Ahead of polls, Naveen Patnaik starts biggest cash transfer scheme for Odisha farmers
Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday rolled out transfer of funds to small and marginal farmers and landless sharecroppers under the Krushak Assistant for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) scheme.
Under the Rs 10,180 crore livelihood support and insurance scheme, a sum of Rs 5000 transferred to bank accounts of over 12.4 lakh farmers in the State.
Around 30.17 lakh small and marginal farmers would get Rs 25000 as farm assistance over five agricultural seasons for purchase of inputs like seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, labour charges. Besides, each landless agricultural households would get one-time assistance of Rs.12,500 for agricultural allied activities like livestock, fishery and horticulture-based activities towards livelihood supports in three phases as the BJD seeks to overcome farmer discontent ahead of the elections.
Initiating the transfer of Rs 5000 to each of the bank accounts of the beneficiaries at a massive gathering of farmers in Malatipatapur village in Puri district, Patnaik said: “For Odisha’s development, this is a milestone and no one can hinder its progress. This scheme will help you (farmers) in your farming activities and you and your family will progress. Ninety two per cent of the State’s farmers will reap benefits form this scheme. This program will pave the path for the entire nation as everybody countrywide is appreciating the scheme,” said Patnaik.
“You are providing food to the state. The grains and vegetables you produce are being used in Lord Jagannath’s ‘Mahaprasad’. It is a great deed, a noble deed. Therefore, I have given the name of this scheme ‘KALIA’ and before launching the scheme, I took the blessings of the Lord today,” he said.
On Friday, the state government transferred Rs 622.5 crore to the banks accounts of 12.4 lakh farmers. In February, another Rs 1000 crore would be transferred to the farmers’ accounts.
Officials said zeroing in on small and marginal farmers from the 67 lakh-odd farmers who had applied under the scheme was a big challenge. “Using databases of Direct Benefit Transfer, Paddy Procurement Automation System, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, Human Resources Management System, State Food Security Scheme, teahers data from OPEPA, lecturers data from higher education department, police department employees, pension accounts from State Bank of India we did a lot of number crunching and data analysis to ferret out the real beneficiaries. In the first phase we are giving Rs 5000 to 12.45 lakh farmers,” said cooperation department secretary Dr Krishan Kumar.
The scheme has drawn mixed reactions.
While economist Ashok Gulati hailed the scheme calling it the lighthouse to guide the nation on what type of agriculture policy for India’s farmers, Swaminathan Ankalsaria Aiyar praised it calling it fairer than Rythu Bandhu scheme of Telengana, but cautioned it would be difficult to implement due to administrative resource issues.
Political analysts believe Kalia scheme is going to be a gamechanger for BJD as it would help the party battle anti-incumbency at the grassroots at a time when farm distress has emerged as a major worry.
“Nothing works like money during election. One really does not know how much the Rs 5000 cash assistance per cropping season would help the cause of agriculture, but it would surely be a big help for Odisha farmers. This scheme would ensure Naveen returns as CM for the fifth term,” said Prof SP Dash, political science professor or Sambalpur University.
But both the Congress and the BJP attacked Patnaik over the cash transfer scheme
Congress President Rahul Gandhi who was in Bhubaneswar on Friday said the decision of the Congress government in Chhattisgarh to raise minimum support price (MSP) seems to have spurred Patnaik to launch the KALIA scheme.
“Suddenly Naveen Patnaik has woken up to the idea that farmers need help. What has he been doing for last 10-15 years? Why is it that after the Chhattisgarh government raised MSP, Patnaik woke up to the plight of farmers?” Gandhi asked at a closed door interaction with intellectuals in Bhubaneswar.
Union petroleum and natural gas minister Dharmendra Pradhan said when the state government has admitted in the Assembly that it does not have any data on sharecroppers, how could it extend financial assistance to them. “The government is just trying to hoodwink farmers,” said Pradhan.
While the BJD is banking on the KALIA scheme to win the upcoming elections, voices on ground attest to the growing disenchantment with the ruling party.
“The Naveen Patnaik government has not given a single rupees extra for MSP on paddy. In the last four years, the State government has not acknowledged a single farmer death due to farm distress. Farmers are not able to sell their paddy at MSP. The government just wants to buy votes through KALIA scheme,” said Ashok Pradhan, leader of farmer organisation Paschima Odisha Krushak Surakhya Samanwaya Samiti.
The government is planning to use a fleet of 150 vehicles with audio-visual aids to spread awareness on KALIA in all the 6800 gram panhayats for the next 45 days in an effort to gain maximum leverage.
“Television advertisements, radio jingles on 13 channels of All India Radio and FM and newspaper advertisements have been prepared and are being broadcast. A call centre working as KALIA helpline has also been made operational that would redress grievances of farmers,” said an official, underlining the importance of the scheme.