Ramakanta Biswas

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha government on Friday started disbursement of financial assistance to farmers under the KALIA scheme triggering a fresh political slugfest in the State.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik began the fund disbursement under the scheme today and released Rs 2,000 each to 53 lakh farmers through direct benefit transfer (DBT). A total of Rs 12.72 crore was transferred to the bank accounts of the farmers.

Both the BJP and the Congress slammed the move of the ruling-BJD with the BJP alleging that the Odisha government is trying to cover up the prevailing discontent of the farmers across the State through releasing assistance under the scheme.

Addressing a presser, State BJP general secretary Golak Mohapatra questioned if the State has over 53 lakh farmers, why it didn’t provide the list to the Centre thereby preventing the farmers from availing the benefits of the PM-Kisan scheme. The State has reportedly provided list of only 9 lakh farmers to the Centre.

“Most of the time, when a beneficiary search his name under PM-Kisan, they get error message ‘blocked by the State government’. The State government should clarify how the number of farmers in the State reduced to 9 lakh from 35 lakh,” alleged Mohapatra.

The Congress also raised objection to the number of the farmers and alleged that the KALIA funds have been disbursed in view of the upcoming panchayat and urban local body elections

"The concerned minister had told the Assembly he did not have the data about the exact number of small and marginal farmers. How come the Odisha government got the data now? The panchayat and municipality elections will be held soon for which the State government has released a jumla," said Congress legislative party leader, Narasingha Mishra.

Meanwhile, questions are being raised why the BJD government, which had promised farmers to provide Rs 5,000 assistance in rabi as well as kharif season, reneged on its words after coming to power. It is also alleged that the government had assured to continue the scheme every year, but failed to do so.

Besides, after 3 lakh ineligible beneficiaries were surfaced under the scheme, the government had decided to recover Rs 170 crore from them. However, the government is yet to clarify how much money it has recovered so far and what action has been taken against those officials responsible for inclusion of the ineligible beneficiaries in the list.

Responding to the allegations, BJD MLA Amar Satpathy said, "As per the previous announcement, KALIA scheme will provide direct help to farmers by transferring funds directly to their bank account. The Centre followed our scheme in later stage."

"Linking the scheme with election implies that the Opposition are trying to stop the assistance to farmers," Satpathy added.

Meanwhile, protests over procurement woes continue in different parts of the State. "We demand procurement of non-procured paddy and oppose tabling of proposed agriculture ordinance in Odisha Assembly. If our demands are not met, Delhi-like impasse will occur in Odisha in future," said farmer's leader Saroj.

(Edited By Pradeep Singh)