Highest-ever drought aid sanctioned to Odisha: Union minister

Bhubaneswar: Union minister of state for Agriculture Mohanbhai Kundaria on Thursday claimed that the BJP-led NDA government had sanctioned the highest-ever drought assistance to Odisha as compared to previous governments at the Centre.

“The state government had submitted a memorandum seeking about Rs 2200 crore for drought assistance and the Centre has sanctioned Rs 815 crore. Compared to the previous Congress-led UPA government at the Centre which had sanctioned nor more than 5 percent of calamity assistance to the Odisha government, the present BJP government has sanctioned about 35 percent assistance to the state,” he said in a press briefing at the BJP headquarters here.

Stating that the Centre had formulated a series of productive schemes for the farmers, Kundaria said the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, recently launched by the Prime Minister, is an inspirational scheme for the farmers.

The new scheme will help ease the burden of premiums on farmers who take loans for cultivation. The new crop insurance scheme will have a rebated premium rate on the principal sum insured. The Union cabinet has also decided to make the settlement of insurance claim faster and easier so that the farmers do not face any trouble in getting their crop insurance dues.

The new insurance scheme will be implemented with a budget allocation of Rs 17,600 crore throughout the country from the next Kharif season of crop harvesting in June while the insurance burden will be collectively taken by the Centre and the state governments, the Union minister said.

He said prior to this new scheme, National Agriculture Insurance Scheme (NIAS) was launched in the country in 1999.

“But there were some loopholes in that scheme. It was implemented only in 14 states of India. The insurance settlements were handled by the insurance company named Agriculture Insurance Company of India Ltd (AIC). Under NIAS, the insurance premium rates were 1.5 % to 3.5 % of the total sum assured for food crops like pulses, oilseeds, cereals, etc. But for commercial crops like cotton and horticultural crops, actuarial premium rates were charged. To overcome the lacunae, our government has launched this new crop insurance scheme by making some alterations in the existing scheme,” he pointed out.

He said under the new scheme, the premium rates will be discounted from the existing rates for all types of crops: Kharif crops, Rabi crops, horticulture crops and commercial crops. The premium will be 2% of the sum insured for Kharif season crops and 1.5 % for Rabi season crops. The rates will also be applicable for oilseeds. The premium rates for commercial crops like cotton and other horticultural crops will be 5% of the insurance sum assured.

“At present, only those farmers who have taken loans from the government for their cultivation are eligible for insurance of their crops. But under the new scheme, all farmers will be eligible for the new crop insurance scheme. The insurance plan will be handled under a single insurance company, AIC and the entire insurance process, right from joining of farmers to disbursement of claim, is to be done electronically to make it transparent and effective,” Kundaria said.

He also said the Centre had also launched Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana with an outlay of Rs 50,000 crores for a period of 5 years (2015-16 to 2019-20) to achieve convergence of investments in irrigation at the field level,” he added.

The Union minister further said though the Yojana has included eight districts of Odisha, the state government is yet to submit a status report on the implementation of the Yojana.

The Centre has also stressed on organic farming for better and quality crop production with minimum investment and introduction of Soil Health Cards to 14 crore farmers in two years to examine the soil quality of their land and determine the types of crops to be grown for more productivity.

Senior party leaders of Odisha, including state present Basant Panda and Sajjan Sharma, were present at the press conference.