Govt open to making changes in PMFBY in response to recent climate crisis, tech advancement

NewsDrum Desk
24 Nov 2022

New Delhi, Nov 24 (PTI) Agriculture Secretary Manoj Ahuja on Thursday said the government is open to make pro-farmer changes in the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) in response to the recent climate crisis and rapid technological advances.

It may be noted that 2022 saw extreme climate with excess rains reported from Maharashtra, Haryana and Punjab, while deficit rains in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand, eventually damaging crops like paddy, pulses and oilseeds. Of late, instances of such weather uncertainties have also increased.

"Since farming is exposed directly to such climatic catastrophes, it is important and critical to protect the vulnerable farming community of the country from the vagaries of nature," Ahuja said in a statement.

Consequently, the demand for crop insurance is likely to increase and more emphasis is required on crop and other forms of rural and Agri insurance products in order to provide sufficient insurance protection to the farmers in India, he said.

"Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare is open to taking pro-farmer changes in PMFBY in response to the recent climate crisis and rapid technological advances," he added.

PMFBY, launched in 2016, is currently the largest crop insurance scheme in the world in terms of farmer enrolments, averaging 5.5 crore applications every year and the third largest in terms of the premium received. Under the scheme, farmers pay only 1.5 per cent and 2 per cent of the total premium for the rabi and Kharif seasons, respectively, with Centre and state governments bearing most of the premium.

In the last six years of its implementation, farmers paid a premium of Rs 25,186 crore and received claims amounting to Rs 1,25,662 crore as on October 31, 2022, as per the agriculture ministry statement.

The secretary said the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2022 categorises Extreme Weather Risk as the second largest risk over the next 10 years period and such sudden shifts in weather patterns are capable of adversely impacting our country, where the responsibility to feeding the world’s second highest population lies solely on the shoulders of the agriculture community, he said.

It, therefore, becomes imminent to provide a safety net to the farmers to protect their financial position and encourage them to continue farming and ensure food security for not only the country but for the world as well, he added.

After the introduction of PMFBY in 2016, the secretary said, the scheme brought in comprehensive coverage of all the crops and perils, from the pre-sowing to post-harvest period, which was not included in previous schemes of National Agricultural Insurance Scheme(NAIS) and Modified NAIS.

He said several new fundamental features were also added during its revision in 2018, such as increasing the crop loss intimation period for farmers from 48 hours to 72 hours, keeping in mind that damage signatures disappear or are lost in case of localised calamities after 72 hours. Similarly, post its revamp in 2020, the scheme added voluntary enrolment and inclusion of add-on cover for wildlife attacks, to make the scheme even more farmer-friendly.

Ahuja said PMFBY has been facilitating the adaptation of crop insurance, while addressing several challenges on the way and pointed out that the major changes made in the revamped scheme were giving more flexibility to states for coverage of risks under the scheme and making the scheme voluntary for all farmers to meet the long-standing demand of the farmers.

On some states opting out of PMFBY, the secretary clarified that it was primarily due to the inability to pay their state share of premium subsidy due to financial constraints.

" must be noted that post resolution of their issues, Andhra Pradesh joined back the scheme from July 2022 onwards and it is expected that the other states are also considering to join the scheme to provide comprehensive coverage to their respective farmers," he said.

It is pertinent to note that most of the states have opted for compensation models in place of PMFBY that do not provide the same comprehensive risk coverage to farmers as PMFBY, he added.

In an era of rapid innovations, the secretary said digitisation and technology are playing a significant role in scaling up the reach and operations of PMFBY with precision agriculture.

"The union of agri-tech and rural insurance can be the magic formula for financial inclusion, enabling a trust in the scheme," he observed.

Recently introduced Weather Information and Network Data Systems (WINDS), Yield Estimation System based on Technology (YES-Tech), and Collection of Real-Time Observations and Photographs of Crops (CROPIC) are some of the key steps taken under the scheme to bring in more efficiency and transparency. To address farmer grievances in real time, an integrated helpline system is under beta testing in Chhattisgarh, he said.

Sharing information about the contribution of the Centre and state governments in the premium, Ahuja pointed out that in the last six years, only Rs 25,186 crores have been paid by farmers wherein Rs 1,25,662 crores have been paid to the farmers against their claims, with the central and state governments bearing most of the premium under the scheme.

"It is to be noted that the acceptability of the scheme has increased amongst the farmers in the last six years, with the share of non-loanee farmers, marginalised farmers and small farmers increasing by 282 per cent since the initiation of the scheme in 2016," he added.

During the arduous seasons of 2017, 2018 and 2019 marred by weather extremities, the scheme proved to be a decisive factor in securing the livelihoods of farmers wherein claims paid ratio in several states averaged more than 100 per cent against the gross premium collected.

For example, Chhattisgarh (2017), Odisha (2017), Tamil Nadu (2018), and Jharkhand (2019) received 384 per cent, 222 per cent, 163 per cent and 159 per cent of the claims ratio against the gross premium. PTI LUX LUX BAL BAL

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