Off to a poor start

The first batch of farm­ers in­sured un­der PMFBY last year are still strug­gling to set­tle their claims

Down to Earth - - COVER STORY -

IT HAS been more than a year-long chase for Ram­ni­vas, who be­lieved Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi when he in­tro­duced the Prad­han Mantri Fasal Bima Yo­jana (pmfby) as the “so­lu­tion to prob­lems the farm­ers face” in April 2016. “I had heard the speech days af­ter I had lost my en­tire wheat crop due to un­sea­sonal rains,” says the young farmer from Kohla vil­lage in Soni­pat dis­trict of Haryana. Ex­cited, he im­me­di­ately vis­ited the bank to in­quire about the scheme that was started in the kharif sea­son of 2016. He later en­rolled for the scheme when he took a loan for grow­ing paddy in his 4-hectare (ha) farm. “Con­fi­dent of the scheme, I was ini­tially not wor­ried when I lost al­most 75 per cent of my paddy crop due to un­timely rains dur­ing kharif 2016. I am wor­ried now be­cause kharif 2017 has started and I still do not know when I am get­ting the money,” says he.

Like Ram­ni­vas, many farm­ers across the coun­try are los­ing trust due to the poor im­ple­men­ta­tion of the much-de­sired crop in­sur­ance scheme, which re­places the Na­tional Agri­cul­tural In­sur­ance Scheme (nais) and Mod­i­fied Na­tional Agri­cul­tural In­sur­ance Scheme (mnais). Pic­ture this: none of the farm­ers from Ram­ni­vas’ vil­lage has re­ceived the in­sur­ance money. They say they have tried ev­ery­thing—ap­proached the bank, lodged for­mal com­plaints with the agriculture depart­ment, and even protested—and failed.

pmfby op­er­ates on an area-based ap­proach, where a vil­lage or an equiv­a­lent area is con­sid­ered as a ba­sic in­sur­ance unit. At the start of each crop­ping sea­son, the state gov­ern­ment is sup­posed to re­lease a no­ti­fi­ca­tion with the thresh­old yield of in­di­vid­ual crops in each in­sur­ance unit, which is cal­cu­lated based on the av­er­age yield of the past seven years. The no­ti­fi­ca­tion should also men­tion the sum in­sured amount for in­di­vid­ual crops in re­spec­tive in­sur­ance units. To as­sess crop loss, a team, con­sist­ing of­fi­cials from the state agriculture depart­ment and the lo­cal in­sur­ance com­pany, should visit four fields, ran­domly se­lected us­ing a sam­pling

method, and con­duct crop cut­ting ex­per­i­ments (cce), where a small por­tion of the field is iden­ti­fied and the crop in that area is har­vested to as­cer­tain the yield of that sea­son. De­pend­ing on their assess­ment, all farm­ers en­rolled un­der the scheme in the in­sur­ance unit will ei­ther get the com­pen­sa­tion or not. The scheme has three lev­els of in­dem­nity (pro­tec­tion against a loss)—70, 80 and 90 per cent.

None of the farm­ers Down To Earth spoke to was aware of how the scheme op­er­ated, which high­lights the poor aware­ness lev­els. Af­ter learn­ing about the process, farm­ers started in­quir­ing among them­selves if any farm was vis­ited by agriculture depart­ment of­fi­cials re­cently. They even took out the list of the farms that gov­ern­ment records claim were vis­ited in the vil­lage. Sur­pris­ingly, the farm­ers on the list said of­fi­cials only vis­ited their farm dur­ing the crop­ping sea­son and spoke to them to ap­prox­i­mate the es­ti­mated crop yields. But not a sin­gle of­fi­cial vis­ited at the time of har­vest­ing to carry out the manda­tory cce. “Much be­fore the har­vest­ing sea­son, an agriculture depart­ment of­fi­cial asked about the es­ti­mated paddy yield in my field. He made me sign some pa­pers and said he will re­turn dur­ing the har­vest­ing sea­son. But no one came,” says San­deep Singh, one of the farm­ers from the Kohla vil­lage whose farm was in the list of cce. In kharif 2016, San­deep had sown paddy crop in three ha land for which he had taken a loan of `3 lakh. As op­posed to the av­er­age 55 quin­tals per ha of paddy he nor­mally re­ceives, this sea­son, he man­aged just 10 quin­tals per ha. “In kharif 2016, I in­curred a loss of `2.97 lakh. I will not get a ru­pee be­cause the lo­cal of­fi­cials did not visit dur­ing the har­vest­ing pe­riod,” says he.

