The Union government has paid Rs 1,364 crore to 20.48 lakh ineligible beneficiaries under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi, or PM-KISAN scheme till July 2020, PTI reported on Monday, quoting the Union agriculture ministry’s reply to a Right to Information query.

“More than half [55.58%] of these undeserving persons belong to the ‘income tax payee’ category”, Venkatesh Nayak of non-government organisation Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, who filed the RTI application, told the news agency. The rest were from the “ineligible farmers” category. However, in terms of the amount paid, 72% of the fund went to income tax payees, according to The Hindu.

The PM-Kisan scheme, launched by the Narendra Modi government ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, initially provided income support worth Rs 6,000 annually to small and marginal families. Later, the criteria based on size of land holdings was removed but certain exceptions remained, according to The Hindu. Farming families with members who paid income tax, received a monthly pension above Rs 10,000, held a constitutional position, or was a serving or retired government employee, were excluded from the ambit of the scheme. Professional and institutional landholders were also kept out of the scheme. The undeserving beneficiaries fall in one of these categories.

As far as state-wise data is concerned, Punjab had the highest number of ineligible beneficiaries, with 4.74 lakh people (23.16%) receiving funds out of turn, Nayak said. Assam, with 3.45 lakh undeserving beneficiaries and Maharashtra with 2.86 lakh of them, were next on the list. These three states accounted for more than half (54.03%) of the bogus beneficiaries, Nayak told PTI.

Last month, a report by The Quint showed that conmen used publicly available Aadhaar numbers to create fake identities like “Riteish Deshmukh” and “Hanumana Ji”, and others, to receive funds through the scheme. However, some reports suggest that the process to recover funds from ineligible beneficiaries in multiple states has been initiated by the government.