Supreme Court’s decision to provide crop loss compensation is a huge relief for farmers.
The Supreme Court’s (SC) decision to reject Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Company’s appeal against the Bombay High Court’s order that it pay over 3.5 lakh farmers in Osmanabad for the loss of soybean crop due to heavy rain in 2020 under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) is a big relief for farmers who have to deal with unpredictable weather.
In May, the Bombay High Court told Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Company to give money to farmers in Osmanabad. The company argued that farmers who did not file claims within 72 hours of crop damage and went to SC cannot be paid compensation.
In the last few years, rains and hailstorms that happened out of season have caused a lot of damage to the Kharif and rabi crops. In December 2021, the State Grape Growers’ Association predicted that grape growers would lose ₹10,000 crores.
‘The unpredictable rains of the last couple of years have hurt mango, onion, grape, and all Kharif and rabi crops. It has rained on and off for almost the whole year,’ says a farmer from Sangli named Ashok Jadhav. Lata Waghmare from Beed says that farmers are under a lot of stress because the weather is so hard to predict.
Reports say that the Supreme Court talked about climate change on Monday, saying that these kinds of events (heavy rains) will happen more often as the climate changes. The Union Ministry of Agriculture admits that climate change is perceptible through a rise in all-India mean temperature and increased frequency of extreme rainfall events in the last three decades.
This makes the production of major crops change from year to year. Farmers in Maharashtra have been complaining that their insurance claims are being turned down, and farmers in Osmanabad have gone to Court to ask for money.
Observations by SC
The Supreme Court said that this was a different kind of insurance because the farmers’ crops, families, and everything else are at risk. A bench made up of Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and Justice S Ravindra Bhat told the government treasury in Osmanabad to get the ₹200 crores that the insurance company had deposited with the apex court’s registry, as well as the interest that had been added to it. The highest court said that the process of paying insurance compensation must be finished in three weeks, exactly as the law says, and under the watch of the District Collector.
Earlier, when telling the insurance company to pay the farmers, the High Court said that if the company didn’t pay, the State government should pay the farmers for their crop loss. If the insurance company doesn’t pay the amount, ‘the State government is directed to pay such claim for compensation for post-harvest loss caused to the soybean crop in Kharif season 2020 to the remaining 3,57,287 agriculturists of Osmanabad district within a period of six weeks,’ the High Court said.
The order came after a group of farmers asked the High Court to look into why their losses after harvesting weren’t covered by insurance. The High Court was also told that farmers in Osmanabad paid more than ₹500 crores to the insurance company as part of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana.
State’s own insurance company
At the request of farmers, the government of Maharashtra has been looking into the idea of starting its own crop insurance company. This idea came from the former Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar before a Shiv Sena revolt brought down the government.
The new government, which is led by the rebel leader of the Shiv Sena, Eknath Shinde, has not said what it thinks about the proposal.
(With help from PTI)