New Delhi: The Odisha government has launched a scheme to provide agricultural credit to landless farmers across the state. This is the ‘first’ such targeted scheme for landless farmers in India.
Under the ‘Balaram’ scheme the Naveen Patnaik government announced Thursday, Odisha will provide agriculture credit worth Rs 1,040 crore to 7 lakh landless farmers in the next two years. The credit will be provided to farmers in groups in every district.
The scheme is being seen as a follow-up to the state’s popular ‘Kalia’ (Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation) scheme, which was launched in 2018 to give financial assistance of Rs 10,000 to small and marginal farmers in two instalments for separate crops in a year.
According to Odisha agriculture officials, the database of tenant/landless farmers maintained under the Kalia scheme will be integrated into this scheme as it was cross-checked and verified by the gram sabha.
Calling it India’s first scheme specifically for landless farmers, M. Muthukumar, director, Odisha agriculture department, said, “The loan facility will be provided through joint liability groups in every district based on their collateral.”
He said such groups have been in the works across the state for the last two years under Kalia, adding that it’s easier for landless farmers and banks if the former make groups of 6-10 individuals to get credit against a mutual guarantee or collateral.
“In the next two years, we are aiming to make around 1.5 lakh groups which would comprise at least 5-7 farmers. Around 60,000 groups will get farm loans under the scheme this year wherein each group on an average will get a maximum Rs 1.60 lakh loan,” he said.
The State Level Bankers’ Committee will be tasked with extending credit support to landless cultivators, who are usually left out of the institutional credit fold, by linking joint liability groups to banks and mobilising disbursal of credit with facilitating repayment of the loan.
State-run organisations Institute on Management of Agricultural Extension and Agricultural Technology Management Agency will serve as the nodal agencies at the state and district level, respectively, for the implementation of the scheme, added Muthukumar.
The scheme comes in collaboration with the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development.
What experts say
Agricultural experts have welcomed the launch of the scheme as a much needed financial aid to the most vulnerable section of agriculture in the state after mounting losses caused by Covid-19.
Arabinda K. Padhee, country director of International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, said, “Extending credit to the most vulnerable cultivators will be a firm step towards enhancing productivity in the agricultural sector of the state. However, Odisha doesn’t recognise the tenancy right on agricultural land in its land reform legislation which should be changed.”
The sharecropping for landless/tenant farmers in the state was banned after an amendment in the Orissa Land Reforms Act in 1974. More than 70 per cent of state land is cultivated through sharecropping.
The state government introduced a draft legislation to recognise the rights of landless farmers in the state in April. The draft legislation, called Odisha Agricultural Land Leasing Act, provides to allow sharecropper into a written lease agreement with a landowner on mutually agreed terms and conditions.
According to the draft, the agreement will mention the area, location and duration of the lease. It also carries a provision for oral leasing agreement, which can be formed by an application before the revenue officer that will be further discussed in a gram sabha.
However, Padhee said landless farmers will benefit with Kalia and now this scheme and “the recognition will provide them with both equity and efficiency which will also ensure the social security and contribution to the rural economy”.
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