Shiv Sena to protest against insurance companies, Congress calls it a ‘stunt’

Mumbai: To douse the growing anger of the farmers towards the state government over the implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, the Shiv Sena has decided to do some fire-fighting to show its concern over this issue. It has decided to organise a protest on July 17 against insurance companies, demanding the expeditious clearance of farmers’ insurance claims. Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray will lead this protest. The protest is against the Bharati Axa General Insurance company and will be staged at the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), said Anil Parab, a Sena legislator. It will be a warning to other insurance companies refusing to settle farmers’ claims, said Uddhav.

Though Reliance and Essar are among the big players who did not pay the claims of farmers, the Sena will first protest only against Bharati Axa General Insurance company. The company had been assigned the task of insuring rabi crops for 2018-19 in the state and 5,95,586 farmers had paid a total of Rs16.20 crore in premium to the company, with the sum insured being Rs1,033.87 crore. “If the warning doesn't work, we will talk to the insurance companies in the language of the Shiv Sena,” said Uddhav.

He also demanded that the banks publish the names of those farmers whose loans had been waived under the government’s scheme for the purpose. “Farmers march to Mumbai to highlight their grievances. This time, we are protesting for farmers, to show them we are with them,” he added. “We also demand an independent agriculture commission, with powers to deal with agriculture-related issues. The commission should be empowered to rectify loopholes in various schemes meant for this sector, since governments come and go but the official machinery remains the same,” he said. This was the suggestion of the renowned journalist, P Sainath.

Unpaid Claims

After Sainath exposed the scam in the crop insurance scheme, the issue drew national attention. He compared the scam to the Rafale deal. “The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) will end up being a bigger scam than the Rafale deal, in terms of free handouts to corporations. Already, since 2016, the central and state governments have together allocated over Rs66,000 crore to the crop insurance schemes. The payouts have come from the premiums given by the farmer, and by state and central governments -– and account for only a fraction of even those premiums, leaving huge sums of public money for the insurers,” Sainath had said, speaking to the media last year.

As per the figures, in Maharashtra, nearly 85 lakh farmers have insured their crops. Currently, there are more than one lakh farmers have been awaiting payment of their claims. The compensation of Rs19,063.31 crore under the PMFBY for kharif crop losses in 2018 is yet to be fully disbursed. The deadline for compensation to farmers, except for tur, was March 21, 2019, as per state government guidelines. Data obtained through an RTI application shows how only 54 of the over 2,000 revenue circles in the state received compensation, since Kharif 2016. Meanwhile, the Congress has termed the protest march by the Shiv Sena a stunt. “The Shiv Sena and the BJP have failed to ensure justice and timely help to farmers. To cover up their failures, they are now targeting crop insurance companies,” Ashok Chavan, the state Congress president lamented.

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