It was touted as a scheme that would sweep away all the accumulated resentment and anger among farmers, who comprise nearly 70 per cent of Odisha’s population, and ensure a resounding victory for the ruling BJD. Two and a half months down the line, the curiously named KALIA (Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation) scheme has run into rough weather with charges of irregularities and malpractices in the selection of beneficiaries.
Sample this. Kabiraj Pachalasingh of Garlagudi village in Rayagada district figures seven times in the first list of beneficiaries for transfer of the first tranche of assistance worth Rs 5,000. Pravat Samal of Kendrapara district’s Bhuinpur village appears in the list 11 times, with his father’s name mentioned as Nakul Samal eight times and NA (not available) thrice. In one entry, the father’s sex too is NA! Perusal of voter lists confirms these are not cases of different persons with the same name, and one estimate puts the number of such duplication at 10,942.
The first list also includes spouses or relatives of several ministers, former ministers and ruling party MLAs—for example, the brother, sister-in-law and two sons of Pradeep Maharathy, former agriculture minister and BJD MLA for Pipli. All hell broke loose with the genuine beneficiaries gheraoing panchayat offices and a spate of reports in the local media. “In an exercise involving lakhs of people, there may have been a few discrepancies here and there, but this is only a draft list,” agriculture secretary Sourav Garg had said at the time. “We will correct these anomalies in the final list after scrutiny.”
Unfortunately for the government, while the revised list did away with most duplicate names, many dead people still figured in it, casting doubt over the credibility of the exercise. The government’s constantly varying claims about the total number of beneficiaries have also raised eyebrows. When the scheme was launched on December 31, 2018, the government had said it would benefit over 60 lakh farmers. The figure was 50 lakh in the hoardings put up to publicise the scheme, and at the last cabinet meeting, which approved the inclusion of 10 lakh landless farmers in the list, the total was pegged at 45 lakh. But the first instalment has already been given out to about 37 lakh farmers!
Questions are also being asked about how the government computed the number of share-croppers and landless agricultural workers. “The proposed share-croppers’ Act has been put in the cold storage because the government has not been able to draw up a list. What then is the basis of the list of such farmers for inclusion in KALIA?” asks senior journalist Akshaya Sahoo. After these discrepancies became public, the list of beneficiaries vanished from the government website for a while, only to reappear later.
After weeks of dilly-dallying, the state government sent a list of 12.40 lakh prospective beneficiaries to the Centre for inclusion in the PM-KISAN scheme some time ago. But with the Centre finding over three lakh names ineligible after verifying their Aadhaar details, the state is procrastinating in submitting the revised list. “The Centre has not informed us why the names have been removed,” says agriculture minister Sashi Bhusan Behera. “We will be in a position to cooperate only after the Centre clarifies the grounds for exclusion.”
BJP vice president Samir Mohanty, however, says the state government is sitting over the list as it fears the BJP-led Centre may “get credit” for it. Amid the pre-election charges and counter-charges between parties, the real problems of farmers—lack of irrigation, access to cheap credit and avenues for marketing, and inability to sell paddy at the Rs 1,750 per quintal MSP announced by the Centre—have taken a backseat. No farmer wants to miss out on the dole, but whether KALIA would ensure a BJD win, as was expected when it was launched, is now a moot question.
By Sandeep Sahu in Bhubaneswar