Only implementation is questioned!
Insurance regulator, IRDAI, asks the Insurance Companies to honour farmers ‘crop insurance claims!

High Court petitioned for enquiry over crop insurance schemes! The Karnataka High Court ordered issue of notices to the Union and State governments on a Public interest Litigation petition seeking directions for the disbursal of crop insurance to the farmers who suffered loss due to drought and to ensure effective implementation of Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bhima Yojan (PMFBY) by strictly adhering to
mandated guidelines. The Division Bench comprising acting Chief Justice L.Narayanaswamy and Justice P.S.Dinesh Kumar passed the order on the petition filed by Akhanda Karnataka Raitha Sanga based in Shapur of Yadgir District.

The petitioner, obviously, representing many farmers and taking time and energy with not a little amount of money and travel etc must be having certain drive to fight for a public cause. Knowing how the judiciary is already burdened by a heavy backlog has also taken time and paying attention had many loopholes in the PMFBY! It is not a secret that the scheme, a new one and we have to support the government and also at the same time we have to look at these farmer schemes not in a routine way but with certain mental agony, knowing well how bureaucracy operates in the country with so many farmer suicides in Maharashtra where the bureaucracy tried to avoid payment of compensation on some technical ground, the crop insurance schemes are not making big positive news in any big manner.

The petitioner has claimed (The Hindu, March 22, 2019) the PMFBY has been implemented in an improper manner! The farmers in the state have been deprived of what is due to them. Farmers were deprived of their premium as well as the crop insurance loss compensation. The farmers vulnerability, claims the petition before the High Court, has been only exacerbrated. The petitioner further said failure to follow the full mandate and procedure of the scheme has resulted in denial of crop loss compensation.

Media reports also point out the short-comings of the scheme, the petitioner has asked the authorities to investigate the total amount being paid to private insurance companies and also why the companies, numbering some 18 companies for denials of funds due for the farmers for their legitimate claims. The petition has asked for constituting a committee representing the Central and the State governments and go into the details of the disbursal and the withholding of the premium rates and the premiums so-collected, the fixation of threshold yields, the crop cutting experimented and the settlement of claims so far done etc. We are not sure whether this petition has prompted the insurance regulator (IRDAI).Let us all remember how the bureaucracy works in India.

Given this very discouraging big picture and also knowing how the many rural development focused agencies, from Nabard to other newly constituted agencies, the newly promoted Indian AGRICULTURAL insurance Corporation is not yet taken off, do you know? The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bheema Yojana, the Restructured Weather-Based Crop Insurance Scheme (RWBCIS, cover a higher number of farmers. But large scale coverage has also resulted in higher claims from the sector (Times of India of the same date). The regulator IDARI has instructed insurance companies to meet with various stake holders and ensure there is adequate representation from all sides before rejecting claims. It is the election season, so it is in everyone interest if the government’s schemes are seen as succeeding!’So, the wider public can take it that the government’s schemes are having an election-eve urgency and publicity value!

Now, about the government crop insurance schemes spread and success. For the kharif 2016,rabi 2016-17 and kharif 2017 seasons, the total premiums collected by 18 insurance companies was Rs.42,114 crore, while Rs.32,912 crores has been paid out as claims. IRDAI’s 2017-18 that 4.7 crore farmers paid Rs.25,292 as cumulative premium. While the claims were Rs.26,051 crores. For the insurance industry it is unhealthy if the amount of claims is higher than the premium they collect. Despite a fairly decent harvest this fiscal, insurers continue to face high claims, says the insurance industry.

IRDAI instructed(on Wednesday) insurance companies ensure proper representation in stake holder meetings relating to crop insurance with deputation of senior level officers with adequate powers to decide major issues, if any. IRDAI also instructed the insurance companies how to conduct the meetings and, for each allocated clusters, in a collective manner for each major crops, not on an individual’s farm, to farm basis, also to put in charge senior level official to run the disbursal of claim amounts without any hitch. Also upload data on the National Crop Insurance Portal with the help of partner banks.
In case of an individual loss claims the companies should honour the request. In case of any rejection the same should be communicated to the individual in vernacular language, said the IRDAI.

Old institutions should go! New collaborations must come in. Elections over and we can sit easy on the farm front?

Agriculture is never a high priority in India given the sort of priority politicians and media give to this topic.

