The agriculture ministry will set up 8,000 automatic weather stations (AWSs) and around 0.2 million rain gauges (RGs) in collaboration with India Meteorological Department (IMD) and private entities. The move will help in assessment of crop yields for settlement of claims under the revamped Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY).

An official told FE that currently 13,000 AWSs which record the weather parameters like rainfall, temperature, humidity, wind speed, solar radiation, etc. are in operation at the blocks levels. These facilities are owned by entities, including IMD, Skymet, National Commodities Management Services and others.

More than 18,000 rain gauges, which capture rainfall in the given time frame, are mostly located at the gram panchayat level.

“Currently, we are carrying out geo-referencing of these AWSs and RGs for identification of gap in the location of these facilities entities and will be asked to set up additional facilities, keeping into consideration those states which are currently implementing the crop insurance scheme, an official said. These facilities will be set up over the next few years.

Weather information network and data system (WINDS), under the revamped crop insurance scheme, aims at creating a national-level network of automatic weather stations and rain gauges and creating a platform for generation of long-term hyper local weather data information for crop insurance , agriculture advisory and disaster risk resilience needs.

WINDS committee has representations from institutions, including Mahalanobis National Crop Forecast Centre, Indian Space Research Organisation, Indian Council for Agricultural Research and IMD.

According to an agriculture ministry advisory to the states, WINDS will be set up with the private sector participating on the basis of ‘data subscription’ model. Data from these AWSs or RGs will be directly sent to the national portal on crop insurance and entities setting up these facilities could supply the same data to others as well.

In the revamped the PMFBY to be implemented from Kharif 2023 season, thrust is being given for the use of artificial intelligence (AI) based technologies for timely assessment of crop yield data and resultant quicker claim settlement.

The weather data from these stations will be integrated on a single platform — national crop insurance portal — which will be used by the respective state governments for crop insurance, sowing, cropping, harvesting and advisories to the farmers.

The new guidelines for revamped crop insurance scheme seeks to “universalize” the scheme, with measures including digitized land records, farm level season-wise crop data, farm-level farmer’s KYC and application program interface (API) based data exchange.

The coverage under the scheme implemented by around 10 state-owned and private insurance companies has been around 30% of the gross cropped area of ​​the 20 states and UTs which are implementing it. In 2021-22, 83 million farmers had applied for crop insurance and 45.9 million hectares were covered.

States such as Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Gujarat had dropped out of the scheme because of the high costs. Andhra Pradesh has rejoined the scheme from the Kharif 2022 season and Punjab will be joining the scheme from Kharif 2023.

Under PMFBY, the premium to be paid by farmers is fixed at just 1.5% of the sum insured for rabi crops and 2% for kharif crops, while it is 5% for cash crops. The balance premium is equally shared among the Center and states and in the case of North-Eastern states, the premium is divided between the Center and states in a ratio of 9:1.

The government has allocated Rs 13,625 crore for implementation of PMFBY in 2023-24.

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