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Discrepancies in insurance disbursement baffle Barmer farmers

Agitated agriculturists protested against paltry sums such as 4 paise, ₹1, ₹10 and ₹20 as compensation credited to their bank accounts; subsequent release of funds has not fully resolved the issue

January 21, 2023 08:26 pm | Updated January 26, 2023 09:48 am IST - JAIPUR

Farmers staging a protest against discrepancies in the disbursement of compensation for loss of crops at Gudamalani in Barmer district in Rajasthan.

Farmers staging a protest against discrepancies in the disbursement of compensation for loss of crops at Gudamalani in Barmer district in Rajasthan. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement.

A peculiar situation has arisen for farmers in Rajasthan’s Barmer district, where the public sector Agriculture Insurance Company of India (AIC) has released compensation against claims for damage of kharif crops of 2021 after initially paying paltry amounts of money under the Prime Minister’s Fasal Bima Yojana. The discrepancies in disbursement have left the farmers baffled and agitated.

Bank accounts of farmers in the district were credited with the amounts such as 4 paise, ₹1, ₹10 and ₹20 as compensation. The AIC had released ₹311 crore for the purpose, which was far less than the claims made by the agriculturists, who had obtained insurance for their crops in an area measuring a total of 10 lakh hectares.

The kharif crops of pearl millet, cluster bean, moth bean, green gram and sesame were damaged during the drought. The meagre amounts of compensation, following the rejection of original claims, led to disappointment and resentment among the farmers, who complained to Minister of State for Agriculture Kailash Choudhary, representing the Barmer constituency in the Lok Sabha.

Following Mr. Choudhary’s intervention, the Union government directed the insurance company recently to release an additional amount of ₹229 crore as compensation against the insurance claims, taking the total amount to ₹540 crore. The amount actually claimed for the losses was ₹600 crore.

The issue led to a slugfest between the ruling Congress and the Opposition BJP in the State, with the latter accusing the State government of not carrying out a proper assessment of crop losses which had deprived the farmers of a fair compensation.

Congress MLA from Barmer’s Baytu, Harish Chaudhary, who is also All India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge for Punjab, said getting the full insurance amount from the Central public sector undertaking (PSU) was entirely within the domain of the Union government. He said the Union Minister had failed to get the insurance benefits for farmers in his own constituency.

Despite the release of the additional amount, the matter is yet to be finally resolved. Farmers staged a five-day-long demonstration at Gudamalani tehsil headquarters last week, alleging that the insurance amount was still not credited to their accounts and demanding a transparent procedure for the disbursement of money. The venue of the protest has since been shifted to Nokhra tehsil, where a large number of farmers have joined the demonstration.

Bharatiya Kisan Sangh’s animal husbandry chief Ridmal Ram Devasi told The Hindu that the farmers who were not getting remunerative prices for their produce had been subjected to “enormous losses” with the denial of compensation. The protest in Ridmalsar witnessed a display of ploughs and other farm equipment on tractors.

Mr. Devasi said a similar anomaly had occurred in 2018, when the farmers did not receive the full amount of insurance claims. He said agriculturists in a desert district like Barmer would get the real benefit if a minimum compensation amount was fixed for them along the lines of what is followed in Maharashtra. Similar protests have been staged in Ramsar and Gadra Road villages situated near the international border.

The protesters have also raised the issue of loss of rabi crops in a large number of agricultural fields during the ongoing cold wave and frost. Mustard, black mustard, cumin, isabgol and arandi crops have suffered extensive losses, for which the farmers expect urgent financial assistance from the State government after a quick assessment survey.

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