Neither the public are too much bothered about what is happening in agriculture inside India and also in other parts of the world. There are severe food crisis in at least some 10 countries around the world, do you know? In the war-torn Sudan, Ethiopia and countries around the Congo and even Nigeria there are food shortages and also in Afghanistan.

The FAO and the World Food Programme, the two principal agencies have out reports and there is concern in some other countries too. Of course, there is much poverty and malnutrition and we have some of the most poignant pictures and people, the migrants on the Mexico US border and the people’s lives over a vast stretch of farms across the world are caught in perennial drought and a loss-making agricultural scenario.

There are also many on-going high profile trade disputes between China and the USA and the many promises and high sounding words of assurance and also the most vociferous counter voices from the powerful American farm lobbies. For each set of commodities, from soybean to pork, from cherries to apples to other fruits there are powerful lobbies and for all of them President Trump seems not a reassuring voice. Trump talks big built achieve little, grumbles the lobbyists who all talk in such silence and don’t want to be quoted!
Why this fear we don’t know. May be China’s farm lobby is too much and very unnerving to the US negotiators. Indian farm exports too come in for much criticism though Trump seems to be soft towards the country. We are seeking tariff concessions to such commodities like Aluminium and steel. The irony is that while inside India we don’t talk much about agriculture, we are also one of the large agricultural economies where the writings, in the media and on the part of so called experts is one of trailing the ‘official’ statistics and also avoiding any critical remarks for fear of the government! See the narration of the many reforms in the agri sector. We have a long list of reforms introduced by the Modi government. We can make a short list of them. One, the much talked out is the National Agricultural Market, eNam. This is of course a great step towards regulating the long-suffered price fluctuations in the markets spread all over the country with a great deal of regional variations and specific peculiarities.

May be, this reform would contribute to the real time sales, the deployment of technology to monitor the markets. The single electronic portal can do wonders if only we implement the proposals. Let us hope so and welcome this revolutionary feature of the agri market reforms. So far, we learn that 585 mandis across 16 states and 2 Union Territories are registered on the portal. The total volume of trade this year up to February 28, 2019 was 2.2 lakh million tonnes with a value of Rs.604.72 crores. This move was to cover the whole country but as we learn that all mistakes haven’t been registered or have amended the APMC Acts to be able to join eNAM. It is also inaccessible to small and marginal farmers who make up 86 per cent of the India’s farming population. There is still not any mechanism to assess the working of the eNAM machinery.

Two, soil health Cards. So far there are a few criticisms about the very effectives but the media, the mainstream media and the TV channels don’t care to do any assessment of the ground level realities. We have enough experience in a region like Vidharba where you have all the signs and ills of how the drought plays havoc with the average lives of the small farmers.

Also, we have to shed the urban media mindset that of quoting the incumbent bureaucrats sitting in the comforts of the Krishi Bhavan who are only too happy to give a rosy picture of things in Indian agriculture!

Three: The Pradhan Mantri Krishi Suinchayee Yojana. Only the budget is announced, Rs.50,000 for five years. How to assess such shaky schemes. We have only to wait! Four minimum supports price. Gramin Agricultural Market, GrAM.

Only the name is new. Otherwise we, as a media engaged in agriculture and village economy choose to remain sceptic and wait for results to speak. There are many serious issues that are high priority for the Indian farmers. In Vidharba for example, farmers have no alternative to cotton that becomes a killer crop often, the largest number of farmers’ suicides take place in the cotton crop region, prices are so fluctuating that continues for very long. Soyabeans too have become a risky crop.

So, the researchers, the agri scientists and also the agri universities like the Punjab Rao Agri University at Akola must come out with alternative crops for the drought region-specific needs. There seems to be nothing coming out of the Indian agri universities, more new commercial – scale new agri colleges are springing up USA for self-financing money making ventures. This the government must ban! Why, even long-distance agri degree awarding colleges are also coming up.

These are all new malpractices to vitiate purposeful education and research. In fact, some sort of sandwich type of course with field work and theory must be a new initiative.

We must be seen with bureaucrats and ministers often talking to farmers lobbies and giving the farmers community a sense of belonging to the farmer’s societies.

Unfortunately, not much that is hopeful and productive seem to be happening in the agri sector.

We also have to wind up old institutions that are for instance there in good number in Hyderabad and also in other states. They must all be wound up. New institutions, new collaborations with agri universities in Israel and Netherlands could revolutionise farming practise in India.

