Bihar mulling embracing Centre’s crop insurance scheme after Jharkhand, Telangana rejoin PMFBY

The number of States that implement the Centre’s flagship crop insurance scheme PMFBY may jump to 22 as Jharkhand and Telangana are likely to start enrolment for the ensuing kharif season. While discussions with Bihar is at an advanced stage for its return, Gujarat is yet to make up its mind.

“We are hopeful of Jharkhand and Telangana to start enrolment for this kharif, Bihar may not be able to do even if it decides to rejoin as very little time is left,” said an official source. Jharkhand decided to rejoin the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) last year while Telangana conveyed its decision this February after new government was formed.

For the kharif 2024 season, enrolment under PMFBY has started only in Himachal Pradesh even as 20 days have passed. The normal enrolment for kharif starts from April 1 and ends on July 31, but the period varies from state to state and at times even from crop to crop. The premium rates need to be fixed before April 1, as per guidelines, but it is not followed by States.

“PMFBY is a non-political scheme aimed at gradual shifting towards real insurance as previously it was compensation-based models. Crop insurance will take more years to mature in India as farmers’ welfare remain core to the policy making in the government and benefits for small and marginal farmers are always accorded priority,” said a top official of a private insurance firm.

Stakeholder consultations

He also said that after West Bengal, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh introduced universal coverage, insuring all farmers by default, and the token ₹1 premium as farmer share introduced by Maharashtra and Odisha in 2023, the Centre is also consulting with stakeholders if there is a feasibility to make PMFBY universal for small and marginal farmers, owning up to 2 hectares of land.

Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Jharkhand had quit PMFBY in 2020 while West Bengal and Bihar exited the scheme before. Punjab never implemented the scheme as it does not see PMFBY beneficial for the farmers amid 100 per cent irrigation, mainly from groundwater.

Experts said that Gujarat’s exit from the scheme points to something wrong with PMFBY as it was launched in 2016 after Narendra Modi became the prime minister. Unless the Centre addresses those concerns of Gujarat and ensures its return, the scheme may not be attractive, said a former top official of the agriculture ministry and added: “at the best it could be compulsion for a state without any viable alternative.”

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