Under PM crop insurance scheme, weather station to come up in every panchayat

The center will soon announce a plan under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) to establish weather stations, one in each panchayat, with a five-year buy-back guarantee of the rainfall and temperature data to be generated from those units. If the plan is implemented, there will be 1.75 thousand weather stations operating in the next two years without any capital expenditures.

“The states have agreed to provide land and other infrastructure related services. Both the private sector and the public sector, including the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) are expected to construct the facilities at their own costs. But, the center will spend around Rs 300 crore annually To purchase data from all weather stations across the country,” a source said.

Sources said the focus will be on covering all the 22 states which are/were a part of PMFBY for which about 1.75 meteorological stations need to be established as already in about 15,000 panchayats. The country has 2.69 lakh panchayats.

Data quality

The Quality Council of India (QCI) will be the supreme body for data quality control as all weather stations must comply with their standards. Besides, the government suggested that the instruments in the Automatic Rain Gauge (ARG) to be set up in the weather stations should be obtained from companies recognized by the National Accreditation Board of Certification Bodies (NABCB), the sources said.

The sources said that while weather stations at the panchayat level are expected to provide rainfall and temperature data, there will also be such facilities at mass levels which will additionally provide data on humidity, wind and frost. “The Weather Information Network Data System (WINDS) at the national level is now ready and will be linked to every weather station and ARG, when they start operating,” said the source.

An industry official, who has already set up weather stations and is waiting to join the government’s initiative, said the benefit of this data would be enormous at PMFBY as there is none now and everything is done manually. Often, even past data isn’t available, leaving insurers in a bind, he said.

Insurance companies

Due to high claims, more than the premium amount, at least six insurance companies have withdrawn from PMFBY since 2019-20. Insurers have claimed that the amount of claims is sometimes not supported by sufficient scientific and technical data to determine crop losses.

In order to reduce delays in estimating crop loss/damage and ensure timely settlement of claims by farmers, the Ministry of Agriculture in October 2022 set up two committees – one for national implementation of technology-based crop yield estimation and the other for standardization and improvement of weather data infrastructure.

For the 2020 autumn crops, harvested in October and December, more than 49 farmers in Madhya Pradesh received their crop insurance claims totaling ₹7,618 crore under PMFBY in February 2022 only after the state government finalized the crop data.

Under PMFBY, the balance premium is divided equally between the center and the states after farmers pay a flat premium—1.5 percent (of the sum insured) in the Rabi season, 2 percent in the fall and 5 percent for cash crops. The premium is arrived at based on quotes from insurance companies in a group. The center set premiums at 30 percent in non-irrigated areas, and 25 percent in irrigated areas.