Let more people, politicians and experts and thinkers debate and discuss!
As elections near, farmers are getting forgotten!
Farmers as vote-banks are a different category of people!
From being debtors and litigants farmers become pampered for short periods!

agriYou see in a democratic country like India where periodic elections every five years and in many recent instances States Assembly
elections too intervene ,as for instance the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections in Tamil Nadu would also see elections to 21 Assembly seats  and that makes for further complications. In India at any  rate, periodic elections mean a great deal of diversion of attention, elections mean for voters a time to earn some money. The so-called freebies include more ready-cash, plus lots of other goods including food packets, free travel to the polling booths and also other perks for all of which this time the Election Commission has  fixed prices and the candidates have to give account of his or her expenses.
So, the vote-banks get consolidated and farmers make up a sizeable commodity and vote banks!  So, agriculture in India is getting transformed every now and then and  it all depends who speaks about farmers and where one is placed when you hear his or her sermons on farmers!
Now, more attention is grabbed by spokespersons on TV news channels and given the fact of India having an estimated 400 TV news
channels, there are enough spokespersons for the agri sector and related rural distress we have enough attention-grabbing power for
this sector.

What is the current priority in agriculture?

Obviously, farm loan waivers! The subject gets priority attention and when such leaders like Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks the whole nation listens. More so the prime time TV grabs much attention and diversion too!
What is the progress for instance in one such new farm schemes introduced by the Prime Minister with much fanfare?
We mean the PM-Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana(PMKSNY)?

I think it was introduced in few states, in particular in Gujarat and in  few other states. One of the current issues in policy making be it employment, jobs and other schemes, we don’t seem to have enough data. Why even it is alleged that much of three NSS surveys-were leaked after they were approved by the National Statistical Commission  and two highly rated autonomous body’s experts chose to resign half way. Unusually those who know how the government departments work these days, it is very unusual and even bold to see such highly rated experts chose to leave the autonomous body. So, what was alleged and what was suspected for long that the government is not doing an honest job and instead of taking the public into confidence, the government has done the opposite. It is now widely alleged and also believed that the unemployment rate in India is at a 45 year high!
How to believe the government’s many claims, critics ask.

There are many such schemes too, like for instance the Budget announced Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Mandham which promised for the unorganised sector workers  a direct income transfer. As far as Indian agri sector is concerned we have a very peculiar official mindset.

We have never for the past five years  had seen or heard what the Minister for Agriculture has in mind .Neither he had spoken nor had his deputies in the ministry shown their faces. It was not even often some small time bureaucrat had said some brief messages.

We do not know even now at the time of electioneering any major policy pronouncements. There is an all Indian insurance company, you know?
Anybody knows what is its work so far?  No, none at all?

How the agricultural insurance, the crop insurance scheme or schemes have performed?

It is the  absence of data, now one of the biggest scams, or scam-level allegations are flaying thick and fast that are dulling the minds and even the interest of those interested and involved in the farming programmes.  Let us know that agriculture is now a world-wide concern, food has to be produced, foods have to be distributed all over the world, there are still countries in the South American geography and also in North Korea where there is a food shortage and the governments are scurrying for help. And fortunately, the very international community, the world bodies, like the UN,FAO and the WTO are all heavily committed to improving agriculture and the food production.

Unfortunately in India agri sector is marked by farmer’s suicides. This is one back spot in the Indian government’s agriculture policy making.
Unfortunately, the humanist tragedy of hard working farmers committing suicides is very  superficially dealt with and in this one area both the ruling party and the Opposition parties are equally guilty of heartlessness and sheer utter insensitivity.
Then comes the average Indian farmer’s profile.

He is more often uneducated, poor and owning one of even less acre of land as agricultural property and also the landless labour, often
doubling as tenant farmer and also landless and we are all planning agri polices on the basis of this utterly unviable livelihood  economics!
We need an utterly new agriculture vision document, we have to face the brutal realities. We have to relax the many of the antiquated land legislation laws. Relax the tenancy security law that neigh urges the tenant to pay rent and cultivate or leave the land so that the market forces
determine the viability of farming based on somewhat market forces.

