the Union government has withheld payment of claims worth about Rs 285 crore, filed by Karnataka's farmers under the National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (nais). The authorities have cleared only a fraction of the state's crop insurance claims that amount to Rs 310 crore. Nodal implementing agency General Insurance Corporation of India (gic) has instituted a probe to ascertain the authenticity of the unprecedented flood of applications. It has indicated that claims up to Rs 70 crore might be fraudulent and would, therefore, be rejected.
The number of farmers opting for crop insurance has been rising rapidly in Karnataka ever since nais was launched in the state in 2000. It was 3.8 lakh in 2000-2001, and swelled to 6.7 lakh in the subsequent year. However, it is the disproportionate spurt in claims that has come under the scanner. "In kharif 2001, we carried out an investigation and reduced the claims amount by Rs 14 crore," reveals a gic official.
Despite this the gap between premium paid and claims submitted increased dramatically in the 2002 kharif season. During this period 8.8 lakh farmers chose to get insurance cover, paying a premium of Rs 38.92 crore -- a sum nowhere near the claims of Rs 310 crore. The claim amount of Rs 285 crore which is currently being investigated pertains to paddy, maize, groundnut, potato and onion crops.
An official in the crop insurance section of the state agriculture department discloses: "Farmers may make fake claims about the extent of area in which crop is sown, or even produce false certificates to prove that they are cultivating notified crops."
The gic official conjectures: "There appears to be a lot of collusion on the ground." But Nanje Gowda, former state minister and currently adviser to local farmers' associations, is not in favour of drastic action. "Whatever be the case, this scheme should continue," he avers.