Economic Time, December 30, 2018
NEW DELHI: Noting that there were several “problems”, including lack of transparency, in two crop insurance schemes run by the government, a parliamentary panel has suggested making adequate financial allocations so that the schemes attract participation from a greater number of farmers.
The parliamentary panel, chaired by senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi has also recommended re-formulation of agricultural insurance scheme in order to suit the needs of farmers who engage in organic farming, while also suggesting inclusion of multi-cropping system under it.
The Committee on Estimates (2018-19) in its 30th report on performance of the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) under the Union Environment Ministry said the the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture “lacks” in focusing on farmers while taking initiatives for sustainable agriculture.
It noted that agriculture as a sustainable occupation can remain viable only if the farmers are given chance to sustain themselves and for this, they need to have access to better seeds, best farming practices and support from the government to cover risks.
It said the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), launched in 2016, is a yield-based insurance scheme that uses crop-cutting experiments (CCEs) to determine the yield lost by farmers due to natural catastrophes and adverse weather conditions.
The yield obtained through the CCEs determine the payout made by insurance firms to farmers and the PMFBY improves on other existing schemes by removing caps on premiums and making use of modern technology, the committee stated.
“However, the committee also note that the scheme suffers from several problems such as the delay in crop cutting experiments and its associated high costs, delayed/non-payment of insurance claims to farmers and lack of transparency.
“As a result, farmers lose interest in the crop insurance schemes. Another problem relating to crop insurance schemes in India is coverage,” the panel said in the report.
It pointed out that PMFBY states that the overall area insured has decreased over the last two years (from 57.2 million hectare in 2016-17 to 47.5 million hectare in 2017-18).
This is less than 24 per cent of the gross cropped area (against a target of 40 per cent). In the US, the gross cropped area is 89 per cent and in China it is 69 per cent, the report stated.
“The committee, therefore, recommends that adequate financial allocation should be made so that the crop insurance schemes attract participation from greater number of farmers.
“The committee also recommends that agricultural insurance scheme should be re-formulated in order to suit the needs of farmers who engage in organic farming. Multi-cropping system also, which is the very basis of organic farming, should also be included under the insurance schemes,” it said.
The panel noted that there is another insurance scheme — the Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme (WBCIS) — which aims to mitigate the hardship of the insured farmers against the likelihood of financial loss on account of anticipated crop loss resulting from weather conditions, including fluctuation in rainfall, temperature, wind and humidity.
This scheme seeks to provide insurance claims to farmers on the basis of observed weather data that are directly relevant to agriculture, the committee said.
“The problem with this scheme is that the number of automatic weather stations in the country is very less. As against the requirement of 33,000 automatic weather station (AWS), only 706 AWS are operational.”
“In spite of its advantages, the coverage under WBICS has declined from 11.25 million in 2014-15 to a little over 2.1 million in 2016-17. In order to increase coverage, it is necessary for the government to effectively communicate to the farmers the value of insurance products,” the committee stated.
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