Now, the litigation legacy is also old as the British colonial administration. Sciences have to play a decisive role. New seeds, biotech
applications, the world is now flooded with 80 percent of GM crops. New generation farm families are abandoning farming, urbanisation is
helping many poverty-ridden families to migrate to towns. This is welcome and inevitable.
Already Indian agriculture where 80 percent of land is rain-fed, so too in the outside world. Let us turn food shortages into food surpluses.

This is the only larger perspective in new have to plan our agricultural strategy.

Is there time to think of agriculture and farmers?
Yes, much has been talked about farmers, their own tales of woe and tonnes of promises to help them etc.
Rahul Gandhi has promised the moon, all farmers’ loans he promises to wipe out!

indexAs for the BJP, the Prime Minister has vowed to protect farmers, he is the chowkidar and the country is safe in his hands. As we said this is election time and you can believe or disbelieve as you want.

But one thing is fundamental. Agriculture is to stay here and agriculture would matter who is in power or out of power. Agriculture and food production are intertwined.  Only when there is enough food in the country the country is safe. Once food shortages arise then everything goes wrong.

Unfortunately, there is a series of issues, drought, climate change; uncertain rains and water crisis, from drinking water to water for irrigation are all coming increasingly to our day to day deliberation’s we write, this is world water day!

And remember the place of agriculture is now at the very centre stage of international attention. Agriculture is first and foremost and international topic, on agriculture production, export and trade international diplomacy revolves!

So, the current issues of agriculture have a long history. For a change we can discuss the history of agriculture and the world population is also bringing agriculture to our attention. World population is 9 billion; this would be in about the next few years, by 2050, hardly one generation. An estimate says that in 2013, it was 2,700 calories for each of the 7 billion people on the earth and  by 2050 2,000 calories per head is adequate for survival.

Even as we write there are food shortages in South America and also in North Korea.

There are already many international agencies, from UN to FAO and other bodies to reach out the hungry and ill-fed. However, there are road blocks, trade barriers, US and China are at almost war over trade issues and we don’t know how the equitable distribution of food would contribute to world peace and human contentment.

There are also many trade blocs, European bloc being the world’s most important food importer and with the British exit, there could be many more rules change. Poverty is still there developing countries and India, now a reasonably self-sufficient country in food requirements but scenarios can change drastically.

Unfortunately, Indian farmers are more neglected and more exploited and there is an unbridgeable divide between the urban and rural peoples’ welfare and security.  The Indian farmer is a big tragic figure, he is either a debtor or a litigant. He is the most insecure citizen and he is being pampered by the politicians for the simple reason in India fifty percent of the population is still dependent upon farming as a source of employment.

And the divide between rural India and the urban India is widening and no adequate answer, less a grand vision for India’s future agriculture is in sight. We need more and more powerful farm lobbies, as we have in the USA and UK. A powerful agriculture lobby is critical and only then we can get the farming community to get the needed subsidies and protection as enjoyed in advanced countries.

Our farmers lobbies must travel abroad, more and more to advanced agriculture economies and see how the agri subsidies work there. May be our government too is coming round to see new policies needed. Like basic universal incomes, a sort of minimum social security.

Unfortunately, there is now a type of mindset on the part of policy makers to take Indian farmers indolence as passivity. Change must be invoked in every farmers mind and farmer’s power has to be reused.

We need good and committed farmers leader and election time is the right time to pressure the politicians. There is a range of farm issues, from developed countries like USA and UK where big farms survives, in the USA 80% of farm output comes from 10% of the big farms, whereas, as in India, why even in the most backward Maasai pastrolists in Tanzania where small farmers believe they want to inherit the farms from their parents and they in turn want to hand over the farms to their successors. So too in certain manner in India too the farmers’ future depends upon how tradition and history would govern the farmers families and their inheritance.

Farm sizes is another big issues. In India, the British rule and their ryotwari system of ownership and also the creation of Zamindari, from the Mughal times’s mansabdari system and Taluqdars, there is a strong tradition of feudalism. This you can wipe out even in one generation.

That is one more reason why litigation, the pending of court cases relating to land is so persistent. Also the fact you can’t have equal land size however much you strengthen the land reform laws, land tenancy laws.

There would be one or two big land owners in every village in India. The rest would be small farmers. Can you distribute the agricultural land as in a collective, Soviet  style farming system?

These issues have to be debated openly. Indian agriculture doesn’t have a strong media space. Vadamalai Media would continue to fight for an open society, liberal economic and social policies.

