No insurance net to horticulture growers stokes farm suicides
With no insurance cover for horticulture farmers under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) or the Restructured Weather based Crop Insurance Scheme (RWBCIS) in the 2016-17 farm year, the farmer suicides version 2017 in Odisha signals a paradigm shift in the State’s deepening of farm crisis to the worse when most farmers killed self recently for losses in horticulture crops unlike the case in 2015 when most suicides were by the paddy farmers.
According to a notification issued by Agriculture Department, the crops notified for insurance cover in 2016-17 are primarily paddy and cash crops like groundnut, cotton, turmeric and ginger. But the current farm crisis engulfing the State is triggered by the price crash in horticulture crops like tomato, potato, cabbage and chilly, and the loaned farmers visualising turmoil days ahead called it quits from life.
Significantly, many States like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Uttarakhand and Maharashtra have, respectively, notified insurance cover to major horticulture crops grown in their States. But Odisha failed to extend the insurance scheme to even potato in 2016-17 despite the State launching the State Potato Mission with much fanfare.
A top official in the State Agriculture department confided that since Odisha is a major producer of vegetables like tomato, cabbage/cauliflower and chilly in the country, these horticulture crops should have been brought under the insurance net but for the failure of enhancing the required matching State share under PMFBY or WBCIS in the Budget 2016-17. Even, the 2017-18 Budget’s provisioned amount for insurance grant is not sufficient to bring the major horticulture crops under insurance net in the State this farm season.
As per the data available with the Agriculture Department, in the farm season 2016-17 the State could bring a mere around 13 lakh hectare or only around 25 per cent of the gross cropped area under the insurance cover, which is down from around 33 per cent in 2014-15. In contrast, farm suicide-hit States like Karnataka saw increase in insurance cover to around 26 per cent in 2016-17 from mere 12 per cent in 2014-15; Maharashtra from 22 per cent to 30 per cent in 2016-17 and Madhya Pradesh from 45 per cent to over 57 per cent of gross cropped area in 2016-17.
Interestingly, the 2017 version of farmer suicides could have been entirely avoidable in the State had the major horticulture crops grown in the State have been brought under insurance net as both the PMFBY and RWBCIS have been made mandatory for all loaned farmers. And, the farmers who took the extreme step of killing self did so worrying repayment of huge loan burden over their heads.
The notable fact in the above context is when Odisha has around 45 lakh farmer households, where nearly 25 lakh households are indebted as identified by the National Sample Survey, a mere 18 lakh farmers have been insured in 2016-17, reveals the data with the Agriculture Department.
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