91 organisations working on Farmers’ Rights, and on Digital Rights of citizens express grave concerns on Central Government’s Agri-Digitisation proposals
30th June, 2021
91 farm organisations and organisations working on digital rights of citizens express grave concerns with regard to the Government of India’s proposals on agri-digitisation, put forward in the form of a consultation paper. They demand that the Government do not rush into the “IDEA” proposals and should in fact withdraw the MoUs already entered into with various companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Star Agribazaar, ESRI and Patanjali.
The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare (MoAFW), Government of India has put out a Consultation Paper on IDEA (India Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture) Transforming Agriculture in public domain on 1st June, 2021 seeking feedback by 30th June, 2021. Today, ASHA Kisan Swaraj, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Tikait), Jai Kisan Andolan, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Krantikari Kisan Union, Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch (MAKAAM), Internet Freedom Foundation, IT For Change, Rethink Aadhaar, Software Freedom Law Centre, India (SFLC.in) and other organisations, including those working on agricultural issues and digital rights, wrote to the Ministry about fundamental problems with the process being followed by the Government of India in pushing digitisation in the agriculture sector.
One major issue flagged is the fact that the proposed database is to be built on digitised land records, which are far from perfect even in the case of land-owning farmers and will exclude entire categories of landless farmers. Further, these far-reaching proposals with farmers’ data, being pushed in the name of farmers, are being planned in the absence of appropriate legislation in the form of a data protection law. The response also highlighted the fact that there are no regulatory mechanisms planned to prevent the economic exploitation of the farmer in the ambitious digital ecosystem which, among other things, seeks to create online marketplaces for farmers’ produce, nor clear accountability mechanisms.
The response sent by the signatories said that there is no farmer representation in the existing task force or in the governance framework of IDEA. And that linking financing for state governments to adoption of this initiative as proposed in this draft is highly problematic too.
The MoAFW recently signed MoUs with several corporations, including Microsoft, Amazon and Patanjali to start implementation of concepts being proposed in the paper. It is unclear on what basis these entities were chosen, and why the pilots should have started before public consultations. The letter demanded that implementation of these MoUs be immediately stopped until more extensive consultations take place on these developments with farmer groups to understand their requirements and concerns
The entire response sent to the government can be found below and at this link. Additional resources about these issues may be found here. For further queries, please write to [email protected].