G Srinivasan, Director of National Insurance Academy (NIA), Pune, interviewed by Radheshyam Jadhav (The Hindu Business Line)

G Srinivasan, Director of National Insurance Academy (NIA), Pune, interviewed by Radheshyam Jadhav (The Hindu Business Line)

-The Hindu Business Line

Tech must be used in a big way to ensure ryots get compensated quickly, says National Insurance Academy’s Srinivasan

Changing rainfall patterns, droughts, flooding and geographical redistribution of pests and diseases have posed a major challenge before Indian agriculture. With the impact of climate change looming large on agricultural productivity, the insurance sector has a big role to play. However, the implementation of crop insurance scheme is mired in squabbles while the insurance sector has not penetrated deep into the Indian market. G. Srinivasan, Director, National Insurance Academy (NIA), Pune, shared his views on these issues. Excerpts:

* Climate variability and extremes are having an impact on agricultural production systems. How do you analyse the suitability of crop insurance schemes?

Indian agriculture is extremely vulnerable to climate changes and is largely dependent on the monsoon. Drought, unseasonal rains, cyclone, floods, hailstorms and climate extremes have brought huge losses to the farmers. Crop insurance is clearly a reasonable solution to the losses arising out of these events. The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana provides monetary compensation to losses arising out of climate risks and also due to pests and diseases.

* What steps are needed to ensure comprehensive coverage of crop insurance schemes?

The aim is to provide coverage to all farmers. However, this is a tall task. The scheme is mandatory for loanee farmers, while it is voluntary for others. The premium is largely borne by the Government and the farmers pay only a small component of the premium. Only about 35 per cent of farmers are covered now and the intention of the Government is to increase it to 50 per cent by 2020.

* What changes do you think must be introduced in the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) and the Restructured Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme (RWBCIS) to make them more farmer-friendly?

The revised operational guidelines have made the scheme more farmer-friendly. The key is use of technology in a big way to eliminate the difficulties encountered now due to manual procedures. What is important is to ensure that farmers get compensation quickly. The impediments to faster claim payment can be easily addressed with active collaboration of insurers and Government authorities.

* What is your take on India-specific Natural Catastrophe (NatCat) solutions in the wake of climate change?

India is highly exposed to natural catastrophes. The repeated occurrence of cyclones, floods, earthquakes is a grim reminder to the vulnerabilities of the people. The insurance sector should design a simple natural catastrophe product with affordable premium and simple claim payment methodology. The Government can pay the premium for people below the poverty line. The funds lying with disaster agencies can be utilised for buying insurance cover rather than using them after an event. Parametric covers can ensure claim payments happen immediately.

* The number of complaints regarding unfair business is substantial. During the last three years, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has received 2,16,772 complaints. Your comments.

The complaints on unfair selling can be tackled by creating insurance awareness among the public and also insurance marketing personnel. Agents and insurance intermediaries need to be well trained and asked to explain insurance products fully to the customers before concluding the sale. More transparency and standard practices among insurance players could also help in solving this problem to a large extent.

* What are your plans for the NIA?

The high growth in the insurance sector needs insurance expertise of high calibre. We need well-trained insurance professionals in the fields of underwriting, claims management, marketing, risk management, finance and actuarial practices. The National Insurance Academy as the premier institution in this field is fully geared to handle this requirement. NIA is also focused on insurance research to bring about unique insurance solutions needed for achieving the vision of India being a fully insured society.

The Hindu Business Line, 15 February, 2019, please click here to access

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