Bhubaneswar, Feb 21 (LocalAire) On a day when thousands of farmers organised under the banner of Nabanirman Krushak Sangthan (NKS), an umbrella body of agriculturists, demonstrated against the government across the state and enforced a dawn to dusk shut-down chief minister, Naveen Patnaik graced the Chasi Mahasamavesh ( mega farmers’ convention) at Bargarh distributing assistance worth Rs.700 crore to more than 14 lakh beneficiaries of KALIA scheme meant exclusively for farmers.
The chief minister, who has already switched into the election mode, also taunted the “ bandh” organisers saying that no one can stop the implementation of his KALIA, an acronym for Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation, a scheme being touted by the state government at the panacea for all the problems afflicting state’s farmers.
“Some people have given bandh call but no one can ‘bandh’ (check or block) KALIA,” he said adding that more than 14 lakh farmers got Rs 700 crore assistance under KALIA. “It is a historic step taken for the development of farmers.
Our Kalia yojana has shown path to the entire country. Small farmers, sharecroppers, landless farmers and even farm labourers are being benefitted,” Patnaik elaborated during his address.
The chief minister assured that not a single eligible farmer would be deprived of KALIA benefits and also referred to the KALIA Scholarship Yojana for the children of the farmers.
“ So, properly educate your children. Make them doctors, engineers and scientists. The State Government will bear the whole expenses,” he stated.
He also sought to pit KALIA against the Centre’s PM-KISAN Yojana. “I have demanded the Prime Minister to include small, landless farmers and sharecroppers in the PM-KISAN Yojana. Instead of Rs 6,000, I have demanded for Rs 10,000.”
The state government, despite protests from the Centre, has so far been reluctant to implement the PM-KISAN scheme triggering a war of words between BJP and Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD).
On the other hand, NKS, which is agitating on the demands for ‘ price, prestige and pension’ for farmers, has dismissed KALIA as a political stunt.
“ It is like old wine in a new bottle,” said a senior NKS leader asserting that agitation for the rights of farmers will continue till the organisation has achieved all its demands.
Farmer issues in Odisha have come into sharp focus following a spate of suicides by farmers over the last few years in different parts of the state.
Most of these cases, resulting from crop loss and the resultant failure of the farmers to re-pay their debts, have been reported from the drought-prone western part of the state, specially districts like Bargarh and Bolangir.
However, the state government seems reluctant to admit that these suicides have been caused by loan over-burden or crop loss and continues to insist that it is doing its bit for the development of the farming community.
The KALIA scheme, under which it proposes to spend more than Rs.10,000 crore, is being cited as an example of the government’s concern for farmers. The farming community, however, seems far from satisfied.