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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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Delhi Govt Issues Advisory for Spraying Pesticides to Deal With Locust Attack

Delhi government will also run awareness programmes regarding the same threat

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The threat of locusts is increasing in North India. Pixabay

To deal with the attack of locusts in the national capital, the Delhi government has issued an advisory for spraying pesticides, Cabinet Minister Gopal Rai said on Thursday.

Rai said in view of the increasing threat of locusts in north India, the Agriculture Department of the Delhi government will run awareness programmes to make the people and farmers of Delhi aware of this new threat.

“Also, the Delhi Government has issued advisory on spraying pesticides and its quantity,” Rai tweeted.

The circular was issued in order to prevent a probable attack in Delhi by a swarm of locusts, which are reportedly present in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

“All concerned authorities are hereby advised to take preventive measures to control and eradicate the locusts to avoid devastating effect on standing agricultural and horticultural crops, vegetation, plants, gardens, orchard etc. in Delhi,” the circular said.

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“Also, the Delhi Government has issued advisory on spraying pesticides and its quantity,” Cabinet Minister Gopal Rai tweeted. Wikimedia Commons

It directed that awareness programmes be organised for the public and farmers to prevent and control any such invasion by locusts in Delhi.

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“As the swarm usually fly in day time, and rest during night time therefore the locusts should not be allowed to rest especially during night,” it said.

The circular added that the authorities may carry out spraying of insecticides or pesticides during the night.

The chemicals suggested for spraying were Malathion 50% EC; Malathion 25% WP; Chlorpyrifos 20 % EC; and Chlorpyrifos 50 % EC. (IANS)

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Back to the Soil With Organic Farming

Here's the story of various people who have returned back to their soil, organically

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Many professionals have returned back to their soil. PIxabay

By Sukant Deepak

A banker from Canada, a resort director, a top executive in a leading IT company and a senior corporate communications professional with a major hospital chain. Defying all stereotypes and preconceived notions of farmhands, an increasing number of highly qualified professionals from both genders are quitting their lucrative professions and getting back to the soil in Punjab full-time,making responsible farming their way of life.

Using social media including WhatsApp to spread the word, participating in pop-up organic farmers’ markets across the region and organising day-long farm tours, these new-age farmers, compost kit makers and teachers are ascertaining that those wanting pesticide-free food grains don’t have to look too hard.

Rahul Sharma’s wife would always laugh when on a typical IT sprint meeting call, he would be discussing his project at Flipkart, and a few hours later, talking about manure collection with a farmer.

This organic farmer who now grows cereal grains, pulses, oil seeds, turmeric and garlic at his five acre farm in Kapurthala full time, insists that the ongoing lockdown has made people aware about the importance of growing their own food, and that too pesticide-free. “But yes, if the government is serious about providing nutritional security, then it must ascertain economic benefits to farmers so they can go in for sustainable agriculture,” he stresses.

For someone who started doing organic farming in 2016, the thrill that comes with growing safe food for others is unparalled.”The fact that there is a patch of land which is now free of poison, where life thrives, and that I am contributing towards healthy soil.”

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Rahul Sharma now grows cereal grains, pulses, oil seeds, turmeric and garlic at his five acre farm in Kapurthala full time. Pixabay

Not regretting his switch from a corporate IT job, which never allowed him to pursue his passions like photography, Sharma has now decided to streamline production and ordering process. “I have now a set rotation of crops which provide nutrition to the soil, as well as work well in the consumer market. I am also working on an online platform to make it easier for my consumers to order grains and be in touch with me,” he adds. He also lectures and interacts with school and college students at his farm about the importance of sustainable agriculture/lifestyle.

Shivraj Bhullar, who has a four-acre farm in Manimajra and grows a variety of seasonal vegetables, leafy greens and fruits left his cushy banker job in Canada to start organic farming on his piece of land in 2014 post volunteering at different farms across India to learn the ropes. “The organic farming convention that was held in the region in 2015 brought a lot of people together. Since then, the movement has been growing with greater awareness amongst consumers in this part of the country,” he says. For someone who has always been interested in Yoga and nutrition, one of the major factors that keeps him excited is the community around the organic farming movement in Punjab. “Farmers go out of their way to help each other out. It’s been a humbling and continuous learning experience for me,” he adds.

Planning to take his farm to the next level by installing a drip irrigation system and rain water harvesting for water conservation, Bhullar is all set to buy more animals so as to decrease his dependence on outside sources for manure.

Coordinator of the Chandigarh Farmers’ Market, Seema Jolly, who owns a five-acre farm in village Karoran in Punjab and grows vegetables,fruit, grains, oilseeds and pulses wants her farm to be a school for organic/natural farming, yoga and Ayurveda in the near future. One of the directors of the Baikunth Resorts Pvt Ltd, Jolly started organic farming in 2011 and there has been no looking back since then. “There is a certain joy in knowing that what you supply is not harming the consumer in any way,” she says. Instrumental in organising trips for school children to different farmers across Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, Jolly also helps small organic farmers with logistics and selling their produce. “The organic farmers market initiative, in July 2015 was a landmark in bringing relief to the marketing problems of organic farmers and encouraging more farmers to turn organic. Frankly, what is needed is small markets like these in all districts. It may take time, but people are bound to tilt towards organic if there is easy availability.”

