Technological breakthrough needed for effective crop insurance: CEO, PMFBY

Dr Ashish Kumar Bhutani, CEO, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) and Joint Secretary (Credit), Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare  said that the country needs a technological breakthrough to make crop insurance scheme a success in India, said a press release.

Speaking at the ‘National Conference on Risk Mitigation through Tech Innovations in Agri Insurance’, organised by FICCI, Dr Bhutani said that despite spending Rs 30,000 crore on PMFBY, it was getting negative publicity as large number of farmers have complained about non-payment of claims due to the use of a primitive technology.

“I have always maintained that PMFBY is a good scheme riding on primitive technology of crop cutting experiments (CCEs). This is a system which has been in vogue in the country since long,” he said, adding that there was a need for a technological breakthrough which can be an alternative to CCEs.

CCE, which forms the basis of calculation of yields, computation of losses and finally computation of claims, is vulnerable to manipulations, seen in many states, and also the process of random sampling of farming plots, at times, results in benefits not reaching the farmers hit with calamity, Dr Bhutani said.

“Farm level assessment of the yields without a technology breakthrough is a logistic nightmare and the cost of implementing a farm level insurance in the country would be more than the subsidy government is providing today,” he added. 

For better implementation, the government is experimenting with weather based crop insurance scheme (WBCIS) which has its own challenges mainly because of the way the term sheets have been designed. Dr Bhutani, mentioned that ,  Maharashtra government has corrected the term sheets bringing down the premium rates and the scheme was doing better. As for the lack of density of automatic weather stations in the country for executing WBCIS, satellite based data at lower level can supplement in its implementation, he said.

Further, he said that the government is doing pilots for smart sampling and crop cutting rationalization. It will roll out in more states. Smart sampling does away with random generation of the plot number and the government selects the point where the crop cutting has to happen as a centralized based assessment.

Dr Bhutani highlighted that the ministry is making a comprehensive database of farmers. “There are cases of one plot being insured 5-8 times. Aadhaar helps only up to a point but beyond that you will have to link it to land records. By 2020, we should have a robust system through integration of farmer database.” 

Shekhar Ghosh is consulting editor, Indoasiancommodities.com. He has edited and written for publications like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today, Outlook and many other international publications. He can be reached at shekhar.ghosh@indoasiancommodities.in.

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