IT-led Transformation: Odisha’s KALIA Shows the Way

Ever since its launch in December 2018 by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, the Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation or KALIA scheme is hailed as a phenomenon, a game changer in the agricultural landscape of India.

It was the nation’s first scheme in agriculture that helped landless sharecroppers and vulnerable farmer households.
Unlike other innovations in farm policies, KALIA does not offer piecemeal support. It empowers the neglected and disenfranchised in the farm community, offering them direct income support for sustenance. KALIA doesn’t stop at that.

With its long-term vision, the scheme endeavours to ensure not only farm support but also livelihood and educational hand-holding, making it a holistic welfare solution for the farmer’s family.

The scheme with an outlay of Rs 10,180 crore (or around USD 1.4 billion) is envisaged for three years from 2018-19 till 2021-22. Under the scheme, Rs 8,249 crore has already been transferred to small, marginal and landless farm families.

KALIA targets over four million farmer households. It provides income support of Rs 25,000 over five crop seasons to small and marginal farmers. In addition, each landless agricultural household receives financial assistance of Rs 12,500, while each vulnerable household is entitled to Rs 10,000.

In the past two years, the overwhelming success of KALIA has been well-documented. The implementation and delivery along with its impact on the lives of thousands of vulnerable agriculture-dependent families has been acknowledged and lauded.

The shield of security that it has been able to lay over the poorest sections during the time of an unprecedented health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic is a different story altogether. But the greater achievement of the ambitious welfare project is the pace at which it was planned and delivered to beneficiaries.

Government schemes and their implementation come with their own gestation period – they take about a year or more to take off the ground. KALIA, however, demonstrated how governance determination combined with the infinite power of technology can work magic, turning the concept on paper to ready-to-deliver on field in just 15 days.

The lightning transition from design to implementation leveraging IT is in itself a case study for others.

Technology-enabled transformation to deliver time-bound outcomes is the cornerstone of the Odisha government’s 5T (Transparency, Technology, Teamwork, Time leading to Transformation) governance model. KALIA aligns with this paradigm.

Backed by a robust technology backbone, the scheme never faced scale-up issues nor any system breakdown despite initial challenges of reaching out to the humongous number of beneficiaries, registering them, screening out fakes and duplications and then ensuring smooth transfer of the entitlements to each beneficiary.

Within two weeks of the announcement, the state machinery was flooded with 9.5 million applications – all with a claim on KALIA! To validate them was Herculean. The state administration then realised it had to surmount an inclusion-exclusion challenge of a different scale.

And, IT was unleashed. This process was started with a ‘Smart Farmer Registration’ module that populated more than 20 data sets to check the authenticity of farmers and prune the database. Technology was used extensively to identify the farmers from the lands they belonged to by integrating farmer’s demographics with the land records database.

The state compiled and authenticated a database of 6.5 million applications in just two weeks during the first phase of validation in January 2019. It was a mammoth task where the marriage of technology and data analytics delivered outcomes.
First, the state databases were integrated with the green forms invited from farmers who wished to opt for the KALIA scheme. Verification followed next. And it was done through multiple databases like Agricultural Census, Socio-Economic Caste Census, National Food Security Act (NFSA), National Population Registry (NPR), HRMS database of state government employees, bank account validation through bank databases and de-duplication through Aadhaar.

Algorithms were designed for data integration using the principles of unification, verification and exclusion. The next step was excluding ineligible beneficiaries: government employees, taxpayers, large farmers and all those who opted out on their own.

The initial challenge was to source data from the ground or the gram panchayat level. The State Data Centre (SDC) was fortified to handle the data load from 6,700 gram panchayats. The State Wide Area Network (SWAN) was utilised so that dedicated connectivity could be established with the KALIA portal server as well the blocks and gram panchayats.

Besides handling data load, the key concern was securing the data of KALIA beneficiaries. A team of officials drawn from the SDC and Odisha Computer Application Centre (OCAC) oversaw the IT infrastructure and day-to-day operations.

KALIA’s success validates the strength of IT – on how when used right, it can be a huge enabler in narrowing the gap between design and delivery. It has emerged as a lighthouse for future-ready governance solutions.

The programme only recently hit the spotlight again when a whopping Rs 920 crore was transferred, with the touch of a button, to the bank accounts of 4.2 million vulnerable farmer families: 3.7 million small and marginal farmers and 0.5 million landless agriculture households.
KALIA illustrates the power of technology-led transformation. It showcases the potential of technology to change the idiom of social welfare delivery. If governments were to unlock the power of digital for citizens, the way ahead is open source technologies, open APIs and mining the data right. Odisha is ready to help.

The story was originally published at The New Indian Express. It has been republished with author’s permission.

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