By Venkatesh Nayak*
This is the third and the last in this series of despatches.
Background to the RTI intervention
Readers may recall, front-ending the payment of one PM-KISAN installment was part of the PM-Garib Kalyan Yojana package that the Central Government announced prior to the country-wide lockdown imposed towards the end of March 2020 to contain the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic. In the RTI application submitted in June 2020, data about failures to transfer PM-KISAN payouts to the bank accounts of beneficiaries was also sought.
Nature of information supplied by the CPIO
The Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers’ Welfare supplied two more datasets- one containing the State-wise number of instances of failure to transfer the PM-KISAN installment to the bank account of beneficiaries. This was in addition to the State and Union Territory-wise data about the caste and gender composition and payments made to undeserving persons that was sought in the same RTI application.
Trends in Transfer Failures
- According to the dataset furnished by the CPIO, during the COVID-19 lockdown period i.e., between 23rd March and 31st July, 2020, 11.29 lakh (1.12 million) instances of failure to transfer PM-KISAN funds to the bank accounts of beneficiaries was reported across the country. While the States accounted for more than 99% of the total failures (11.22 lakhs), the UTs account for 0.62% (7,012) of the total figure;
- Among all States and UTs, Madhya Pradesh (MP) accounted for the largest number of failed transactions (7.29 lakh) at 64.55% followed by Maharashtra with more than 85,000 transfer failures (7.54%). Karnataka with more than 55,000 failures, takes 3rd place (4.94%). Bihar is at 4th position with more than 51,000 failures reported (4.52%) and Uttar Pradesh with almost 48,000 failures (4.24%) standing at 5th position. Together these top 5 States account for almost 86% of the total figure of transfer failures during the COVID-19 lockdown period;
- Among the Union Territories, Jammu and Kashmir accounted for almost 97% (6,794) of the total figure with Ladakh reporting the 2nd highest number of transfer failures (110);
- Sikkim accounted for the lowest number of transfer failures (19 only). Goa with 118 cases, Arunachal Pradesh with 141 instances, Mizoram with 218 cases and Meghalaya with 233 cases figure at the bottom of this pile;
- Among the UTs, Chandigarh accounts for only one case of transfer failure, while three are reported from Lakshadweep and 13 from Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu;
- Region-wise, Central India with MP and Chhattisgarh accounted for the highest proportion of transfer failures at almost 66%. The States of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa in Western India accounted for 12.07% of the total followed by Southern India with 9.13%. Northern India and Eastern India reported transfer failures of a little more than 5% each. Northeastern India accounted for only 0.52% of the total;
- Although the CPIO did not indicate the amount of funds involved, if one were to assume that each case of transfer failure pertains to one installment of INR 2,000 which could not be paid, the total figure involved is more than INR 22.58 lakhs. However, how many beneficiaries were affected by such transfer failures is also not known.
Trends in successful transfers after reprocessing
- According to the dataset furnished by the CPIO, during the COVID-19 lockdown period i.e., between 23rd March and 31st July, 2020, a total of 6.33 lakh instances of failed transactions were successfully reprocessed. This is a little more than 56% of the total failed transactions as on 31st July, 2020. In other words, almost 44% of the failed transactions remained as such on that date (Perhaps all of them might have been reprocessed successfully at the time of writing these findings);
- MP accounted for the bulk of these successful cases of reprocessing at more than 96% (6.12 lakh cases) followed by Maharashtra reporting 2.02% (12,810 cases). UP is at 3rd position accounting for 0.31% (1,986 cases) of the total followed by Gujarat with 0.20% (1,328 cases) and Rajasthan accounting for 0.18% (1,202 cases). Together these 5 States account for more than 99% of successful transfers after reprocessing;
- At the bottom of the pile- Tripura, Sikkim and Punjab figure with one case of successful reprocessing each preceded by Mizoram and Haryana with two cases each. Interestingly, only four cases of successful reprocessing were reported from J&K although it had 97% of the transfer failure cases among UTs;
- Region-wise, at 96.78% Central MP comprising the States of Chhattisgarh and MP accounted for the bulk of the successful transfers after reprocessing followed by Western India with 2.42% and Northern India with 0.35% of the total.
Trends in installment-wise success in reprocessing
The dataset provided by the CPIO contains the installment numbers for which successful reprocessing was reported. Similar data is not available for transfer failures. However those trends can be inferred by juxtaposing the two datasets about failures and successful reprocessing. Our preliminary findings are given below:
- In MP, which accounts for the bulk of the transfer failures and successful reprocessing, the bulk of these transactions at more than 99%, relate to the payment of the 4th installment of the PM-KISAN Yojana funds to the beneficiaries. While the number of successful transfers after reprocessing for the 1st installment paid was 147, the numbers kept growing- it is 1,106 for the 2nd installment and 3,850 for the 3rd installment in terms of successful reprocessing. No such data is available for the 5th installment. Conversely it appears that the payment of the 4th installment was plagued with technical difficulties;
- Similarly, the States of Maharashtra (4,899 cases), UP (717), Karnataka (573), Gujarat (629) and Bihar (318) also report the highest number of successful transfers after reprocessing in relation to the payment of the 4th installment to PM-KISAN beneficiaries. Conversely, the 4th installment appears to have been plagued with technical difficulties in these States as well. The Department must proactively disclose the reasons for this difficulty faced as it has not provided details of the problems faced in its RTI response;
- The States of Uttarakhand, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Bihar reported successful reprocessing with regard to all 5 installments. Conversely, these might indicate the problem of transfer failures with regard to the payment of all five installments. UP, Nagaland and Chhattisgarh reported successful reprocessing for installment nos. 1-4 while Andhra Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh reported successful transfers after reprocessing for installment nos. 1-3. Meghalaya and Odisha reported successful reprocessing for installment nos. 1 and 3. The remaining States reported successful transfers for one or the other installment only.
It looks like the digital mode of making payments of PM-KISAN beneficiaries is largely successful but a considerable number of beneficiaries might not have received their dues during the lockdown period as indicated above. Almost 44% of the transfer failures remained to be sorted out at the time the CPIO sent the dataset. It is not known how many of them have been successfully reprocessed at the time of writing this report. Meanwhile, the latest installment of PM-KISAN funds were released on 25th December, 2020. It is desirable for RTI activists around the country to probe the phenomena of transfer failures and successful reprocessing by seeking information from the Central and State government agencies and banks responsible for implementing the PM-KISAN Yojana.
Another intriguing matter arises from the comparison of the number of registered beneficiaries according to the dedicated website of PM-KISAN with the number of beneficiaries to whom the latest installment was actually paid. While the Central Government has claimed that it paid the latest installment to more than 9 crore farmer households, the latest figure of beneficiaries displayed on the PM-KISAN website is 11.50 crores at the time of writing. First, the Government needs to explain this discrepancy. Next it must also proactively publish granular data about transfer failures and instances of successful reprocessing on this website. These steps are crucial for ensuring greater transparency in the implementation of this scheme.
*Programme Head, Access to Information Programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, New Delhi