New Delhi, January 13 (G’nY News Service): Lohri, a harvest festival that marks the end of winter, has brought with it a new much debated insurance scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana.
With unprecedented rains, followed by droughts and fluctuating temperatures, crops have fared poorly the last two years, leading to farmer suicides and hardship for the farming community.
In a new development, the Centre today cleared a crop insurance scheme at a cabinet meeting, headed by the Indian PM, Narendra Modi. The scheme holds the farmers’ premium at a maximum of 2 per cent for foodgrains and oilseeds and upto 5 per cent for horticulture/cotton crops.
The scheme will come into play from kharif season this year and will replace the existing two schemes National Agricultural Insurance Scheme as well as Modified NAIS.
As per the PTI reports, “the PMFBY will increase the insurance coverage to 50 per cent of the total crop area of 194.40 million hectare from the existing level of about 25-27 per cent crop area. The expenditure is expected to be around Rs 9,500 crore”.
Although the scheme claims to have covered major loopholes of the previous schemes and says that one insurance company, in all likelihood a private one, working under the guidance of Agriculture Insurance Company of India Ltd, will implement the scheme, there still remains lingering doubts.
There is no talk of appointing agents for agri-insurance. This would mean that farmers have no individual access to insurance facilities yet. G’nY’s short film on Agri-Insurance has clearly brought out the problems of agri-insurance. Without the individual access to insurance the problems will largely remain unresolved as the circus of the Central government announcing the compensation to farmers in the event of natural calamities and refusal by the state government to disburse the compensation to the farmers on some pretext or other will continue.
For example, the farmers that lost acres of wheat crops in the heavy unseasonal rains in early 2015 in Uttar Pradesh have not been compensated yet despite the fact that the central government announced a multi-crore relief for farmers in the affected region. The Uttar Pradesh state government also categorized farmers on the basis of their residency, cutting off relief for share croppers who cultivated land in adjoining villages for the year. This adds unnecessary complicity to a problem that is in any case difficult to solve.
In all likelihood the new scheme will find few takers, unless farmers have individual access to insurance. Also, in a country where even the educated cannot understand the need of a life insurance scheme, would they be willing to seek a crop insurance and pay up a premium for PMFBY? With the weather playing truant, it is important that the farmers suicides are curbed as despondency with agriculture reduced on an urgent basis.