Hit by cash crunch, Odisha defers cash assistance to farmers to next year
The Covid-19 pandemic has sent Odisha’s revenue collection into a tail spin with earnings down by 23 per cent in the first quarter of the current financial year compared to the corresponding period of the last fiscal.Updated: Jul 25, 2020 17:59 IST
Facing a huge revenue shortage, the Odisha government announced Saturday that it has decided to defer the payment of Rs 402 crore cash assistance to at least 16 lakh families till the next financial year under the Kalia Yojana, its flagship scheme for small, medium and landless farmers.
The state agriculture department had earmarked Rs 2,234 crore in 2020-21 for the beneficiaries of Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) scheme, in which a farmer gets Rs 10,000 per year for two crops (Kharif and Rabi). The state scheme proved to be a catalyst in the assembly polls as it helped Naveen Patnaik become chief minister for a fifth consecutive time by curbing anti-incumbency sentiments in the countryside.
But with the Covid-19 pandemic taking a huge toll on the state’s economy with its revenue earning down by 23 per cent in the first quarter of the current financial year in comparison to the corresponding period of last year, the agriculture department has now decided to defer the payment of Rs 402 crore to 16.09 lakh landless agriculture households to the next financial year.
To lessen the financial burden, the state government in December last year had already merged the scheme with the PM Kisan scheme in which the state and centre shared the Rs 10,000 assistance in 2:3 ratio.
Now to reduce the outgo in Kalia scheme, the department has asked 50,000 farmers who had received cash assistance under the scheme to return the money. Principal secretary in the Agriculture and Farmers Empowerment department, Saurabh Garg said 50,000 people were found ineligible.
“We have sent request letters to the ineligible beneficiaries like farmers with large land holdings, income tax payees and government employees. They have been given a bank account number in which they have to deposit the money,” he said.
The refund adds up to over Rs 10 crore.
The Odisha unit of the BJP has condemned the government decision of deferring the cash assistance as well as asking the farmers to refund the Kalia money. BJP Krushak Morcha State president Pradip Purohit said at a time when the farmers are facing an uncertain future due to Covid-19 pandemic, the deferment of the cash assistance would stress them further.
“The farmers would be forced to take extreme steps if the government does not come to their aid. The Centre is already sharing a major part of the expenditure. The state government should not fail the farmers at this time,” Purohit said.