Locusts push farmers to ‘cover’ crops

Rutam Vora/Vishwanath Kulkarni Ahmedabad/Bengaluru | Updated on August 12, 2020

Rajasthan sees big enrolment under PMFBY scheme this kharif

The scare of desert locust attacks coupled with erratic rainfall in the early part of monsoon has pushed more farmers in Rajasthan to take insurance for their crops under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) this kharif season.

Sum insured

Officials of the Rajasthan Agriculture Department said about 45 per cent more farmers have enrolled for the scheme this year and the coverage of cropped area has increased by 38 per cent to about 72 lakh hectares over the last kharif season. The sum insured has increased by 25 per cent to around ₹20,000 crore.

In fact, Rajasthan accounts for about 40 per cent of the total covered area of 178 lakh hectares under the PMFBY across the country, so far. This is in stark contrast to the neighbouring Gujarat, which exited the flagship scheme citing heavy premiums charged by insurance companies.

A total of 66.08 lakh farmers have enrolled for the PMFBY during kharif 2020. This includes 64.63 lakh loanee farmers and 1.46 lakh non-loanee farmers, officials said. In kharif 2019, 45.60 lakh farmers had enrolled, including 60,000 who had not taken any loans from banks and financial institutions.

Kunji Lal Meena, Principal Secretary (Agriculture and Horticulture), Government of Rajasthan, said that PMFBY had received good response. On the claims settled, he said that between January 2019 and till date ₹7,085 crore worth of claims were settled to about 48.53 lakh farmers.

Also, during Covid-19, total ₹3,478-crore claims were settled for 21 lakh farmers. “Rajasthan is with PMFBY because there is a good response from farmers and they are satisfied with the claims paid to them,” said Meena.

Crop losses

The higher enrolment is possibly because of the locust attacks that have happened in the State since April this year. “This is something we in the insurance industry call ‘anti-selection’. Farmers know that the chances of getting a claim is substantially high this year and hence want to avail themselves of it,” said an insurance sector source. However, crop losses due to pest attacks are not covered under the PMFBY, unless it is declared a national disaster. “The locust has become a major nuisance for farmers in many States and the government should declare it a national disaster,” said Bhagirath Chaudhary, Director, South Asia Biotechnology Centre, a farm advisory body.

A national disaster

Locust attack in Rajasthan has spread to many as 32 districts in the State, which is significantly higher compared to a maximum of 10-12 districts in the past.

Recently, Rajasthan Chief Minister had urged the Centre to declare the locust attack a national disaster. Kharif crops such as moong, cotton and bajra have been hit by the locust infestation in about 7 lakh hectares and farmers had suffered losses to the tune of ₹1,000 crore.

(With inputs from TV Jayan in New Delhi)

Published on August 12, 2020

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