BENGALURU: The number of beneficiaries under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) fell by 80 lakh, decreasing from 5.7 crore to 4.9 crore, between 2016-17 and 2017-18 in the country.
Besides problems associated with insurance companies, the scheme suffered setbacks from waiver of farm loans in different states and insistence upon Aadhaar numbers for coverage under PMFBY. The other factors that affected its acceptance include Bihar’s recent decision to dump of the scheme, lack of adequate personnel to enter details of beneficiaries at the district level, non-functional help-lines, and delay in processing farmers’ applications, thus affecting their crop cycle.
Maharashtra witnessed the maximum reduction of number of beneficiaries, registering a decline of 22.75 lakh -- from 1.09 crore in 2016-17 to 87.22 lakh in 2017-18. Uttar Pradesh came next, where the numbers dipped by 12.19 lakh, from 37.17 lakh to 24.98 lakh during the time period. The other states with significant reductions were Rajasthan and West Bengal.
Speaking to The New Indian Express at the sidelines of the first national review conference of the scheme, Ashish Bhutani, CEO of PMFBY, observed that the number of beneficiaries fell mainly after four states - Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Rajasthan - implemented farm loan waiver. “Since farmers with bank loans were automatically covered under PMFBY, beneficiaries whose loans were waived were knocked off the list along with the waiver in these states. Therefore, there was a decline in 15 per cent of the beneficiaries in a single year,” he said.
Bhutani added that insistence upon Aadhaar number linkage for the scheme also made an impact, as insurance accounts of farmers with multiple loans from different banks are being weeded out. “Farmers are apprehensive about using Aadhaar for the scheme due to the issue. However, even if it means reducing the number of beneficiaries, Aadhaar will have to be mandatory so as to ensure that a few do not get multiple benefits,” he said.
Insurance companies also hamper the scheme in various ways, such as by withdrawing after being selected as the primary insurer for a cluster, delaying the processing of applications, lacking adequate personnel to enter data, and having non-functional help-lines.
Subhash Chandra Khuntia, Chairman, Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority, advised insurance firms to carefully assess and participate in providing coverage, and not back out after being selected. “This was happening initially when the scheme was launched three years ago, and cases have decreased over a period of time,” he said.
State proposes its own crop insurance policy
The state government is proposing a special crop insurance policy for farmers, which will make it the second state after Bihar in the country to introduce its own policy. Speaking to reporters on Friday, Agriculture Minister Shivashankar Reddy said this year the government had estimated crop loss due to drought to be around D16,000 crore.
In the first phase, the government had declared 100 taluks from 13 districts as drought hit and in the second phase, eight to 10 more taluks are likely to be added. “We are getting financial assistance of D2,460 crore from the Centre. Four teams from the government of India have come to visit these taluks,’’ he said.
When asked about crop insurance, the minister said the existing Prime Minister Fasal Bhima Yojane parameters to determine crop loss were complicated. “There is also a delay in payment of insurance. It is pending since 2016-17, which will be sorted out. The 2018-19 amounts however will be disbursed from January 2019,” he said.