‘Distressed’ Odisha farmers threaten to observe August 15 as ‘black day’

While farmers continue to suffer due to delay in insurance claim settlements, the State government and the insurance companies pass the buck onto each other

Bhubaneswar: Alleging incessant delay in getting crop insurance claims, Odisha farmers have threatened to observe August 15 as ‘black day’ if the government fails to disburse the due amount by then. It is being alleged that insurance companies are blatantly cheating farmers across the State, especially in districts like Bargarh, Balasore and Ganjam among others.

Surprisingly, farmers of 12 panchayats in Rangeilunda of Ganjam district are yet to get their insurance claims for their crops damaged in cyclone Titli that had hit Odisha coast in October last year. “Crops were damaged in around 12-13 panchayats. The insurance company had come for inspection and did carry out damage assessment in the region, but we are yet to get even a single penny,” said a farmer in Rangeilunda, Sudarshan Patro.

Another farmer, Lingaraj Pradhan in Padampur of Bargarh district said: “As we have deposited the premium, we must get the insurance amount. It is our right. Hence, we have decided to hoist black flag on August 15. We demand our freedom, our rights and we will continue our fight till for our rights.”

As per the data provided by the State Agriculture Minister in Odisha Assembly, enrollment of a total of 4,80,509 farmers was done for the Kharif season. Meanwhile, there are reports that the total acreage of insured land has topped the total acreage of actual agricultural land at some places because several members of a single family have insured the same piece of land. For instance, a farmer of Nuapada, Chudamani Putel has a total of 6.176 hectare of land but 20.884 hectare of land has been insured in his name.

The insurance companies have reportedly apprised the State government about such cases of ‘cheating’ at some places. However, both the government and the insurance firms are blaming each over for the delay in release of insurance claims. “… Mass irregularities are to be brought to the notice of the central government. Why are the companies taking data after crop cutting? Why aren’t they taking the data during crop standing period?” Minister for Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare, Ranendra Pratap Swain questioned.

Speaking on the issue, General Manager of Agriculture Insurance Company Limited, Dasrathi Singh said the records of the area under cultivation should be with the panchayat offices; however, they have no data. “We are asking for the data related to different types of crops grown on the total land, but the government doesn’t have concrete data,” said Singh.

A total of five insurance companies have signed contracts with the State government for crop insurance. However, several farmers are yet to get their crop insurance claims for the year 2017 and 2018. With such delay stoking resentment among farmers in the State, they have started taking to the streets. Last week, farmers of Bargarh district gheroaed the sub-collectors’s office at Padampur protesting the delay in getting crop insurance.