The state government Wednesday announced crop insurance based on satellite imagery, shortlisting 500 villages for the pilot project. The experiment, if successful, will become the model for the entire country.
The state government has raised the insurance cover from Rs 250 crore to Rs 1,600 crore. Of the total amount, Rs 700 crore would be given by the Maharashtra government, while the remaining would be contributed by the Centre.
“To begin with, we are undertaking the experiment in 500 villages across Maharashtra. It would be extended to other areas in phases. If the experiment of satellite mapping for crop insurance works, it would be extended to the entire country. The state has taken the lead,” Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said while addressing the media after chairing the state-level kharif review meeting.
At present, the system of assessing crop yield and losses is based on “paisewari” system. A revenue department official assesses the standing crops of four to five villages that form the circle and gives a report. The manual process is not always accurate. Satellite mapping is expected to more accurately detail crop yield.
The chief minister announced several reforms in the farming sector to widen the bracket of farmers availing loans from financial institutions from average an 58 per cent to 90 per cent in most backward districts of Maharashtra.
Fadnavis said, “We have rescheduled agriculture loans from three years to five years with zero interest rate in the first year. The interest rates from second year would be only 6 per cent. The period of repayment has been extended from the present three years to five years. Farmers seeking fresh loans will also be charged only 6 per cent.”
He said the move aimed to ensure more farmers availed the loans and to build their repayment capabilities.
Earlier, rescheduled loans would work out to between 12 and 18 per cent, which would financially burden the farmers who then never opted for fresh loans again. The proposed changes make farmers loan-free in the first year, with the government stepping in to cover up the financial implications.
The CM also announced that it had been now made mandatory for banks to target higher number of farmers for loans. Fadnavis said, “Earlier, there was a trend of financial institutions setting target of the funds to be disbursed. Often, big farmers would avail major financial loans, which would sum up their target. Now, we are emphasising on covering maximum number of farmers and not just quantum of funds disbursed.”
Fadnavis said steps were being taken to help the farmers reeling under severe drought for the third consecutive year.
According to him, the India Meteorological Department has predicted 93 per cent rainfall this year, while Skymate, a private agency, has predicted 103 per cent rainfall. “We are sending 10 lakh messages to the farmers through mobile phones along with advisories. We intend to bring 50 lakh farmers in the network. The process of registering their mobile numbers for regular updates with weather forecast is under way.”
To furnish accurate weather forecast at panchayat levels, a decision has been taken to install 2,059 weather stations at mandal levels from the present 54.
Sops for farmers
* Insurance amount raised from Rs 250 crore to Rs 1,600 crore, covering 16 lakh farmers
* Agriculture loans rescheduled from 3 years to 5 years with zero interest rate in the first year. Interest rates from second year will be 6 per cent. Period of repayment extended from 4 years to 5 years
* Messages with weather advisories being sent to farmers through mobile phones
* 2,059 weather stations planned at mandal levels