Even as Punjab farmers face grave crop losses this rabi season following inclement weather, the state has no crop insurance scheme in place to help those affected to tide over the monetary loss due to the shortfall in yield or crop damage.
This despite the fact that this has been a standard promise made by the SAD-BJP combine in their manifesto released every general election for the past 15 years. The Centre has introduced several crop insurance schemes over the past three decades but Punjab farmers are not covered under any such scheme which facilitates them to insure their crop against all kinds of damage, including those due to inclement weather. And there seems to be no immediate move either to implement such a scheme.
“Punjab’s climatic conditions, its cropping pattern and extent of damage does not fall within any of the Centre’s scheme criterion,” says Punjab agriculture director Dr MS Sandhu.
In 2008, Punjab implemented the Weather-Based Crop Insurance Scheme (WBCIS) launched by the Centre in collaboration with private insurance companies in a block each in Rupnagar and Gurdaspur districts. The experiment proved costly for Punjab. In one year, the state paid `5.3 lakh as premium to the insurance companies in Kalanaur in Gurdaspur while the companies paid `67,000 as compensation for the claimed damage. “It was a useless exercise. Had we implemented the schemes across the state we would have paid Rs 1,870 crore as premium alone,” said Sandhu.
The Comprehensive Crop Insurance Scheme, launched in 1985, was the first nationwide scheme, which later gave way to National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (NAIS) in 1999, followed by the Modified NAIS (MNAIS). In 2013, these schemes were merged into National Crop Insurance Programme. “In all these schemes the unit of calculating damage is taken as a village, which is wrong. It should be the smallest unit of land owned by an individual farmer. Even if a farmer loses crop on one marla of land it should be covered. But this is not the case,” said Sandhu.