Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh would have gladdened the hearts of farmers by his announcement that a crop insurance scheme is on the anvil. The relevance of the announcement can be gauged from the fact that the country has been witnessing the worst crop loss due to unseasonal rains during the last 25 years. India does not have a proper crop insurance scheme. As a result, climate-induced crop loss leads some farmers in states like Maharashtra and erstwhile Andhra Pradesh to end their lives. Three lakh farmers are believed to have committed suicide during the last 17 years. A recent weather study revealed that only 19 per cent farmers have ever had crop insurance. The rest have no safety net when their crops fail.
True, crop insurance isn’t new to India’s farmers. The government, in collaboration with the General Insurance Corporation and other agencies, had introduced crop insurance in five formats since 1985. They all failed to capture the imagination of the farmers for reasons not far to seek. The premiums were high, rendering the insurance beyond the reach of small and marginal farmers. They weren’t designed to meet the needs of farmers and to provide them succour when crops failed. There was a lot of paper work to be completed before the farmers could avail of the benefits of insurance. Even those who paid through their nose to insure their crops found themselves begging for compensation. No wonder that 81 per cent farmers didn’t even think of insuring their crops.
Indian agriculture is dependent on the vagaries of nature, as a majority of the farmers has no access to irrigation facilities, other than rains. But for the flaws in the schemes, they would surely have lapped up crop insurance. Instead, the government has been laying emphasis on extending subsidy to the farmers. They are forced to buy fertiliser and pesticides, though they may not need them because of subsidy. A dependency syndrome is created among them when the government procures food grains at rates which are above the market price. The NDA government has done well to lower the eligibility criterion for compensation against natural disasters. This cannot be viewed as a dole. A comprehensive insurance scheme in which the government subsidises the premium payable by small farmers and which covers all risks a farmer faces has been long overdue.
Curated From : Farmers Need Insurance Cover Against all Risks