In the last few years, farm distress has emerged to be the most significant poll issue, and farm loan waiver is being sold as the panacea to the problem faced by our farmers. As soon as the Congress government took oath in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, fulfilling their election promise, they announced loan waivers for their farmers. Recently, elections in five states got over, and now the general elections are due in the next few months.
But the question is farm loan waiver a solution or even address the problem? The farm loan waiver currently being announced by various State governments benefit the bigger farmers who have larger loans because most of the landless farmers, sharecroppers and marginal farmers cannot provide the guarantee to take loans from the bank and they are dependent on private money lenders for money. For example in Odisha, only 18% of farm loans were borrowed from the banks while rest from individual money-lenders. To exacerbate the issue, landowners who lease out to sharecroppers, get the benefits of the loan waiver but the landless labourers working on the fields are left behind and see no benefit of these waivers.
Loan waiver package does not benefit all farmers. It benefits only defaulter loanee farmers who constitute a limited part of farming community. All farmers do not get benefit under loan waiver scheme. It often demotivates those loanee farmers who repay their loan in time. Loan waiver schemes do not provide any benefit to those who do not avail loan. Share croppers do not get any benefit under conventional loan waiver schemes. Furthermore, waiver packages do not benefit landless agricultural labourers and vulnerable agricultural households who cannot take up cultivation on account of old age, disabilities disease or are vulnerable for only reason.
The State of Odisha was one of the pioneering states to address farmer issues and launch a 360-degree initiative – KALIA Scheme – as direct benefit cash transfers for small and marginal farmers, sharecroppers, as well as landless agricultural labourers. Soon after Odisha’s innovative scheme launch, Prime Minister Modi took the interim budget 2019 as an opportunity to announce poll bonanza for farmers and promised Rs 6,000 to be paid every year under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM KISAN) programme to only landowning farmers, but yet again leaving the landless farmers, sharecroppers and agricultural labourers.
Odisha government’s solution
To address these problems and to benefit the neediest, Odisha govt has launched the KALIA (Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Assistance) scheme. It is currently the only scheme in India which is inclusive to the extent of integrating landless farmers in the scheme. KALIA is both inclusive and progressive: It covers 92% of farmers loanee – as well as non-loanee farmers, share cropper and landless agricultural labourers.
Under the KALIA scheme:
- Odisha govt will provide direct benefit transfer of Rs 12,500 per year for landless agricultural labourers.
- Support to cultivators for cultivation is provided to small and marginal farmers and sharecropper by way of grant of Rs. 5,000/- per farm family per season. Around 30 lakh small and marginal farmers and sharecroppers will be benefited in this scheme.
- Assistance of Rs 12,500/- to those landless households who want to get in the activities like livestock, fishery kit, poultry, mushroom cultivation and bee keeping.
- Life Insurance and accidental cover to small farmers, marginal farmers, landless agricultural labourers, sharecroppers and vulnerable agricultural families.
- 65 lakh Green Form Applications has been received by the State Government in the first phase.
- The first phase assistance of the landless agriculture labourers was directly credited to the bank account of 3.5 lakhs.
- In the first phase of the Rs. 25000/- financial support category of the scheme, Rs 5000/- was transferred to 12.45 lakh farmers.
- Rs 10,000 per family per year to those who are in old age, having disability or disease and are vulnerable for any other reason. 10 lakh vulnerable agriculture families will be benefited.
One of the most commendable factors is coverage of those involved in allied activities will also be provided with technical assistance and end to end training to build capacities of the farmers to improve overall productivity. Rs 10,800 crore has already been earmarked for the implementation of the scheme over the next three years. The scheme is to benefit more than 50 lakh agricultural families in total.
While other schemes wait for elections, KALIA is already being implemented
On 15 February 2019, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in a farmers’ rally attended by 2 lakh farmers initiated the first phase of the KALIA scheme, under which Rs 5,000 as the first installment of the Rs. 12,500 was directly credited to the bank accounts of around 3.5 lakh landless agricultural beneficiaries under the livelihood support category of the scheme. In the 2nd and 3rd phase subsequently, Rs 3,000 and Rs 4,500 will be transferred. In the first phase of the financial support category of the scheme, Rs 5,000 was transferred to 12.45 lakh farmers.
Taking the mammoth task to find the needy
One of the biggest problems of schemes being launched across India for the farmers is that none of them focuses on finding out those who need to be benefitted the most. Odisha govt took responsibility and identified the needy. It introduced “Green Forms” for those who wanted to get benefitted from the KALIA scheme. In 314 blocks, over 14,000 data entry personnel were hired to register the beneficiaries and finally, they were digitally connected over 65 lakh farmers.
KALIA is a revolutionary scheme in lending a helping hand to real and needy small and marginal farmers, sharecropper and landless agricultural labourers and vulnerable agricultural families who constitute 92% of farming communities. Benefits under KALIA Scheme is expected to foster prosperity and ensure eradication of poverty in the state.
The Logical Indian commends Odisha govt for taking historical decision to cover all landless agricultural across the state which is being done for the first time in India and especially for not just transferring the money but also to train them so they can start a small business on their own.