The Maharashtra government said Monday almost 70 lakh farmers out of the total 1.36 crore across the state had registered themselves for the crop insurance scheme this year. The figure almost meets the state target of 78 lakh envisaged in the beginning of the kharif season, even as farmer leaders said 40 per cent farmers could not avail the benefit. “Of the total 70 lakh farmers, 53.44 lakh registered offline, which means 16.56 lakh farmers adopted the online system. The number of applications submitted after the extension of date from July 31 to August 5, is nearly 1 lakh,” said a senior officer in the government.
The core committee of farmer leaders, however, said the government’s insistence on online applications resulted in hundreds of farmers being left out of the crop insurance scheme. The leaders, who had earlier led an agitation in Maharashtra seeking various measures to tackle agrarian distress, have demanded that the government give an assurance to all such farmers that it would compensate them in case their crops fail.
While the last date for applying for the Union government’s crop insurance scheme was July 31, government officials said, it was extended to August 5 after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis wrote to the Centre with a request to this effect. The officials said getting 70 lakh farmers to avail the crop insurance was a “remarkable feat” given the fact that the state saw a good monsoon and a crop loan waiver.
The core committee is, however, planning to start an agitation once again from August 14. Along with its demand for complete loan waiver and minimum support price for agriculture produce, the committee said, it would also seek a cover for all farmers bereft of crop insurance.
Committee convener Dr Ajit Nawale claimed that the government had not made adequate preparations in rolling out the scheme. He said the initial insistence on online application for the insurance had affected the accessibility of the scheme for various farmers who were not computer literate. “The duration for accepting the premium was July 1 to July 31. However, till July 25, banks were in a quandary as to whether they could accept the premiums or not. Many of the banks were turning away farmers due to this lack of clarity. The banks started accepting these premiums only after July 26. The insistence of online applications at a time when we do not have adequate internet connectivity, and the frequent breakdown of servers caused immense problems for farmers,” said Nawale.
Sources in the government said there were five districts in Marathwada and Vidarbha where a sizeable number of farmers had failed to meet the July 31 deadline. While Nawale said the insistence on online applications caused “stampede-like situation” outside the banks, the sources termed the issues faced due to the online process “teething problems”. “In spite of the government extending the submission dates by five days, we believe nearly 40 per cent of the farmers have not been able to take crop insurance,” Nawale said, adding that the delay in accepting these forms could also be a stratagem by insurance companies to tackle losses in future.
“Under the scheme, the insurance companies will be bearing only 35 per cent of the compensation amount. The remaining financial burden will be borne by the Central and state governments. There has been a delay in monsoon in parts of the state, especially in Marathwada. The companies know they will have to compensate farmers and the delay in accepting these forms is a way to hedge their losses,” he added.
The government, however, denied the accusations. Senior officials claimed the government had directed banks to accept offline forms too to expedite the process and bring more farmers under the insurance cover.