This kharif season, though many States have opted out of the revamped PMFBY, some like Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Karnataka have seen an increase in farmers taking cover under the flagship scheme.
Interestingly, the number of non-loanee farmers taking cover under PMFBY, which has been made voluntary from this kharif season, has risen in Tamil Nadu, Assam, Rajasthan and Haryana.
Vagaries of nature
The fear of crop loss due to factors such as flooding and pest attacks and higher settlement ratio in the previous years could have been the drivers for the rise in non-loanee enrolments in these States, sources said. While crops are largely prone to floods in Assam, Tamil Nadu had witnessed flooding in several districts last year. Rajasthan has seen desert locust attacks early into the season from April this year.
Officials at the TN Agriculture Department said the awareness campaigns along with mass media support and use of mobile vans in remote areas have helped in increasing the cover among non-loanee farmers enrolments.
As Gujarat, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand have pulled out of PMFBY, total applications across the country were down by 12 per cent at 336 lakh. In Maharashtra, total enrolments and area covered were down by close to 17 per cent each, while decline in non-loanee applicants was marginal. Other States such as UP, Haryana, Chhattisgarh and Odisha have seen dip in enrolments.
Fear of crop loss due to climatic vagaries is the biggest risk that farmers across the country face as the weather pattern is increasingly becoming erratic in recent years. Close to 50 years after the first crop insurance scheme was introduced in the country, the cover for crops still remains elusive for a large section of farmers. There is an increasing need being felt to cover their risks and take a re-look at the existing schemes to widen the ambit to also include the perennial crops.
“Crop insurance schemes, especially PMFBY, have done a great job bringing insurance solution to the farmers who have historically suffered from vagaries of nature,” said G Srinivasan, Director, National Insurance Academy.
“We need to create proper awareness about the scheme to the farmers. Lot of misgivings are largely due to farmers not understanding the crop insurance schemes. It is also necessary that claims need to be settled quickly and fairly. This will go a long way in increasing confidence of farmers,” Srinivasan said.
Into its fifth year, the PMFBY is losing its sheen due to a host of factors such as delayed settlement and States opting out.
“To make the crop insurance more appealing, the premium charged should be very nominal,” says A Narayanamoorthy, former CACP member. “To avoid the current situation, wherein States are pulling out of the scheme due to fiscal concerns, the Centre should bear higher costs of implementing such as scheme,” he adds.
Besides PMFBY, the Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme (WBCIS), which largely covers horticulture and cash crops, and the Coconut Palm Insurance Scheme have not been able to attract the farmers’ interests.
“Crop insurance has not been taken seriously all these years and that’s the reason we have such a low coverage,” said Devinder Sharma, agri policy expert. The existing schemes, which have not found a favour with farmers, should be scrapped and a new one should be developed so that each and every farmer in the country is covered under the crop insurance, he said.
As the Centre spends huge amount as premium subsidy, the new schemes should be led and implemented by the public sector companies, which have a presence on the ground and also create new employment, he said.
Starting today, BusinessLine will bring a series of reports on crop insurance.
With inputs from TE Rajasimhan in Chennai and Radheshyam Jadhav in Pune