Ramakanta Biswas

Bhubaneswar: Ineligible recipients of financial assistance under the KALIA scheme do not have to refund the money as of now as the Odisha government has decided to put the process in abeyance.

The decision to suspend the refund process has been taken in view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic situation and the Kharif agricultural crop operations, according to an official letter.

In the note, the directorate of agriculture and food production has asked all the district agriculture officers to put the refund of KALIA (Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation) assistance in temporary suspension.

“In view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic situation and the Kharif agricultural crop operations, it has been decided to keep the refund activities of KALIA assistance from the ineligible beneficiaries in abeyance, for the present,” the letter read.

The district agriculture officers have been asked to inform the communique to the field extension functionaries accordingly.

Reacting to the issue, Union Minister Pratap Sarangi questioned as to how the ineligible beneficiaries received the funds. "There seems to be corruption behind it. The government had asked the ineligible recipients to return the money and now the process has been put on hold. The role of government seems suspicious."

The State government had announced the KALIA scheme just before the 2019 elections and promised to provide Rs 10,000 to each eligible farmers in two instalments.

Last month Odisha Agriculture Secretary had informed that around 50,000 out of the total 51.05 lakh people who availed benefits under the livelihood scheme are ineligible and they will be asked to return the money.

“More than 98% of people who received KALIA assistance were genuine beneficiaries, so there’s not much of an issue. Of the 50000-odd ineligible beneficiaries, some have refunded, while we have sent letters to remaining people seeking a refund,” Sourav Garg, Principal Secretary, Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment Department had said.

However, the move did not go down well with the opposition BJP and Congress who strongly criticised the State government for asking people to return the money.

Terming the refund process as ‘anti-farmer’, president of BJP Krushak Morcha, Pradeep Purohit had said, “It is really unfortunate to see the government seeking a refund when all from the farming community are battling the COVID pandemic.”

(Edited By Suryakant Jena)

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