The Centre will soon announce a plan under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) to set up weather stations, one each in every panchayat, with a five year buy back guarantee of rainfall and temperature data to be generated from those units. If the plan takes off, there will be 1.75 lakh weather stations functional in next two years without any capital expenditure.

“States have agreed to provide land and other infra related services. Both private sector and public sector, including India Meteorological Department (IMD) are expected to set up the facilities with their own costs. But, the Centre will spend about ₹300 crore annually to buy data from all the weather stations across the country,” a source said.

The focus will be to cover all those 22 States who are/were part of PMFBY for which there is a need to set up about 1.75 lakh weather stations as already those are present in about 15,000 panchayats, sources said. The country has 2.69 lakh gram panchayats.

Data quality

Quality Council of India (QCI) will be the apex body to monitor data quality as all weather stations have to conform to its standards. Besides, the government has proposed that the instruments in the Automatic Rain Gauge (ARG) to be set up at the weather stations have to be sourced from National Accreditation Board of Certification Bodies (NABCB) recognised firms, the sources said.

While the panchayat level weather stations are expected to provide rainfall and temperature data, there will also be such facilities at block levels that will additionally provide humidity, wind and frost related data, the sources said. “The Weather Information Network Data System (WINDS) at the national level is ready now and will be connected with each weather station and ARG, as and when they start functioning,” the source said.

An industry official, who has already set up weather stations and is waiting to join the government’s initiative, said that the utility of these data will be immense in PMFBY as none exist now and everything is done manually. Many times, past data are not even available, leaving insurance companies in a quandary, he said.

Insurance companies

Due to higher claims, more than the premium amount, at least six insurance companies have quit the PMFBY since 2019-20. The insurance companies alleged that the claims amount is at times not backed by sufficient scientific and technical data to determine crop losses.

In order to reduce delay in crop loss/damage estimation and ensure timely settlement of claims by farmers, the Agriculture Ministry in October 2022 had set up two committees – one for nationwide implementation of technology-based crop yield estimation and the other for standardisation and improvement of weather data infrastructure.

For the 2020 kharif crops, harvested in October-December, over 49 lakh farmers in Madhya Pradesh received their crop insurance claims totalled ₹7,618 crore under the PMFBY in February 2022 only after the State government finalised the yield data.

Under PMFBY, the balance premium is split equally between the Centre and States after farmers pay a fixed premium – 1.5 per cent (of sum insured) in rabi season, 2 per cent in kharif and 5 per cent for cash crops. The premium is arrived at based on quotations from insurance companies in a cluster. The Centre has capped maximum premium at 30 per cent in non-irrigated areas, 25 per cent in irrigated areas.