15th finance panel all praise for Odisha’s agricultural scheme


BHUBANESWAR: The Fifteenth Finance Commission on Wednesday praised Odishafor making significant progress and hailed Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s non-waiver agriculture scheme.

“The Kalia (Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation) scheme, we believe, is a much better scheme that helps the small and marginal farmers, who carry the burden of the debt more steeply, than a loan waiver, which is more advantageous to better-off agriculturists,” Chairman NK Singh said. The members of the panel are on a threeday visit to the state. “Odisha, though, needed to do much more on crop diversification and improving yield.”

While states looked for the fiscal space available for farm loan waivers, the commission was concerned that they do not threaten the macroeconomic stability of the country.

The Commission noted that Odisha, under “continued political stability and the enlightened political leadership” had maintained a debt-to-GSDP ratio of 20%, which was close to what the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act had set.

“The last two years have seen a significant increase in overall stock of debt on account of some initiatives the state had undertaken,” Singh said. “But we have been assured that they will keep the fiscal numbers and debt numbers within the principal parameters defined under the revised FRBM Act.”

Patnaik’s government has submitted a memorandum to the Commission, demanding a grant of Rs 8.24 lakh crore as the state’s share in central taxes and duties for 2020-25. This includes a special package of Rs 1,500 crore (over the regular grants on disaster response) for mitigating and strengthening disaster preparedness and Rs 200 crore for development of the Jagannath temple in Puri. Odisha also wants a further devolution of central taxes and duties from 42% to 50%.

Before it decided on vertical distribution of funds, the Commission would need the detailed submission of the central government, expected in the course of a month, Singh said.

He stressed that while the Commission’s terms of reference obligated it to consider the 2011 census figures as basis, it would ensure that there was no penalty for performance and that efficiency was not discarded.

At 10% annual growth, Odisha has outpaced the national average, but this growth also showed significant volatility and lack of consistency in the longterm, Singh said. Despite improvement in many health indices, Odisha still has one doctor for 8,000-10,000 people, he added.