The Centre has paid nearly Rs 3,000 crore under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme till July 15 to more than 42 lakh farmers who were not eligible to receive these benefits, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. This amount now has to be recovered from them, he said.

The PM-Kisan scheme, launched by the Narendra Modi government ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, initially provided income support of Rs 6,000 annually to small and marginal farming families. In July 2020, the criteria based on size of land holdings were removed but some exceptions remained.

Farming families with members who paid income tax, received a monthly pension above Rs 10,000, held a constitutional position, or were serving or retired government employees were excluded from the ambit of the scheme. Professional and institutional landholders were also kept out of the scheme. The 42 lakh families that will have to return the money fall into one of these categories.

Under this scheme, the Centre releases Rs 6,000 in three instalments of Rs 2,000 every four months directly into the bank accounts of farmers under the Direct Benefit Transfer mode.

Out of a total Rs 2,992.75 crore, the government will recover Rs 554.01 crore from 8.35 lakh ineligible farmers in Assam, PTI reported, citing data from the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare.

This will be followed by Rs 437.9 crore from 5.6 lakh farmers in Punjab, Rs 357.9 crore from 4.45 lakh farmers in Maharashtra, Rs 340.56 crore from 7.22 lakh farmers in Tamil Nadu and Rs 258.64 crore from 2.65 lakh farmers in Uttar Pradesh.

Over Rs 220 crore has to be recovered from farmers in Gujarat, Rs 19.5.9 crore from Madhya Pradesh, Rs 144 crore from Rajasthan and Rs 129.32 crore from Karnataka, the data showed.

“Standard operation guidelines have been issued for recovering money from ineligible beneficiaries,” the minister said.

“The structure of the [PM-Kisan] scheme inherently comprises a mechanism for exclusion of errors on the basis of continuous verification and validation of data of beneficiaries by various authorities [such as Aadhaar or the income tax database],” Tomar said in his reply to the Lok Sabha, according to The Times of India. “However, during the process of verification, it was found that the benefit of the scheme was transferred to some ineligible beneficiaries including some income tax paying farmers.”