The Centre on Thursday said it is open to taking “pro-farmer changes” in the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) to meet the challenges of recent climate crisis and rapid technological advances. Manoj Ahuja, Secretary of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, said the Centre has taken major revamp measures in the scheme after 2016 to address new challenges.
His statement comes in the wake of reports of protests against the scheme by the farmers and the Opposition demanding an overhaul of it making it farmer friendly. Recently, CPI MP Binoy Viswam had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking a Comptroller and Auditor General’s audit on the alleged irregularities. The Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had demanded a probe on the scheme’s functioning in Odisha.
Mr. Ahuja said the demand for crop insurance is likely to increase due to climatic changes and therefore the country needs to emphasise on crop and other forms of rural/agricultural insurance products. He said the PMFBY brought in comprehensive coverage of all the crops and perils and new fundamental features were added to it in 2018, such as increasing the crop loss intimation period for farmers from 48 hours to 72 hours. “Similarly, post its revamp in 2020, the scheme added voluntary enrollment and inclusion of add on cover for wildlife attack, to make the scheme even more farmer friendly,” he said.
He said one of the major changes made in the revamped PMFBY was giving more flexibility to States for coverage of risks and making it voluntary for all farmers to meet their long-standing demand. Mr. Ahuja said some States have opted out of the PMFBY primarily due to inability to pay their State share of premium subsidy because of financial constraints. He added that after resolution of their issues, Andhra Pradesh joined back the scheme from July 2022 and it is expected that other States are also considering to join the scheme. “It is pertinent to note that most of the States have opted for Compensation Models in place of PMFBY, that do not provide same comprehensive risk coverage to farmers as PMFBY,” he says.
“Union of agri-tech and rural insurance can be the magic formula for financial inclusion, enabling a trust in the scheme. Recently introduced Weather Information and Network Data Systems (WINDS), Yield Estimation System based on Technology (YES-Tech), Collection of Real Time Observations and Photographs of Crops (CROPIC), are some of the key steps taken under the scheme to bring in more efficiency and transparency,” he said. Mr. Ahuja told in the last six years, ₹25,186 crore have been paid by farmers wherein ₹1,25,662 crore have been paid to the farmers against their claims, with Central and State Governments bearing most of the premium under the scheme.