Shivaji Bappa Savane, along with a group of farmers called themselves Shetakari Vanchit Aghadi (Deprived Farmer’s Front), has been agitating since August 22, in front of the District collector office Jalna demanding compensation from the insurance companies against the loss-making produce in the Kharif season last year.
“Be it floods or droughts, the crop insurance scheme of the government is not helping farmers but rather profiting the insurance companies,” says Savane, a farmer from the Daithana village in Partur tehsil of Jalna district. He adds, “The amount assured for the Jalna district was Rs. 1040 crores 57 lakhs. However the actual compensation received by farmers came out just around Rs.47 Crores 43 lakhs. Even when drought was announced by the state government in Jalna district last year, the insurance did not cover all crops affected by the drought.”
Similar protests and the demand for fair compensation had been raised by the farmers from Parbhani, Beed and other parts of the state. They had come together to protest alleged flaws in the implementation of the insurance scheme.
Manoj Solanke another farmer from Lingsa village, shares his concern showing the receipt of crop insurance he applied in the last year. “We are not able to understand whether the survey of government had made if technical differentiations, which disregarded the crops which were sown in the same season.” He adds, “The government surveys are aimed at showing the losses in the crop which carries least sown area or the crops carrying less sums in assured amount, which directly benefits the insurance companies.”
The farmers in the state, supported by the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) protested at the office of Agriculture Commissioner on August 3 this year and asked the government to relook into the crop cutting experiments and demanded that these be made more transparent.
The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) was launched in 2016 and it replaced all the prevailing yield insurance schemes in India. The scheme was launched as an ‘impetus’ to crop sector.The PMFBY aimed at supporting sustainable production in the agricultural sector by way of providing financial support to farmers suffering crop losses, damages arising out of unforeseen events and stabilizing the income of farmers to ensure their continuance in farming.
Under the scheme, some 68 lakhs 32 thousand farmers from Marathwada, a drought-prone and distressed region in Maharashtra, had paid Rs. 288 crores to secure their crop. As the government’s share of contribution under the scheme, the center paid Rs. 1,314 crores 47 lakhs and the equal amount by the state to the Crop Insurance companies.
Which means that a sum of Rs. 2,117 crores 14 lakh was the amount paid by farmers including government to the insurance companies in the last financial year. However, only Rs. 1,669 Crores, 52 lakh were received by farmers as compensation towards the loss incurred in the relevant period, making it a further loss-making transaction for the farmers.
Rajan Khirsagar, A social activist from Parbhani while commenting on the insurance scheme said, “If there are natural calamities like drought or flood, ideally, if we go by calculation; farmers should benefit from the crop insurance scheme and not the insurance companies. These companies have been gaining profits even amidst severe droughts and low yields!” A member of Communist Party of India, Rajan shares facts and figures that he has compiled from various data sources. He says, “There are many drawbacks in the scheme which directly benefit these companies. The figure of farmer’s suicides in Parbhani district alone reached 107 in 2017-18, however, in the same year the Reliance subsidiary insurance company, earned a net profit of Rs. 107 crores only in Parbhani district. The flaws lie in the way surveys were done by the government in the fields and the respective district collector should be held responsible.”
In the year 2018-19, in Maharashtra 238 tehsils are facing severe drought, but the compensation given to the farmers for this season was less than even the previous year’s average, says the data. There are 41 lakh farmers deprived of any compensation amidst droughts in 66 tehsils of Marathwada.
Farmers sowing food grains and oilseed crops in the Kharif season, applied for the scheme by paying insurance charges 2 percent of the Sum Assured or actuarial rate, whichever is less. The yield losses would be notified on the area level once the yield data was received by the state government.
If the ‘Actual Yield’ per hectare of the insured crop for a defined area (on the basis of the requisite number of crop cutting experiments) in the insured season, falls short of the specified threshold yield, all the insured farmers growing that crop in the defined area are deemed to have suffered a shortfall in their yield. The Sum Insured would be equal to the ‘scale of finance’ for that crop as fixed by the District Level Technical Committee (DLTC). reads the terms and conditions of the scheme.
Farmer’s organisations have been demanding changes to be made in the way defining area unit for the assessment and the flaws in the crop cutting experiments. They accuse the method of calculating the crop loss is which is based on the threshold yield. A state level Coordination Committee on Crop Insurance was formed, but there was a lack of a mechanism where the farmers could raise their complaints. There has been no cognizance taken of more than 10,000 complaints received from the farmers during the last two years.
“Earlier, it used to be the village or a revenue block which would be a unit, later it was changed to Revenue group consisting villages in the Panchayat, calculating losses on large scale and it generalising the crop loss,” Says Kshirsagar. He adds, “There are flaws in crop cutting experiments where the criteria of irrigated crops were applied to the non- irrigated type of crops, benefiting Insurance companies.”
For the Rabi season of 2018-2019 in the state, other major irregularities have been observed in the implementation of the PMFBY in Maharashtra.
In Maharashtra, the total sown area in the Rabi season of 2018-19 was 33.81 lakh hectare, the total insured area under Rabi for the same year is only 45 lakh hectares.
The cultivated area in the state for which the government is paying a premium from the exchequer was 133 percent more than the actual sown area.
– Angad Taur