Continuing suicides and in termittent protests by farmers across the country prompted the Supreme Court on Thursday to ask why the muchpublicised Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) had not provided relief to hapless farmers. While the government said that it is the first year and they are ironing out the problems, a look at the details of this first year's implementation throws up more systemic issues.
Responding to a question, ag riculture minister of state Purushottam Rupala told the Lok Sabha on 28 March 2017 that insurance companies collected over Rs 9,000 crore as premium for the kharif season in 2016. As per the PMFBY rules farmers only gave Rs 1,643 crore of this amount with the balance Rs 7,438 crore being directly given to the companies by the state and central governments.
Now here is the thing: the total claims received by the insurance companies were Rs 2,725 crore.Even when all these claims are pa id out in full, the profit of these companies would be about Rs 6,357 crore. That's for one agricultural season. At the time this data was collected at end of March this year, they had paid only Rs 639 crore.
Insurance sector regulator IRDA which is supposed to ensure smooth payments among other things, did not respond to TOI queries.
Gopal Naik, professor at IIM Bangalore and a Board member of the public sector Agriculture Insurance Company (AIC) agreed that there was an imbalance in the payout. He attributed this to high premium rates which in turn are because there is lack of ground level data.
“Competition created under the PMFBY should over a time address this problem. Setting proper data systems on land ownership, crop area data and good crop assessment system will facilitate competition in the market place and bring down the premium rate,“ Naik told TOI.
Insurance companies offering Insurance companies offering crop insurance did not respond to TOI queries except one Bajaj-Allianz which claimed that they actually did not earn a profit because their payout for the weather based insurance scheme was much more. “Instead of transferring thou sands of crores to insurance companies directly as profit why can't the govt. use that money to compensate the farmers? The whole scheme reeks of benefiting companies at the cost of farmers,“ said K Krishnaprasad of the All India Kisan Sabha, a farmers' organisation.
Naik said that it is unfair to farmers to delay insurance payments as has happened in this case. Even six months after kharif season 2016 ended the insurance claims settled are less than a quarter of the total claims made. After a crop loss takes place anything beyond a month to receive claims is a long time for farmers to wait, Naik said.
He listed long time taken in assessment of crop losses, delay in payment of subsidies by state government, deficient IT structure of insurance companies and absence of good agricultural data as the main reasons for delays. Insurance company insiders too claimed that delay in transfer of `subsidies' from state government delayed claim payments.