“Based on the proposals received so far, funds amounting to ₹ 129.19 crores have been released towards Kisan Drone promotion which include ₹ 52.50 crores released to the ICAR [Indian Council of Agriculture Research] for purchase of 300 Kisan Drones and organizing their demonstrations,” said the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare on March 21, 2023. The Ministry shared this information in reply to questions in the Lok Sabha regarding the funding of ‘Kisan Drones’. However, the depatrtment’s reply to another set of questions sent by MediaNama via an RTI application have not received such a comprehensive response.
What are Kisan Drones? These are drones under the Indian government’s ‘Kisan Drone Yatra’ initiative that seeks to introduce the UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) in the agriculture sector for spraying pesticides, digitisation of land records, crop assessment, etc.
As per the Ministry, the abovementioned funding includes funds released to various state governments for the supply of over 240 Kisan Drone to farmers on subsidy and the establishment of over 1,500 custom hiring centres to provide drone services to farmers.
In response to an RTI application filed by MediaNama, the government said it had released ₹123.26 crore to 11 state governments and the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) between 2022 and 2023. Further, it had released ₹256 lakh to state governments, ICAR and similar institutes to procure 17 drones.
Why it matters: The information is welcome news as it provides some insight into the initiative launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in February 2022. However, as it has been over a year since the announcement, the results of the initiative are worth asking about. MediaNama previously sent the government department a list of questions regarding the usage and expense relating to kisan drones. After a month of waiting, most of the questions went unanswered by the department. Considering the government is spending over ₹100 crore on this technology, it’s worth asking whether farmers are actually benefitting from kisan drones.
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Where’s the data on Kisan Drone usage? One important question that the government failed to answer was regarding the practical use of drones. Since the initiative was promoted for alleged advances in crop assessment and digitsation of land records, MediaNama asked:
“- Please provide information on crop assessments undertaken by Kisan Drones from January, 2022 to December, 2022 in a state-wise manner, including information on: a) which crops were assessed, b) which factors of production were analysed, c) results and/or policy interventions as a result of assessment
– Please provide information on digitisation of land records undertaken by Kisan Drones from January, 2022 to December, 2022 in a state-wise manner, including information on: a) how many land records assign ownership to the male heads of households b) the number of digitised land records in 2021 c) appeals requesting revision of land records digitised by Kisan Drones in 2022.”
However, the Agriculture department failed to answer either of the questions satisfactorily, with the Mechanisation and Technology department even saying “information is not available”. The RTI also asked for state-wise usage of drones that the government failed to provide.
No data, again: Since a year has passed, MediaNama asked the department about the number of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe farmers who have bought and own drones since February 2022.
To this, the department directed us to their official website which had no document showcasing such information.
Additional questions about Kisan Drones: Aside from the RTI, MediaNama also asked some additional questions regarding Kisan Drones during Parliament coverage. This included queries like:
- What is the adoption rate of Kisan Drones in India?
- How do drones contribute to the agriculture sector?
- Is the government working on special training programmes to teach agricultural labourers how to use drones?
Now the big question is: if India’s agriculture department has no answers regarding this data, then who does?
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