Government Schemes Current Affairs
Union Government has opened new series of sovereign gold bonds scheme for subscription. Under this scheme, sovereign gold bonds will be issued every month from October 2018 to February 2019. This bond will be sold through Stock Holding Corporation of India Limited, Post Office, Stock Exchange (NSE and BSE).
Sovereign Gold Bond (SGB) Scheme
It is aimed at providing alternative to buying physical gold. Under it, bonds are denominated in units of one gram of gold and multiples thereof. These gold denominated bonds are restricted for sale to resident Indian entities, including individuals, Hindu undivided families (HUF), trusts, universities and charitable institutions.
The minimum subscription for individual and HUF is 1 gram and maximum is 4 kg. For trusts and similar entities, maximum subscription is 20 kg per fiscal. Price of bond is fixed in rupees on basis of simple average of closing price of gold of 999 purity published by India Bullion and Jewellers Association Limited for last 3 working days of week preceding the subscription period.
The tenor of SGB bonds is 8 years with provision of premature cancellation after 5 years on interest payment dates. Investors in SGB bonds have been provided with option of holding them in physical or dematerialised form. RBI has notified rate of interest of 2.50% per annum on SGB bonds is payable on half yearly basis.
The bonds can be used as collateral for loans and loan-to-value ratio is set equal to ordinary gold loan mandated by RBI from time to time. Individual investing in it are exempted from capital gains tax arising on redemption of SGB. The indexation benefits are also provided to long-term capital gains arising to any person on transfer of bond.
Union Government has decided to cover damages to crops in wild animal attacks under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna in select districts on an experimental basis. In this regard, Government has amended provisions of crop insurance scheme in consultation with various stakeholders after review of its working for the last two years. The amended provisions of the scheme have been implemented from October 2018.
Government has brought certain horticultural crops under ambit of PMFBY on experimental basis. Damages due to individual fields due to incidents of localised disasters like water logging, land slide, cloud bursts, hailstorms and fire too are brought under scheme. Henceforth, insurances firms will also have to spend 0.5% of their earnings from annual premium to advertise provisions of the scheme.
The amended provisions of the scheme also stipulate fines in cases of delay in clearing insurance claims for crop damages. In case firm delays insurance clearances beyond two months, it will have to pay an annual interest of 12%. Similarly State government too will have to pay interest of 12% in case of delay in release of state’s share of subsidy in premium to insurance firms.
Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)
It is farmers’ welfare scheme launched in 2016 to ensure faster insurance services or reliefs to farmers. It aims to reduce the premium burden on farmers and ensure early settlement of crop assurance claim for the full insured sum. It had replaced earlier two schemes National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (MNAIS) and Modified National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (MNAIS) by incorporating their best features and removing their inherent drawbacks (shortcomings).
Objectives of PMFBY
- Provide insurance coverage and financial support to farmers in event of natural calamities, pests & diseases.
- Stabilise income of farmers to ensure their continuance in farming.
- Ensure flow of credit to the agriculture sector.
- Encourage farmers to adopt innovative and modern agricultural practices.
It includes all farmers growing notified crops in notified area during season who have insurable interest in crop are eligible. It also provides insurance benefits to landless labourers. It is also compulsory for loanee farmers availing crop loans for notified crops in notified areas and voluntary for non-loanee farmers.
Key Features of Scheme
Under this scheme, farmers need to pay uniform premium of only 2% for all Kharif crops and 1.5% for all Rabi crops. In case of annual commercial and horticultural crops, farmers have to pay premium of only 5%. The premium rates are to be paid by farmers are very low and balance premium will be paid by Government. Moreover, there is no upper limit on Government subsidy, so farmers will get claim against full sum insured without any reduction. The scheme also covers yield losses due to non-preventable risks, such as natural fire and lightning, storm, stailstorm, cyclone, typhoon, tempest, hurricane, tornado. It also covers risks due to flood, inundation and landslide, drought, dry spells, pests and diseases. It also covers post-harvest losses are also covered.
Udder this scheme, it mandatory for use of technology such as smart phones, drones etc to capture and upload data of crop cutting to reduce delays in claim payment to farmers. Remote sensing will be also used to reduce number of crop cutting experiments. The scheme is implemented on Area Approach basis. In this case, defined area (i.e. unit area of insurance) is village or above it can be geo-mapped and geo-fenced region having homogenous risk profile for notified crop.