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New Crop Insurance Scheme will go a long way in addressing farmers’ issues

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Photo: www.policymantra.com

By Nirendra Dev

Agriculture being the mainstay of Indian people traditionally and culturally, it is refreshing that the Narendra Modi government has been focusing on the agriculture front quite seriously. Therefore the announcement of the New Crop Insurance scheme on 13th January, 2016 by the Government of India has received applause from all quarters.

The government and the policy makers have always faced a few challenges vis-à-vis the task of ensuring food security, higher agri growth and adequate jobs in agri sector. There has been a long felt need to bring together in one place all conceptual issues, detailed institutional framework and operational details related to farmers’ welfare, risk management of farming community and the crops during drought and floods, and other localized risk factors.

The broad policy on drought and natural disaster management prepared by the government has prescribed multifold actions vis-à-vis the disaster mitigation plans, relief measures required for providing succor to the affected population, and the need to integrate these with long term objectives.

In other words, steps were required to be taken on a war footing with a well thought of and far-sighted vision and action plans, both in short term and long terms.

The New Crop Insurance scheme must be understood from that perspective. This is all the more relevant at a time when the country is facing drought for the second straight year due to poor monsoon rains.

Under the new scheme that would cost the government Rs 8,000-9,000 crore annually, the farmers’ premium has been kept at a maximum of 2 per cent for food grains and oilseeds, and up to 5 per cent for horticulture and cotton crops.

To be rolled out from the Kharif season this year, the much awaited scheme – Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana – was cleared at the Cabinet meeting, headed by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The new scheme, to be executed also by private insurance companies, is seen as a significant step by policy makers, farming community, and experts. The government’s move will enhance insurance coverage to more crop area to protect farmers from the vagaries of monsoon. Hence the scheme is considered very timely and also quite in tune with similar initiatives in some countries.

For Rabi crops, the farmer’s share has been rightly fixed at 1.5 per cent — against actual premiums of 8-10 per cent. For year-long cash crops and horticultural crops, this has been capped at 5 per cent.

The PMFBY will replace the existing two schemes National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (NAIS) as well as the Modified NAIS.

The official sources also clarified that in terms of Service Tax, as the new PMFBY is a replacement scheme of  NAIS / MNAIS, there will be exemption from Service Tax liability of all the services involved in the implementation of the scheme. It is estimated that the new scheme will ensure about 75-80 percent of subsidy for the farmers in insurance premium.

It is worth mentioning that the government is already shelling out around Rs 5000 crore annually average for the last five years for various disaster relief measures even as the government’s new move will now mean a tentative expenditure of about Rs 9000 crore. This will be more helpful, especially for farmers as the risk factor would be looked into. According to many, the ‘Pradhan Mantri Fasal BimaYojna’ will also rid farmers of the web of complex rules of the earlier insurance schemes.

The new scheme includes successful aspects of the existing schemes and “effectively addresses” whatever was lacking in earlier schemes.”The scheme has the lowest premium, it entails easy usage of technology like mobile phone, quick assessment of damage and disbursement within a time frame,” the PM said.

The government would have to cough out Rs 8,800 crore annually, whereas the coverage would be for a crop area of 194.40 million hectare. It is significant to note that after coming to power in May 2014, the Modi government had announced that it would bring a new crop insurance scheme.

Among others, expressing confidence that farmers will adopt this new scheme, the union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said it will help them tide over financial uncertainties.

Experts also say that the mechanism of higher subsidy for crop premiums is not out of line with international standards. The United States, for instance, covers over 120 million hectares and gives subsidy to the tune of around 70 per cent. China insures its farmers for a sown area of around 75 million hectares with a subsidy on premiums of about 80 per cent. In Indian context, during the next five years, the plan would probably cover over 50 per cent of the cropped area.

A Game-changer: There are a few significant features about the new scheme and this will make it both – farmers’ friendly and a game-changer in the long run. The new Crop Insurance Scheme is in line with ‘One Nation – One Scheme’ theme. “It incorporates the best features of all previous schemes and at the same time, all previous shortcomings/weaknesses have been removed,” an official announcement said and thus highlighting the end of the cob of complexities the farmers had to face earlier.

Importantly for the beneficiaries, risks leading to crop loss are to be covered under the scheme include: Yield Losses (standing crops, on notified area basis). Thus, a Comprehensive risk insurance is provided to cover yield losses due to non-preventable risks, such as Natural Fire and Lightning, Storm, Hailstorm, Cyclone, Typhoon, Tempest, Hurricane, Tornado. Risks due to Flood, Inundation and Landslide, Drought, Dry spells, Pests/ Diseases also will be covered.

