Op-Ed: KALIA Lands In A Fresh Controversy

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: State government’s much talked about KALIA Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation) scheme for farmers finds itself in the midst of another controversy with agriculture department initiating the process of vetting beneficiaries after a large number of them have already received the money in their bank accounts. It has asked ineligible beneficiaries to voluntarily refund the money received by them to ensure transparency in the system.

This is basically an appeal to their conscience but as we all know few people have moral scruples in matters involving money. Hence the chances of voluntary refund appear remote and the government may have to resort to coercive measures to get it back from farmers who did not deserve to be in the list of beneficiaries. Some opposition leaders have also sought to caution the government in this regard.

The ineligible beneficiaries have been urged to contact their respective panchayat offices and refund the money credited in their bank accounts. Simultaneously the government has made public the list of 51 lakh beneficiaries of the scheme under which farmers get Rs. 5,000 per crop as financial assistance. All small and marginal farmers along with landless agricultural households, vulnerable agricultural household, landless agricultural labourers and sharecroppers/actual cultivators are eligible for assistance under different components of KALIA.

The moot question is why did the government distribute the money before identifying the eligible beneficiaries? The current exercise of vetting the beneficiaries after the money has been paid to them is like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. This has exposed the government to criticism from the opposition with allegations flying thick and fast that scheme was implemented in a hurry with the sole aim of winning over farmers at the time of elections.

KALIA, indeed, was one of the most important government schemes to have impacted the elections. In a large number of districts where the farmers had benefited from the scheme they felt indebted to the Biju Janata Dal government and must have voted in its favour. However, in some areas where the money did not reach the accounts of the beneficiaries because of the restrictions imposed by the Election Commission there were also murmurs of discontent. The ruling party, however, moved in quickly and clarified that the promised financial assistance would be provided to the farmers once the restrictions were withdrawn.

The government had also collected accolades from experts for coming up with a scheme that instead of taking the traditional route of granting loan waivers to mitigate the problems of farmers had designed a formula that would help them become self reliant. Besides it was a scheme that catered to the needs of not only small and marginal farmers but also share croppers and landless agricultural labourers. This enhanced the image of the government.

But the government that has so far been basking in the praise KALIA has drawn from various quarters would be hard put to explaining why it failed to identify the genuine beneficiaries before the launch. The allegations of trying to milk the scheme politically are likely to haunt it for sometime to come.

(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.)