At a crop insurance assistance centre operated over the last week by the Shiv Sena in Khultabad, a taluka in Marathwada’s Aurangabad district, about 400 farmers lined up every day to register complaints regarding their claims for crop insurance under the Prime Minister Fasal Bima Yojana being rejected by private companies. “The biggest complaint is rejection on technical grounds,” says Raju Varkhed, taluka head of the Shiv Sena in Khultabad. “Farmers register their bank account details including copies of their passbook and their Aadhaar cards while signing up for the insurance scheme. We are seeing thousands of cases where private insurers are citing technical reasons, including errors in registering an account number or account holder’s name while rejecting a claim.”
The Shiv Sena, which is holding a region-wide drive to assist these farmers, says Aurangabad district alone would have 10,000 to 12,000 such cases of rejection on technical ground.
Across the country, the government’s crop insurance scheme has witnessed a rise in claims in 2018-19. Delayed disbursals under the scheme have reportedly also reduced in 2018-19. On the ground, however, across drought-hit regions of Maharashtra, farmers continue to complain of a high rate of rejection of claims.
The scheme is mandatory for all farmers taking crop loans, while non-loanees are encouraged to take the insurance too.
The Kharif season of 2017 saw 87,68,211 farmers in Maharashtra covered by the Prime Minister Fasal Bima Yojana scheme, while 49,88,139 were paid claims, or 56.88 per cent of total farmers insured. Gross premium paid to insurance companies totalled
Rs 3,803 crore including the state and Centre’s share of the premium as well as the premium paid by farmers. Claims paid out totalled Rs 2,860 crore.
For the 2018 Kharif season, according to sources in the Maharashtra government, gross premium paid rose a little over the previous year, but approved claims remained in the same range as the 2017 payouts, seen as a surprising development given the widespread drought and crop loss. As many as 26 districts in Maharashtra were declared drought-hit in October 2018, right after the Kharif harvest data was processed. An acute water scarcity led a very large section of farmers to not even undertake sowing for Rabi 2018, with area under cultivation of Rabi crops in 2018 dipping by 50 per cent as compared to the previous year.
“There are at least 41 lakh farmers in Marathwada region who did not receive a single paisa under the crop insurance scheme,” says Rajan Kshirsagar of the Communist Party of India in Parbhani. “Very few revenue circles received appropriate compensation. In Parbhani, only three or four circles received compensation in the range of Rs 10,000-Rs 11,000 per acre. Almost everybody else received about Rs 1,000 or Rs 1,100 per acre.”
If risk-averse farmers were expected to show more initiative on account of the PMFBY that was launched in 2016, the continuing drought in Maharashtra has made that a difficult target, said farmers. “Insurance claims in our entire taluka appeared to be rejected,” said Omprakash Yeshwant Gutte, sarpanch of Umardara village in Latur’s Jalkot taluka. Output of soyabean for the 300-odd farmers in the village was about 25 to 30 per cent, but villagers said while villages in neighbouring talukas had received payouts, most of Jalkot’s villages had been ignored. Jalkot is one of the talukas with a dramatic dip in groundwater this year, and villages such as Umardara that are located on rocky land are unable to strike water even upon drilling 350 feet or 400 feet deep borewells.
“We registered official complaints and are now litigating against the private insurer for rejected claims of 2017 also. No authority even took cognisance of our letters detailing how insurance companies are profiteering and cheating farmers,” said Kshirsagar.