Thousands of farmers in Rajkot on Thursday took out a protest march demanding payment of insurance after their crop failed owing to less than normal rainfall in the region.
Non-payment of crop insurance has emerged as a major election issue in the Saurashtra and north Gujarat regions, where farmers are battling semi-drought and scarcity.
A total of 1.5 million farmers have been seeking crop insurance payments in a dozen districts in the two politically important regions in the State. In the past two weeks, thousands of farmers have staged protests demanding immediate payment of their claims.
On Monday, several Congress legislators and the party’s farmers’ wing leaders staged a protest at the office of the Director of Agriculture in the State capital Gandhinagar. Besides the Congress, the Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, a farmers’ union affiliated to the RSS, has also demanded crop insurance payments.
In 2016, private insurance companies collected ₹2,360 crore as premium for the entire State against which only claims worth ₹954 crore were settled.
Rambhai Ahir, a farmer in Padadhari taluka of Rajkot district, had placed a claim of ₹45,000. “The company rejected it despite the taluka being declared scarcity-hit by the State government, which means there is drought,” he said.
“In 2018, there has been a total premium collection of ₹3,200 crore but we don’t know how much claims have been approved and settled,” said Pala Ambalia, head of the Gujarat Congress Farmers’ Cell. He accused the BJP government at the Centre and the State of favouring private insurance companies at the cost of farmers.
“In the last several years, the issue of crop insurance has been a major problem because farmers complain that they don’t get money from the private insurance companies,” a BKS leader said, adding that the BKS had raised the issue with the State authorities.
In districts such as Surendranagar, Rajkot, Morbi, Junagadh, Porbandar, Jamnagar, Dwarka, Sabarkantha, Arvalli and Banaskantha, farmers have held protests, organised rallies and submitted memorandum to the authorities.
Ratansinh Dodia, a farmers’ leader in Saurashtra region, said the private companies have not even approved 20% of the total claims submitted by the farmers in the region.
“In 2017 for the kharif season, a total of ₹3,155 crore premium was paid to insure 14.90 lakh farmers in the State. The insurance companies settled claims worth ₹1,042 crore, in which 4.04 lakh farmers benefitted,” Mr. Dodia said, alleging the insurance companies are making massive profits from the premiums.
The crop insurance premium burden is shared 49% each by the State and the Centre, while the remaining two % is borne by the farmers.
Curiously, the companies are rejecting insurance claims in those areas which have been declared by the State government as scarcity-hit.