- Scheme announced during budget in February
- First instalment to be delivered by PM Modi to 1.7 crore farmers tomorrow
- Model code of conduct, politics and high rejection rate among challenges
As the government races to roll out PM KISAN, its flagship farmer cash handout scheme ahead of the elections, multiple challenges lie ahead.
The scheme, announced during the budget in February promises Rs 6,000 to 12 crore small and marginal farmer households each, at a total cost of Rs 75,000 crore.
The first instalment will be delivered by the Prime Minister to approximately 1.7 crore farmers at a mega event in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday.
But official data reviewed by NDTV suggests that the rejection rate of beneficiary submissions is fairly high: almost a third.
So far, state governments have submitted 3.2 crore entries to the government's Public Financial Management System (PFMS), which then vets the data.
Of this, 55 lakh are pending. Of the remaining 2.5 crore, 1.7 crore has been cleared and 84 lakh rejected, a 33 per cent rejection rate.
Politics, too, may play spoilsport in slowing down the identification of beneficiaries. BJP-ruled states have sent in a significant number of submissions - 67 per cent - compared to just 2 per cent by Congress-run states, NDTV has found.
UP, where the scheme is being rolled out, makes up almost 30 per cent of all submissions, while states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka have entered, respectively, only 0.03 per cent, 0.01 per cent and 0.6 per cent of all submissions.
West Bengal, another opposition-run state, has not identified any beneficiaries at the time of the filing of this story.
The scheme, announced close to the eve of elections, will also have to navigate the Election Commission's Model Code of Conduct.
The government had proposed to transfer the first instalment of Rs 2,000 to all 12 crore farmers by March 31, but the Model Code is expected to kick in by first week of March.
The Code generally only allows transfer of funds of ongoing schemes, but does not permit transfers under new schemes.
PM-KISAN while being announced in the budget in February , was introduced - unusually - as a retrospective scheme, starting from December 1, 2018, which the government could use to argue makes it an ongoing scheme.
NDTV spoke to three former Chief Election Commissioners (CECs), who unanimously said that the payments could be made only to those beneficiaries who have been identified and enrolled before the Model Code of Conduct kicks in.
"If the beneficiaries have already been identified before the model code of conduct, they can receive (the payment). No new beneficiaries can be identified after the model code of conduct," Navin Chawla , who served as the CEC between April 2009 and July 2010 told NDTV.
Another former CEC, Nasim Zaidi said, "If beneficiaries have not been identified, then payment cannot be made without permission of the Commission".
SY Quraishi who served as the CEC from July 2010 to June 2012 said that "even if a scheme has been announced which involved individual beneficiaries, the beneficiaries which have already been identified are allowed to benefit. Otherwise the scheme had to freeze."
Minister of State for Agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat told NDTV that the government would tackle any issues that arise.
"Once a scheme is rolled on and it becomes an ongoing scheme there is no challenge I see. But if some technicalities like the Election Commission decides... they will decide and they will give a verdict that no you cannot do this, you cannot add new beneficiaries then we will go tackle it."