Similarly, in cases where the majority of the insured farmers of a notified area, having intent to sow/plant and incurred expenditure for the purpose, are prevented from sowing/planting the insured crop due to adverse weather conditions, shall be eligible for indemnity claims up to a maximum of 25 per cent of the sum-insured.

In post-harvest losses, coverage will be available  up to a maximum period of 14 days from harvesting for those crops which are kept in “cut & spread” condition to dry in the field. For certain localized problems, Loss / damage resulting from the occurrence of identified localized risks like hailstorm, landslide, and Inundation affecting isolated farms in the notified area would also be covered.

Moreover, it has been made clear that there will be “no upper limit” on the Government subsidy. Even if balance premium is 90 per cent, it will be borne by the Government. Earlier, there was a provision of capping the premium rate, which resulted in low claims being paid to farmers. This capping was done to limit Government outgo on the premium subsidy. This ceiling has now been removed and farmers will get to claim against the full sum insured without any reduction.

The new scheme envisages among other things, that there will be the use of technology. More technology and science will be encouraged. Smart phones will be used to capture and upload data of crop cutting to reduce the delays in claim payment to farmers. Remote sensing will also be used to reduce the number of crop cutting experiments, sources say.

Making use of technology mandatory will also improve operational efficiency and will be beneficial to both – the farmers and the insurers, experts and insurance players say. Additionally, since farmer’s premium will be down, the uptake of policies would be high. Moreover, making the new crop insurance scheme mandatory for states will also mean that there will be increase in the list of policy takers. Adding catastrophic events also to this cover to protect farmers against crop loss/damage due to incidents like cyclone would be beneficial to all stakeholders yet again. (PIB)

Nirendra Dev is a Delhi based journalist

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Be a farmer on weekends at Citrus County Hoshiarpur

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Hoshiarpur
Wheat field in Phagwara Punjab India. Wikimedia

Hoshiarpur, Oct 2, 2017: Punjab is better known for India’s “green revolution” in agriculture and for contributing the maximum foodgrain to the national kitty. And now a progressive horticulturist and entrepreneur is offering hands-on experience to visitors to try their hand at how farming is actually done.

“Be a farmer on weekends at Citrus County — Hoshiarpur. Get your kids to the farm to give them a unique experience in a typical farm in Punjab. Let then come and indulge in plucking fruit and sowing vegetable seeds in the fields on their own.” This is how Harkirat Ahluwalia, owner of the Citrus County farm resort, puts it.

“We are offering guests, especially children, first-hand experience of doing farming. This is something that people have never tried before. The experience gives them the satisfaction of doing hard work and experiencing what life is like in the countryside,” Harkirat, who along with his wife Jasveen runs the resort, about 140 km from Chandigarh, told IANS.

The guests at the farm can sow seeds, pluck citrus fruit, plough the fields, milk cows, drive a tractor and take a ride to a nearby forest and rivulet in a tractor-trolley.

Fresh home-cooked food, which is prepared on earthen stoves at the ground level, home-grown organic vegetables and warm hospitality add up in equal measure to make the experience a refreshing one.

“Glamping”, or luxury tenting, as Harkirat puts it, is also part of the farm experience.

The nine air-conditioned tents at Citrus County, with attached bathrooms, offer luxury stay with king-sized beds in the midst of the sprawling orchards of kinnow (a citrus fruit) and tall poplar trees.

Also Read: Indian Agriculture status, Importance & Role In Indian Economy 

The farm resort is located in Chaunni Kalan village, five km short of Hoshiarpur on the Hoshiarpur-Chandigarh highway.

“Cycling enthusiasts are welcome to get their wheels along and we will provide them the best possible tracks,” said Harkirat, who is a post-graduate in Mass Communication from Panjab University and himself a cycling and biking enthusiast.

In the past, the resort has seen couples from other countries going through wedding rituals the Indian way to give them a real-time feel of the country’s culture and marriage ceremonies.

The unique thing in couples opting for the Indian-style wedding is that they are already married and are middle-aged or even older. The couples are accompanied by their friends, relatives and even children and grandchildren for this unique experience. (IANS)

 

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Indian Agriculture status, Importance & Role In Indian Economy

The aggregate growth in the agricultural sector determines that the future of the agrarian economy is not bleak

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Agriculture
Agriculture in India. Wikimedia.
  • Despite people shifting their occupations from agriculture, UN states that India ranks second in the agricultural production in the world
  • India’s horticulture production has also increased

Sep 20, 2017: Indian agriculture is facing a huge crisis since many years. Despite continuous reports suggesting that the agrarian economy of India is getting affected, as people are shifting away from the agricultural sector and are moving towards industrial sector development, the food and agriculture organization of United Nations (UN) has stated that India ranks second in the agricultural production of the World. In the past 11 years, the country’s agricultural production has increased from $87 billion in the financial year 2004-05 to $322 billion in the fiscal year 2015-16.

