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‘India likely to double cash handouts to women farmers’

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INDIA’S prime minister Narendra Modi’s government is considering doubling the annual payout to landowning female farmers to ₹12,000 (£113), three sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters, a move likely to appeal to women voters ahead of a general election.

The plan is likely to be announced in the budget on February 1 and could cost the government an additional ₹120 billion (£1.13 billion), said two of the sources, all of whom declined to be named discussing a budget proposal.

It will build on an existing programme that Modi, who will be seeking a third term in elections due by May, announced before the previous general election in 2019.

Under the “Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi” programme, the government transfers ₹6,000 (£56.8) annually to both men and women farmers. It has so far disbursed more than ₹2.81 trillion (£26.5 billion) to more than 110 million farmers in 15 instalments until last November, according to official estimates.

The plan to double the cash support and target it toward women has not been previously reported.

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There are more than 260 million farmers in India, and along with their families, they are a massive voting bloc in the country of 1.4 billion people.

Women account for 60 per cent of total farmers, but fewer than 13 per cent of them own the land they sow, according to official data.

The agriculture ministry declined comment, while the finance ministry did not respond to an email seeking comment.

One of the sources said expanding the financial support to women farmers would not have any significant impact on government finances since the amount will be relatively small in what is estimated to be a £433 billion budget. Women have been a key support base for Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is widely expected to win the next election, according to opinion polls.

The party last year handsomely won elections in three out of four major states, delivering better-than-expected results in states like Madhya Pradesh in central India with women overwhelmingly voted for it there.

In Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP government ran a cash transfer programme for married women, the party won about 51 per cent of the female vote.

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