Bhubaneswar: The BJD government has finally, albeit indirectly, admitted that it distributed huge amounts of public money under its KALIA scheme ahead of simultaneous elections in the state earlier this year.
With an aim to win over farmers before elections, the state government had launched the Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) scheme and distributed Rs 5,000 each in the bank accounts of over 51 lakh farmers and agricultural labourers. The government had done it in a hurry. As a result, lakhs of bogus beneficiaries benefitted from the scheme.
Out of 13 lakh KALIA beneficiaries whose documents have been verified so far, over 70,000 were found ineligible.
It meant the government has given away Rs 35 crore to ineligible people. The list of such people may cross two lakhs by the time the verification process is over, official sources said.
After a review meeting here, Agriculture & Farmers’ Empowerment Minister Arun Kumar Sahoo said, out of the total 51 lakh, detailed verification of 13 lakh beneficiaries have been completed so far. “As the process is very tedious and takes a lot of time, the last date for the verification of existing beneficiaries has been extended to August 27 from August 14,” he said.
The existing list will be scrutinised at the Gram Panchayat level August 27 while block and district level verifications will be done by August 29 and August 31 respectively, the minister said. The government has decided not to release the second installment to ineligible beneficiaries.
Though Sahoo claimed that some ineligible beneficiaries even want to return the money received under the scheme, it has come up as a big challenge before the government to recover the first installment.
Sources said the government, during verification, found that in many cases, more than one beneficiary from a single family have availed the benefit. In such cases, the government will recover the money while releasing the next installments.
The government has so far covered 51 lakh beneficiaries out of which 36.34 lakh are small & marginal farmers while 14.70 lakh are landless agricultural labourers. The government had set out to include 75 lakh people under Kalia. Just before the election, the government, in a tearing hurry, had included as many farmers as it can under the scheme and transferred money (Rs 5,000) to each beneficiary. However, now it realises that many (maybe over 2 lakh) bogus beneficiaries have availed the benefits. This may be the reason why the government was showing reluctance to make public the list of beneficiaries.
As the elections are over, the state government has now come up with a fresh set of rules for identification of new beneficiaries and exclusion of the ineligible ones. But the problem here is that how the government will get back the money which has already been distributed among farmers. Forcible extraction of money will be an unpopular step for the government.