‘Paltry’ insurance payouts irks rain-affected farmers, Centre denies claims
Farm-insurance claims have risen due to extensive crop damage caused by extreme weather conditions this year, but some farmers are angry at being given a pittance as compensation under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana.
Krushna Raut, a farmer in Maharashtra’s Parbhani district, stared in disbelief at a message on his mobile phone, which showed ₹1.76 had been transferred to his bank account towards his crop-insurance claim. He first thought it was a mistake, but the district’s insurance authorities told him that was all they owed him, he said.
This year, the monsoon dumped heavy rainfall in several states in September, a month when the rainy-bearing system usually starts retreating. The showers caught farmers like Raut from the district’s Dhasala village unaware, ruining harvest-ready crops.
Farm-insurance claims have risen due to extensive crop damage caused by extreme weather conditions this year, but some farmers are angry at being given a pittance as compensation under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, a federal subsidised crop insurance scheme launched in 2016 after simplifying a myriad of weather-based insurance plans.
In a country already facing serious threats to agriculture from extreme weather due to climate change, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, nearly 15 million farmers opted for the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana during kharif or summer sown-season of 2021.
“I had paid a premium of ₹455 for my two-acre farm. I was expecting at least ₹25,000,” Raut said over phone. His farm of soy, pigeon pea and gram had been flooded by heavy rains.
Likewise, Gajanan Chavan had insured three crops for ₹1,800 as premium. He received ₹14.21 as insurance payout for the first crop and ₹1,200 for another, while no claim was paid for the third crop. “All my crops were extensively damaged during the heavy rains,” he said.
Pandurang Bhaskar Rao Kadam, another insured farmer, said he initially got ₹37 as insurance claim for one set of crops and ₹327 for another. This was followed by another payout of ₹1,700, while he said he ought to have got at least ₹25,000.
Despite these farmers claiming they were paid a pittance, the Union agriculture ministry has rejected reports of them receiving ridiculously low sums as insurance payouts.
“Reports of farmers getting a paltry sum of insurance claims in some districts of Maharashtra are factually wrong, as most of them are only part claims and not the actual sum received,” the ministry said in a statement.
The agriculture ministry said it had probed the case of Kadam. “As per actual claim data, till date, he has received the total claim amount of ₹2,080.40, almost four times of premium paid by him. It is reiterated that the amount of ₹2,080.40 is only part claims and part payments paid and not the actual payment,” the farm ministry’s statement said.
Kadam, however, said he had called the insurance helpline repeatedly but couldn’t get through and doesn’t know if he would be paid more.
The Maharashtra government has informed the Centre that out of 7.95 million applications in kharif 2022, 283 applications had sum insured below ₹100 and 21,603 applications had sum insured below ₹1,000. In some cases, the total claim is low because the area insured is very low, the state told the Centre. To overcome this problem, Maharashtra has provisioned that a minimum of ₹1,000 claim shall be paid in future against any unique farmer ID.
“Some of the farmers in the Parbhani district have received more than ₹50,000 as insurance claims and one farmer even received ₹94,534 before the final settlement of the claims of the district,” the farm ministry said.