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Government pushes past concerns on AgriStack to start issuing unique IDs for farmers

The Agriculture Ministry has started to piece together a database comprising crores of Indian farmers as launch day approaches.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare (MoAFW) has started ‘internally’ issuing 12-digit unique IDs to farmers as part of a database it is creating on all 140 million Indian farmers, according to an Indian Express report. The database includes 55 million farmers so far, Vivek Aggarwal, head of the Ministry’s Digital Agriculture Division, told Indian Express. The ministry plans to include 30 million more before a ‘launch’ in December, he added.

At a virtual conference of chief ministers and state-level agricultural ministers last week, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar reportedly said that the database will be made available to state and central agencies after 80 million farmers are added. This database is part of the agriculture ministry’s AgriStack project under which each Indian farmer will be given a unique digital identity linked to their Aadhaar number.

AgriStack is part of the larger IndiaStack project, to standardise digital systems across ministries and governments, which also comprises the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM), Unified Payments Interface (UPI), and so on. AgriStack has been criticised by farmers and civil society organisations saying that it was being pushed through without consultations, transparency, and could lead to exclusion of farmers, among other concerns.

What has been connected?

The farmers’ database contains the following information as reported by the Indian Express:

  • A database has been prepared for 11 states including Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Andhra Pradesh. Other states like Telangana, Kerala, and Punjab will be added in the next few months.
  • Data from existing central government schemes such as PM-Kisan, Soil Health Card, and PM Fasal Bima Yojana have been collated with land record details from state governments.
  • To connect land records, Aggarwal said that Geographic Information System (GIS) will be used, where land parcels are digitised by the state.
  • He also said that Aadhaar will be used to avoid duplication of data.

What is AgriStack?

The AgriStack proposes to create a variety of digital tools and databases, including a registry of all farmers in the country, related to agriculture. Its origins can be traced back to:

  • A 2018 MoAFW report on “Doubling Farmers’ Income” proposed to create and implement agricultural policies using the Aadhaar India Stack and Kisan Stack.
  • A 2018 NITI Aayog discussion paper on a national strategy for artificial intelligence also suggested the implementation of AI in agriculture.
  • Under the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Central government can implement an electronic registration system for an agricultural trader.

Recent developments on AgriStack

March 2021: The government revealed that it has constituted a task force for its ‘AgriStack’ project which would deliberate the contours of a Unified Farmers Service Platform (USFP).

June 2021: The MoAFW published a consultation paper inviting public feedback on the proposed India Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture (IDEA).

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July 2021: The government revealed that it has signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with the following private sector entities to build AgriStack:

  1. Microsoft India – for consolidating an agri-ecosystem across the value chain (farm to fork) to empower the farmer using Data Analytics. In this regard, 100 villages have been selected and a pilot is being carried out by Microsoft.
  2. ESRI India – for the establishment and launch of “Nation Agriculture Geo Hub”.
  3. Amazon Web Services India – for digital services across the agri-value chain and creating an innovation ecosystem around digital agriculture.
  4. Star Agribazaar Technology  – for collaborating with the Department of Agriculture to launch a pilot project in different states.
  5. Patanjali Organic Research Institute – for farm management and farmers service in three districts.

In the same month, the MoAFW had also said that it was building an agricultural data policy in consultation with the IT Ministry, and was in the process of finalising the IDEA framework.

September 2021: The MoAFW reportedly signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) for pilot projects related to digitising agriculture with five private companies­ —

  1. CISCO — for conceptualising a “Proof of Concept in effective knowledge sharing between farmers, administration, academia and industry” in two districts: Kaithal (Haryana) and Morena (Madhya Pradesh).
  2. Ninjacart — for the development and hosting of the Agri Marketplace Platform (AMP), which seeks to create post-harvest market linkage.
  3. Jio Platforms — for a pilot project to provide advisories to farmers in two districts of Maharashtra: Jalna and Nasik.
  4. ITC — for building a customised ‘Site Specific Crop Advisory’ service.
  5. NCDEX e-Markets Limited (NeML) — for work on services such as Market Linkages, Aggregation of demand, Financial Linkages and Data Sanitisation, in three districts: Guntur (Andhra Pradesh), Devanagere (Karnataka), and Nasik (Maharashtra).

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I cover health technology for MediaNama but, really, love all things tech policy. Always willing to chat with a reader! Reach me at anushka@medianama.com

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