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Farmers await crop insurance payout, 55% claims pending

LiveMint logoLiveMint 27-07-2017 Sayantan Bera

Ahmedabad: Farmers who suffered crop losses in 2016-17 are yet to receive insurance compensation for 55% of estimated claims under the flagship Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), shows latest numbers from the agriculture ministry.

The data shows that insurance companies collected Rs22,338 crore in 2016-17 in premiums, a four-fold increase year-on-year that was mostly subsidized by the central and state governments. However, till 21 July, against Rs12,490 crore of estimated claims (for kharif and rabi crop seasons), Rs5,875 crore, or just 45%, has been paid to farmers. Claims arising out of the kharif crop, harvested in November last year, are estimated at Rs10,257 crore, of which Rs4,649-crore worth, or 45%, have been settled.

“The delay in claim settlement is due to state governments delaying paying their share of premium and delays in carrying out crop-cutting experiments to estimate yield loss,” said an official with a public insurance company on condition of anonymity.

The delay is glaring as over seven months have passed since farmers harvested their kharif crops, and it is the responsibility of state governments to carry out crop-loss assessment and send the claims for processing to insurance companies.

While PMFBY promised use of smartphones, satellites and drones to carry out faster assessments of crop loss, district-level officials at times carry out these assessments without even visiting the farmers’ fields, said an assessment of the scheme released by the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) last week.

The data shows that in Bihar and West Bengal, insurance companies collected Rs1,423 crore and Rs731 crore in premiums, respectively, and despite Rs432 crore of estimated claims from these states, farmers received less than Rs1 crore. Similarly, in Telangana, Rs311 crore was collected as premium and against Rs174 crore of estimated claims, farmers did not receive any payouts.

In Madhya Pradesh, Rs4,055 crore of premium was collected and against Rs1,742 crore of estimated claims, farmers have received just Rs94 crore so far.

In drought-hit states too, payouts are similarly delayed, the data shows. For instance, in Karnataka, against estimated claims of Rs1,020 crore, farmers have received Rs617 crore so far. Similarly, for Tamil Nadu, claims are estimated at Rs2,142 crore, while about Rs1,213 crore has been paid to farmers.

Last week, the Comptroller and Auditor General said in a performance audit that the centre and state governments spent a staggering Rs32,606 crore towards crop insurance schemes in five years (2011-12 to 2015-16), but could not ensure that the money spent “reached the intended beneficiaries or achieved the intended purposes”.

The CSE study, while assessing the PMFBY scheme with data available till April, said that high actuarial premium rates (borne by the centre and states) helped insurance companies earn “massive profits” during the 2016-17 crop year.

In response, the government said on Sunday that total premium collected increased under the scheme due to higher sum insured. However, it admitted that timely payment of claims is dependent on providing the yield data and premium subsidy to the insurance companies on time.

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