Farmers to get free mobile phones in Odisha

Emulating Karnataka, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government in Odisha on Tuesday came out with a special agriculture budget for 2013-14, with an added feature of free mobile phones for farmers and free cell sim cards for fishermen.

The Rs 7,161 crore agri budget was presented in the state assembly by finance minister Prasana Acharya along with the general budget for the coming fiscal.

“As far as my knowledge goes only the government of Karnataka presents a separate agriculture budget. Therefore, Odisha has become the second state in the country to present such a budget for the development of agriculture sector”, Acharya told newspersons later. The free mobile phone scheme will benefit 20,000 registered farmers and at least one lakh registered fishermen will receive free sim cards.

Opposition parties dubbed the budget sops as populist with an eye on the ensuing assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

“These announcements are nothing but political gimmicks”, said senior Congressman and leader of the Opposition in the state assembly, Bhupinder Singh.

“Chief minister Naveen Patnaik has already announced that this is the last budget of his government before the coming elections. These schemes are aimed at luring voters”, said BJP legislature party leader K V Singhdeo.

Over the past few weeks, Patnaik has announced a number of schemes for different sections of the society, especially women and poor. They includ rice at Rs one a kg for below poverty line (BPL) families.

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