‘Scrap Deals With Microsoft, Amazon’: Farmers Write To Govt In Drive Against Digitisation Of Agriculture


New Delhi, June 30: A total of 91 organisations working on digital rights of citizens and farmers’ rights issues expressed grave concerns with regard to the government of India’s proposals on agri-digitisation, putting forward their concerns in the form of a consultation paper.

They demanded that the government shouldn’t rush into the Consultation Paper on IDEA-India Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture proposals and should in fact withdraw the MoUs already entered into with various companies such Microsoft, Amazon, Star Agribazaar, ESRI and Patanjali.

The ministry of agriculture and farmers welfare (MoAFW) put out a Consultation Paper on IDEA (India Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture) Transforming Agriculture in public domain on June 1, 2021, seeking feedback by June 30, 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 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 farmers 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.


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