| Pune |
September 15, 2020 5:01:44 am
Maharashtra’s agriculture department is thinking of putting CCTV cameras in the over 2,092 automatic weather stations (AWSs) to safeguard them from tampering. Dheeraj Kumar, Commissioner (Agriculture), also talked of starting a major programme to educate farmers about the crop insurance scheme.
Kumar admitted the question of installing CCTV cameras has not risen in the past. “We will have to take measures to safeguard the AWSs,” he said.
Officials also said an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based platform is also in the offing to protect the weather stations. The agriculture department also plans to undertake a major information campaign to educate farmers about the crop insurance scheme. “In many cases the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) is thought of as a scheme which would give assured payment, which goes against the very principle of insurance,” an official said.
The decision to safeguard AWSs comes amid incidents of tampering of the devices in the state. Recently, the agriculture department took the unusual step of registering a police complaint against unknown people for allegedly tampering with the rainfall measuring unit of an AWS located in the Deodaithan revenue circle of Shrigonda taluka in Ahmednagar district.
While the rainfall unit in the AWS had indicated medium to heavy rainfall from August 28 to September 2, other parameters in the AWS did not adhere to the conditions needed for rainfall. Agriculture department officials had concluded that the rain gauge was tampered with. This, the officials believe, was done to hit the “triggers” for excess rainfall needed for payment of compensation under the Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme (WBCIS) for horticulture crops.
This is not the first such incident. Last year, three such complaints were registered in Jalgaon, where attempts were made to hit the “trigger” for low temperature by placing ice blocks on the radiation measuring devices in more than one AWS in the region. Agriculture department officials said such incidents are common in some pockets of the state like Jalgaon, Ahmednagar, Nanded etc. “Either the radiation meters, or the rain gauges are tampered with as the other instruments like those for measuring wind speed or direction are not easy to manipulate,” an official said.
Maharashtra’s network of AWS, which has a station in every revenue circle, was set up under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme. Private forecaster Skymet has partnered with the government to set up this network and also maintain the necessary data. This data is purchased by the insurance companies which validate the claims for compensation for crops destroyed under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bhima Yojna (PMFBY). As per the scheme certain weather data has to be met for payment of compensation.
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