By Subrat Das*
Bhubaneswar: Soon after the recent assembly elections to five states, in which farmers’ vote played a major role, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) scheme, which has earned accolades from many quarters including the 15th Finance Commission, has forced other political parties to go for prototype schemes. Narendra Modi government at the Centre announced Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan) scheme in the interim budget and Modi launched it yesterday. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi during his recent visit to Odisha had reiterated his party’s promise and assured to go for more pro-farmer initiatives.
All the three major political parties –BJD, Congress and BJP- will make the development of agriculture and allied sector the main plank in the coming elections to woo the largest vote bank of the state. It may be noted that Odisha had 41.04 lakh cultivators and 67.40 lakh agricultural labourers in 2011 census. This was revealed at the third edition of Odisha Nirman Conclave organized by Kanak News here on Saturday.
State’s Finance Minister Shashi Bhusan Behera, who happens to be the Agriculture Minister too, said his party would make efforts to increase farmers’ income manifold if his party came to power for the next term and the state government’s flagship programme KALIA scheme, which was praised by the 15th Finance Commission, would be carried forward. Significantly, former union finance minister Yashwant Sinha, also appreciated the scheme.
On the other hand, Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee, Niranjan Patnaik said that his party would provide free solar pump to farmers to irrigate agricultural land round the year and financial support to them for five years to make them self-reliant. Similarly, senior BJP leader Biswa Bhusan Harichandan said priority should be attached to agriculture as around 70 percent of the state’s population depend on the farming and allied sector.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who had announced KALIA scheme on December 21, has made the highest allocation of Rs 4461 crore for the populist scheme in the interim budget for the coming year and has released the first installment of Rs 5000 to each and every beneficiary through direct benefit transfer. Yesterday, he has announced that the second tranche of Rs 5000 would be provided on April 1 and launched the scholarship scheme for the children of farmers, under which the state government would bear the cost on the education and hostel/messing costs of these students. Under the KALIA scheme, financial assistance of Rs 25,000 will be given to 30 lakh small and marginal farmers in five instalments. Besides, 10 lakh landless families will get Rs 12,500 financial aid as livelihood support and 10 lakh farmer families, who are unable to carry on cultivation due to old age, physical disability and other reasons, will be given financial assistance of Rs 10,000 per year. Life insurance cover of Rs 2 lakh will be extended to 57 lakh farmer and landless families and they will be covered under accident insurance benefit up to Rs 2 lakh. The government has also announced that henceforth those farmers, who are getting crop loan at 1 percent interest, will get interest-free credit.
The BJP, on the other hand, has been focussing on the recently launched Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan) scheme, under which financial assistance of Rs 6000 per acre per year will be given to small and marginal farmer families having a combined landholding up to five acres. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched the scheme yesterday from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh and Union Minister of State for Agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat from Odisha.
The Congress, which came to power recently in three northern states on crop loan waiver plank, has reiterated its promise for the coming general elections. This has been reinforced by Congress president Rahul Gandhi at Bhubaneswar recently.
The writer is a journalist currently working with Sambad Group as Consultant Editor of Group Digital Edition.