme is now estimated to be Rs 87,217.50 crore.
So far, funds have been credited in the bank accounts of 3.11 crore beneficiaries in the first instalment and 2.66 crore beneficiaries in the second instalment, according to data provided by the government.
Announcing the scheme, Union Minister for Agriculture, Panchayati Raj and Rural Development Narendra Singh Tomar said the decisions “demonstrate Prime Minister’s commitment towards the farmers”.
The Cabinet also announced a pension scheme for small and marginal farmers, retailers, traders and the self-employed, which will ensure them a monthly income of Rs 3,000
after they turn senior citizens at 60. Calling them “landmark decisions in the very first meeting of the new Cabinet” Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, and Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar said, “Jo wada kiya uska amal aaj se shuru hua (we have started delivering on the promises made)”.
For the small and marginal farmers between 18 years and 40 years of age, the Cabinet also approved a pension scheme. The government will provide Rs 10,774.50 crore over a three-year period towards matching premium contribution (which will depend on the age of each farmer) for 5 crore such farmers. This scheme will ensure pension of Rs 3,000 a month to the farmers after they turn 60.
For example, the premium for an 18-year-old farmer will be around Rs 2 per day, which will increase to Rs 100 per month for a 29-year old and Rs 200 for a farmer who is 40.
A similar scheme was also cleared for small traders, retailers, shopkeepers and self-employed with an annual GST turnover of less than Rs 1.5 crore. They will be able to enroll for the pension scheme through more than 3.25 lakh Common Service Centres spread across the country.
The Cabinet also approved a hike in scholarships given to widows and wards of dead or ex-service personnel of armed and paramilitary forces from the National Defence Fund and extended its ambit to include wards of state police officials killed in terror or Maoist attacks.
The scholarship amount has been hiked to Rs 2,500 a month for boys from Rs 2,000 a month and to Rs 3,000 a month for girls from Rs 2,250. “Our government’s first decision is dedicated to those who protect India. Major changes approved in PM’s Scholarship Scheme under the National Defence Fund including enhanced scholarships for wards of police personnel martyred in terror or Maoist attacks,” Modi said in a tweet.
The Cabinet also gave its nod for a vaccination scheme for bovines and other livestock to control Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and Brucellosis to help farmers who depend on livestock for income. The government will earmark Rs 13,343 crore to control and eradicate these diseases over the next five years. The diseases, common among cows, bulls, buffaloes, sheep, goats, pigs etc can lead to up to 100 per cent loss in milk production for months, and can lead to infertility, affecting the farmers who rear them.