Chhattisgarh polls: Farmers in Dhamtari, Balod districts wracked by drought, non-payment of crop insurance for 2017

Farmers in Chhattisgarh’s Dhamtari and Balod districts are anticipating a repeat of the 2017 severe drought situation this year too. Harvest season has already started, and the farming community’s worry about the yield is as evident as their resigned acceptance of the lack of support from the government.

Though the farmers who have incurred losses due to the almost “zero” harvest during the Kharif season in 2017 have crop insurance under the Centre’s two-year-old Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima scheme, majority of them in at least five districts are still awaiting any payment of the insurance amount for the crop loss.

The crop insurance scheme’s objective is to support a farmer financially in the event of a crop loss. A premium is also cut every time a loan is given by the local agriculture credit co-operative society.

“The society cuts a certain amount every time we take a loan. Many times, the officials do this without even letting us know,” says Arun Mahendra, of Dhamtari’s Patharidih village.

 Chhattisgarh polls: Farmers in Dhamtari, Balod districts wracked by drought, non-payment of crop insurance for 2017

Farmers in Dhamtari's Kukrel village of Chhattisgarh. Image: Natasha Trivedi/Firstpost

Across the state, farmers are unhappy with the on-ground performance of the scheme; whether it is the complete non-payment of the due insurance payout, or the payment of an amount that is inadequate. In some villages, a few people have received insurance amount while others have not.

In Dhamtari’s Kukrel village, Khurwara Markam received Rs 6,000 as insurance amount for the loss of paddy crop in his three acres in 2017.

“I spent around Rs 10,000 per acre, which comprises the cost of seeds, fertilizer, manure, labour and the like. The insurance amount is not even enough to cover the expense of the fertilizer,” he complains.

The village, which is nine kilometres from the Gangrel irrigation dam in the district, does not have any facility for irrigation or groundwater.

“Most villages like ours completely depend on the rain for agriculture, so when the crop fails like it did last year, our debt burden becomes heavy,” says Ahalya Netam, a 65-year-old farmer.

She adds, “The co-operative society cuts premium from our accounts, but when the time comes to pay us the insurance amount with which we can manage our daily expenses from in times of a crisis, they are lax and unorganised.”

This disorganisation is emphasised in the problem described by the farmers in Balod district’s Mokha village. A simple clerical mistake has cost at least half of the farmers in the village their entire insurance amount.

The farmland of around 60 farmers of the village are in the area of the neighbouring village, Dhanapuri. After the drought was declared last year, an official in charge of land-related matters (pattwari), surveyed the damage and drew up a report, as per the process.

“The amount of insurance amount granted to every farmer is based on the pattwari’s report. The farmers of Dhanapuri got insurance amount for the loss they suffered, but the farmers from our village who have their land in the same village, did not get any insurance payment,” alleges Omkar Sahu, a farmer in Mokha.

When the affected farmers wrote to the district administration pointing out this issue, they received a reply saying that the official documents showed that the farmlands are in the village where they live, Mokha.

“Because they listed the location of the land incorrectly, the damage we suffered never got surveyed and so, it was not included in the pattwari’s report at all,” Omkar adds.

The farmers have not pursued the matter further. “According to the letter, nothing can be done. We have lost the insurance amount for last year. The least now we can do is to ensure that the documents have the correct details,” says Dhanoram Sinha, another farmer of Mokha village.

About 400 farmers of six villages are in deep crisis and have not received any insurance payment due to such a mistake.

A man walking past a poster of Congress candidate Sangeeta Sinha. Natasha Trivedi

A man walking past a poster of Congress candidate Sangeeta Sinha at a village in Sanjari-Balod Assembly constituency in Chhattisgarh. Image: Natasha Trivedi/Firstpost

Guledram  Katendra, a 70-year-old farmer in Mokha, says his three acres of land yield at least 12 quintals of grains in a season with good rainfall. In 2017, he got only three quintals. “The entire crop was destroyed because scanty rainfall. I salvaged what I could, and used the rest of the crop as fodder for my livestock,” he says.

Deendayal Sinha, who runs a farm equipment shop in the village and also a farmer himself, explains the importance of such a relief amount for debt-ridden farmers.

“The farmers usually buy fertilizer and manure from me on credit, and pay me after they harvest their crop. Last year, there was no crop and in such a situation, so how can I ask them to pay my outstanding dues?,” he asks.

In Mokha, the farmers say a few of them were planning to take the issue of 'clerical errors' to the court. However, most of the farmers were not ready to spend any money in it apparently fearing the possible delay.

“It is too much of a risk for farmers to invest in legal recourse, they get scared about whether they will get the money back or not,” says Nandini Sahu, a social worker with Khoj, a voluntary organisation.

Dhamtari and Balod districts will go to polls in the second phase of the state Assembly elections on 20 November. Currently, the Sanjari-Balod constituency seat is being held by the Congress party’s Bhaiyyaram Sinha.

“Bhaiyyaram Sinha comes to our village often for shows and other occasions,” says Katendra. “We have spoken to him about the insurance payment problem and he said he would look into it, but nothing has happened after that,” he adds.

For the upcoming Assembly elections, however, the party has fielded Bhaiyyaram's wife, Sangeeta Sinha.

Mokha’s farmers firmly rely on the election manifestos released by the Congress and Ajit Jogi’s Janta Congress Chhattisgarh. “In my opinion, the BJP has become weak when it comes to their policies related to farmers' welfare,” says Markam.

Updated Date: Nov 16, 2018 16:25:34 IST