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Odisha’s financial assistance for small farmers fails to pay off

Amiti Sen Bhubaneswar | Updated on April 14, 2019 Published on April 14, 2019

Uncertainty on inclusion in KALIA scheme, low paddy prices add to woes

The Odisha government’s much-publicised KALIA scheme, offering financial aid to distressed farmers struggling under high input costs and low returns, has not yet benefited a large number of share-croppers as poor record-keeping may have led to the exclusion of several names.

The Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) scheme promises financial aid of ₹25,000 per farm family over five seasons to small and marginal farmers, including share-croppers, to purchase inputs. It was launched in the rabi season (2018-19).

Also read: Over 30 lakh farmers get Kalia assistance in Odisha

A greater challenge for the cultivators though is the low minimum support price (MSP) for paddy — the main crop grown in Odisha — as the State’s refusal to give an additional bonus is making it difficult for land-less and land-owning farmers to make ends meet.

“I have received no money under KALIA scheme even though my name is there with the government. Many in my community have not received the money as well. We are already getting paid less for the paddy we are growing,” said Babul Tiadi, a share-cropper in Niali village about 30 km from Bhubhaneswar.

Share-croppers account for more than 70 per cent of paddy cultivators in Odisha.

Many share-croppers in Odisha haven’t benefited from KALIA because no criteria have been fixed to identify their names, said Suresh Panigrahi of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS). “An effective way to identify is through law, like in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh,” he added.

‘Further promise’

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, however, recently promised that 25 lakh more identified peasants will get ₹10,000 (two instalments) under KALIA on the day the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) forms the government.

“Not a single farmer will be left out,” he said at a public meeting, adding that 40 lakh farmers have already benefited from the scheme. Both the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls are being held simultaneously in the State. “We hope the promise will be fulfilled as life is tough with the meagre returns that we get despite all family members toiling in the field every day,” said Phule Rani.

Since Phule Rani is a share-cropper, the price her family gets per quintal is ₹1,000-1,400, which is even lesser than the Centre’s much-criticised paddy MSP of ₹1,750 per quintal.

Moreover, they have to give away half of their crop to the land owners as rent.

“ Compare that with ₹2,930 per quintal demanded in a resolution by an All Party House Committee in the Odisha Assembly last year, which was based on input costs, one would realise how poorly off they are,” said AIKS member Panigrahi.

Dhubula Bhoi, one of the few share-croppers who benefited from the scheme said: “We cannot trust the KALIA scheme as is not certain that who will get the benefit.”

Also read: What prompted BJP to stop funding KBK schemes: Naveen Patnaik asks PM

Although most share-croppers are not direct beneficiaries of higher MSP, which often goes into the land owners’ account, they get a higher value from the land owner for the produce, said Bhoi.

‘Losing hope’

“Newspapers say the government has asked people not to lose hope as the money will be given after elections,” said Benu Tiadi, an old farmer who tills the land with his family.

“We don’t really know whether to punish the BJD for not fulfilling its promise or vote it back to power so that it completes the unfinished work,” he added.

Published on April 14, 2019
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