01 February 2019
Bhubaneswar: While the Congress is glued to 'farm loan waivers' and expects to reap electoral benefits from the populist scheme, direct income support for farmers is turning out to be the order of the day.
Farm loan waivers adversely impact the banking system already saddled with huge non-performing assets, apart from producing more and more fictitious beneficiaries.
Odisha has been a harbinger in launching direct income support scheme to address agrarian distress. Last year, on December 21, CM Naveen Patnaik announced the ‘Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation’ (KALIA) scheme, worth over Rs 10,000 crore.
Barely two weeks back, acclaimed economist Prof Ashok Gulati had said, "KALIA could act as a lighthouse to guide the nation on what type of agriculture policy will be there tomorrow for India's farmers."
As Finance Minister Piyush Goyal presented the Union Budget – 2019 on Friday, there was a lot of anxiety about what Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in store for the farmers.
Gulati's prophecy was accurate as Goyal announced 'Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi' (PM Kisan) scheme, which would offer a direct annual income support of Rs 6,000 per annum to farmers with land holding below two hectares (five acres). Much similar to the KALIA scheme.
KALIA has been regarded as an all-inclusive scheme covering 92 percent of the cultivators of the State. Under the KALIA scheme farmers holding land below five acres get Rs 10,000 at the rate of Rs 5,000 each for Kharif and Rabi seasons through direct benefit transfer (DBT).
PM Kisan is likely to benefit around 12 crore farmers and cost the exchequer Rs 75,000 crore. KALIA scheme amounting to Rs 10,000 crore covers 32 lakh cultivators in Odisha.
Of the various schemes, a farm loan waiver is the worst way to address the agrarian distress. When compared to the farm loan waivers, the 'Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi' is a relatively better way to support farmers, but still not the most ideal.
No doubts, the welfare package would benefit a large cross-section of farmers across India. But we still do not have clarity if the cost (Rs 75,000 crore) would be split between the Centre and State governments.