Interview

Impacting Agriculture : N K Das, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture

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What are the various initiatives taken by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (DAC) towards e-Governance in Agriculture?
To promote e-Governance in Agriculture at Centre and to provide support to States/UTs for the same, the DAC has implemented a Central Sector Scheme, ‘Strengthening/Promoting Agricultural Information System’, during the 10th Plan with a budgetary provision of INR 1,000 million. This scheme is continuing during the XI Plan also and has the following components:-

i)  Development of Agricultural Informatics and Communication;
ii) Strengthening of IT Apparatus in Agriculture & Cooperation in States & Union Territories (AGRISNET); 
iii) Strengthening of IT and Information network at DAC Headquarters  and its field Offices and the Directorates;
iv) Agricultural Resources Information Systems (AgRIS);
v) Kisan Call Centres

In addition to the above, the department has launched a Mission Mode Project (MMP) under the National e-Governance Plan in Agriculture (NeGP-A). Phase-I has already been completed and the approach for Phase-II has recently been finalised for implementation.  

What are the broad objectives of the Agriculture MMP (Mission Mode Project) component under the NeGP?
Broadly, the objectives are to build on and integrate the al-ready existing initiatives, focusing on the delivery of quality services to various stakeholders, bringing together various de-partments on to a common robust standards-based platform and creating a market oriented value-chain for the farmer.

At the end of Phase-I, the various services provided by the government have been identified in consultation with the states and they have been prioritised in to 23 core services. Some similar services have been consolidated to arrive at a final list of 18 consolidated services that would be addressed during Phase-II.  These identified services include Information to farmers on seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, crop diseases, government schemes, soil recommendations, crop management, weather, & marketing of agriculture produce. 

How will these schemes have a substantial and positive impact on the production and marketing capabilities of the farmers and the other stakeholders?
Agriculture like any other sector of the economy is increasingly knowledge based.  Farmers need access to information on better and latest technologies, package of practices, reliable sources of inputs and other services, market information and even weather forecast. He requires information not only of the right kind but also at the appropriate times. All these initiatives are aimed at providing the farmers guidance and support to take the right decision of what and when to sow, when to seed and at what price.

There are issues of localisation and content? How do you propose to overcome these barriers?
Content will be provided by the Centre as in the DACNET initiative, and also at the state level. It will be the responsibility of the state level bodies to take care of issues of localisation and language. It is expected that the states will take care to provide the services in the local language. At the national level, the issue of languages can be dealt with in a phased manner.

Also, it is my opinion that static content is not very useful. Real time content is needed. The institutional arrangements to supply real time content need to be established.

There is a need for all assisting institutions to evolve methods of feeding information and knowledge into the system. There is also a need to take care that the back-end mechanisms are evolved enough to make this programme a success.

With the given scenario of increasing telephone reach and mobile connectivity, how is the Kisan Call Center (KCC) looked as a new approach of reaching the farmers? What has been the experience till now?
The KCC initiative aims to provide information to the farming community through toll-free telephone lines (No. 1551). It is being implemented by the Extension Division of this Department. The scheme was launched on 21st January, 2004. The entire country is covered under the scheme.  We already have large and literate farmers actively participating in the programme, whereas young, small farmers and women farmers need to be motivated to use KCC more frequently. The facility is being publicised among the farmers through the medium of television and radio (Doordarshan and All India Radio) programmes and also through direct publicity campaign in the field so that the maximum number of farmers can avail the benefit of this service.

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