16 Jan 2017 13:38 IST

PM Fasal Bima Yojana not reaching farmers who really need it

Non-loanee farmers availing insurance may be far fewer than data claim

Last January, Prime Minister Narendra Modi introduced a new crop insurance scheme with the aim of bringing 50 per cent of the country’s farmers under insurance cover in three years.

Data shows that in kharif 2016 — the first season after the scheme’s launch — crop insurance coverage had risen. However, despite the Centre’s claims, this growth is mainly due to the increase in insurance coverage of farmers who have taken crop loans (loanee farmers).

Sample this: data from the Agriculture Insurance Company (AIC), a State-owned insurer that has covered 40 per cent of all farmers under the new scheme, shows that in the 2016 kharif crop season, loanee farmers covered under crop insurance (Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana and Weather-based Crop Insurance Scheme) stood at 2.69 crore (as of January 3, 2017). In the kharif season of 2015, the total loanee farmers under all crop insurance schemes was 2.10 crore. This 28 per cent growth in loanee farmers under crop insurance is courtesy the push from banks.

On the other hand, the number of non-loanee farmers (those who have not taken a crop loan) covered by insurance has increased only 3 per cent, to 1.01 crore, in kharif 2016 from 98.4 lakh the previous year.

Doubtful claim

However the Agriculture Ministry, in a press release on December 7, claimed that the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana had made impressive progress and there was a six-fold increase in coverage of non-loanee farmers (from 14.88 lakh in 2015 to over 100 lakh in 2016).

Why this anomaly? A senior official with AIC explains that the Ministry, while computing numbers for 2015, had also accounted for non-loanee farmers in Maharashtra – about 83.7 lakh farmers — in the loanee segment by mistake. This appears to be the reason why the Centre’s estimate of growth in the non-loanee segment is overstated.

Speaking to some farmers and associations, BusinessLine also found that it was mostly farmers with an outstanding loan who have enrolled in the scheme. Says Badri Narayan Choudhari, All India Secretary, of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh: “It is mainly the loanee farmers who are into this scheme now. Banks debit the premium from their account even without their consent….”

However, the non-loanee farmers need insurance cover more, says Kavitha Kurungati, convenor of the Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture. “The cost of cultivation for non-loanee farmers is relatively higher because they also pay huge lease rent. In costal Andhra for instance, a tenant farmer pays ₹30,000 per acre, per year, in Punjab, this goes as high as ₹40,000-45,000 per acre…”

Tamil Nadu fares worst

Tamil Nadu has seen the worst drought in 15 years in the recent NorthEast monsoon season, with farmers seeing large losses in paddy and other grains. But enrolment into the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana till Kharif 2016 in Tamil Nadu is among the lowest.

Data from AIC shows that the total number of farmers covered under PMFBY and the Restructured WBCIS in the State in Kharif 2016 was 15,915. Other States in the South fare a little better. The like figure for Karnataka was 13.49 lakh and Telangana, 6.18 lakh.

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