Context:

The Centre’s new National Farmers Database will only include land-owning farmers for now as it will be linked to digitised land records.

Relevance:

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

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About India’s National Farmers Database in creation
  2. Significance of the farmers’ database
  3. About AgriStack
  4. About the Ministry of Agriculture move with Microsoft
  5. Analysis of the Ministry’s move
  6. Criticisms of the AgriStack move

About India’s National Farmers Database in creation

  • A data policy is being prepared specifically for the agriculture sector in collaboration with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) to create a digital ecosystem for the agricultural sector in India.
  • The Central government had proposed an Agristack initiative to create a digital database that focuses on farmers and the agricultural sector.
  • As part of the first step of this initiative, the government has initiated a farmers database that would serve as the core of the Agristack.
  • The Agriculture Minister has stated that the proposed National Farmers Database would be linked to the digital land record management system and would thus initially only include farmers who were legal owners of agricultural land.

Significance of the farmers’ database

  • The availability of a database would serve an important role in the formulation of evidence-based policies for the agricultural sector.
  • Also, the government can make use of the database for targeted service delivery with higher efficiency and in a focussed and time-bound manner.
  • The database could be used to select beneficiaries of government schemes.
  • The availability of data will make it possible to implement digital technologies like Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, Internet of Things in the agricultural domain, thus opening up the sector to immense opportunities for improvement in productivity.

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: The Hindu

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