Out of ₹1,400 crore earmarked annually for the north-eastern States under the Centre’s flagship Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, only ₹8 crore — or just over half a per cent — was actually spent last year, according to senior Agriculture Ministry officials. Four north-eastern States — Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram — are not covered under the scheme at all.
In fact, farmers in seven States and four Union Territories nationwide will not be covered by the scheme in this kharif or summer season, for which sowing begins next month.
Some large States like Bihar and West Bengal have withdrawn from PMFBY to set up their own State-level schemes and Punjab has never participated in the scheme, while UTs like Delhi and Chandigarh are largely urban spaces. However, States in the Northeast, as well as the Union Territory of Daman and Diu, face challenges such as the lack of interest by insurance companies and the lack of State budgetary resources to pay their share of the premium, say officials. The Centre is now making it compulsory for insurance companies to bid for these States as well.
As The Hindu had reported from Mizoram on Thursday, this lack of coverage has left thousands of maize farmers devastated by losses from the fall armyworm pest there without any hope of insurance.
“Although the north-eastern States have only 2.5% of the country’s cultivable area, 10% of the budget for PMFBY and RWBCIS [Restructured Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme] is earmarked for them. But all the funds are lapsed,” said a senior official administering the scheme, who did not wish to be named.
While Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland have never been covered under the scheme, which was launched with much fanfare in 2016, the scheme was implemented in Mizoram and Manipur only in the initial season.
“Insurance companies have been reluctant to bid for these States, as the administrative costs are high. There are no proper land records. Historic yield data is not available for these States, particularly at the gram panchayat and block level. It is difficult to conduct CCEs [crop-cutting experiments] needed for many of the horticulture crops,” said the official. “Insurance companies are also not interested because the coverage is so limited. There are low number of loanee farmers in the Northeast, except in Assam,” added the official.
Lack of forecasting infrastructure has also hampered the penetration of the weather-based insurance scheme in these states.
The Centre also argues that several State governments are not sufficiently interested in promoting the scheme.