Farmers on hunger strike in Sambalpur due to non-payment of crop insurance

Insurance claims were to be paid nine months ago but insurer Reliance General Insurance Company did not accept the government report on crop loss

By Priya Ranjan Sahu
Published: Tuesday 22 October 2019

Farmers in Odisha’s Sambalpur district started an indefinite hunger strike on October 22, 2019, in front of the district collector’s office to protest against not having received their crop insurance claims.

The claims, under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana for crop loss during the 2018 Kharif season, were supposed to be handed to the farmers nine months ago. 

Farmers from 55 gram panchayats under Kuchinda sub-division of the district are participating in the hunger strike organised by the Sambalpur Zilla Krushak Surakshya Sangathan (SKZSS).

Every day, 200 farmers, including three women farmers from each gram panchayat, will participate in the hunger strike to protest the non-payment of their insurance claims.

“The protest will be peaceful and continue till the farmers get their rightful dues,” Ashok Pradhan, advisor to SKZSS, said.

The farmers of the Kuchinda sub-division have been on the warpath, albeit in a peaceful manner, since April on the issue. They have held demonstrations in front of the offices of Kuchinda sub-collector and Sambalpur collector.

On September 11, the farmers organised a complete shutdown in the sub-division, while on September 30, over 10,000 farmers, half of them women, blocked the railway tracks along 22 kilometres between Bamra and Sagra railway stations.

The non-payment of insurance claims affects more than 12,000 farmers of the sub-division who had lost their crops to drought in 2018. The crop-cutting report of the agriculture department too confirmed crop loss due to drought in villages in the 55 gram panchayats of Kuchinda.

According to the crop-cutting report, the farmers’ insurance claims amount to over Rs 160 crore. The amount should have reached the farmers’ bank accounts 45 days after the submission of the crop-cutting report.  

However, the insurer, Reliance General Insurance Co, has not yet deposited the claims money. “The insurance company is not accepting the crop cutting report of the administration,” Sambalpur deputy director of agriculture Khageswar Jena, said.

District administration officials said that after the company disputed the crop-cutting report, the Sambalpur collector convened a meeting to sort out the matter but it failed as the insurance company stood its ground.

“The collector sent the file to the state government with his approval of the crop-cutting report. However, as the matter could not be solved at even at the chief secretary level, the state government has referred it to the central government for its consideration,” a district administration official said.

The Mahalanobis National Crop Forecast Centre of the Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers’ Welfare may initiate further inquiry into the matter, they said.

Officials said that on its part, the insurance company had reportedly allocated around Rs 35 crore to be paid to farmers of 39 gram panchayats.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had described the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana as a ‘historic’ scheme for farmers while addressing peasants in Odisha’s Bargarh district in 2015. The insurance scheme was later formally launched in January 2016.

However, there have been several reports of problems between insurers and farmers in Odisha.

In July, thousands of farmers of drought-prone Padampur sub-division of Bargarh had held a demonstration in front of the collector’s office to protest against Reliance General Insurance Company’s alleged delaying tactics in the payment of insurance claims against crop loss.

In September, farmers of Ganjam district had protested as an insurance company had paid insurance claims to a smaller number of claimants while denying it to others who had suffered crop losses due to Cyclone Titli in 2018.

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