The ruling BJD Monday alleged that the Odisha Chief Electoral Officer had stopped implementation of the Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (Kalia) scheme, the state government’s direct transfer benefit for the agriculture sector, while allowing implementation of the Centre’s Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan) scheme. The party said it would take the matter to the Election Commission.
In a statement, BJD spokesperson Sasmit Patra stated: “For the Kalia Yojana, as we are all aware, the financial and administrative approvals as well as beneficiaries were already identified before the Model Code of Conduct came into place. But the CEO now taking the plea of Model Code of Conduct and stopping Kalia Yojana funds is unacceptable.”
“If on one hand, the BJP’s PM-Kisan Yojana, which is a similar process and came much after the Kalia Yojana, is being allowed, then why are Kalia funds stopped,” Patra asked. At a rally Sunday in Nayagarh, Naveen Patnaik too said: “No one can stop Kalia. I am monitoring to ensure not a single eligible farmer is left out.”
CEO Surendra Kumar did not respond to calls for comment on the BJD allegation. BJP leader Pratap Sarangi, however, said: “They (BJD) are desperate and know they will be defeated. That is why they are attacking the CEO Odisha.”
As the BJD hit back, one of its leaders said: “The BJP is alarmed that Kalia transfers Rs 5,000 in the first phase, while the Central scheme only gives Rs 2,000.” This comparison apart, the leader said the BJP is also worried that Bijepur in western Odisha, from where Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik filed nomination papers Monday for a second seat, is in the state’s farm belt.
Some BJD leaders are urging the state government to defy the CEO. BJD leader and former Principal Accountant General Amar Patnaik tweeted: “Farmers of Odisha should teach BJP a lesson with the might of their precious vote. BJD will leave no stone unturned to ensure that these farmers get their Kalia dues as scheduled — ECI or no ECI diktat”.
So far, 35 lakh farmer households have received funds under the scheme. On Saturday, The Indian Express reported that the Centre has got the Election Commission’s nod for releasing the second instalment of the PM-Kisan scheme from April 1. The permission is limited to beneficiaries identified before the Model Code of Conduct came into force on March 10.