Op-Ed: Is Naveen Government Finding KALIA Hard To Handle?

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Ruling Biju Janata Dal’s (BJD) campaign for the recent Lok Sabha and state assembly elections revolved around the Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) scheme of its government.

Hailed by economists and planning experts it was supposed to be the panacea for the all problems being faced by the farming community. It took care of marginal farmers and the long neglected share-croppers as well. Both BJD and its government projected the scheme in a big way to woo the farmers who constitute a major vote-bank.

There were minor hiccups like election code of conduct coming in the way of disbursement of KALIA money to the beneficiaries. Those who did not receive money were peeved and complained bitterly. But they were assured that money would reach them the moment the election-related restrictions were lifted.

The party led by chief minister, Naveen Patnaik is said to have reaped rich electoral dividends from the scheme which was considered so important that the state government had initially appeared reluctant to have anything to do with the PM kisan yojana, an umbrella scheme at the national level for the members of the farming community.

A Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana (BSKY) versus Ayushman Bharat like situation had emerged with regard to KALIA and the Centre’s PM Kisan Yojana. It took some time for the state government to agree to share the list of beneficiaries with the Centre for the PM Kisan yojana. One is not sure if the entire list has reached the Centre yet.

Given this backdrop the plea of two senior BJP MPs in parliament for the merger of state-run schemes like KALIA with the PM kisan yojana raises some obvious questions, the most obvious being whether the state government is finding KALIA’s financial burden too much to handle?

This is quite possible given the state’s rising loan burden and the fact that it cannot cut down expenses on the many welfare schemes which have kept it in power for so many years. Besides the government’s pro-people and pro-poor image has come to be linked with these measures which, it appears, were initiated in some cases without taking the state’s fiscal health into account.

The state then has to find a way out of this crisis. In the past the government has done so cleverly in some cases. Take for example the Rs.1 per kg rice scheme which is among the most popular welfare measures of Naveen Patnaik government. The scheme is hailed as state’s very own but the fact remains that it gets highly subsidized rice from the Centre which considerably reduces its financial burden.

This kind of an arrangement suits the state government. The plea for merging KALIA with the PM kisan yojana, if accepted, will bail out Naveen Patnaik government from a difficult situation while keeping its reputation as a pro-poor regime intact. This also could be the reason behind chief minister’s friendly overtures towards Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and his party. It is a clever move.

(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.)