Correction: An earlier version of this article described the difference between premiums received and compensation paid in a financial year as profit. We regret the error.
New Delhi: The prime minister’s crop insurance scheme ended up being a goldmine for ten private insurance companies in just two years, with the difference between premiums received and compensation paid at nearly Rs 16,000 crore in just two years.
The scheme also failed to enthuse farmers. In just four BJP-ruled states, over 84 lakh farmers exited the scheme after just a year. This information has been obtained by an activist through Right to Information appeals.
The applications were filed by Haryana-based RTI activist P.P. Kapoor on September 12 with the ministry of agriculture. Charging that the crop insurance scheme was a major scam, Kapoor said while the scheme was meant to benefit farmers, it had ended up as a money maker for private insurance companies.
He said the replies received from the ministry on October 14 were proof enough that farmers have realised that the scheme is not meant for their benefit. “As many as 2.90 lakh farmers exited the scheme in Madhya Pradesh, 31.25 lakh in Rajasthan, 19.47 lakh in Maharashtra and 14.69 lakh in Uttar Pradesh,” he said.
In the year 2016-17, he said, 5,72,17,159 farmers had joined the scheme. The following year, only 487,70,515 remained in the scheme. This indicated that 84.47 lakh farmers had exited it. So over 68 lakh farmers exited the scheme in these four BJP-ruled states.
Insurance companies reduced compensation payments
In 2016-17, these companies paid a compensation of Rs 17,902.47 crore, and the difference between the premiums received and compensation paid was Rs 6459.64 crore. In 2017-18, they paid over Rs 2,000 crore less in compensation. The outgo in compensation during 2017-18 stood at just Rs 15,710.25 crore.
This meant that while the number of farmers covered under the scheme decreased, the profit of the insurance companies increased greatly, said Kapoor. He said, “The scheme was a big flop. Instead of allowing the insurance companies to make huge profits, the Centre should have devised mechanisms to compensate the farmers directly as these would have benefited them more.”
The ministry, in its replies, also revealed that along with the government-owned Agriculture Insurance Company (AIC) of India, ten private insurance companies were involved with the Prime Minister’s Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) scheme over a two-year period.
In its reply, the ministry had stated that the 2017-18 yearly data includes both kharif 2017 and rabi 2017-18. It added that “majority claims for Rabi 2017-18 are yet to be estimated / approved by company”. This amount, if and when released, would reduce the gains to the insurance companies.
Also, experts have pointed out that the difference between the premium received and the claims paid does not constitute a clear-cut profit for a company as a lot of operational expenses are also involved.
They also insist that farmers lost little in the bargain as they had paid only about 2% of the premium, with the Centre and the respective state government contributing the rest.
AIC made gains in first year, yet did not do business in the second
In the year 2016-17, AIC alone earned a premium of Rs 7984.56 crore by insuring the crops of 246,83,612 farmers in 21 states. Out of this, it paid a total compensation of Rs 5373.96 crore.
However, in 2017-18, the government-owned company did not remain in the crop insurance business. “At whose instance was this profit-making company asked to step aside? Was it only asked to not take any premiums so that the private players could make a killing?” Kapoor asked.
Gains of private insurers swelled in the second year
During these two years, RTI replies revealed, a total premium of Rs 49,408 crore was paid to the insurance firms for crop insurance on behalf of 10.6 lakh farmers. A sum of Rs 33612.72 crore was paid out of this to 4.27 crore farmers in compensation. The difference between the premium received and compensation paid was Rs 15,795.26 crore, and the activist alleges that most of this money was pocketed by the 10 private insurance companies.
The ten private sector companies which had been allowed to cover crops were ICICI Lombard, Reliance, Tata-AIG, Universal, Bajaj Alliance, Future, SBI, HDFC, IFFCO-TOKIO and Cholamandalam.
Among the states, the data revealed that in Uttar Pradesh, the number of farmers insured in 2016-17 was 67.69 lakh but fell the next year to 53 lakh. Surprisingly, despite the fewer insurance policies, the difference between premiums received and compensation paid rose sharply from Rs 548.94 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 1046.81 crore the following year.
In Madhya Pradesh, the insurance companies had insured over 71.81 lakh farmers in 2016-17 – and the difference between premiums received and compensation paid was Rs 1,862.32 crore. The following year, over 2.90 lakh fewer farmers insured their crops and the difference between premiums received and compensation paid for these companies plummeted to just Rs 39.21 crore.
In Maharashtra, nearly 1.20 crore farmers were insured in 2016-17 and the difference between premiums received and compensation paid was Rs 2,424.23 crore for the year. In 2017-18, only about one crore farmers were insured. The difference between premiums received and compensation paid was Rs 1617.94 crore.
Gujarat was probably the only state where the number of farmers who insured their crops increased during these two years. In 2016-17, the figure was 5.20 lakh but it grew exponentially to over 17.63 lakh the following year. Simultaneously, the difference between premiums received and compensation paid also shot up by nearly 5000% from Rs 40.07 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 2,222.58 crore in 2017-18.
The period also saw the number of farmers insuring their crops rising in Haryana. While 13.36 lakh farmers had insured their cops in 2016-17, as many as 13.51 lakh got them insured the next year. The difference between premiums received and compensation paid rose even more sharply from 71.83 crore to Rs 95 crore in these two years.
Another state which saw an increase in the gains of insurers during the period was West Bengal. Here the number of farmers who insured their crops in 2016-17 was 41.33 and this reduced by around 2.23 lakh to touch 39.09 lakh the following year. However, the difference between premiums received and compensation paid rose from Rs 321.26 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 547.87 crore in 2017-18.