Mains Q & A 20 February 2023
Q1. The Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) programme represented a significant shift in how the Indian government provided assistance to farmers. Examine its performance. (250 words)
Paper & Topic: GS II Government Policies & Interventions
Farmers and their families can receive income support through the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) central sector programme of the Indian government. The PM-KISAN programme was first implemented by the Telangana government as the Rythu Bandhu scheme, in which a certain amount was handed directly to the eligible farmers.
Information on Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi:
By providing income support to all landholding farmer families across the country, the programme aims to boost farmers’ take-home pay by enabling them to pay for both household expenses and costs related to farming and related activities.
The Program transfers Rs. 6000/- per year in three Rs. 2000/- instalments straight into the bank accounts of the farmers, subject to certain exclusion criteria relating to higher income status.
Identification of grantees is the sole responsibility of the State / UT Governments.
All families of small and marginal farmers in the entire country who owned up to 2 hectares of cultivable land were first given financial assistance under the Plan. Eventually, on June 1, 2019, it was expanded to cover all farming families across the country, regardless of the size of their landholdings.
Success of PM-KISAN:
The revised Plan is expected to aid over 2 crore more farmers, raising the total number of beneficiaries under PM-KISAN to roughly 14.5 crore, at an estimated cost to the Central Government of Rs. 87,217.50 crores for the 2019–20 fiscal year.
All Small and Marginal Landholder Farming Families with Total Cultivable Holding Up to 2 Hectares were originally eligible for a financial incentive of Rs. 6000 per annum per family, payable in three equal installments every four months.
The cash transfer is no longer based on the size of the farmer’s land, in contrast to Telangana’s Rythu Bandhu plan, which pays farmers 8,000 per year for every acre they own.
Even though the program’s options are restricted, it aims to assist struggling farmers by covering a portion of their input costs or consumption needs.
Practical Issues: Farmers have not benefited from PM-KISAN in the bulk of the country. The 125 million farming households in the nation, who were initially intended to gain from the initiative, are the owners of tiny and insignificant pieces of land.
Only 32% (40.27 million) of these families are currently listed as recipients, though.
The majority of the beneficiary homes, however, have not yet fully received their $2,000 initial payment. The first and second installments were only received by 27% (33.99 million) and 24% (29.76 million), respectively, of the population.
In terms of the budget, only 17% of the anticipated expense of 75,000 crores has been spent.
Mistakes in Structure PM-KISAN provides 6,000 in three installments for each home annually. Typically speaking, this only accounts for a tenth of the consumption costs or output costs per acre of a poor household.
Notwithstanding the fact that landless tenants are not included in either programme (PM KISAN, Rythu Bandhu), the Telangana programme offers more significant assistance due to the relationship between land size.
Uneven implementation: Several States have prioritised implementation as well.
As an illustration, P. is responsible for 36% (10.84 million) of the second instalment’s beneficiary households and 33% (11.16 million) of all beneficiary households.
A meagre fraction of the initial payment of less than 9% has been distributed to a total of 17 States, covering around half of each State’s SMF households.
Tenants, who make up 13.7% of farm households and pay additional land rent, stand to lose if any of the cultivated land is not owned because the programme only recognises landowners as farmers.
In order for the programme to be effective, PM-KISAN needs to be used uniformly throughout all regions.
Cash transfers will cease to function if the state defaults on its other long-term budgetary commitments in agricultural markets and infrastructure initiatives like irrigation.
Subsidies for inputs, extension services, and procurement guarantees all contribute to the perception of stability in agricultural production.
There is a strong case for include landless tenants and other low-income households in the programme.
PM-KISAN might be modelled after the Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) scheme in Odisha, which helps even poor rural households without land.
Furthermore, the plan’s goal of increasing agricultural inputs is defeated if the crucial link with output scale (farm size) is not established. For homes with land, it essentially becomes a source of supplementary income. Hence, if providing financial assistance is the goal, those who need it the most must be given precedence.
Q2. Further discussion was necessary regarding the voter ID-Aadhaar link. In its present form, it presents a risk of denying voting rights to disadvantaged people and distorting election results. Think critically about it. (250 words)
Paper & Topic: GS II Election related issues
The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which aims to connect voter identification cards and electoral register data with the Aadhaar ecosystem, has received approval from the Lok Sabha. The Act intends to allow voters access to several qualifying dates and eliminate the duplication of electoral rolls. But, this law has a lot of holes.
Connecting Aadhar to voter ID is helpful and necessary:
Since 2015, the Electoral Commission has been asking for this. The National Electoral Law Purification and Authentication Programme was launched by the EC in order to link the Aadhaar number to the voter identity number. It stated that linkage will get rid of several enrollments made in a person’s name.
This makes an effort to lessen the chance of enrolling the same person more than once in different places.
The Aadhar data seeding will make remote voting possible, which may be advantageous for migrant voters.
The Aadhar linking is believed to help avoid tampered with and fake ballots.
Added legislative provisions:
The law proposes four qualifying dates, as opposed to the previous single date, for updating the voting records to include those who have turned 18 years old: the first day of the months of January, April, July, and October (1st January).
Gender-sensitive change: When registering voters, “spouse” will now be used in place of “wives of service voters.”
If the word “wife” is changed to “spouse,” the law will become more “gender-neutral.”
In the event that a person is “unable” to furnish their Aadhar, the Central government has the final word over the conditions under which they may be added to or kept on the electoral rolls.
The Central Government will therefore decide which arguments are acceptable for a voter to remain classified as a voter.
Instead of the government actively assuring registration on the electoral rolls to achieve universal adult franchise, it is now the responsibility of those who might be unable or unable to link their Aadhaar to support their retention on the voting rolls.
Additionally, since there is now no legal requirement to ensure a right to a hearing before such deletion, the deletion from the voter rolls will take place without any kind of procedural safeguards.
Privacy concerns: Currently, the Election Commission of India (ECI) maintains electoral data in a separate database from other governmental databases.
The expected interface between the electoral database and Aadhaar will grant the ECI and UIDAI access to it. Privacy invasions could come from this.
The legitimate voters who are unable to furnish Aadhaar Identification of Benefit Voters would forfeit their right to vote. The amendment will have the consequence of creating political profiles. The linkage of electoral IDs with Aadhaar numbers makes it much easier for the government to track down any voter who has used their Aadhaar to receive social benefits and subsidies.
Using information that is not readily available, political parties may use this to carefully tailor their messages to individual voters.
The Government must solicit public comment and allow for more extensive legislative examination before to passing any new laws. It is essential to make sure that elected officials and common individuals alike have access to chances and privileges in a Parliamentary democracy like India. A productive discussion of those worries and the significance of the proposal is required in order to identify and address any issues that a new law may bring up.
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