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WHY FARMERS ARE OPPOSING THE DIGITALIZATION OF THE AGRICULTURAL ECOSYSTEM IN INDIA?

The government of India is starting a project that tries to find a huge quantity of farmers’ data to use expertise to put right the problems faced in the agriculture sector.
The government is prepared to disclose the sensitive personal data of 50 million+ farmers with a private corporation named Microsoft.

WHAT IS AGRISTACK?
AgriStack is a collection of technology-based involvement in the agriculture sector.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Ministry of Agriculture and Microsoft has signed to run a pilot programme for 100 villages in 6 states.
Microsoft through its cloud computing services would create a ‘Unified Farmer Service “interface on which everything else will be built.

SOME KEY POINTS ABOUT AGRISTACK
Agristack is a gathering of technologies and digital databases that covers the agricultural sector and the farmers.
AgriStack will support the farmers through its unified platform to make available to the end to end services leading to the food value chain across the agriculture sector.
Simultaneously the government is implementing a National Land Records Modernization Programme (NRLMP), through that each farmer will have unique digital identification (farmers’ ID) that contains details about the farmer, about his farm, and production as well as his financial status. This ID shall be linked to the farmer’s Aadhaar card.

WILL AGRISTACK HELP THE FARMERS?
Presently, across India majority of the farmers are small and marginal farmers with limited or no access to advanced technologies. They do not have knowledge about farm credit that may help improve output and get better prices for their produce.
Another significant technology development likely to be implemented through Agristack is the use of sensors to keep an eye on cattle, drones to evaluate soil and the quality of the pesticides that may considerably increase the farm returns and increase farmers’ income.

PROBABLE ADVANTAGES
The digital technology would address the issues faced presently by the farmers such as availability of credit facilities, the infestation to the crops through pests, crop wastage, and poor price recovery and forecasting of the yield.
It will also lead to improvement and bring in more investment in the agricultural sector and boost research towards more hardy crops.

APPREHENSIONS
In the absence of a Data Protection Legislation, it might be possible that the vital end may be reaching the private data processing entities, who may exploit the farmers as the entities would know more about the farmer and his farm than the farmer himself.

COMMERCIALIZATION:
The formation of ‘Agristack’ will be viable for profit from the agriculture activities as the farmers would shift into a digital handled by private organizations.

ABSENCE OF DISPUTE SETTLEMENT
Digitally the MoUs would gather land data, without any physical verification of the land data. During the change over to the digital format, the farmer would be in a difficult situation to find recourse to the dispute, as land disputes take a long time to settle.

PRIVACY AND EXCLUSION ISSUES
The proposed farmer ID seeded with his Aadhaar may create issues of privacy and exclusion.
Several knowledgeable people suspect the vulnerability of the Aadhaar database to information leaks.
Possibilities are foreseen that the farmland databases would exclude tenant farmers and agricultural laborers. The population of farm laborers is larger than that of farmers and cultivators.

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