Interestingly this is not just the only positive point being witnessed about the agricultural situation of the nation. The country’s horticulture production has also increased with the passage of time. The horticultural production includes fruits, vegetables, plantation crops, and spices. The increasing demand of fruits and vegetables has augmented the production estimate to 295 million tonnes in 2016-17, which is 3.2 % higher than the production in 2015-16.

Also Read: WHO says Millions of People are Dying Pre-mature Deaths Due to Non-Communicable Diseases.

Earlier in May, the agriculture ministry released a second advance estimate of horticulture production, stating that the farm area under the horticulture crops has recorded an increase. The increase was from 245 lakh hectares of farm in 2015-16 to 249 lakh hectares in 2016-17. The Indian economy’s earnings from agriculture as compared to the service sector has been absolutely great. The net export from agriculture was noted $16 billion, and those from the commercial service were 9% in 2014.

When the country is facing even greater challenges like farmer suicides, protests, and monsoon failure, figures like these tend to bring smiles on our faces, even if it is for a short time. The aggregate development can never alleviate the plight of farmers.
The percentage growth may satisfy the government and us both, but does it really satisfy the farmers? A wiser approach like good law and order towards the handling of problems and crisis should be taken, and then only can there be a better future in the agriculture.

by Megha Acharya of NewsGram.


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.

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Syria Turns the School Playgrounds into Vegetable Gardens to Feed Hungry Children

The ongoing crisis in Syria is having a devastating effect on the health and nutrition of an entire generation of children

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A boy sells vegetables and fruits along a street in the Damascus suburb of Qudsaya, Syria
A boy sells vegetables and fruits along a street in the Damascus suburb of Qudsaya, Syria. VOA
  • Young children are often the most vulnerable to malnutrition in a crisis
  • Good nutrition is a child’s first defense against common diseases

School playgrounds across Syria are being transformed into vegetable gardens where children whose diets have been devastated by six years of war can learn to grow and then eat — aubergines, lettuces, peppers, cabbages, and cucumbers.

Traditional Syrian cuisine is typical of the region and rich in vegetables. Its mainstays include hummus, minced lamb cooked with pine nuts and spices, varied salads, stews made with green beans, okra or courgettes and tomatoes, stuffed cabbage leaves and artichoke hearts.

But the six-year war has changed that for much of the population, and many now live mainly on bread or food aid.

According to U.N. figures, unemployment now stands at more than 50 percent, and nearly 70 percent of the population is living in extreme poverty, in what was once a relatively wealthy country.

“The ongoing crisis in Syria is having a devastating effect on the health and nutrition of an entire generation of children,” Adam Yao, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) acting representative in Syria, said on Tuesday, ahead of the start of the school year.FAO is helping some 17 primary schools in both government and opposition-controlled areas to plant up to 500 meter-square fruit and vegetable plots in war-torn areas including Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Idlib and the outskirts of Damascus.

FAO is helping some 17 primary schools in both government and opposition-controlled areas to plant up to 500 meter-square fruit and vegetable plots in war-torn areas including Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Idlib and the outskirts of Damascus.Young children are often the most vulnerable to malnutrition in a crisis, which can have serious and long-lasting effects on their growth and future development.

Young children are often the most vulnerable to malnutrition in a crisis, which can have serious and long-lasting effects on their growth and future development.

“Good nutrition is a child’s first defense against common diseases and important for children to be able to lead an active and healthy life,” Yao added.

The primary schools, which began planting in May, have produced 12 tons of fruit and vegetables. Another 35 schools are expected to start transforming their playgrounds soon in Aleppo and in rural areas around Damascus.

Also Read: Ground Report: How ISIS is ruining lives of people in Syria and Iraq

Rising prices, falling production

The price of food has risen since the start of the war — agriculture production has plummeted, and the country now relies on food imports to make up the shortfall. Transporting food around the country has also become difficult and costly.

About 13.5 million people in Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance. Of those, 7 million are unable to meet their basic food needs.

Some 5 million people receive international food aid, but not everyone in need can be reached, and the World Food Program says it has had to cut a number of calories in its family food baskets because of funding shortages.

“The donors are generous, but we don’t know how long they can continue to be generous and rely on taxpayers’ money,” the FAO’s Yao told Reuters.

Vulnerable families are receiving help from FAO to grow food at home, so they can become less reliant on food aid.

“Food aid is very important, but … we should combine both, in a way that people grow their own food and move away from food aid gradually,” he said.

In a country where more than half the population has been forced to flee their homes, many moving several times, investing in agriculture helps people to stay put for as long as it is safe, Yao added.

“Agriculture has become a hope for [many] because they can grow their own food and survive — even in the besieged areas.” (VOA)