Centre mulling crop insurance scheme: Venkaiah Naidu

Bengaluru: BJP-led NDA government is mulling a crop insurance scheme as part of its policy to address problems plaguing farmers and the agriculture sector, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said on Sunday.

This was part of its thrust on four Is for the sector – irrigation, infrastructure, interest rate and insurance, he said.

“What is to be done is we need to go for agriculture crop income insurance… That is the need of the hour. So the government is looking into that,” he told PTI here.

The Minister, on a visit to a village on the outskirts of the city which he had adopted, earlier held a meeting with agricultural scientists at the University of Agricultural Sciences here.

He, however, said the Centre and the states should join hands to implement the insurance scheme because vast resources were required for it.

“Unless Centre and states join together in the scheme, it is not easy to implement because the resources required is vast and the sector is a challenging sector,” he said.

The Centre was going to give Rs 8,50,000 crore rupees, but that may not be sufficient, he added.

Government was also looking at ways to further reduce the interest rate on farm loans and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had been asked to look into it, he said.

“We are looking at reducing interest rates further… I had asked the Finance Minister to reduce the rates – he says unless the economic situation improves and growth rate increases… (it can’t be done),” he said.

On solving loan related problems in agricultural sector, Naidu said the Centre wants to reverse the trend of farmers availing loans from private moneylenders to financial institutions.

“The Wold Bank study says only 45 per cent of the farmers are getting loans from institutions. The remaining loans they are getting from private lenders, so we want to reverse that,” he said.

On farmer suicides, Naidu advised Opposition, especially

Congress, not to politicise the issue, but focus on solving problems.

“These suicides are not of recent happenings. They happened under Congress regime, they happened in NDA regime, and are also happening in BJP and Congress ruled states. So, let us not try to score political points,” he said.

He appealed to farmers not to take the extreme step as that would not solve their problems but only inflict more pain on their families.

The Minister rejected the idea of waiving farm loans saying it was a temporary solution.

Naidu said the first year of NDA government focused on revival of the economy with a thrust on infrastructure and this year it had decided to focus on agriculture, particularly irrigation.

“We held a meeting at the top level with the Prime Minister and Finance Minister, and we decided this year our focus should be on agriculture, particularly irrigation,” he said.

The Centre had allocated Rs 50,000 crore for irrigation, but this was not sufficient, he said, adding, there was also a need for spending more on Research and Development.

On Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Andhra to address farmers’ problems, Naidu said the approach of focusing on Telugu Desam-ruled state and ignoring Congress-ruled Karnataka would not help.

“Rahul Gandhi did not visit Karnataka. Naturally the inference is Andhra is ruled by Telugu Desam which is a non-Congress party. Karnataka is ruled by Congress. You don’t want to focus on that and you want to focus on Andhra. This approach is not going to help,” he said.

On former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda’s decision to launch a hunger strike on agrarian issue, Naidu said it should not be “politicised” because it would not solve the problems. Instead it would result in “one-upmanship”.

“I have no problem in Deve Gowdaji’s fast. That will not solve the problem – it may highlight the issue. Let us not make it political – the moment you make it political then ‘tu tu mai mai hoga’,” he said.

The Minister also stressed on the need for long-term initiatives instead of populist measures to address agrarian problems.

“What is happening is there is a general tendency among the governments… That they go for temporary populist measures. What is needed is long-term measures which would save agriculture and agriculturists,” he said.