Golden Words Missing

It is always Naveen Patnaik who connects to people as he has the sharpest mind to read the feelings of the common man. However, this time it seems he is missing it. If you are an Odia and also hungry, what will be your choicest food?

Obviously, a bowl of rice! If a hungry Odia is provided with pizza, burger and chowmin, his hunger may subside for the moment, but he will not be satisfied.

This is the situation of Odisha farmers who are in distress and some of them committed suicide out of frustration. The cultivators of the state need immediate assistance to tide over the difficult situation. And the golden words for them are “Loan Waiver”, “Subsidy on Paddy” and “Pension”.

Under such circumstances, Odisha Government announced ‘Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation’ (KALIA) scheme amounting Rs 10,180 crore. The objective is to help the farmers. 

Will KALIA satisfy the farmers who need immediate help? The question is making rounds in the state after Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik termed the KALIA programme as “progressive” and a long term solution to the farmers’ problems. However, the farmers’ bodies across the state do not accept the flagship scheme because it has nothing to do with their immediate problems.

Farmers across the state have been demanding farm loan waiver, bonus on the paddy and pension for elderly farmers. None of the demands are met. 

The state government and the ruling BJD have been demanding enhancement of the MSP on paddy to Rs 2930 per quintal against the present value of Rs 1750 per quintal. The difference between the existing MSP and the state’s demand is Rs 1180 per quintal.

While government admits that the farmers have been selling their paddy at lower price, has KALIA having any provision to solve the problem? The neighboring Chhattisgarh has meanwhile announced Rs 750 bonus per quintal of paddy. The farmers in Chhattisgarh are now getting Rs 2500 per quintal of paddy while Odisha farmers are cursing their fate. The farmers of at least seven bordering districts feel that the state government has done nothing to help them out. There are at least 35 Assembly segments in these districts bordering Chhattisgarh and the farmers are very unhappy and they are not selling paddy to Odisha and trying to sneak out to Chhattisgarh for selling their products.

While announcing KALIA, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik refused to contribute a single paise towards bonus even as his government and the ruling party has been demanding a hike in the MSP. The ruling BJD is now all set to hold a protest rally in New Delhi demanding hike in the MSP. Why did the state government not announce some amount as bonus? Immediately after the results of five state Assembly elections were announced, it was Naveen Patnaik who first found the cause of
BJP’s defeat.

As BJP ignored the farmers and did not implement the recommendations of the MS Swaminathan Committee, farmers voted against BJP, Naveen observed. Doctor Naveen’s diagnosis was correct, however, his medicine of KALIA does not have the right composition to deal with the disease. Odisha farmers require loan waiver, bonus and pension. All these golden words are missing in the new scheme.

The opposition parties including Congress and BJP have already announced that they would go for farm loan waiver if they come to power after 2019 elections. It is different matter that BJP also announced to go for farm loan waiver in the state while the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre has been opposed to farm loan waiver. The opposition Congress, which has been benefited by making farm loan waiver promise, is all set to make similar declaration in the state. OPCC President Niranjan Patnaik claimed that the Congress would announce farm loan waiver within five hours of coming to power.  

That Naveen refrained to go for farm loan waiver has hurt the ruling party leaders who admit that KALIA may not help them in appeasing the angry farmers. BJD should now remain prepared that a major chunk of its farmers vote would certainly be diverted to Congress or BJP. And most likely, Congress would get the benefit as AICC President Rahul Gandhi has also openly supported farm loan waiver. If the government can waive loans for industries, why not for agriculture sector, Mr. Gandhi’s argument has been accepted by the farmers across the country.

Similarly, the leading farmers’ body Naba Nirman Krushak Sangathan’s demand of pension for farmers has also been ignored. NNKS is the only farmers’ organization that has united the farmers in different costal districts, considered as the fort of the ruling BJD. NNKS activists have also rejected KALIA.

Some members of Naveen Patnaik’s Council of Ministers hailing from Western Odisha are in a worried state. They and other BJD lawmakers from across the state admit the Big Boss is missing “Golden Words” and Opposition Congress is trying to take benefit out of it.

The planners of KALIA should have taken the local issues into consideration instead of doing desktop jobs, feel political observers, adding that the BJP central government may soon announce a more lucrative scheme to woo farmers ahead of the 2019 general elections. While Congress has announced loan waiver, BJP is all set to make new effort to regain its lost ground.

No doubt KALIA is a progressive scheme having provisions for small and marginal farmers. An amount of Rs 10,000 per family at the rate of Rs 5,000 each for Kharif and Rabi seasons shall be provided as financial assistance for taking up cultivation. This assistance is for five cropping seasons spanning three years from 2018-19 to 2021-22 and several other fiscal components to appease farmers.

But farmers demand loan waiver, subsidy and pension, which the new flagship programme is missing. Under the circumstances, the Chief Minister has to think seriously as to how to help out the distressed lot, which is a major vote bank, said a senior Cabinet colleague of Naveen Patnaik.

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