The ambitious farm assistance programme ‘KALIA’ of the Naveen Patnaik Government, aimed at small and marginal farmers who do the actual cultivation, is the best solution for farm distress. Naveen has “poured scorn” on loan waivers in states ruled by the BJP and Congress, says well-known columnist and consulting editor of Economic Times Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar.
According to him regional leaders such as Naveen and KCR of Andhra Pradesh have succeeded where the Centre has failed in providing relief to farmers. Global experience proves that farm distress is best relieved by subsidising farmers through cash transfers, not by subsidising crops. KALIA in Odisha and Rythu Bandhu scheme of Andhra Pradesh have done just that. KALIA, in fact, has gone a step ahead in reaching out to the needy ones, he says.
Aiyar, whose views have been the bedrock of major policy initiatives in successive governments, join a list of commentators who have supported the Odisha Government’s model.
Business Standard has said that Naveen Patnaik is showing the country a new way under ‘KALIA’ programme, which is expected to provide financial, livelihood and cultivation support along with insurance support to small, marginal and the landless farmers.
Reports also suggest the ruling BJP at the Centre is having a closer look at KALIA as an alternative to farm loan waiver to provide the much needed oxygen to the ailing agriculture sector and provide relief to the farmers ahead of the Parliamentary elections.
In his opinion piece, Aiyar says KALIA’s focus on tenants or share croppers is what makes this scheme a success. In successive loan waivers by BJP and Congress, the biggest farmers with the biggest loans are the biggest gainers. Small farmers and agricultural workers often have no farm loans and get no benefit.
By refusing to write off farm loans, Patnaik is helping maintain repayment discipline in the banking system. Loan waivers penalise honest farmers who repay on time, and then look foolish when their neighbours (many of whom can afford to repay), get loans written off, he says.
KALIA has also gone a step ahead in addressing the shortcomings of the Rythu Bandhu scheme of the Andhra Pradesh goverment, that brought the KCR government back to power with increased number of seats. While Rythu Bandhu benefits the biggest land owners the most, including absentee owners who lease out their land, Naveen has been careful with his cash transfer scheme, targetting at small and marginal farmers.
Howver, where KALIA could falter is at the implementation level. “Odisha is a backward state with fewer financial and administrative resources, so Patnaik faces far greater hurdles than KCR did. He could fail in the short run. Yet in conception, his KALIA model is much fairer and more far-reaching than Rythu Bandhu, and so is a better long-run model for all states,” Aiyar sums up.