The Trinamool Congress alleged on Wednesday that West Bengal’s cash transfer scheme for farmers had been frozen under the Election Commission’s Model Code of Conduct even as the Union government’s version of a similar scheme had been allowed.
The Trinamool Congress demanded that the Election Commission reconsider the matter. “If the model code of conduct applies to West Bengal government schemes then it must apply to all similar schemes,” West Bengal agrcilture minister Ashis Banerjee told Scroll.in. “If PM Kisan is being allowed then so must Krishak Bandhu. The Election Commission should take immediate action.”
Krishak Bandhu is the income support scheme for farmers announced by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on December 31, 2018. The Union government’s Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (or PM Kisan) was announced on February 1. Both scheme are similar to a 2017 Telangana scheme that introduced the concept of direct cash transfers in order to provide income support for farmers.
The Model Code of Conduct are a set of guidelines put in place before elections in order to prevent incumbents from misusing their power and to ensure a level playing field for all parties. The Election Commission had ruled that cash transfers under the PM Kisan scheme do not violate the model code, allowing around 4.74 crore farmers to receive cash from the Union government even as election campaigning is underway.
Before West Bengal, Odisha had complained that its income support scheme for farmers had been stopped by the Election Commission as well.
The West Bengal government questioned this. “If the same thing done by one agency does not vitiate the election process, how can a similar arrangement done by another agency be objectionable?” Pradip Mazumdar, Advisor to the West Bengal Chief Minister on Agriculture & Allied Sector told Scroll.in. “This is obvious discrimination. The farming community of Odisha and West Bengal should understand how they are being deprived for no rhyme or reason and discriminated against.”
Mazumdar also claimed that the Election Commission had been requested to allow the Krishak Bandhu scheme to continue but the West Bengal government received no reply. “Since this is a continuing scheme implemented on the ground from February 26, we asked that it be allowed to continued,” said Mazumdar.
When the Model Code of Conduct kicked in on March 12, the Krishak Bandhu scheme had enrolled more than 26 lakh beneficiaries, as per data provided by the West Bengal government to Scroll.in. As of that date, Rs 151 crore had been distributed to more than 10 lakh beneficiaries.