The BJP government in the state on Friday said that farmers had been paid Rs 2,050 crore towards crop insurance for 2018-19 season and claimed that there was also no delay in paying crop insurance to cotton growers. Congress, however, alleged that farmers are yet to get around Rs10,000 crore towards crop insurance and that the amount insurance companies have paid to farmers is merely 70 per cent of the premium they have collected.
“Crop insurance claims worth Rs 2,050 crore have already been disbursed (under PMFBY). The disbursement for cotton crop insurance is yet to happen and is usually finalised after May 31 every year which is the cut-off date for providing information. In the coming days, the disbursement for cotton crop will also take place. No delay has happened,” additional chief secretary for agriculture, farmers’ welfare and cooperation department, Sanjay Prasad said.
Why crop insurance rings a political bell
Farm distress was one of the key issues that gained traction during the Lok Sabha election campaign this April with farmers expressing their grievances over the implementation of Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY). Though the BJP managed to retain all the 26 Lok Sabha seats in the state, complaints against the crop insurance scheme have seen a resonance with farmers, and that’s why the Opposition Congress is raising the issue. Farmers have alleged arbitrary manner of settling insurance claims and parts of Saurashtra have witnessed protests by farmers. The farmers’ grievance has been with the huge variation in percentage of crop failure arrived at by the private companies and the settlement of insurance claims. With several parts of the state reeling under drought, cotton cultivators are still waiting for their insurance dues.
Prasad also announced that Krishi Mahotsav will be organised by the state government for the farmers on June 16 and 17. The annual event this year will focus on water conservation, modernisation of agricultural practices, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) and Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana (PM-Kisan), a central government scheme under which farmers are paid Rs 6,000 state assistance.
Launched in 2005, the Krishi Mahotsav used to be a month-long affair initially. “The event will be held in all 33 districts in the state,” Prasad added.
Many parts in the state are facing drought this year and the government’s drive for farmers comes when people and government are battling with scarcity of water and fodder.
Under PMFBY, Rs 2,050 crore had been disbursed towards crop insurance claims of over 10.51 lakh farmers in Gujarat at the end of the year 2018-19. Farmers in the state have got crop insurance for groundnut, one of the most important cash crops in Gujarat, he said.
Incidentally, The Indian Express had on Thursday reported that a total of 17.5 lakh farmers of the state were covered under the PMFBY, covering an area of 26.08 lakh hectares of the state during 2018-19. During this period, a total of Rs 3,137 crore was paid as premium to insurance companies under the PMFBY. That includes estimated Rs 250 crore farmers’ share of premium, officials had said.
However, Congress alleged that the state government was acting in favour of private insurance companies and not farmers. “Prasad says that farmers in drought-affected areas of Gujarat have been paid assistance worth Rs 1,586 crore. But this assistance in itself is proof that farmers’ crops have failed. When the farmers have been paid state assistance due to crop failure, why they are not being paid crop insurance which is also paid on the basis of crop-cutting experiments?” said Pal Ambaliya, convenor of farmers’ cell of Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC).
He also questioned the figure of 18 lakh farmers, stating that only 12.82 lakh farmers were registered on government website for the insurance scheme.
“You are going to the town drumming about Rs 2,050 crore having been paid towards crop insurance. But why are you also not saying that Rs 3,200 crore have been paid as premium to private insurance companies? Why are you talking about Rs 2,050 crore insurance payout which is actually 70 per cent of Rs 3,200 crore premium collected?” Ambaliya added.
The Congress leader, in his media statement, also claimed that not Rs 2,050 crore but around Rs 10,000 crore is due to the farmers towards crop insurance. “If crop insurance claims had been settled in a fair manner, they would have to require to pay Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 crore to farmers. However, by paying only Rs 2,050 crore against due claims of Rs 8,000 crore to Rs 10,000 crore, the government is saving the insurance companies,” Ambaliya alleged.
He also said cotton and castor-seed growers must not be misled in the name of those two crops being long-duration ones. “It is true that cotton and castor-seed are long-duration crops. However, deadline for every task under the PMFBY is fixed. Accordingly, reports of crop cutting experiments of cotton have to be submitted latest by March 31 and then insurance claims have to be settled forthwith. It is imperative that an end is put to cheating of unsuspecting farmers in the name of long duration crops,” said Ambaliya.