Over 3 lakh farmers have killed themselves in India since 1995.
Indian farmers committing suicides is, unfortunately, something we hear about all too often. What is most disheartening about this epidemic is possibly the fact that, for many Indians, this simply isn’t news any more — it’s just something that happens.
And while, for many years, it would appear that the government was under a similar delusion (“farmer suicides are routine”), there is now a new policy — the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Beema Yojana — that seeks to address this heartbreaking issue at its source.
The new crop insurance scheme, worth approximately Rs. 8800 crore, aims at protecting farmers against crop failure.
The new crop insurance scheme will not only act as ‘Suraksha Kawach’ against the vagaries of nature but also safeguard farmers’ interests
— Rajnath Singh (@BJPRajnathSingh) January 13, 2016
This scheme, described as “path-breaking” and “historic”, is going to heavily integrate technology, including the use of smart phones to capture and upload data of crop cutting to reduce delays in payments to farmers and remote sensing using cameras mounted on drones to reduce the number of crop-cutting experiments.
Another important element of the scheme is that it will bring down the rate of premium to be paid by farmers from the current 4–15% to a maximum of 2% of the sum insured. The state and central governments will cover the rest of the amount. The government is hoping to insure at least 50% of the country’s farmers under this new scheme.
Farmers will also be paid 25% of the compensation owed to them upfront — directly into their bank accounts.
Speaking to The Better India, Shailendra Pawar, a farmer from Nashik, sounded pleased with what this new scheme had to offer.
“It looks like they have covered all possible issues. The main thing is that 25 percent of the money will be paid upfront and the rest later. It appears to be beneficial. The premium has also been reduced. It was earlier very high.”
He was also optimistic about the technology being used, although he seemed hesitant about whether or not it would actually be implemented.
“They are saying that surveys will be computerised using smart phones and drones. Earlier their numbers used to be approximate, but now, if the drone camera will actually be put to use, then the actual loss to the farmer can be estimated. This is very good.”
The direct transfer into the bank accounts of farmers was another aspect of the scheme that spells hope for farmers like Pawar.
“Recently, farmers approached a bank to collect their insurance that was pending for years. They went to speak to the manager, but the bank instead filed a case on them. This is just one example — farmers have to go through a lot of hurdles to get their insurance. Under the new scheme, if farmers get the benefit directly into their bank accounts, that is also a very good.”
And while Pawar is hopeful, this is hope tinged with caution.
“The government needs to introduce good policies, otherwise the country could face a lot of problems in the future. We need change. And to bring change, the government needs to start thinking like a farmer.”
With inputs from Manabi Bacher.