Mamata Banerjee launches new version of Krishak Bandhu scheme with higher pay
Mamata Banerjee on Thursday launched the new version of Krishak Bandhu scheme under which annual assistance to farmers in Bengal went up to Rs 10,000 a year from Rs 6,000 and highlighted that the dole came with no conditions unlike the central aid for agriculturists.
“We had promised before the elections that we would enhance financial assistance under the Krishak Bandhu scheme to Rs 10,000. We are launching the renewed scheme today. A total of 62 lakh farmers would get the benefit,” said the chief minister at Nabanna on Thursday.
Farmers would get the assistance in two half-yearly installments of Rs 5,000 each.
The chief minister took care to explain how the state dole was superior to the Centre’s PM-Kisan scheme. “The Centre does not give assistance to all farmers and pays a lesser amount. This should be kept in mind,” she said.
Sources at Nabanna said Mamata was trying to highlight that unlike the state scheme, the one by the Centre — in which farmers get an annual assistance of Rs 6,000 — was not for everyone because of conditions attached to it.
“Out of 23 lakh farmers who applied for the central scheme, seven lakh-odd have qualified so far. The conditions are keeping a large number of farmers out of the scheme,” said an official.
According to the conditions set under the PM-Kisan scheme, families with government staff, retired government employees who get a pension of more than Rs 10,000 and professionals like doctors, engineers, chartered accountants, lawyers and architects cannot apply for the farm dole.
Moreover, farmers who pay income tax are also excluded from the central scheme.
On the contrary, the Krishak Bandhu scheme has no such conditions and as a result, more than 62 lakh out of 73 lakh farmers in the state are eligible. Another issue that makes the state scheme more popular is the inclusion of sharecroppers and farm labourers as beneficiaries. “They will get Rs 4,000, a benefit that the Centre’s scheme does not offer,” said the chief minister.
She also said the state scheme offered Rs 2 lakh to a family in case of a farmer’s premature death. “A total of 28,000 families have been extended this facility so far,” said Mamata.
Within minutes of the chief minister launching the renewed scheme, Rs 290 crore was transferred to the bank accounts of 9,78,531 farmers.
Mamata also said the state government had relaxed the norms to include more farmers in the scheme.
“We have relaxed the criteria to bring all farmers under the scheme. We have done away with the process of producing land-related documents to prove one is associated with agriculture. Only a self declaration will do,” said the chief minister.
The sources said once the mandatory provision of land-related documents for farmers to avail themselves of the dole was abolished, the number of registered farmers had gone up to 62 lakh from 47 lakh in the past seven or eight months. “We expect that a few lakh farmers would be included in the scheme in the next few months,” said a source.
According to officials, the chief minister is keen to establish that the state scheme is more beneficial compared to the Centre’s dole keeping an eye on the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. “The BJP had used the PM-Kisan scheme as the main campaign tool in the Assembly polls. If the state scheme provides more facilities to the farmers, the ruling party is expected to do well in the Lok Sabha polls,” said an official.