Editor's note: Rajasthan’s relationship with summer is not a pleasant one. The shortage of water in the region only adds to the misery of the people. Even before the onset of summer, over 5,000 villages in nine districts in Rajasthan — Barmer, Churu, Pali, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jalore, Jodhpur, Hanumangarh and Nagaur were declared ‘drought-affected’ by the state government. The drought in this area affects the economy of the region as employment options dry up and people start migrating to neighbouring states like Gujarat to survive. This five-part series will examine the reasons and problems related to one of the worst drought conditions in the region. This is the second part of the series.
Barmer: The district of Barmer, on the India-Pakistan border in Rajasthan, has been drought-hit almost continuously for the past ten years. At a time when lack of rainfall has left fields dry and crops wasted, government schemes launched with tall promises of covering farmers’ expenditure in such situations haven’t yielded much. Instead, it is insurance firms which benefit from schemes such as the ambitious Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna (prime minister's crop insurance scheme). Insurance firms in Barmer have made gains of more than Rs 120 crore through this scheme since 2017-18, according to officials of the agriculture department.
As per the provisions of the scheme, a farmer has to pay only two percent of the total premium amount, while the state and central governments bear 50 percent each of the rest of the amount. In Barmer, 4,03,637 farmers were covered under the scheme. Including farmers’ share of Rs 20.69 crore, state and central governments had paid Rs 378.79 crore to the insurance company Tata AIG Pvt Ltd. Based on the crop assessment report, when the district administration submitted to the insurance firm claims worth Rs 1,034.36 crore, it offered to pay up only 25 percent of the claims amounting to Rs 258.59 crore, which is Rs 120.20 crore less than the premium paid to the company under PMFBY.
Tall claims fall flat
The PMFBY was launched with tall claims in 2015, promising farmers economical insurance cover even in case of bad monsoons or crop damage. A crop assessment report submitted by the state government to the Centre claims that crops on 12,66,418 hectares of land, out of the total cultivated area of 15,18,190 hectares were damaged due to erratic monsoons.
According to data with the agriculture department, this year, bajra was sown on 8,80,609 hectares, moth and mung (pulses) were sown on 3,04,910 hectares, gwar on 2,95,661 hectares and groundnuts were sown on 3,478 hectares of land.
Officials of the agricultural department said that under the PMFBY, Tata AIG Pvt Ltd had covered approximately 35 percent of the total cultivated area, which comes to around 5,19,630.3 hectares, including bajra on 3,08,213.15 hectares against a total cultivated area of 8,80,609 hectares, pulses on 1,03,481.35 hectares against a total cultivated area of 3,09,410 hectares, jowar on 1,03,481.35 hectares against a total cultivated area of 2,95,661 hectares and groundnut on 1217.3 hectares against a total cultivated area of 3,478 hectares of land. Officials said that the company had announced that it would pay Rs 19,000 per hectare for bajra, Rs 14,500 per hectare for moth and mung, Rs 20,500 per hectare for jowar and Rs 37,000 per hectare for groundnut.
The district administration had claimed Rs 646 crore for bajra, 199.27 crore for moth and mung, Rs 181.50 crore for jowar and Rs 7.59 crore for groundnut.
Cut-off clause duping farmers
Barmer district collector Himanshu Gupta said that the amount offered by the insurance firm is not justified, as the region is facing severe drought and farmers are expecting relief from the crop insurance scheme. Gupta said that district authorities have informed the state government about this anomaly on the part of the insurance firm, and the state government has sought the Centre’s intervention in the matter.
Sources in the agriculture department said that the insurance company has filed an appeal before the Union agriculture ministry, arguing that there was no rainfall and hence, no sowing in Barmer until 15 August. It mentioned that the cut-off date for the submission of insurance proposals was 15 August, implying that farmers will get compensation only for crops sown before the said date. According to the norms, if no sowing has been done till the cut-off date, insurance firms pay only 25 percent of the claim.
Contradicting the company’s claim, officials in Barmer said that crops were sown on 15,18,190 hectares before the cut-off date, out of which crops on 12, 66,418 hectares got damaged due to the bad monsoon. They say that farmers’ claims in such a scenario are justified and they should be paid. Deputy manager for Tata AIG Pvt Ltd in Rajasthan, Shailendra Srivastava, refused to comment when contacted.
Excluding 2010-2011, Barmer has been facing droughts over the last 10 years. There are crop losses between 50 and 100 percent in 2,694 villages.
(The author is a Barmer-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com)
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Updated Date: Mar 25, 2019 13:25:48 IST