Agri Business

Bengal aims to bring 60 lakh farmers under crop cover

Shobha Roy Kolkata | Updated on August 28, 2020

Delayed rains and a dry spell in parts of West Bengal have resulted in problems for paddy farmers here, many of whom have made additional arrangements at an extra cost to water their fields.

State to foot the entire premium; mulls using ISRO’s data system for speedy settlements

West Bengal government is hopeful of bringing close to 60 lakh farmers under its flagship agriculture insurance scheme – ‘Bangla Shasya Bima (BSB)’ – during kharif 2020. The scheme, which was introduced in 2019, covered close to 46 lakh farmers during the rabi season.

According to Pradip Kumar Mazumder, Chief Advisor (Agriculture) to the Chief Minister, there are close to 68 lakh farmers in the State growing aman (kharif) paddy. The enrolment process for kharif 2020 will be open till September 15.


Moving away from PMFBY

West Bengal was one of the major States to move away from PMFBY (Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana) in 2018 as most of its farmers were unable to upload their applications. The enrolment windows were “choked” and despite repeated requests, the Centre did not give additional time. Moreover, in view of the lower claims than the premium paid under PMFBY, the State government decided to launch its own scheme in 2019 along with Agriculture Insurance Company of India Ltd. Under the scheme, the entire premium is borne by the State government.

According to sources, the government is estimated to have spent close to ₹450 crore for the smooth running of the scheme and has brought more than 21 lakh hectares of cultivable land under the scheme, covering crops such as aman paddy, aus paddy, jute and maize.

“In 2019 rabi (winter) season, we covered close to 46 lakh farmers. Now in 2020, with the kind of restrictions that are in place due to pandemic and due to social distancing and other precautions we are avoiding any congregation of farmers to the extent possible. We are auto migrating those 46 lakh farmers of rabi crop with the option of changing the crop and area for aman paddy. This apart, we are trying to add all those farmers who are under our Krishak Bondhu scheme and are also undertaking publicity activity. We will allow enrolment of farmers till September 15, so it is ongoing. We expect the numbers should definitely exceed 55-60 lakh,” Mazumder told BusinessLine.


To cover lessee farmers

The scheme is applicable for oral lessee, share-croppers and other small and marginal farmers as the State feels that the insurance should be made available for the crop as a whole.

“The insurance is for the crop and not the person. So if a person is not owning the plot but is a genuine person who is farming the plot then if there is any loss then the compensation will accrue to him. We are not insisting on ROR (record of rights),” he said.


Speed up claim settlement

Meanwhile, with a view to speed up the process of claim settlement for farmers, the State government plans to use the technology-driven data collection system of ISRO to verify and assess the quantum of destruction caused to crops due to severe weather. The State government plans to employ the remote sensing satellite data-acquisition technology to gauge the damage caused to the crops, if any, during the kharif season.

Poor coverage

Avik Saha, National Convenor, Jai Kisan Andolan, said, “As per government estimates 46 lakh farmers have been covered under the scheme so far and close to 21 lakh hectares of cultivable land has been brought under the scheme. However, this looks a bit inflated given the fact that a majority of farmers in the State are small and marginal farmers with an average holding of around 0.77 hectares. So if 46 lakh farmers (as has been claimed) were covered under the scheme then the total area under coverage should have been much higher. This itself lays bare the claim of the State government.”

Moreover, the State’s scheme covers only paddy, maize and jute while other crops such as vegetables, wheat etc are left outside the purview of the scheme, he added.

Cyclone Amphan

The recent cyclone Amphan, which hit the State in May, had caused a huge damage to crops including paddy, sesame and vegetables. It had also destroyed the mango orchards and betel plants. Hence, insurance coverage for farmers become crucial to compensate against losses arising out of such catastrophic events.

According to reports, the State government allotted ₹300 crore, at the rate of ₹1,500 each for 20 lakh farmers. Another ₹200 crore was allocated for betel-leaf farmers.

Published on August 28, 2020

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