The Odisha government has decided to merge its flagship scheme to provide assistance to farmers with the Centre's Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan) yojana, apparently due to financial constraint, a state minister said on Thursday.
Though agriculture and farmer empowerment minister Arun Kumar Sahoo did not reveal the details about the merger of the Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (Kalia) scheme with the Centre's programme, sources said the state government has taken a decision to change the guidelines for providing aid to farmers.
Talks are on with the Union government on the modalities, they said.
"We have decided to merge our 'Kalia' scheme with the 'PM-Kisan' yojana," Sahoo told reporters at the Lok Seva Bhawan here, following media speculation about the merger of the state's scheme, touted to be a "game changer" in the general elections held during April-May this year.
According to the provisions of the 'Kalia' scheme, farmers, mostly small and marginal cultivators, are entitled to get Rs 10,000 in two instalments for two crops in a year. The landless agricultural farmers are also eligible to get Rs 12,000 per annum for three years.
"The state government has already paid first instalment (of Rs 5,000) under Kalia scheme and process is on to disburse the second one," Sahoo said.
Under PM-Kisan scheme, the central government is providing annually Rs 6,000 in three equal instalments to about 14 crore farmers.
According to the new guidelines, the farmers will get Rs 10,000 per annum as provided under the 'Kalia' scheme, sources said, adding that the cultivators would not be able to avail the central's assistance of Rs 6,000 annually after the merger.
"Poor farmers of the state can expect to get Rs 16,000 (Rs 10,000 from 'Kalia' and Rs 6,000 from PM-Kisan) a year, but, according to the new guidelines, they will get just Rs 10,000," they said.
Of the annual financial assistance of Rs 10,000, the state government will give Rs 4,000 to farmers while the rest will be provided from the Centre's scheme, sources said.
Landless farmers will, however, continue to get Rs 12,000 per year under the 'Kalia' scheme.
The opposition BJP and Congress criticised the state government's decision to merge the two schemes.
Congress leader Ganeswar Behera said the decision has "exposed the relationship between the BJD and the BJP".
"The state government has announced 'Kalia' scheme ahead of the 2019 elections, targeting farmers' votes and it was launched without the financial provision. Now, farmers are betrayed," he alleged.
BJP MLA B C Sethi said the BJD government has "no concern" for farmers.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had announced the 'Kalia' scheme in December last year and described it as "historic" and "direct attack on poverty".
During election rallies across the state, Patnaik had also announced that no one can stop the scheme as long as he was alive.
However, leading farmers' body Nava Nirman Krushak Sangathan (NNKS) in the state has announced to protest against the merger of the schemes.
"People gave votes to the BJD after being influenced by 'Kalia' scheme. Now, the state government is saying that it will give Rs 4,000 and Rs 6,000 will be provided from the Centre. About 75 lakh farmers in the state will be deprived of the financial assistance, if the schemes are merged," said NNKS convenor Akshy Kumar.
If required, the farmers' body will file a PIL (public interest litigation) in court against the government's decision, he added.