CHENNAI: As coverage of paddy cultivation in delta districts has increased this year owing to timely release of water from Mettur dam, Tamil Nadu has notified 270 new areas/revenue villages under Prime Minister Fasal Bima Yojana — the government-sponsored crop insurance scheme to support agriculturists in case of crop loss on account of natural calamities. Kharif insurance scheme was earlier notified in 5,535 revenue villages in 24 districts.In all, about 5.8 lakh acres across the state have been covered under paddy cultivation till now against a target of 7.5 lakh acres. Amid the euphoria of expanding cultivation, dwindling storage in Mettur dam is a cause of concern for the farmers and the administration.Release of water from Mettur on June 12, the customary date for opening sluices, for short term kuruvai crop after a gap of nine years, is one of the major contributors for many farmers in the delta districts of Thanjavur, Nagapattinam and Tiruvarur and parts of Trichy going in for large-scale cultivation of paddy this year. As per the latest assessment of the agriculture department, 5,064 new farmers have taken up paddy cultivation this season after several years in the delta districts. “Insurance has come to stay as a major component in providing security to farmers.With more people and areas coming under crop coverage, we have decided to notify all new areas also under the insurance cover. There were also requests for insurance cover from farmers in new areas. The Centre gave its nod to proceed with the notification on Thursday. At least 16,000 acres in the delta districts are returning to paddy cultivation after many years,” said a senior official.The urgency stems from the fact that cut-off date for kharif season in the delta is July 31 and the government has begun digitisation of the additional villages on the national crop insurance portal. Enrolment of farmers will commence on Saturday.The state had been enrolling only seven lakh farmers every year till 2016, but the enrolment shot up to 21.63 lakh farmers last fiscal. All loanee farmers growing notified crops are brought under PMFBY compulsorily. It is a voluntary exercise for non-loanee farmers. The insurance premium, excluding the farmers’ share, is shared equally by the state and central governments. “Tamil Nadu farmers have received Rs 8,210 crore as compensation since 2016. More than 85,000 farmers received Rs 68.91 crore compensation during last kharif season. Payment of insurance is yet another reason why more farmers are carrying out paddy cultivation,” another official said. “There is fear among farmers about falling storage in Mettur and poor water release from Karnataka reservoirs. Many want to join the insurance scheme to be on the safer side,” TN Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Association general secretary P R Pandian said.