COMPOUNDING WORRIES in drought-hit rural Maharashtra, fewer farmers across the state have received crop insurance disbursals for the 2018 Kharif season than for the 2017 Kharif season.
Data shows that while 49.8 lakh farmers received payments for claims they made under the Prime Minister Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) in 2017 Kharif season, 45 lakh farmers’ claims were accepted for the 2018 Kharif season.
Bucking an all-India trend of lower coverage since the inception of PMFBY in 2016, Maharashtra has registered an increase in the number of farmers who opted for the cover, from 87.68 lakh farmers in 2017 Kharif season to 91.4 lakh in 2018. In the same period, area under insurance coverage rose from 50.22 lakh hectare to 52.35 lakh hectare. Gross premiums collected and total sum insured also rose.
However, while data shows a significant rise in total payments to farmers under the scheme from Rs 2,860 crore in 2017 Kharif season to Rs 3,397 crore in 2018, the number of farmers whose claims were accepted fell by about 4,80,000. The problem of delays in disbursals also continues in the state, with only 35.22 lakh farmers recorded as having received their claim payments as of June 4, as per the data. About two-thirds of the total sum to be disbursed, or Rs 2,232.98 crore, was recorded as paid as of June 4.
The data is based on responses from the state agriculture commissioner’s office to a Right to Information application filed by Parbhani-based activist and CPI leader Rajan Kshirsagar. The response said the data was provisional, to be updated by the private insurers.
On Monday, conceding there was widespread unrest among farmers against private insurers, state Agriculture Minister Anil Bonde said in the legislature that taluka-level committees would be formed to address the issue.
The Shiv Sena has set up taluka-level assistance camps for farmers with grievances pertaining to crop insurance claims. Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, who visited one such camp in Aurangabad last week, threatened to act against private insurance companies if they do not pay farmers’ claims. The Sena had earlier referred to the farmers’ complaints as a “scam” in crop insurance.
Company-wise data for 2018 Kharif season shows that IFFCO-Tokio, which collected crop insurance premiums totalling Rs 1,496.53 crore, will make disbursals totalling Rs 517.06 crore. Of the 33.17 lakh clients under PMFBY, the company found 9.94 lakh farmers’ claims eligible for disbursals. ICICI-Lombard, which collected premiums totalling
Rs 586.67 crore, will make disbursals totalling Rs 163.30 crore, benefiting 4.44 lakh of its 14.48 lakh farmer clients. Agriculture Insurance Company of India Limited collected premiums totalling Rs 609.72 crore and will make disbursals totalling
Rs 423.20 crore, benefiting 6.72 lakh eligible farmers out of 14.24 lakh farmers it covered.
Oriental Insurance, which collected premiums totalling Rs 1,192.31 crore, will make disbursals totalling Rs 2,294.18 crore. Of its 29.50 lakh farmer clients for Kharif 2018 season, claims from 23.89 lakh were deemed eligible.
Assistant professor Awanish Kumar of the department of public policy at St Xavier’s College in Mumbai, who studied all-India data for an assessment of PMFBY, said that despite the promise of the scheme as a radically new formulation when it was launched in 2016, it has continued to consider only yield, leaving out a host of other risks farmers face.
Barring Maharashtra, inclusion of non-loanee farmers is poor elsewhere, he added. “The biggest problem is the scheme’s homogenous area approach, defining a given region as a unit of insurance. This ignores the diversity within this area,” Kumar said. Many experts have called for a village to be defined as the unit of insurance, instead of block or revenue circle.
Kumar’s assessment found that coverage across India had dipped since the scheme’s inception, but gross premium paid has grown. Also, the difference between disbursals made by private insurers and premiums collected by them has risen.
Kshirsagar, who led agitations in Marathwada on the issue of crop insurance in 2017 too, said the design of the PMFBY should be reassessed.
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