KALIA Rath in Odisha

A game changer

Print edition : March 01, 2019

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik flags off the KALIA rath at his residence in Bhubaneswar. Photo: Biswaranjan Rout

Instead of going for a farm loan waiver, the Odisha Cabinet on December 21 approved the Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) scheme under which Rs.10,180 crore will be spent over a period of three years to accelerate agricultural prosperity and reduce poverty in the State. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik launched the KALIA scheme on New Year’s eve, announcing that it would cover 92 per cent of the cultivators, loanee and non-loanee farmers, sharecroppers and landless agricultural labourers of the State. The scheme will be reviewed in 2020-21 for further modifications.

Countering the claims of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party that promise loan waivers if voted to power in Odisha, Patnaik said that of the 20 lakh farmers who had availed themselves of loans from among 32 lakh cultivators in the State, about 60 per cent had regularly repaid loans. “What wrong have the 60 per cent done by repaying the loans?” he asked. Further, he pointed out that the entire gamut of sharecroppers and landless labourers would not be covered under a loan waiver scheme.

The KALIA scheme has five components: support to small and marginal farmers for cultivation; livelihood support for landless agricultural households; financial assistance to vulnerable agricultural households and landless agricultural labourers for sustenance; insurance support for farmers and agricultural labourers; and interest-free crop loans. Under the scheme, 30 lakh small and marginal farmers will get Rs.5,000 each in the kharif and rabi seasons in the crop seasons (five) between 2018-19 and 2020-21. The kharif assistance will be paid on “Akshaya Tritiya” day (April/May) and the rabi assistance on the agrarian festival “Nuakhai” (August/September) every year.

A sum of Rs.12,500 each will be provided to 10 lakh landless agricultural households to support activities such as small goat-rearing units, mini-layer units, duckery units, fishery kits for fishermen, mushroom cultivation and beekeeping. This will particularly benefit the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribe populations. Five lakh households will be covered in the first year. Besides, 10 lakh vulnerable cultivators and landless agricultural labourers will get Rs. 10,000 per family per annum as financial assistance under the scheme. No individual will receive more than one of the benefits.

The scheme provides a life insurance cover of Rs.2 lakh along with personal accident cover of an equal amount to 57 lakh farmers and agricultural labourers. Those farmers already covered under similar schemes will be excluded. Also, interest-free crop loans up to Rs.50,000 will be provided to farmers from 2019-20.

 

On January 25, Patnaik rolled out the transfer of funds to beneficiary farmers under KALIA at a rally held in Puri. The next day, in his address at the State-level Republic Day celebrations, Governor Ganeshi Lal said: “The newly launched KALIA has proved to be a unique model for agriculture development in the country.”

Instant hit

The KALIA scheme proved to be an instant hit with farmers not just because it was attractive for them but also because Lord Jagannath is called Kalia by devotees. “You raise crops and provide food to the State. Your production is offered [to the Lord] as mahaprasad. You’re doing a great job, a pious job. So, I named this scheme KALIA,” Patnaik told farmers at the Puri rally. The scheme will show a new path to the entire nation, he said.

Patnaik’s words proved prescient when the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi was announced in the Union interim Budget on the lines of the KALIA scheme. It would have benefited farmers more if the quantum of assistance was equal to or more than the KALIA scheme, which is Rs.10,000 a year, said Patnaik in his reaction to the Budget.

In the first phase, 13.03 lakh small and marginal farmers, including 57,614 sharecroppers, have already been paid Rs.5,000 each for the current rabi season. The remaining farmers will be paid the financial assistance in the second phase in February.

Patnaik has flagged off 150 KALIA raths that will go to all panchayats of the State to create awareness about the scheme. While the government paid 13 lakh farmers and sharecroppers on the basis of Census 2011 data, over 67 lakh farmers, sharecroppers and landless agricultural labourers have sought inclusion in the scheme by filling green forms.

Steps are being taken to exclude ineligible applicants. Implementation committees have been formed at the State, district and block levels to monitor and oversee the smooth implementation of the scheme. To ensure error-free transfer of the grant, Collectors of all the districts have been asked to hold district-level bankers’ committee meeting.

Patnaik has added a new component to the scheme, the KALIA scholarship, under which the State government will bear the educational expenses of the children of KALIA beneficiaries who are studying in government professional colleges on merit basis. Children of KALIA beneficiaries will be aided in their pursuit of higher studies in disciplines such as medicine, engineering, management and law, he said.

The State government has made a provision of Rs.4,461 crore for KALIA in the Budget proposals for 2019-20 unveiled on February 7. If implemented properly, the scheme could be a game changer in the simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.

 

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