The Gauhati High Court has asked the Assam government to take "appropriate action" against officials involved in irregularities in distributing benefits under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan) scheme in the state.
The state government had earlier informed the high court that nearly 12 lakh ineligible farmers received benefits under the central government's flagship scheme.
Hearing a public interest litigation filed by NGO Amguri Naba Nirman Samity, a division bench comprising Chief Justice R M Chhaya and Justice Soumitra Saikia directed that the state government needs to initiate "appropriate action" against the erring officers.
"The state government shall strictly adhere to the guidelines for providing the benefit to appropriate beneficiaries. The respondent authority shall implement the scheme in letter and spirit and in accordance with law," the bench said in its November 25 order.
The court also instructed the Assam government to take into consideration the one-man enquiry report, prepared by the then Chief Secretary Jishnu Barua in 2020.
Citing the report by Barua, Agriculture Department Joint Secretary Gunajeet Kashyap in an affidavit informed the court in February that 11.72 lakh ineligible people received benefits under the PM-Kisan scheme.
The high court in its order noted, "It is also brought on record that 16 District Agriculture Officers and 98 Agricultural Development Officers have been subjected to departmental enquiry." Besides, an FIR has been lodged by the District Agriculture Officer of Bongaigaon district and some persons have been arrested, who had fraudulently added 734 persons to the portal, it added.
Under the PM-KISAN scheme, launched in 2019, a financial benefit of Rs 6,000 per year is provided to eligible farmer families, payable in three equal instalments of Rs 2,000. The fund is transferred directly to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries.
On August 4 last year, Assam Agriculture Minister Atul Bora had told the Assembly that a total of 23,33,864 farmers across the state received benefits under the PM-KISAN scheme.
Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar had informed Parliament on July 20 last year that the Centre has to recover Rs 2,992.75 crore as on July 15, 2021, from 42.16 lakh ineligible beneficiary farmers registered for the PM-Kisan scheme with the highest amount to be recovered from Assam.
"Out of this total amount, the Rs 554.01 crore has to be recovered from 8.35 lakh ineligible farmers in Assam," Tomar had said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)