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Will ICT bring change to the lives of the farmers?

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  18 March 2016 12:00 AM GMT

By Dr Susmita Priyadarshini

India experienced a jobless growth in the last 12 years. Only 15 million jobs were created during the 10 years of UPA regime. The sector which did not get importance during UPA regime despite having the immense potential to provide employment opportunities was agriculture . Rather a reverse trend has started. A good many number of farmers have left agriculture in recent years. Census 2011 shows that on an average 2,300 people are quitting farming everyday, migrating to the city for a menial job. Due to low productivity, erratic weather and lack of storage facility , farming no longer remains profitable for them. According to NSSO 2014, the income of an average farm household is at about Rs. 6000 per month, of which Rs. 3000 comes from farming and the rest is from nonfarm activities including MGNREGA. While the 7th Pay Commission provides a basic monthly salary of Rs. 18,000 to a Chaprasi, the average monthly salary of a farmer family is just Rs. 6000. Yield of rice in India in 2011 was 3.2 tonne per hectare as against 7.5 tonnes in USA and 6.7 tonnes in Chi and 4.3 tonnes for the world’s average. Small farmers constitute 85.9%of the total farmers in India. Their increasing number and shrinking farm size raises question about their economic viability. Small farmers are concentrated in rain fed areas and cultivated crops under high risk environment, often confronted by frequent floods, drought and soil erosion. If we are to increase productivity without degrading the resource base, farmers have to choose the right seeds and the right types and amounts of inputs suitable to local conditions and apply them in the right way to ensure that productivity growth is truly sustaible. We cannot compromise with low productivity if we are to ensure food security for all. Scarcity of pulses and high price resulting from it have already created the mece of pulses deficiency in the country. One of the largest challenges traditiolly experienced by our farmers is lack of transparent and adequate information to cope with changing weather pattern , soil conditions as well as epidemics of pests and crop diseases. Information technology can help farmers to make informed choices like which crop to sow where and when to sell the produce. So, it can directly help in increasing productivity as well as incomes . The current Government wants to raise productivity through better use of scarce water resources and extensive use of satellite crop monitoring system. Due to satellite intervention in the agriculture sector ,farmers can access advisories on mobile phones, and as a result they can choose high yielding varieties of seeds, apply fertilisers in a proportiote manner, decide the proper time of irrigation shots .Through the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yoja , an attempt is made for the first time to use satellite technology to facilitate accurate assessment and speedy settlement of claims Smart phones will be used to capture and upload data of crop so that delays in claim payment can be avoided . The Government has put in operation three portals-farmer portal, kisan call centre and mkisan portal so that farmers can take decision for efficient farming under varying agroclimatic condition. The Government has recently launched two mobile apps.While the ‘Crop Insurance app’ helps farmers to find out details about insurance cover available in their areas , through the other app, ‘Agri Market Mobile’ farmers know market prices of crops in wholesale markets within 50 km radius of the device .In order to achieve rapid development of agriculture in India through the use of ICT tiol E- governce plan in agriculture was introduced during the last phase of 11th plan. It has been continued in 12th plan as a part of the Sub Mission on Agricultural Extension (SAME). So, the initiative to provide information to farmers at their door step started during the UPA regime. Modi Government started Digital India Mission last year. magriculture and mgram Bazar out of the seven components covered under mservices in Digital India Project directly impact agricultural extension and marketing services. The use of technology to improve the condition of the poor seems to be driving force behind some of the announcements made as part of Budget 2016-17. To ensure the benefit of minimum support price is accessed by farmers in all parts of the country , the Fince Minister announced an online procurement system to be undertaken through FCI to bring in transparency and convenience into the system. For dairy farmers, he announced an advanced breeding technology with E Pashudhan Haat or an e-market portal. The Government is implementing the unified Agricultural Marketing Scheme that envisages a common emarket platform that will be deployed in 585 regulated markets, The Unified Agricultural Marketing E platform will be dedicated to the tion on the birth day of Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar on 14th April this year. The Central Government has urged the State Governments to introduce the e-market platform within the state to give the farmers the advantage of selling the harvest in any of the connected markets. Will information flows through ICT be sufficient to bring real big change to the lives of the farmers? A proper training programme uninterrupted services, electricity, availability of smart phones, tablets and computers to almost every farmers are the great challenges to this initiative . Government perhaps understands it. Therefore in budget 2016, Govt. plans to launch a mission to provide digital literacy to around 6 crore additiol rural households. Of the 16.8crore rural households as many as 12 crore households do not have computers and unlikely to have digitally literate people. According to Situation Assessment of Indian farmers , 70% of farmers do not have any source of information that can help them adopt latest technology while 28%of all farmers use any kind of information that is available rather than what they need. So, by providing quality information , agricultural scerio can be changed. But to use the data provided the farmers need motivation and encouragement. Experience of Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan teaches us the futility of providing services if the beneficiaries do not feel the need of it. So, the immediate need now is to conduct a tion wide evaluation study to know the impact of already provided information delivery system on agriculture (developed by the government and private sector) in respect of no. of farmers using and receiving mobile ebled agri information services, increase in productivity, output and income of the benefitted farmers, increase in price realization in case of output sold, their grievances and changes required in information delivery system. Has it been successful to reduce the incident of farmers suicide? Last year, till September, 2016 cases of farmers committing suicides were reported from Maharashtra alone. Again, without a regulatory authority will it be possible to dissemite timely and reliable agricultural information to farmers in a systematic and planned manner. But information can control only one side of the story. Agricultural output depends on several other factors as well. If the farmers do not get the facility of irrigation what is the use of information ?So, there is the need to initiate strategic action to improve utilisation of irrigation potential already created to 90%from78%. Announcements of higher allocation towards irrigation program as well as irrigation Benefit Program in Budget 2016-17 deserve acclamation. But nothing has been said where will the water come up from. Green revolution was started in the country long ago in 1966 but its benefits remained confined to North West India. In Modi’s proposed second green revolution North East region will play a key role. But second green revolution requires an entirely new approach to ensure perpetual growth in farm production by abolishing supply side uncertainties. North East is poor in both road and information connectivity. With poor internet and tele connectivity how can the region take a lead in second green revolution? Will they be able to take informed decision?

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