Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu farmers yet to recover from the drought

The drought in the year 2016-17 remains fresh in the memory of farmers, who continue to be saddled with the losses they incurred. Government figures show that more than 55% of insured farmers in the State are yet to get their compensation amount. Among paddy farmers, some 40% are yet to get their insurance claims.

The Central government’s Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMDBY) was supposed to take care of some of the problems in putting the insurance payouts in the pockets of the farmers. It was supposed to do this by integrating all the stakeholders — farmers, insurance companies, financial institutions and government agencies — on a single platform to ensure better administration, coordination and transparency. But farmers have expressed their disenchantment with the implementation of the scheme. They fault lack of coordination among officials.

 

The PMFBY is being implemented in Tamil Nadu from the kharif season of 2016. An estimated 15.37 lakh farmers were enrolled, twice as many as the previous year.

Till now, only 6.55 lakh paddy farmers have got crop insurance compensation totalling ₹2,196 crore for the drought that hit their crops last year. “There is little transparency in the crop insurance process, and senior district-level officials in several places are themselves confused when discrepancies are pointed out. The problems start right from the secretive crop cutting experiment that is done to assess the extent of crop loss through the final disbursal of insurance claims,” said V. Jeevakumar of the Tamil Nadu Vivasaya Thozhilalar Sangam affiliated to the CPI (M).

Flaws in implementation

Farmers had remitted their participatory premium last year either through direct payment to the insurance companies concerned, the respective Primary Agricultural Cooperative Societies (PACS), or through banks. While in some cases, the PACS staff are being blamed for the delay in forwarding the claims, in others, the Revenue and Agriculture department staff have bungled in listing entries properly, say farmers.

 

 

There have been many cases in which claim percentages worked out differ within villages. For example, a farmer belonging to Sankarampandal village in Nagapattinam district was sanctioned just 35.31% while others in his village were granted 76.55%.

Farmers allege that the crop cutting process that is used to arrive at the crop loss percentage, which in turn forms the foundation of calculating the compensation claim, needs a relook.

Knowledgeable farmers like G. Ajeethan, general secretary, Tamil Nadu Banana Growers’ Federation, demand that the crop cutting exercise be entrusted to a designated governmental agency with full accountability.

“This endeavour must not be in the domain of the Department of Agriculture,” he emphasised.

“Officials have bungled with names of the villages as well. They have sanctioned 29.27% attributed to Aruvapadi village in Mayiladuthurai block instead of Arupathy village of Sembanar Koil block — where I live — that was sanctioned 85.47% actually. When we enquired, the insurance companies blamed the Revenue, Agriculture and Cooperative departments for the disorganised disbursal while the respective department officials and bankers tried to blame the insurance firms. We are caught in the crossfire and now, we don’t have money to proceed with samba and thalady paddy cultivation,’’ rued Arupathy P. Kalyanam, general secretary, Federations of Farmers Associations of Delta Districts.

A letter dated October 11, 2016, from the Thanjavur District Collector to the Deputy General Manager, New India Assurance Company Limited, states that 90 farmers belonging to Kollukkadu village in Peravurani block had been granted just 19.51%, which was the figure specified for another Kollukkadu village in Sethubavachatram block. The 90 affected farmers are to be granted compensation based on their village’s claim percentage of 62.12 .

In several cases, the banks and primary agricultural cooperative societies have received the consolidated claim settlements but are yet to get individual claim details and hence are not able to complete claim settlements.

‘Noble aims’

“Agricultural insurance has noble aims but in its present form, does not measure up to our expectations as it is beset with problems,” said Mr. Ajeethan. By their nature, ratoon crops and horticulture crops require insurance coverage round the year, going beyond the rabi and kharif classifications. Due to drought, almost all banana growers across the State suffered and none has yet been compensated through insurance, he charged.

A pragmatic scheme with the aim of truly helping the affected farmer has come to be disliked by the farmers themselves because of bungling by certain officials and lack of coordination among them, said Mannargudi S. Ranganathan, general secretary, Tamil Nadu Cauvery Delta Farmers Welfare Association. “They evolved a scheme but did not properly frame the regulations or create adequate awareness among the officials on the aspects of the scheme, much to the bewilderment of the farmers,” he adds.

 

While farmers list varied problems they have been facing in getting crop insurance, many say that private insurance companies not be allowed to have play in the sector. Apart from the Agricultural Insurance Company of India Limited, which is under the administrative control of the Union Finance Ministry and comes under the operational command of the Union Ministry of Agriculture, there are two private players in Tamil Nadu.

Now, farmers have to renew their crop insurance for the current season by remitting their share of the premium before November 30. Farmers, who had availed crop loans — and they form the bulk — must first get their loans renewed afresh for rabi 2017-2018 only after which the banks can debit the premium amount and pay the insurance agency. Farmers wonder how that can be done within a few days.

Official response

A State government official, who wished to remain unidentified, explained that so far, a sum of ₹2,510 crore has been sanctioned by the insurance companies for disbursal to 7.46 lakh paddy farmers in the State pertaining to claim compensation for 2016-17. Of that, a sum of ₹2,376 crore has been disbursed to financial institutions and from that, ₹2,196 crore has been deposited in the accounts of 6.55 lakh farmers. He also claimed that Tamil Nadu stood first in the disbursement of claim compensation for 2016-17.

The official conceded that there were numerous farmers who were yet to get compensation and insisted that genuine cases of grievances were being addressed promptly.

Insurance companies have been instructed to correct mistakes in crop loss calculations and ensure disbursal of claims expeditiously. He said the hope is that the entire exercise will be completed in a fortnight.

The official also said that pursuant to a letter from Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on releasing claim compensation to farmers, who had remitted premium during the extended period of the first fortnight of December 2016, a sum of ₹89.73 crore has been released by the Agricultural Insurance Company on Thursday to benefit farmers in Ariyalur, Dindigul, Karur, Madurai, Namakkal, Perambalur, Ramanathapuram, Tiruchi and Tiruvarur. He indicated that the private companies would follow suit in their territories, within a month.


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Printable version | Oct 28, 2021 11:21:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/tamil-nadu-farmers-yet-to-recover-from-the-drought/article20942186.ece

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