In July 2017, on account of uncontrolled floods in the State of Gujarat, crops of many farmers were destroyed. A scheme was launched by the Government of India that is Prime Minister Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) in which the farmers who were registered under this scheme were entitled to compensation.
When the compensation was not paid even after making several representations then a petition was filed under Article 226 of the constitution wherein 10 petitioners approached Gujarat High Court praying for appropriate directions to the contesting respondent authorities, i.e. SBI General Insurance Company Limited and the State authorities as also the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India, to ensure that the petitioners are paid their insurance amount covered for crop losses occurred for the Kharif Season 2017 under the Prime Minister Fasal Bima Yojana.
All the petitioners are registered under Prime Minister Fasal Bima Yojana and were entitled to compensation but as the same was not being paid, they made repeated representations which all went in vain. As such, they were compelled to file this petition.
In an order dated 13th December 2018, the respondents were issued the notice after which they appeared and file response to the same. By order dated 23rd January 2020, after recording the status as indicated by Shri Mihir Joshi, learned Senior Counsel appearing for the respondent Insurance Company, the court had granted time to the learned counsel for the petitioner to provide the necessary information in order to substantiate his claim.
Thereafter, on 3rd February 2020, Shri Joshi, learned Senior Counsel appearing for the respondent- Insurance Company handed over 4 Demand Drafts with respect to ex-gratia claim of petitioner Nos. 2, 5, 7, and 8. With regard to the others, learned counsel for the petitioner had filed an additional affidavit which was taken on record. Shri Joshi had prayed for some time to examine the facts stated in the additional affidavit.
The court’s concern in this matter was that “farmers who had lost their crops on account of floods in July 2017 and who claimed to be covered under the PMFBY had not been paid their due compensation till 2020. Further, in case they were not covered under the Scheme or not entitled to any compensation for any reason they ought to have been informed. It is of concern that these poor farmers who suffered the loss of their crops whether or not were entitled to compensation were compelled to approach this Court for an adjudication whether they are entitled or not.”
The court took into consideration that “lock-down had crippled the entire working in all sectors. However, since May 2020, gradually things had started opening up. Now, at present, we are governed by Unlock-4 issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.”
The court said “As substantial time has elapsed in the meantime and we are not aware as to what developments had taken place with regard to payment of compensation to all the petitioners, we mention all the petitioners because the amount paid to some of the petitioners is only ex-gratia amount and not the entire amount to which the petitioners may be entitled under the insurance cover. We are not saying that all the petitioners are entitled but what troubles us is that compensation is to be paid to the farmer who has suffered crop losses in 2017 and is covered under the PMFBY, is not paid even after about 3 years.”
The court further said “There is a huge correspondence between the State, the Insurance Companies, and the representatives of the Central Government. However, things have not been sorted out so far.”
At last, the court said “we only request the State authorities, Secretary, Agriculture and Cooperation Department (respondent No.5) to carry out an exercise and ensure as to whether not only the petitioners who are poor farmers but the other farmers covered under the Scheme have or have not been paid their due compensation and any such issue which may arise inter se the insurance company, the State and the farmers, may be resolved at the earliest. We may record here that according to Shri Joshi, learned Senior Counsel, a substantial amount of compensation had already been released. However, the officers of the Insurance Company would also extend all cooperation in the exercise that may be taken to sort out the issues.”
This request was made on 7th October 2020 by the Gujarat High Court and the bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Ashutosh J. Shastri gave three months' time to respondent No.5 to get the entire exercise carried out and ensure that the farmers do not suffer if they are otherwise entitled.
The matter is next listed to be heard on 11-01-2021.