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Nature's whims, lack of crop insurance dash farmers' dreams of a better morrow

DECCAN CHRONICLE | G. Ram Mohan

Published on: May 5, 2023 | Updated on: May 5, 2023

"CM KCR garu visited Rangapur village in Duggondi mandal and promised to provide Rs 10,000 per acre compensation, but we have yet to receive a single rupee. Local agriculture authorities came to our village and stated they had informed higher officials, said M. Peerayya, a farmer from Vanchanagiri village in Geesukonda mandal. (Representative image: Twitter)

Hyderabad: The state government's much-touted election slogan is "Ab ki baar kisan Sarkar", but the reality of the situation of state farmers is quite different, especially after unseasonal rains, hailstorms, and gusty winds have wreaked havoc on their lives, pushing them into deep trouble, and a lack of crop insurance scheme has made matters worse.

 A group of farmers who attended a round-table conference, 'Natural disasters, crop loss, and need for crop insurance,’ held in the city depicts the anguish of farmers whose hopes of reaping a bumper crop were shattered by unseasonal rains and subsequently fleeced by money lenders.

K. Ramulu, a farmer from Chinchughar in Adilabad Rural mandal, revealed that five acres of his 19-acre agricultural land had witnessed soil erosion in recent years. The erosion was caused by a check dam that flooded due to severe rains. "I suffered a loss of Rs 35,000 per acre of cotton crop. I borrowed Rs 1,50,000 from money lenders. Complaints to the agriculture department officials have so far had no results," Ramulu remarked.

Ramulu is not alone; several other farmers' stories paint a bleak picture with little or no assistance from the agriculture department. M. Peerayya, a farmer from Vanchanagiri village in Geesukonda mandal, informed this correspondent that the heavy rains and hailstorms in March devastated his maize harvest, which had been cultivated on more than seven acres of land.

"I lost a maize crop grown on seven acres of land. The investment per acre is Rs 30,000, and after deducting the Rs 35,000 I received through the Rythu Bandhu scheme, I lost Rs 1.75 lakh. CM KCR garu visited Rangapur village in Duggondi mandal and promised to provide Rs 10,000 per acre compensation, but we have yet to receive a single rupee. Local agriculture authorities came to our village and stated they had informed higher officials," said Peerayya.

Telangana is the only state without a crop insurance policy, whereas Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Gujarat, and Jharkhand have their own insurance schemes after exiting the centrally sponsored schemes. The state government claimed that the PMFBY (Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana) and WBCIS (Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme) have shortcomings whereas farmers claim that the schemes were not properly implemented by the State government and that it is not entirely true that the schemes did not benefit farmers at all.

Between 2016 and 2020, the state government paid Rs 849 crore and farmers paid Rs 681 crore for these insurance schemes. They total Rs 1,530 crore, significantly more than the Rs 1,817 crore farmers received over the four-year period.

According to farm activists, by opting out of the insurance schemes, the state has lost an opportunity to leverage central support.  The challenges caused by a lack of crop insurance have been becoming more apparent in the last three years as climate change and the vagaries of the monsoon have made crop insurance and disaster relief schemes essential for farmers and the sustainability of agriculture itself.

Farmers like K. Lakshman, from Yapalaguda in Adilabad Rural mandal, who has four acres, together with 13 others moved the High Court against the state government for losses they sustained in July 2022, but to no avail. "The local agriculture officials had visited our fields then after we approached our sarpanch for some remedy to the losses, but they said they are helpless as they don't have any orders from the government," farmer Lakshman remarked with anguish. After the court issued orders to verify the losses, the State government in its affidavit denied crop losses but admitted that there has been soil erosion, which a farmer's volunteer questioned.

With no support from the state government in sight and no crop insurance scheme, the farmers are trapped in the relentless grip of money leaders, their fate sealed in the ever-changing climate, their crops lost to the whims of nature.