The government should look into the reasons that forced many States to withdraw from the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) scheme and bring back the States to help farmers reap its benefit, a Parliamentary Committee has said.
As many as seven States, including some agriculturally-important States such as Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Punjab, Telangana and West Bengal, have opted out of the PMFBY scheme because of either financial constraints or low claim ratio during the normal seasons.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee attached to the Agriculture Ministry which tabled its report in the House on Tuesday also took strong objection to the provision in the scheme that farmers who have availed crop loan have to giving it in writing if they do not want to be covered by the crop insurance scheme.
“The Committee are of the considered view that though the loanee farmers can opt out of the Scheme by submitting a declaration form but most of the farmers are ignorant about this provision and the amount gets mandatorily deducted from their account. The Committee, therefore, recommend the Department to change this provision and provide that only those loanee farmers who want to avail the Scheme be required to fill the requisite form for deduction. There should be no compulsory deduction from the account of loanee farmers,” the report said.
Farmer complaints data
The Committee also found it strange that the Ministry could not provide it with the details of farmer complaints resolved by district and State-level grievance redressal forums set up under the scheme. It recommended setting up a toll-free number of 3-4 digits for queries regarding the PMFBY scheme, registration of complaints and providing information about action taken on these complaints. It also took objection to the fact that insurance companies did not set up offices at the tehsil-level as per the guidelines of the scheme. It recommended that the details of the functional offices of the insurance companies, along with the names and contact details of the representatives at tehsil-level, to be updated on the National Crop Insurance Portal on a regular basis.
The Committee, headed by PC Gaddigoudar, BJP MP representing Bagalkot Lok Sabha constituency in Karnataka, also wanted the Agriculture Ministry to ensure that the insurance companies spend 0.5 per cent of the gross premium collected on publicity and awareness creation, so that more small and marginal farmers can be educated about the scheme.
It also wanted the government to ensure greater adoption of technology in crop cutting experiments, so that crop yield data can be obtained expeditiously, helping to settle the claims of the farmers early. It recommended that a timeline should be fixed for the insurance companies to settle the claims and if they fail to do so, then they should be penalised. “Similarly, if the reason for the delay is due to the non-payment of the premium subsidy by the States, then the premium paid by the farmers should be paid back with interest within a fixed time frame,” the Committee suggested.