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Is Bhupesh Baghel shielding Brijmohan Agarwal over crop insurance scam?

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New Delhi, May 21: Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel is being accused of shielding Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former Chhattisgarh Agriculture Minister Brijmohan Agarwal over alleged crop insurance scam in the state.

The Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (Jogi) leader Amit Jogi has written a letter to Chhattisgarh Agriculture Minister Rabindra Choubey and demanded a thorough probe into the alleged Weather-Based Crop Insurance (WBCIS) Scheme Scam during Raman Singh government, which according to him is worth over Rs 6000 crore.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel

"Seven insurance companies had deducted Rs 450 per hectare as premium from the Farmer Credit Cards of 14 lakh farmers without their consent between 2014 to 2018. The state government , as well as the Central government, also paid 25 percent each of the total premium amount to these insurance companies. A total of Rs. 6208 crore was paid to the insurance companies in four years," said Amit in his letter.

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He also said that as per the terms and conditions of the WBCIS Scheme, these insurance companies were supposed to set up weather stations at a distance of every 10 kilometers but this was not done.

"The insurance companies were duty bound to provide daily weather report to the Agriculture Department. Based on this data, the compensation amount was to be paid to the farmers for their crop loss. However, not a single insurance company fulfilled this term in four years but they charged the full premium amount from farmers, state and central government," added Jogi.

The JCG (J) leader further informed Choubey that in the absence of daily weather data, the insurance companies played a cruel joke with the farmers while paying the compensation for the crop loss in the years 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17.

"Though the insurance companies had taken the premium of Rs. 450 per hectre from the farmers but on an average they paid only Rs. 15 to 20 per hectre as compensation to the affected farmers. "

The former Marwahi MLA alleged that no action was taken against the insurance companies because Brijmohan Agarwal was hand-in-glove with them.

"Despite several complaints then Agriculture Minister Brijmohan Agarwal neither took any action against the insurance companies nor ordered departmental inquiry into such a large scale corruption. I believe that he did so because of his secret understanding with the insurance companies, " asserted Amit.

Alleging that Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel is shielding Brijmohan Agarwal due to their friendship, the JCG (J) leader has requested Choubey not to succumb to the pressure of the chief minister.

"Baghel Government has constituted several Special Investigation Teams (SITs) to probe various scams of former Raman Singh government but Bhupesh Baghel has been avoiding ordering an inquiry into allegations against Agarwal because of his close relationship with him, " Amit Jogi said.

He requested Choubey to order an inquiry into the alleged scam.

"You are requested not to be influenced by the political pressure of the Chief Minister and order an inquiry into the loot committed by the insurance companies under the patronage of Agarwal, " said Jogi.

He also requested the Agriculture Minister to pass an order directing the insurance companies to pay compensation of Rs. 15000 per hectare to those farmers whose crops were damaged between 2014 and 2018.

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According to an observer of Chhattisgarh politics, the WBCIS scheme scam had hit headlines way back in 2015 when the BJP was ruling the state.

"An RTI activist had highlighted the matter and vowed to take the matter to the high court for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or court-monitored SIT probe. However, the said RTI activist didn't pursue the matter further and after a few days the matter vanished from the media. "

The observer is of the opinion that it will be interesting to watch moves of Amit Jogi to assess how serious is he to take this matter to the logical conclusion.

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