– By D. P. Khajuria* & C. M. Sharma**
Amongst all the field crops grown in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, Maize occupies the largest area at 2.89 lakh hectares followed by rice at 2.68 lakh hectares and wheat at 2.44 lakh hectares (2020-21, Digest of Statistics, Financial Commissioner, Revenue, J&K). Of these three major crops, maize is the least irrigated followed by wheat and rice with 0.20 lakh hectares, 0.56 lakh hectares, and 2.34 lakh hectares area irrigated respectively.
The vulnerability of all agri-horticultural crops to vagaries of weather, keep the farmers on tenterhooks as the extreme weather conditions profoundly impact the production process and ultimately, the yields and economic returns adversely.
In such a scenario, the timely launch of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) by the Lt. Governor Shri Manoj Sinha for Kharif 2023 season in all the 20 districts of J&K, as early as in mid-February 2023, is a significant step forward to ensure that the umbrella of PMFBY secures for the insured crops, assured returns and substantially prevents the investments on agricultural inputs and technology from getting frittered away due to the adverse impact of natural perils and calamities in agriculture.
The Kharif 2023 cropping season will set in within a few weeks from now and sowing of crops will begin in temperate and higher intermediate regions soon, followed by the plains of J&K UT. It is generally seen that the farmers of all categories and classes have a very low risk bearing capacity due to the naturally occurring perils and calamities. Therefore, they remain shy of making substantial and much needed investments to adopt improved technology and inputs in agriculture. Through PMFBY, the UT government has, in fact provided the much needed support and encouragement to the farmers to fearlessly make the desired investments for purchase, adoption and use of better inputs and technology to optimize quality production of paddy and maize crops during Kharif season and oilseeds and wheat during Rabi season as per potential of the recommended varieties.
The PMFBY Scheme was initially launched by the Government of India in the year 2016, but in J&K, the scheme was started in Jammu, Samba, Udhampur and Anantnag districts from the year 2017. This important risk mitigation tool is aimed at saving the producer farmer from financial losses due to unforeseen natural calamities like drought, dry spells, floods, hailstorm, heavy and unseasonal rains, and cyclones, attack of diseases and pests, landslides, natural fire, etc. on the yields of specifically notified crops.
It is reported that up to Rabi 2021-22 season, 93 thousand farmers had been benefitted under the scheme who received Rs. 94 Crores as the claim amount.
For the Kharif 2023 season, the crops notified for both regions of the Union Territory are paddy and maize. For Rabi season, wheat is covered in Jammu region and oilseeds in Kashmir region. The farmer has been allowed freedom to change from any non-notified crop to notified crop, but he or she must report the change of crop with a Sowing Certificate from the designated authority up to 2 working days before the cut-off date for enrollment. About 25 percent of the area under notified crops is targeted for coverage this season.
Till Feb. 2020, PMFBY was compulsory for all loanee farmers, but after receiving suggestions from various farming bodies and the states like Odisha, a revamped-PMFBY has come into effect from Kharif 2020. Now, it is voluntary for all farmers, loanee as well as non-loanee. To avail the PMFBY Scheme by a non-loanee farmer, he or she is required to submit land ownership documents like Record of Rights (ROR) and Land Possession Certificate (LPC), Latest Adhar Card, Bank Passbook (first page with details of bank accounts) and Crop Sown Certificate (if notified by the State/UT government as compulsory), etc. Share cropper or tenant farmer shall have to produce authenticated record of contract, rent deed, etc. with the land owner.
The calamities are considered for claims at both, the widespread as well as the localized level. Risk coverage is for the entire crop cycle from pre-sowing to post-harvest and individual farms are also covered for localized calamities and post harvest losses, subject to fulfillment of conditions described elsewhere in the article.
The J&K Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Revenue Department, Banks and Crop Insurance Companies including the Agriculture Insurance Company of India (AIC) are main agencies involved in implementation of the Scheme. On the basis of successful bids, IFFCO-TOKIO has been selected as the scheme implementing agency for Jammu district and Reliance for the other nine districts of Jammu division. Similarly, Reliance for Anantnag district and AIC for the other nine districts of Kashmir division are the scheme implementing agencies.
