Early in December, when Bhagwan Ingole, a farmer from Malegaon in Ardhrapur taluka of Nanded went to the Citizen Facilitation Centre in his village to insure his one acre of rabi chana (bengal gram) crop, he was in for a surprise. During the previous seasons, the operator of this one-stop shop catering to most of the Internet-related work of the villagers had insisted that he bring a copy of his 7/12 land extract signed by the local talathi (village level revenue office) for the enrollment process.
“This time, he just asked for my survey number, and from the drop-down menu helped me zero in on my land parcel and completed the process. This came as a pleasant surprise. Getting the talathi’s signature is tedious since the officer is never in his office,” said Ingole, who has been insuring his crops religiously since 2017.
Behind the simple drop-down menu, which saved Ingole from the trouble of locating the village talathi, lies an initiative of the Department of Agriculture, which officers hope will help make the process of enrollment for crop insurance easy. Not just that, it will help plug the leaks in the process. Maharashtra is the first state in the country to seamlessly integrate its land records with the web portal of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY). This integration has been rolled out during the 2019-20 rabi season, with farmers accessing their land details online at the enrollment centres.
Farmers opting to insure their crops under the PMFBY, are required to share their Aadhaar number, their bank details, as well as their land records at the enrollment centres. Although available online, the 7/12 land records were to be signed and stamped by the local talathi who verifies the same with the records available with him. Given the work load — the talathi is normally responsible for around 10-12 villages in the locality — farmers have to often wait for days before the talathi comes to their village to sign their land records.
Suhas Diwase, Commissioner, Agriculture, pointed out how there have been cases when due to small clerical errors, farmers have failed to claim their insured amount in the past. The integration, Diwase said, was possible after the Land Settlement Commissioner of Maharashtra agreed to share its data with the central portal of the PMFBY. “Land records in Maharashtra have already been digitised. It is now being used to pinpoint the farmer’s land during enrollment process,” he said.
Convenience and accuracy
Small clerical errors sometimes led to farmers not getting their insurance dues. Land records in Maharashtra were already digitised — and after the land Settlement Commissioner agreed to share data with the central portal of the PMFBY, the lands of farmers were pinpointed during the enrollment process. Physical verification by the talathi is no longer needed.
Maharashtra counts itself among the top five states in the country in terms of payment of claims under the PMFBY. During the financial year 2018-19, the state had 1.39 crore farmers opting for the scheme and the total premium collected was Rs 4,778.30 crore. In the last fiscal, insurance companies had paid Rs 3,730.52 crore as compensation to 54.46 lakh farmers. In fact, Maharashtra presents an interesting scenario with farmers not opting for crop loans enrolling for the scheme with their own money. Farmers who opt for bank loans are automatically enrolled for the scheme. But there have been multiple protests by farmers groups as well as political parties, which claim that the scheme has failed to achieve its objectives.
If farmers are happy with the drop-down menu, officers of the Agriculture Department have more than one reason to root for this integration. Although the PMFBY mandates compulsory verification of land records by ground-level agriculture officers or bank officers, in reality this has not happened. As a result, cases of “over-insurance” — insurance of more land than in possession — as well as insurance of ineligible people have happened. Officers cited cases where the insured area was more than the cropped area of the district. “Taking advantage of the lack of stringent verification, there were instances of people insuring the same land parcel multiple times. Also there were cases when non-land holders were found insuring land,” said an officer.
Recently, an audit had unearthed a case where a single farmer with 4 hectares of land in Latur was found to have insured around 44 hectares in Latur, Beed, Osmanabad, and Parbhani. Rough estimates by officers of the Agriculture Department have shown that around 20 per cent of the enrollment in any given season had been cases of either over-insurance or of insurance by individuals who didn’t hold any land.
The integration, officers said, has almost done away with chances of over insurance, as the land records will be available online. Once the farmer chooses his survey number, the drop-down menu will prompt the user to choose the land parcel that he or she chooses to insure. Once insured, the same land parcel will not be open for insurance again. Multiple training sessions were organised across the state to ensure proper implementation of the process in the current rabi season.
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