Rural distress

Rural distress


The report entitled Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana: An Assessment from the Centre for Science and Environment (released on 21 July, 2017), (please click here to access), provides a detailed independent evaluation and analysis of the recently launched crop insurance scheme by the NDA government.

The CSE undertook a detailed study to assess the state of implementation of PMFBY, including loopholes and challenges involved in the process. Field visits were made in Haryana, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh to get firsthand understanding of PMFBY implementation during kharif 2016. A round table was also conducted in Delhi with farmer leaders from Rajasthan, Telangana, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh as well as civil society members. Interviews were conducted with stakeholders, including farmers and their representatives, block-, district-, state- and Central-level government officials, and representatives of banks, insurance companies and representatives of Panchayati Raj Institutions. Last, all available data on PMFBY for kharif 2016 was collected and analysed.

One of the key conclusions of the report is that PMBY is not beneficial for farmers in vulnerable regions. For farmers in vulnerable regions such as Bundelkhand and Marathwada, factors like low indemnity levels, low threshold yields, low sum insured and default on loans make PMFBY a poor scheme to safeguard against extreme weather events. CSE's analysis shows that farmers in these areas might not get any claim even if more than half of their crops are damaged.

The Government of India launched the PMFBY in the kharif season of 2016 to help farmers cope with crop losses due to unseasonal and extreme weather. The scheme came into operation from April 1, 2016. It has replaced the National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (NAIS) and the Modified National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (MNAIS). The Weather-Based Crop Insurance Scheme (WBCIS) remains in place, though its premium rates have been made the same as in PMFBY. A state can decide whether it wants PMFBY or WBCIS or both.

The PMFBY has more farmer-friendly provisions than NAIS and MNAIS. It has reduced the burden of premium on farmers significantly and has expanded the coverage of risks. It also promotes use of advanced technologies for accurate estimation of losses and quick payments to farmers.

 

The key findings of the report entitled Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana: An Assessment from CSE are as follows:

The positives

• At the all-India level, coverage of agricultural insurance has significantly increased in kharif 2016 compared to kharif 2015. The number of farmers insured reached a little over 4 crore during kharif 2016; during kharif 2015, this number was about 3.09 crore.

• The sum insured is now closer to the cost of production than before. On an average, during kharif 2015, the sum insured per hectare of land was about Rs 20,500; during kharif 2016, it had gone up to Rs 34,370. This means that in case of losses, farmers should theoretically get significantly higher compensation than before. However, in some states like Rajasthan, the sum insured remains very low – about one-third of the cost of production.

The negatives

• Gaps in assessment of crop loss: Assessment of crop loss remains a major concern because the sample sizes in each village are not large enough to capture the scale and diversity of crop losses. In many cases, district or block level agricultural department officials do not conduct such sampling on ground and complete the formalities only on paper. CSE also noted other issues such as lack of trained outsourced agencies, huge scope of corruption during implementation as well as non-utilisation of technologies like smart phones and drones to improve the speed and reliability of such sampling.

• Inadequate and delayed claim payment: Insurance companies, in many cases, did not investigate losses due to a localised calamity and, therefore, did not pay claims. For kharif 2016, the claim payment to farmers was inordinately delayed – till April 2017; claims for kharif 2016 were not paid or were partly paid in 14 out of 21 states. Only 32 per cent of the reported claims were paid out by insurance companies, even when in many states the governments had paid their part of premium.

• High actuarial premium rates: Insurance companies charged high actuarial premium rates during kharif 2016 – the all-India rate was approximately 12.6 per cent, which was highest ever. Much higher rates were charged in some states and regions. The average actuarial rate in Gujarat was 20.5 per cent, in Rajasthan 19.9 per cent, and in Maharashtra 18.9 per cent.

• Massive profits for insurance companies: CSE’s analysis indicates that during kharif 2016, companies made close to Rs 10,000 crore as ‘gross profits’.

• Coverage only for loanee farmers: PMFBY remains a scheme for loanee farmers – farmers who take loans from banks are mandatorily required to take insurance. The percentage of non-loanee farmers availing insurance remained less than 5 per cent during kharif 2016 and 2015. Like previous crop insurance schemes, PMFBY fails to cover sharecropper and tenant farmers.

• Poor capacity to deliver: There has been no concerted effort by the state government and insurance companies to build awareness of farmers on PMFBY. Insurance companies have failed to set-up infrastructure for proper implementation of PMFBY. There is still no direct linkage between insurance companies and farmers. Insured farmers receive no insurance policy document or receipt.

The report has also identified issues like delayed notification by state governments, less number of notified crops than can avail insurance, problem with threshold yield estimation etc. that has diluted the usefulness of PMFBY.



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