Devbrat Patnaik

Bhubaneswar: The decision of State government to merge its flagship scheme Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) with the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) reportedly due to financial constraints has dealt a heavy blow to the small and marginal farmers in Odisha.

Reportedly under PM-Kisan scheme, the central government is providing annually Rs 6,000 in three equal installments to about 14 crore farmers while Odisha government under KALIA had assured that the beneficiary farmers will be provided Rs 10,000 each per annum for two crops (Rs 5,000 for Kharif and Rs 5,000 for Rabi crop).

However, the existing plan of KALIA scheme has been changed and as per new guidelines instead of Rs 10,000 under the scheme, the State government will give Rs 4,000 to farmers from 2020-21 while the remaining Rs 6,000 will be given to farmers under Centre's PM-KISAN, sources added.

This apparently reduces the annual assistance of farmers in Odisha by as much as Rs 6000 (from Rs 16000 to Rs 10000). Further, the government made it clear that as all the eligible farmers shall get assistance from PM-KISAN from 2019-20, no assistance for Rabi’2019 will be given under KALIA scheme to these farmers.

While there is no provision for the big/large farmers under KALIA scheme, they are eligible to get assistance of Rs 6000 from PM-KISAN scheme annually. On the other hand, the actual cultivators (share croppers) who are landless, if any, will continue to get Rs 10000 assistance from KALIA scheme annually, since they are not considered under PM-KISAN.

Moreover, the government notification said that KALIA scheme will be extended till PM-KISAN continues.

"Just because Centre is extending cash benefits to farmers, Odisha government deviating from its election-promise is not acceptable. Farmers will definitely raise their voices against this," said a farmer leader opposing the proposed merger of KALIA and PM-KISAN.

On the other hand, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress have criticised the State government for failing to provide assistance to the farmers. While Congress termed KALIA promise an election gimmick, BJP said that there are no such provisions to merge the Centre’s PM-KISAN with Odisha KALIA scheme.

“KALIA scheme is just an election gimmick. This shameless Odisha government misused the name of Lord Jagannath only to get votes and now it has backtracked from its promise post elections. All farmers will respond at the appropriate time,” said senior Congress leader Suresh Routray.

Similarly, State BJP vice-president Samir Mohanty said, "The operational guidelines suggest that Odisha government’s KALIA and Centre’s PM-KISAN cannot be converged. The government is misleading people because it is planning to stop disbursing assistance to farmers.

In response, BJD vice-president Debiprasad Mishra stated, "This is a flagship scheme with terms of convergence. As identification process was getting difficult, in case some beneficiaries are left out, they will now be enlisted in PM-KISAN."