The government is using a large number of ICT tools, which help us communicate with the farmers and solve their problems, says Shri Mohanbhai Kundariya, Union Minister of State for Agriculture, in an interview with Gautam Debroy of Elets News Network (ENN)
Tell us about the areas of importance for you in the Ministry of Agriculture.
Agriculture is the core factor for overall economic growth of the country. So, we are concentrating on speedy development of our ministry. We are also concentrating on increasing the food production. Besides, decreasing the expenditure costs of the farmers and increasing the quantity of the agricultural products are the other focal areas…if the farmers have to incur high expenditure costs, they will not benefit from farming.
We have also decided to provide soil health cards to the farmers. These cards will provide access to soil health laboratory to the farmers, which will help them in understanding how much water, fertiliser etc., will be required for the farming of a particular crop. This card will also help in decreasing the costs and increasing the output.
Our next target is to get farmers engaged with the dairy development corporations, because apart from doing farming, if the farmers do dairy business, it will provide extra money to them. Farmers’ involvement with the dairy farming will teach them how to increase dairy products.
Price rise is a serious issue that haunts citizens of the country. What steps you intend to take in this direction?
It’s really strange…when you see increase in the prices of agricultural products, you term it price rise, but you never raise any issue when the cost of consumer goods go up, or for that matter, cement increases! Prices of fertilizers keep going up, so it is necessary to increase the cost of agricultural products, so that the farmers get due returns.
However, our government is planning a twopronged strategy to check price rise and to get farmers the best returns.
Tell us about the benefits of mKisan portal.
Yes, mKisan portal is like a pathfinder to the farmers. Mobile-based delivery of service is being made available to the farmers and other stakeholders under the programme. The services being offered by various organisations and departments of both Central and state governments down to the Block level (including state agriculture universities, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, agro-meteorological field units) have been brought under a single umbrella called mKisan portal of the Ministry of Agriculture.
We have also decided to provide soil health cards to the farmers… These cards will provide access to soil health laboratory to the farmers, which will help them in understanding how much water, fertiliser etc., will be required for a particular crop”
A farmer can directly call government officials to know about what crop is suitable for a particular farming area and how much fertiliser is required to be used. They can also find solutions to their other farming problems.
mKisan Portal subsumes all mobile-based initiatives in the field of agriculture and allied sectors. It brings together SMS (both Push and Pull), Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS), Unstructured Supplementary Services of Data or USSD (which is essentially Interactive SMS and can facilitate data entry and query on web portals without Internet), Mobile Apps and Services.
As per the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) data, though there are about 38 crore mobile telephone connections in rural areas, Internet penetration in the countryside is still abysmally low (in single-digit percentage). Therefore, mobile messaging is the most effective tool so far, with pervasive outreach to nearly 8.93 crore farming families.
mKisan portal is like a pathfinder to the farmers. Mobile-based delivery of services is being made available to the farmers and other stakeholders under the programme… Various services have been brought under a single umbrella called mKisan portal
So, the Ministry of Agriculture is making good use of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools.
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Yes, we are using a large number of ICT tools. This is, in fact, helping us a lot to communicate with the farmers and solve their problems. We have many web portals for the benefit of our farmers that include the beta version of the farmer’s portal, DACNET, INTRADAC and Weather Watch, among others.
We have also launched a project on Coordinated Horticulture Assessment and Management (CHAMAN) using Geoinformatics. It makes area assessment and production forecasting of major horticultural crops in selected districts of major states by using remote sensing technology and sample survey techniques.
Agriculture is the principal source of livelihood for more than 58 percent of the population of this country. It provides the bulk of raw material required by non-agricultural sectors and most of the raw material for the industries sector. So, we try to explore the potential of the agricultural sector by making maximum use of Information Technology. We want to have effective transfer of latest crop production technologies to farmers under various crop development schemes being implemented by the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation backed by remunerative prices for various crops through enhanced minimum support prices.
What is your action plan for the drought-prone areas?
Our government under the leadership of Shri Narendra Modi has been adopting several techniques for mitigate the problems of natural calamities -hit regions. For example, south Gujarat is a flood-prone area, whereas north Gujarat and Sauratsra are drought-hit areas. Narendrabhai Modi has chalked put a plan and diverted the rivers of south Gujarat to fill up as many as 115 dams in Saurastra. The work has already started and it will be completed within the next few years.
On the model of Prime Minister Gram Sadak Yojana (launched during the Vajpayee regime), we will introduce Prime Minister Gram Sinchai Yojana for providing irrigation facilities to the farmers.