PUNE: With only 389.75 lakh farmers out of a total 823.34 lakh farmers who applied for the crop insurance scheme having benefitted from it in the past six years, the farmers’ trust in the scheme has been considerably undermined to the extent that they are now reluctant to purchase insurance for the upcoming Kharif season.
The crop insurance scheme – meant to provide financial support to the farmers in the event of crop damage/failure – has become a vital lifeline for the agricultural community. However, data shared by the state agricultural department has revealed that over the past six years, approximately 433.59 lakh farmers did not receive any compensation for crop damage/failure despite applying for and fulfilling the requirements of this scheme. The low number of beneficiaries has raised concerns about the efficacy and transparency of the scheme apart from leaving many farmers disheartened and financially burdened, particularly those who rely heavily on their agricultural produce for their livelihoods.
The data has further revealed that over the past six years, farmers across the state received Rs22594.25 crores in compensation against insurance claims with the highest compensation being in 2019-20 (Rs5537.28 crores). The reasons behind the denial of insurance claims have not been fully determined however issues such as bureaucratic hurdles, inadequate documentation and lack of proper assessment of crop damage are believed to be behind the low number of successful insurance claims. Moreover, delays in the processing and disbursement of claims have further exacerbated the frustration amongst farmers.
Sunil Chavan, state agriculture commissioner, said that most farmers do not intimate insurance companies about the damage to their crop/s within the stipulated time which is why they do not get claims. “After the damage, farmers need to inform a particular insurance company within 72 hours to be eligible for the claims. But we have seen that most of the farmers fail to do this. Hence their claims are rejected by these companies.’’
Chavan said that farmers have to intimate the insurance companies about the damage to their crop/s after which a company representative visits the spot and assesses the damage on the basis of which the farmers get their claims.
Ajit Navale, general secretary of the Maharashtra unit of the ‘All India Kisan Sabha’, said, “To intimate the insurance company within 72 hours is not possible for many farmers. As natural calamities strike in many rural parts, all means of communication including the internet, telecommunication and roads get damaged. How can farmers intimate the companies in such circumstances? The government should do away with such rules and regulations so that farmers can easily avail claims.”
“Also, insurance companies work on a 70% ‘risk ratio’ methodology. Which means they can give compensation only if the crop damage exceeds 31%. If any farmer has suffered 29% loss/damage, he will not be eligible for compensation,” Navale said.
As a consequence, the disillusionment with the crop insurance scheme has spilled over into the current season. Farmers are hesitant to purchase farm insurance for the upcoming Kharif season, a particularly worrying development as it leaves farmers vulnerable to potential crop losses without any financial safety net. The state agricultural department must address these pressing issues urgently. Measures should be taken to enhance the transparency and efficiency of the crop insurance scheme. These include streamlining the claims’ process, providing clearer guidelines for documentation, and ensuring timely assessment and disbursement of claims. Rebuilding trust among farmers is crucial to restore their confidence and participation in the programme. Additionally, the government should focus on awareness campaigns to educate farmers about the benefits of the crop insurance scheme and address any misconceptions they harbour about it. It is imperative to foster an environment where farmers feel protected and supported during times of crop failure/damage.