Too many government schemes, too many promises!
Also, the political parties are mobilising them to march to Delhi or Mumbai demanding too many redressed of their grievances!

modi-farmersThe PM-Kisan Scheme is the latest to catch the public attention! The Central government is to pay Rs.2, 000 out of Rs.6, 000 as minimum
income payment after the scheme’s formal launch by the Prime  Minister! The PM    as per the news must have started paying the first installment of Rs.2, 000 from February 24 at a high profile launch of the scheme.  The second  installment is supposed  to be paid, the same this time would be the PM  Samman Nidhi scheme, obvious, on the eve of the next general elections, the rural voters, it is believed, would be  cheered up and likely to vote for the  BJP.  The scheme and the second installment promise are all obviously high stake gambles and would likely turn out to be a big winner for the ruling party. Who knows?

It looks this time, the general elections itself seems to be a leap in the dark! Even if the PM or his lieutenant Amit Shah might be hoping for a second term, the people might have different ideas.  The 2014 w elections gave a rude shock to the Congress and many of its allies. In TN both the parties were wiped out and the AIADMK came back with a vengeance.

Elections in India is still a gamble. Voters, why even the parties don’t have any principles whatever, see how the DMK and the AIADMK are now ganging up. They were seen hugely happy faces when they rushed to sign the pacts, all they, the Dravidian parties and the Congress and the BJP were seen relieved to get a pact signed and they signed with a huge sense of relief, as if they had already crossed all the hurdles and almost they thought they had secured the number of seats they had a gamble at!

How does the voters think this time?
What about the much-talked subjects like jobs, rural distress and the many other disappointments like the Pak behaviour and when the whole
country caught in an unexpected mourning and the very nation is distracted by so many issues.

It looks the parties too might not care for any election propagandas; no manifestors make a sense when the country’s attention is caught in such a brutal behaviour by our neighbour.

So, this time, the political mood in the country is nor normal and let us guess even the usual PM’s high profile attacks on the rival
parties and also the high decibel orations might not make a predictable  voter sentiments.

Even the otherwise much noisy voter’s opinion survey look suddenly irrelevant and no one need to be teaching the voters how to vote.
The election outcome itself might be very unpredictable.

There is many speculative calculations as to how much money to how many farmers in how many states this would be done and the much feared leakages, a great folly of many of the farmer’s schemes, would take place and successfully plugged are all questions nobody has asked. 5 million farmers in the delta bases.50 lakh farmers in the first instalment disbursal and many of the detailed work seem to have been done. However, doubts persist.

Who are the specified agencies would be involved in this task?
Where is the Niti Aayog in this exercise?
What the economic advisers are doing?

Where is in this entire heavy-duty task the agriculture ministry or the high profile officials?

The very weakness of the agriculture ministry, the ministers seem to be adopting an inexcusable silence!

This is only one side of the whole business. There are other farmers-related schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) in compensating farmers in the drought hit horticulture crops, for instance?

The farmers of Jalna in Maharashtra in planting pomegranate, mango and sweet lime and heavily lost and they about 140 farmers, for
example are left high and ry. The insurance schemes, the crop protection scheme in particular has come up for criticism. The SBI
branch in Bandapur and the insurance company in particular, IFFC Tokio all held responsible in not keeping their duties!

We don’t like to narrate the story here but it is typical of the rural farmers’s scenario everywhere. No one official takes responsibility; the SBI has not answer, nor the IFFC Tokio insurance company which doesnt have any office in the district!

This is one more similar story, here the farmers, name given says:@I get the suicidal instinct!

The whole point is that the over-all governance of the whole exercise lacks any rational over-all governance. Now, it is election time and very likely many other things might go away! In the near term many things might go without any   real solutions!

Farmers must face many new uncertainties. The weather, drought and the nature’s furies. Agriculture suffers many handicaps. It is too much for any government, more so like Modi’s to get things let loose their ways.

Agriculture doesn’t get top priority when it comes to media exposure. No mainstream newspapers or TV channels have any commitment for such priority sectors like agri sector or rural sector.

So, in this election too funds might flow, transparent under the name of many schemes to rural voters, farmers in particular, in states like TN, funds are openly distributed for voters!

Elections in a democracy like where poor sections get once a while money for votes, it is anybody’s guess how the elections results turn out.

Let us hope that the public perception judges the outcome rightly!