“Farm­ers in al­most all the vil­lages in Go­hana have con­firmed cces were not con­ducted dur­ing the har­vest­ing pe­riod. Of­fi­cials sim­ply ask the yield of the crops from some farm­ers in­stead of con­duct­ing the ac­tual ex­per­i­ments in the field,” says Satyawan Nar­wal, a farmer leader from Soni­pat dis­trict. A Haryana agriculture depart­ment of­fi­cial also con­firmed that the manda­tory cces were not car­ried out at some places be­cause the scheme had in­creased the depart­ment’s work­load. His claim was ver­i­fied by an in­sur­ance com­pany of­fi­cial who said ap­prox­i­mately 3,500 cces have to be car­ried out in a Haryana dis­trict for the com­plete cov­er­age, but only 40-50 per cent are be­ing con­ducted on the ground. “Dur­ing the peak crop har­vest­ing pe­riod of 10-12 days, 200-300 cces have to be car­ried out every day in each dis­trict. This re­quires huge man­power, which is not avail­able,” says the in­sur­ance com­pany of­fi­cial. In fact, of-

fi­cials in the Haryana agriculture de­vel­op­ment depart­ment had gone on strike to protest against the bur­den on them to con­duct mas­sive num­bers of cces in Septem­ber 2016. The agriculture depart­ment of­fi­cial says the depart­ment has even tried hir­ing peo­ple on con­tract to con­duct cce dur­ing the peak sea­son, but it did not work be­cause most of them did not have smart­phones that are manda­tory for the film­ing of cces, as per the guide­lines.

Even the re­cently re­leased Prad­han Mantri Fasal Bima Yo­jana: An Assess­ment re­port by Delhi-based non-profit Cen­tre for Sci­ence and En­vi­ron­ment (cse) says in­sur­ance com­pa­nies lack the man­power and in­fras­truc­ture to ef­fec­tively carry out the scheme in ru­ral ar­eas. In­sur­ance com­pa­nies, es­pe­cially pri­vate com­pa­nies, have no func­tional of­fice in tehsils and no agents are de­ployed at the block level, de­spite pro­vi­sion for it un­der the scheme. The re­port says that cases have been found across the coun­try where the in­sur­ance com­pany did not in­ves­ti­gate the losses and there­fore did not pay for the claims. High­light­ing the ca­sual ap­proach of the of­fi­cials, the re­port says in droughthit Tamil Nadu, cces were con­ducted at the block or dis­trict level in­stead of the rev­enue vil­lage level for kharif 2016. No won­der, 14 of the 21 states had un­set­tled claim cases till April 2017, even though all claims should have been set­tled within three weeks af­ter Jan­uary 31, 2017—the date of re­ceiv­ing cce yield data by in­sur­ance com­pa­nies. In fact, over 68 per cent of the to­tal claims had not been set­tled till April 2017 (see ‘Low on ben­e­fits’, p38).

Broth­ers Deepak and Sachin from the Garhi Pukhta vil­lage in Ut­tar Pradesh’s Shamli dis­trict high­light an­other prob­lem when they say that while the premium is col­lected by the bank of­fi­cials, claims are han­dled by the in­sur­ance com­pany. The broth­ers lost 90 per cent of their paddy crop in kharif 2016. “No body from the in­sur­ance com­pany ever vis­ited our vil­lage and we could not even get through to the in­sur­ance com­pany,” says Deepak. Farm­ers from the vil­lage also say that a per­son had re­cently vis­ited them and col­lected `1,000 each from all the af­fected farm­ers on the prom­ise of get­ting the in­sur­ance money. The cse anal­y­sis says, “There seems to be a clear lack of co­or­di­na­tion between banks, in­sur­ance com­pa­nies and nodal gov­ern­ment de­part­ments. There is also poor co­or­di­na­tion re­gard­ing griev­ance re­dres­sal.” The pmfby guide­lines say every in­sur­ance com­pany should have a griev­ance re­dres­sal sys­tem in­clud­ing a helpline num­ber. “But th­ese sys­tems are nonex­is­tent at the lo­cal level. Cur­rently, it is very un­likely that ma­jor­ity of farm­ers will be able to file com­plaints in case of any griev­ances,” says the re­port.

Farm­ers also al­lege that banks have in­sured crops that are dif­fer­ent from the crops they have ac­tu­ally grown on their field. San­deep Ma­lik, sarpanch of Ch­hich­dana vil­lage of Soni­pat, says most farm­ers in his vil­lage had sug­ar­cane crop in their

San­deep Singh, whose farm in Haryana's Kohla vil­lage was iden­ti­fied for crop cut­ting ex­per­i­ments used for de­cid­ing the com­pen­sa­tion for the vil­lage, says of­fi­cials never vis­ited his farm to con­duct the ex­per­i­ment

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