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Home / Business / PM Kisan allocation reduced as one state govt failed to provide beneficiary list to Centre: Nirmala Sitharaman

PM Kisan allocation reduced as one state govt failed to provide beneficiary list to Centre: Nirmala Sitharaman

‘Approx 69 lakh estimated farmers from Bengal have not received any benefits under this scheme’
Nirmala Sitharaman outside Parliament on Friday.
Nirmala Sitharaman outside Parliament on Friday.
PTI

Our Special Correspondent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 13.02.21, 01:07 AM

A nettled finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday launched a blistering attack against the criticism of her budget but threw up some absurd claims during her long-winded expostulations, even suggesting that the Rs 10,000-crore reduction in the PM Kisan Saman Nidhi scheme was because “one state (read Bengal)” failed to provide a list of the beneficiaries to the Centre.

“Approximately 69 lakh estimated farmers from West Bengal have not received any benefits under this scheme,” Sitharaman said as she tried to make out that the entire reduction of Rs 10,000 crore was on that account alone.

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“When the provision could not be utilised because their list was not even given to us, obviously, in the RE (revised estimate) the number will be different and the provisioning that we will make for the next year will also be dependent on it,” Sitharaman said in her reply to the budget discussion in the Rajya Sabha on Friday.

She said Bengal had not shared the list of beneficiaries yet, which led to farmers in the state not getting covered under the scheme. The minister said Rs 1.15 lakh crore had been transferred to the bank accounts of 10.75 crore farmer families under the scheme since its inception in 2019-20.

However, chief minister Mamata Banerjee has accused the Centre of not disbursing funds under the PM-Kisan scheme to peasants in the state despite the TMC administration having sent the verified names of farmers to it.

The chief minister earlier this week informed the Bengal assembly that out of 6 lakh applications of farmers sent by the Centre for verification, the state government has returned 2.5 lakh names following necessary work.

Amid tension in the borders with China and the Covid-19 pandemic, the focus was on the allocation to defence and health that came under sharp scrutiny from the Opposition benches.

She said spending on defence has increased both on the revenue and capital side and there was a decline only in the provision for pensions under the one-rank-one-pension (OROP) scheme.

“The allocation for defence pension is Rs 1,15,850 crore which is a fall from last year. This is because last year's number had a huge addition because of arrears, arising from court cases or queries on pension arrears which had been paid, which is one-time and that has got rationalised now.”

Sitharaman justified including water and sanitation under the health budget that led to allocation under the head ballooning more than two-fold. She said the WHO had mandated that sanitisation be brought under healthcare.

Actual allocation to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has gone up 9.6 per cent for next year and Ayush (alternative medicine) ministry by 40 per cent.

Sitharaman said the budget has provided the highest capex growth of 34.5 per cent by providing more money to railways, roads and defence.

Former finance secretary S.C. Garg in his blog has commented that the “increase in the capex provisions for FY20-21 is an optical illusion and for FY21-22 excessively optimistic and proforma.”

“A closer scrutiny of capital expenditure of Railways for FY 2020-21 reveals large revenue expenditure disguised as capital expenditure which creates the optical illusion of higher capital expenditure in FY2020-21,”Garg added.

The finance minister pointed to the transparency exercise in the budget. “We have brought everything on to the budgetary accounting mechanism. What you get as Budget is what is there in it; no pushing things under the carpet.”

She said the fiscal deficit numbers — 6.8 per cent of GDP for the current fiscal and 9.5 per cent for next fiscal — are “what it is”. “We have not even hurried to say, ‘Okay, next year, we will quickly get the deficit number to something which all of us would like to see’. Not at all. We are going to be careful about how we are going to come down that path without affecting or creating any hurdle in the growth path of this country.”

MNREGA under Congress was a "mess" with utilisation far less than budget provision, she said. The Modi government "removed ills out of the scheme and effectively utilised it".

"I want a less emotional but more factual debate on MNREGA," she said, adding her government spent more than budgeted in the last six years.

In the current 2020-21 fiscal that ends on March 31, Rs 61,500 crore was provided in the Budget but the provision was increased to Rs 90,469 crore in view of the support needed to help those in distress during the pandemic. The actual spending till now is Rs 90,469 crore, she said, adding for the next fiscal Rs 73,000 crore has been provided.

While replying to the discussion on the Budget 2021-22, the minister also attacked former finance minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram for suspecting the Budget numbers. She, however, did not mention his name.

Referring to Chidambaram's remark that major numbers are suspect in the Budget presented by her on February 1, Sitharaman said it was the Congress finance minister who had artificially increased capex numbers during 2007-08 when UPA was ruling the country.

She said bonds were issued to oil marketing companies and fertilizer manufactures in lieu of cash subsidy to "make balance sheet attractive…..Fake narratives were created... Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not depend on fudging."

“We have brought everything on to the budgetary accounting mechanism. What you get as Budget is what is there in it; no pushing things under the carpet,”Sitharaman said.

Admittedly, the fiscal deficit number (projected at 9.5 per cent in 2020-21 and 6.8 per cent in 2021-22) is what it is. We have not even hurried to say, "Okay, next year, we will quickly get the deficit number to something which all of us would like to see. Not at all. We are going to be careful about how we are going to come down that path without affecting or creating any hurdle in the growth path of this country,” she said.

Sitharaman said her Budget for 2021-22 has provided the highest capex growth of 34.5 per cent by providing more money to railways, roads and defence, and not Chidambaram’s.

Former finance secretary SC Garg in his blog has commented that the “increase in the capex provisions for FY20-21 is optical illusion and for FY21-22 excessively optimistic and proforma.”

Sitharaman in her budget speech, said a massive increase of 34.5 per cent in the capital expenditure budget estimates of year 2021-22 (BE21-22) to Rs. 5.54 lakh crore from Rs. 4.12 lakh crore in the budget estimates of 2020-21 (BE20-21). The revised estimates (RE20-21) of capital expenditure for the FY20-21 have also gone up to Rs. 4.39 lakh crore, recoding an increase of 6.55 per cent.

In his detailed analysis he said provision for capital expenditure, in excess of Rs. 500 crore, has been made in the RE20-21 for 18 Ministries and Departments. Provision, in excess of Rs. 5,000 crore, has been made for 10 Ministries and Departments and, in excess of Rs. 50,000 crore for 3 Ministries and Departments. The three demands, Capital Outlay on Defence Services (Rs. 134,510 crore), Ministry of Railways (Rs. 108,398 crore) and Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (Rs. 92,053 crore) account for Rs. 334,961 crore of the capital expenditure, which is 76.3% of the total RE provision of Rs. 439,163 crore.

“A closer scrutiny of capital expenditure of Railways for FY 2020-21, however, reveals large revenue expenditure disguised as capital expenditure which creates the optical illusion of higher capital expenditure in FY2020-21,”Garg added.



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