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There are many people who own farms including Former National level hockey player Mohanjit Dhaliwal who has two farms. Pixabay

Former National level hockey player Mohanjit Dhaliwal who has two farms — one if Ropar and another in Fathegrah Sahib, the latter being part of permaculture food forest in ‘Sanjhi Mitti Food Forest Community’, has been involved in organic farmer for more than 10 years now. Talking about the roadblocks when it comes to shifting to organic, he feels, that the government’s policy of 100 per cent wheat paddy procurement has to change. “Farmers, who used to be entrepreneurs and solutions finders are now behaving like robots.Nothing is going to change unless policy makers get out of whole process.”

Besides holding regular workshops on permaculture which is attended by people from around the country, Dhaliwal, who is working on a forest therapy centre, adds, ” Our Eco library at the farm where anyone can read or borrow books on related subjects is quite a hit with both children and adults.”

Chandigarh-based Jyoti Arora, who supplies odour-free composters in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Chandigarh to houses, hotels, institutions, municipalities, and engages with Swachh Bharat teams of different municipalities, says, “I also do a lot of lecture demonstrations to sensitise people and encourage people to go green. In fact, my farming is a by product of the compost generated from my domestic waste in which the produce comes solely out of the compost.”

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Everything changed for Diksha Suri, a former corporate communications head with a major hospital chain when she spent time at Auroville in 2004. “Being there and learning from experts started a journey of a more conscious approach towards the living greens and browns. I attended formal workshops and started experimenting an organic way of living,” says Suri, who, along with a friend set up Chandigarh’s first Nature Club in 2012.

From organising organic farm visits, forest walks and fossil sites for children and their parents, Suri says that she has been able to make hundreds of children conscious about what they eat. “A lot of them are now at ease with composting, growing vegetables, identifying birds, and more than anything, being in sync with nature. We now regularly hold talks and workshops on organic farming, composting, waste management, across schools, colleges and corporate offices in the region.”

Chandigarh-based Rishi Miranshah, who has made the nine-part docu-series ‘The Story of Food – A No Fresh Carbon Footprint’ which is available to watch online on Films for Action website and YouTube says, “Considering what chemicals have been doing to our food and the need to switch to organic, it was important for me to make this documentary which is an investigation, tracing the trail of devastations bringing us to the point where we are today. Food being the thread that connects us to life; and the way we obtain our food being that connects us to a way of life, the movie begins by examining our agri-culture, our very relationship with the land.” (IANS)

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New Reforms and Alternative Markets Likely To Benefit Farmers

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New reforms will benefit farmers who are reeling under the Covid-19 crisis. Pixabay

The Modi government in order to double the income of farmers by 2022 announced a slew of measures last week, and it is widely expected that these reforms will benefit farmers who are reeling under the Covid-19 crisis. Post Coronavirus as state reopens farmers might benefit.

IANS spoke to Ashok Dalwai, chairman of the Committee for Doubling Farmers’ Income, on the issue of strategic reforms initiated by the government and their importance to the farm sector.

He said the alternative market provided to the farmers will give them more earning power. The reforms will unshackle the agriculture value chains by deregulating the essential commodity trade and introducing a Central law to ease inter-state farm trade, effectively overriding the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis that have shown resistance to change in the past.

“We are not ending the APMC, but reforming it. Till now APMC was regulated by the state governments, now the private sector can establish its own APMC which will give an alternative market to farmers,” Dalwai said.

He said the way the telecom sector provided options to the consumers to choose the operators of their choice, in the same way the private AMPC will give farmers the choice to sell their produce at a better price anywhere in India. “The proposed amendment to the Essential Commodities Act of 1955 will ensure seamless movement of farm produce not only inter-state, but also within the state. Anyone having a central license can buy and sell anywhere,” Dalwai said.

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Ashok Dalwai says Alternative markets might help corona struck farmers. Pixabay

Dalwai said many states have already adopted the reforms and more will join in the future. “The new law related to APMC will be definitely adopted by the state governments and the Centre will provide the framework for inter-state trade of agricultural produce. If a farmer in UP wants to sell his produce to a market in Karnataka, he does not need to go there. He can do so online. The way e-NAM works for APMC mandis, e-platform will work for such farmers.”

He said the amendment to the Essential Commodities Act has been initiated with the sole purpose to provide better prices to the farmers. The government has also decided to free certain categories of agricultural products such as cereals, pulses, oilseeds, onions, and potatoes from the government’s control and lend more predictability to even export policies.

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On the question of challenges due to Covid-19 with regard to doubling farmers’ income, Dalwai said, “The farmers have not been impacted due to the pandemic. There will be no problem in achieving the target of doubling farmers’ income by the year 2022.” (IANS)