Mamata keeps pre-poll pledge, hikes farmer aid from Rs 6,000 to Rs 10,000
The Bengal cabinet on Thursday stamped its seal of approval on chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s pre-poll promise to enhance the annual financial assistance to farmers to Rs 10,000 from Rs 6,000 under the Krishak Bandhu Scheme.
The saffron ecosystem has been attempting to question the Trinamul government’s commitment to farmers.
“The cabinet cleared a proposal put forward by the agriculture department to enhance financial assistance to Rs 10,000 under the Krishak Bandhu Scheme.… The chief minister had promised this ahead of the polls in the manifesto and now is the time to deliver,” said a minister who attended the meeting at Nabanna on Thursday.
This direct benefit transfer scheme for the farmers, added the minister, would establish that the Trinamul government is more concerned about the well-being of the farmers than the Narendra Modi regime at the Centre that offers Rs 6,000 under the PM Kisan scheme.
Sources in the agriculture department said that all the 62 lakh farmers, registered under the state scheme, would benefit from it as it is not conditional.
“All the farmers who have more than one acre would get Rs 10,000 annually. Those who have less than an acre would at least get Rs 4,000 annually. Even sharecroppers are eligible under the scheme,” said the official.
On the other hand, the central scheme offers Rs 6,000 annually to the farmers. Those farmers who have income tax payers, government employees, retired government employees with over Rs 10,000 monthly pension, doctors, engineers, chartered accountants, lawyers and architects in the family are not eligible under PM Kisan.
Sources in Nabanna added that the state scheme is more lucrative because of some other factors.
“The state scheme has several other benefits, including compensation of Rs 2 lakh, in case of premature death of a farmer. As the state scheme does not prevent any farmer from getting assistance from any other scheme, the farmers can avail of both the central and the state schemes,” said an official.
The enhancement of the assistance under the state scheme comes at a time when the central PM Kisan scheme has also been launched in Bengal and more than seven lakh farmers got their first instalment of Rs 2,000 in May this year.
For the past two years, the central scheme could not be implemented in the state due to the Trinamul government’s resistance. But in November last year, the chief minister had agreed to implement PM Kisan in the state after 23 lakh farmers had applied for the scheme.
The PM Kisan had become a political issue during the Assembly poll campaign during which scores of BJP leaders, including Modi, had accused the Bengal government of depriving farmers in Bengal by not implementing the scheme.
In his campaign rallies, Modi had promised to release two years’ backlog under the scheme if the BJP formed the government in Bengal and transfer Rs 18,000 to the accounts of all the farmers.
“The chief minister had countered the allegation by claiming that the state’s scheme was better than the central one. Now, she has proven that,” said a senior official.
Another official said that the move would help the ruling party to strengthen its support base in the rural areas, where agriculture remains the sole means to earn livelihood.
“Trinamul performed well in the rural belts of Hooghly, Birbhum and East Burdwan though it had faced electoral debacle in these areas in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. So it is clear that Trinamul is trying to consolidate its position in these areas,” said another official.
Sources in Nabanna also said that they were expecting to bring more farmers under the state scheme by relaxing the norms for registration.
“There are 73 lakh farmers in the state. The scheme so far covered 62 lakh farmers. We expect to reach out to more farmers soon as the eligibility norms have been relaxed,” said a source.