Under PMFBY, the UT government is competent to declare a widespread calamity at the notified area level when:
(a) sowing of the notified crop is prevented either by abnormally prolonged dry spell or excessive rains, etc. so as render the soil conditions inappropriate for timely sowing;
(b) yield data of notified crop recorded through Crop Cut Experiments is less than the Threshold Yield;
(c) natural mid-season adversities arise adversely impacting crop development and growth.
Localized calamities in the notified standing crop arise due to landslide, hailstorm, natural fire, cloudburst, inundation (excepting for paddy), but in the harvested crops, these arise due to cyclones, cyclonic rains, unseasonal rains, hailstorm.
To ensure timely processing of claims due to localized calamities and post harvest losses due to specified reasons, intimation for the localized calamity has to be provided by the affected farmers themselves within 72 hours of occurrence of the calamity through Toll Free Number of the Scheme Implementing Insurance Companies or through local agriculture department, district officers or officials and other channels including insurance company, the nearest local area bank in writing or Crop Insurance App. The intimation must have a record of farmer's name, mobile number, notified area name, bank name with account number, nature of catastrophe, damaged crop name, etc.
Occurrence of calamity must be reported by affected farmers to concerned Bank/State or UT Government officials within 72 hours. Loss assessment survey must be conducted by concerned Bank/State or UT Government officials within next 48 hours and processing of cases and claim settlement by concerned Insurance Companies must be ensured within next 10 days and pay-out of claims generated to affected farmers must be ensured within the next 15 days as per the notified proportion of the loss of Sum Insured of the damaged crop area.' The Banks must adjust the premium amount in the farmer's application for PMFBY as per the new crop sown by the farmer.
The structure of PMFBY enables generation of realistically substantial crop insurance claims and quick payment to affected farmers, directly into their Bank Accounts in the event of yield loss of notified crops.
The farmer's contribution under the scheme is the minimal as highly subsidized premium. It is just 2 percent of the sum insured for Kharif crops and 1.5 percent for Rabi crops, sum insured calculated on the average of the recent historical yield data of notified crops. Rest is the premium shared by the Central and the UT/State Governments.
For smooth implementation of PMFBY, there is a robust Grievance Redressal Mechanism involving the concerned Insurance Company, the nearest local area bank, district agriculture officer and the PMFBY Cell established in each of the Directorates of Agriculture at Jammu and Srinagar. Besides, the www.pmfby.gov.in is the portal to apply for Crop Insurance under PMFBY, to calculate crop insurance premium, to know the status of application and to report crop loss and technical grievances.
The Lt. Governor has asserted that proper dissemination of relevant information and transparency in the implementation of PMFBY would be ensured and Crop Insurance Mobile app and Toll Free number of the Insurance Company would facilitate the farmers to report about the losses. Toll Free number 1800-180-1551 of Kisan Call Centre is also available to respond for relevant queries.
Food for thought: Banks have a key role in the enrollment of loanee and non-loanee farmers, maintaining foolproof record of loanee farmers who want to opt out of the PMFBY and non-loanee farmers who want to opt – in under the Scheme, besides facilitating payment of insurance claims to rightful farmers, etc. They have to be extra careful, efficient and error free in maintaining and updating their accounts and affecting transactions. Therefore the Bank branches need to be strengthened with adequately trained/oriented man-power to ensure maximum coverage of farmers, particularly belonging to far-off places.
Extensive Capacity building programmes and adequate publicity of important cut-off dates, etc. for all stakeholders, particularly the Banking, Insurance and Agriculture staff under PMFBY by involving the PRIs as well, are essential and must be given high priority.
Insurance Companies must establish permanent facilitation centres for facilitation of farmers in each district.
Success of the scheme will lure more and more farmers into the scheme and widen the scope for inclusion of more crops like pulses, fruits, vegetables, etc. under Schemes like PMFBY, Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme (WBCIS).
Further, a great service will be rendered to the farming community if semi-fine and fine varieties of Basmati rice are also covered under crop insurance scheme. These varieties cover around 50 percent of rice area and almost the same proportion of rice growers of Jammu region and that too in the difficult border belts. The growers have a high stake in this high value crop of above 140 days duration.
Now, it is for the concerned extension agencies, financial institutions, crop insurance companies and the development departments, to put their acts together and help the farmers realize the national goal of higher production and higher economic returns from agriculture through tools like Crop Insurance.
Authors are retired *Director of Agriculture and Rural Development & **Dy. Director of Agriculture, J&K Government, respectively