Ashutosh Mishra

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: The figures keep changing. The latest claims put the number of people who received money under the KALIA (Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation) scheme without fulfilling the eligibility criteria at 45,965 which is nearly 14,000 more than what the earlier statistics provided by the government had shown.

These bogus beneficiaries have set the state exchequer back by Rs.22.98 crore which is the hard-earned money of taxpayers. In what appears to be a classic case of locking the stable door after the horse has bolted the government is now initiating steps to recover this money. The discrepancies in the distribution of KALIA money came to light when the authorities started vetting the list of putative farmers who had received the first instalment of the benefits in their bank accounts.

Now with the stage set for the release of the second instalment of the scheme funds, the process of weeding out fake beneficiaries has been launched and a district and block-wise list of eligible farmers is being prepared. Once the list is ready it would be published online for the benefit of all.

There is no denying that the implementation of the scheme has been shoddy and marred by politics. This has given the Opposition an opportunity to target the government which is at pains to explain that there is no politics involved in the distribution of scheme benefits.

But the basic question as to why was the scheme launched in a hurry just before the elections has not been answered convincingly so far. The scheme, no doubt, impacted the elections in a big way with farmers in most of the districts reaping its benefits. The lure of cash being deposited in their bank accounts must have been strong enough for most of them to vote in favour of the ruling party, argue opposition leaders.

In some areas, the scheme faced hiccups with money not reaching the accounts of the beneficiaries because of the restrictions imposed by the Election Commission. This triggered resentment but the ruling party leaders moved promptly to assure farmers that the promised financial assistance would reach farmers once the curbs put by EC were withdrawn.

The success of the scheme had become a prestige issue for the government which had drawn praise from experts for avoiding the traditional route of granting loan waivers to mitigate farmers’ woes and coming up with a formula designed to make them self reliant. Besides the scheme catered not only to small and marginal farmers but also sharecroppers and landless agricultural labourers.

Brilliantly conceptualised the scheme enhanced the image of the government but politics that crept in at the implementation stage took some of its shine away. The entry of fake beneficiaries is only one example of how politics is threatening to undermine an excellent prescription to address farmers’ woes.

And now the government faces the challenge of recovering its own money from undeserving people who managed to fool the officials because there was no attempt to vet the applicants in the initial stages of the launch of the scheme. One hopes the government manages to recover the money and learns from its mistakes.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)