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Centralised farmer database under ‘AgriStack’

Context:

The Union government’s new exercise to give agriculture a shot of technology — by creating a centralised farmer database under ‘AgriStack’— may not run a smooth course.

Relevance:

GS-III: Science and Technology (Use of Developments in Science and Technology), GS-III: Agriculture (Use of Technology to aid farmers and agriculture)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About AgriStack
  2. About the Ministry of Agriculture move with Microsoft
  3. Criticisms of the AgriStack move

About AgriStack

  • AgriStack is a collection of technologies and digital databases that focuses on farmers and the agricultural sector.
  • AgriStack will create a unified platform for farmers to provide them end to end services across the agriculture food value chain.
  • It is in line with the Centre’s Digital India programme, aimed at providing a broader push to digitise data in India, from land titles to medical records.
  • Under the programme, each farmer will have a unique digital identification (farmers’ ID) that contains personal details, information about the land they farm, as well as production and financial details. Each ID will be linked to the individual’s digital national ID Aadhaar.

About the Ministry of Agriculture move with Microsoft

  • Recently, the Ministry of Agriculture has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Microsoft to run a pilot programme for 100 villages in 6 states.
  • The MoU requires Microsoft to create a ‘Unified Farmer Service Interface’ through its cloud computing services.
  • This comprises a major part of the ministry’s plan of creating ‘AgriStack’ (a collection of technology-based interventions in agriculture), on which everything else will be built.

Analysis of the Ministry’s move

  • At present, the majority of farmers across India are small and marginal farmers with limited access to advanced technologies or formal credit that can help improve output and fetch better prices – hence, use of advancements such as AgriStack would help in improving the financial constraints faced by farmers.
  • Among the new proposed digital farming technologies and services under the programme include sensors to monitor cattle, drones to analyse soil and apply pesticide, may significantly improve the farm yields and boost farmers’ incomes.
  • Problems such as inadequate access to credit and information, pest infestation, crop wastage, poor price discovery and yield forecasting can be sufficiently addressed by use of digital technology.
  • It will also fuel innovation and breed investment towards the agricultural sector and augment research towards more resilient crops.

Criticisms of the AgriStack move

  • The formation of ‘AgriStack’ will imply commercialisation of agriculture extension activities as they will shift into a digital and private sphere.
  • The MoUs provide for physical verification of the land data gathered digitally, but there is nothing on what will be the course of action if disputes arise, especially when historical evidence suggests that land disputes take years to settle.
  • It might end up being an exercise where private data processing entities may know more about a farmer’s land than the farmer himself and they would be able to exploit farmers’ data to whatever extent they wish to.
  • Several researchers have demonstrated the vulnerability of the Aadhaar database to breaches and leaks, while Aadhaar-based exclusion in welfare delivery has also been well documented in different contexts.
  • Also, making land records the basis for farmer databases would mean excluding tenant farmers, sharecroppers and agricultural labourers.

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine

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September 2022
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