The glut of farmer protest visuals on our TV screens for the past one month has left an unmistakable impression that there is something seriously wrong with our farm sector. But irrespective of what is happening in other parts of the country, farmers in Odisha remain a happy lot. The Naveen Patnaik government is not only fighting for their right to have remunerative prices for their produce in tune with the recommendations of Swaminathan committee, which favoured 50 per cent more MSP (minimum support price) than the production cost of crops, but also coming up with some excellent schemes to protect their interests.
Farmers across the state have hailed the Chief Minister’s move to release Rs 1272 crore to the accounts of nearly 53 lakh beneficiaries of Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA), the flagship scheme of the government in the field of agriculture. All beneficiaries got Rs.2,000 in their accounts through direct benefit transfer or DBT. Releasing the money, Patnaik underscored his desire to ensure that farmers got the right price for their produce and their income increased. Acknowledging the sacrifices made by the members of the community during the corona pandemic, the Chief Minister said he wanted the farmers of his state to live with dignity.
With an acronym (KALIA) that strikes an immediate chord with the people of the state as it happens to be the popular name of the state’s presiding deity, the scheme has drawn praise from economists and policy makers as well. The outstanding feature of KALIA is this: instead of making farmers dependent on government loans, it seeks to make them self-reliant by providing them financial assistance in an innovative manner. Besides, it not only caters to the needs of different categories of farmers but also landless agricultural workers.
It is through such innovative schemes that the Chief Minister has been able to bring about an economic transformation even in the most backward areas of the state, including the infamous Koraput-Balangir-Kalahandi (KBK) belt that had become a byword for poverty, hunger and starvation. Kalahandi was recently in news with Chief Minister inaugurating a slew of projects including the Rs.986 crore Indravati lift irrigation project in the district. The project is expected to facilitate irrigation in 25,275 hectares of land in three blocks of Kalahandi.
As the Chief Minister rightly pointed out during his visit to the district, Kalahandi has turned from a symbol of poverty into a region of prosperity with its farmers producing some of the best paddy in the state. Agriculture in the district is certain to receive a further boost with the inauguration of Indravati project. Like Kalahandi, the neighbouring district of Balangir has also seen a lot of development over the past 20 years of Patnaik’s rule. Stories of hunger and child sale that once emerged from the district with alarming regularity have become a thing of past. All this has become possible mainly due to the growth that agriculture sector has seen.
The Chief Minister has kept the farmers happy as he always knew just how crucial agricultural growth is for the state’s overall development.