Only then can PMFBY claims be made quickly
With the compensation to farmers often getting delayed, the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), although a much better conceived crop insurance scheme than its predecessors, isn’t as effective as it could be. The use of mobile-based technology and drones, could, according to agriculture economist, Ashok Gulati, make a big difference to the scheme’s efficiency in terms of smartly assessing the yield of the crop. Since drones can flow at low levels, the data can be captured with much greater accuracy. Covering the entire country, according to Gulati, with automatic weather stations and rainfall data loggers, for instance, would cost the government less than Rs 1,500 crore. Making the scheme more efficient would mean saving the government—the states and the Centre—thousands of crores in terms of loan waivers. Karnataka, for example, is already using mobile phones to conduct crop cutting experiments (CCE). Moreover, if satellite images were to be used to identify the farm land where the CCEs are to be conducted, the entire process would be far more transparent. The problem is that unless, the insurance companies receive the data on the CCE quickly, the farmers claims are held up.
Also Gulati points out, the insurance companies aren’t receiving the subsidies from the state and central governments fast enough, which, in turn, appears to be delaying the settlement of claims. In fact, it is possible the insurance companies may quote lower actuarial premium rates if they were assured the subsidies would be released without delays. Prompt action by some state governments such as the one in Tamil Nadu, for instance, have made the scheme a success. The yield data from the CCE for the rabi crop of 2016-17—a drought year—was given to the insurance companies in time and, moreover, the state government also released the subsidies fast. Consequently, the farmers received their settlements even though, because of the drought, the premium-to-claims ratio was high at 1.96.
While the use of mobile-based technology can speed up the process of data collection, Gulati asserts that digitising land records and linking them with farmers’ accounts will help speed up assessments of the damage to the crop and, in turn, the settlements of the claims. Karnataka has created the all-encompassing Samrakshane portal for the process—from notification to payments, including the compensation details. The state has seen an increase in the number of experiments to nearly 85,200 in the kharif of 2017 from around 74,250 in the kharif of 2016 under the earlier scheme. To ensure that there are no delays in the compensation to farmers, resulting from objections by the insurance companies on the quality of the CCE data, provided by the government, the insurance companies have been asked to participate in the CCE and to raise queries on the mobile phone platform itself. In fact, the Samrakshane site provides farmer-specific information on claims, including the farmer’s Aadhaar number and account number.