Agri Business

Stringent deadline for states to make subsidy payment on time soon: Ashish Bhutani, PMFBY CEO

Rajalakshmi Nirmal | Updated on September 26, 2019 Published on September 26, 2019

BL Research Bureau

There has been a severe criticism on the Prime Minister’s flagship crop insurance scheme – PM Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) since its launch three years back. While the Centre has modified the initial guidelines and brought changes in the way the scheme is implemented and policyholders are serviced, farmers are discontent.

In an interview with BusinessLine, Ashish Bhutani, CEO, PMFBY talks about measures that are being taken to address issues raised by farmers and making the scheme attractive.

The coverage of gross cropped area under PMFBY has not gone up much in last three years. Why?

A total of 30-31 per cent of the gross cropped area is covered under PMFBY now. See, the scheme takes traction in districts in where there is high distress, like in Marathwada, Vidarbha, parts of Rajasthan, parts of Gujarat and UP, Ramanathapuram and Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu and parts of Karnataka. Farmers from these districts come to take the policy voluntarily as they know there is high chance of crop failure. But this is not case everywhere. For instance, farmers in western UP are insistent on getting out of the scheme because cane is a safe crop and totally irrigated. So the issue is that we are having lot of farmers who want to be out of the ambit of the scheme. To bring them under the scheme we are working on building awareness. See, earlier Haryana’s farmers were also not keen on the scheme because crops have full irrigation support but when once there was damage due to crops due to hail storm and they came to know PMFBY covers loss due to hail storm, they showed interest in taking the cover. So, we are trying to build awareness about the scheme. And, we are also planning to give flexibility to States to customise the policy to the needs of their farmers.

Farmers keep complaining that there is no grievance redressal mechanism under PMFBY. So, how do you plan to address it? And, why is there no policy document being issued to farmers under PMFBY which can serve as a proof to their claims under the policy?

The non-loanee farmers get a document as soon as they get enrolled through a CSC (Common Service Centre) – it is a one full page document that mentions the premium amount, the crop insured and area insured. For loanee farmers, yes, it is a challenge. But from Kharif 2018 we have actually started sending loanee farmers also a one page policy document that has details of the farmer, premium paid, crop covered, and also contact at the insurance company for claim on localised calamity. If this is not being done in some places and it is brought to our notice, we will check why it is not being done. Now, coming to the question on grievance redressal, if there is a problem for the farmer, and he is a loanee farmer, he first needs to approach the bank from where he got insured. If he has got the insurance from CSC, he can go there too. He can also approach the Agriculture Officer of that district. Or, he can even register his grievance on the portal.

But everyone — the banker, the CSC per son and also the Agriculture Officer — are directing farmers back only to the insurance company and the insurance company’s representative is not found anywhere once the season is over. What do you have to say on this?

See, we are looking into the grievance redressal matter. In fact in the new guidelines we have said that there has to be a committee at the district level and also at the State level where farmers can present their grievances. And, these committees will have a substantial farmer presentation. Some states are in the process of doing it and others have already done it. So, things should improve soon.

What are the changes you have made to address the issues with respect to crop cutting experiments?

We are trying to make use of technology in CCE. First of all in the CCEs that are being done now, we are introducing smart sampling for identification of the plot and using satellite technology for reducing the number of CCEs. We have actually signed agreement with 26 agencies to do pilots for technology based assessment of yields. So, by 2021, we are trying to ensure complete use of technology for CCE in rice and wheat, and millets and other coarse grains by 2022 and pulses and oil seeds 2023.

Why does delay in claim settlement continue to happen? What is the reason?

Primary reason for delay in claim settlement is delay in subsidy payment by States. Second, there is delay in giving of crop cutting experiment (CCE) data by states to insurance companies. And third, there is delay on the part of insurance companies in payment to farmers even after CCE data is received, and this is usually because of dispute between the state and the insurance company on CCE data. We feel much of the problem can be addressed once issues with CCE are sorted and for this same reason we are trying to push use of technology. We can use satellite technology to know the crop yield. Technology, however, will not give 100 per cent accurate results. But while people accept CCE data with large errors now, they don’t want to accept technology that can give data with 10-15 per cent error. So, we are in the process of convincing stakeholders. But, I agree that there is serious problem with regard to payment of subsidies with some states. We were slightly lenient and gave states time up to three months. The next time we revise the guidelines, we will be more stringent.

We hear that the Centre is considering making PMFBY voluntary for all farmers? Is this on cards?

This has been a demand for farmers for a long time. We asked the states for their inputs two months back. About 15/16 of states responded and we are looking at it now. We are still to take a call. We are to examine to viability of the scheme post making it voluntary.

Published on September 26, 2019
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