While farmers’ protests continue to rage across the country, the Modi-led Union government is now making a new move in the seventh month to revise the agricultural sector by digitizing land registers and creating a centralized farmers database under “AgriStack”.
Politics has been in talks since last year and was brought into shape in April of this year – when the Union government signed a letter of intent with enterprise technology giant Microsoft. While the Modi government describes and welcomes the move as a major digital boost for the sector, the move is viewed as one aimed at further commercializing the sector, with private traders and corporations making the most of the data gained.
Currently, the deadline for public feedback on the proposed policy is approaching June 30th. In the meantime, the government has already made agreements with companies such as Amazon and Patanjali – which also contain important details on data exchange.
Stayed on the ground reported that the MoU with Microsoft Corporation aims to launch a pilot project in 100 villages in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. The MoU requires Microsoft to create a “Unified Farmer Service Interface” via its cloud computing services.
As part of the proposed stack, data on farmers’ personal data, land ownership profile, production details, finances and more are reported to be collected and the data collected will be further linked to Aadhaar.
Speak with NewsClick, Agnidipto Tarafder, assistant professor at West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, said, “Agristack is trying to create a one-stop database for one-stop records, essentially a dossier about a citizen – identity, property, everything is displayed. The problem is not the data, but what it symbolizes. When one’s life becomes a dossier for the government, the concerns are what steps the government is taking to protect this data. The second key question is the accuracy of the data entered. What is the accountability framework that the government has developed? “
also read: UIDAI made Rs 240 crore via eKYC authentication over 21 months: RTI
More than 50 farmers groups and digital rights organizations have criticized the proposal in various ways. In addition, there were concerns about privacy and expropriation from experts.
Addressing these concerns, Kavitha Kuruganti, founder of the Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), said, “Although there are of course questions about privacy and informed consent, what kind of monetization will take place and who will benefit from it is the important point is that the starting point of such an attempt must be kept in the context of existing databases. The government wants to evaluate how it will facilitate the benefits for businesses. Instead, the government must prioritize farmers’ needs in a very democratic, localized way. “
She added: “The starting point must be farmers’ needs. In the course of digitization, corporations come and occupy this space – the needs of farmers must be prioritized. ”
The Internet Freedom Foundation, in its Introduction to Politics, pointed to the exploitative turn of politics by stating, “Technology-based financial credit models can offer usury rates to the needy. In view of the incompleteness of the land title data, farmers can also be exploited by large agricultural companies through land grabbing. ”
The current MoU with Patanjali focuses on advising farmers on the quantification of harvest and yield and the development of a mobile application to advise farmers on soil nutrition. While the agreement with Amazon focuses on building a “National Agri Data Stack” to create agronomic solutions that also support cloud services and agricultural start-ups.
Jaswant Singh of All India Kisan Sabha said, “The Agristack policy will fuel business interest in depriving farmers of autonomy while excluding several others. The greatest impact will be the exclusion and expropriation of part-tenants and small and small farmers. The point is that companies will continue to move towards the privatization of agriculture. ”