“No one from the farmers groups was consulted for this paper. The whole idea of a level playing field has been removed with this agri-stack draft paper. They want all the information of the farmers which will help both agri-input companies (fertiliser and seed companies) and big food corporates to plan their business. They are looking at farmers as a market and as a supply chain. They are not looking at it from the farmers’ point of view. It will be an asymmetric information flow. This will make farmers pawns in the hands of these companies. Unfortunately, the government is facilitating it using public money and infrastructure to gather data for companies who will make big money out of it,” stressed Rajesh Krishnan, a paddy farmer in Kerala.
The ‘IDEA Initiative’ is supposed to enable to farmers to benefit from innovative solutions and personalised services. Without explaining how and why it would benefit farmers, the draft document claims farmers will realise higher income and profitability through access to right information from innovative sources. This digital architecture will enhance efficiencies in the usage of resources including land, water, seeds, pesticides and farm mechanisation by providing “easier access to information”, it says.
In the IDEA architecture, a unique farmer ID is created and assigned to every farmer across the country to help validate demographic details and associated identifiers, which would include Aadhaar number.
“This unique farmers ID is being created so that all other data about the farmer can be linked to it in order to create a complete profile about the farmer. The farmer doesn’t need this as much as the administration or agritech companies do. It is being done for ‘ease of governance’ and ‘ease of business’ and not for ‘ease of farming’. It will probably mean that those who don’t have this ID will, over time, start to lose out on benefits and services that farmers are entitled to,” said Nachiket Udupa, member of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan.
After this, the most important building block of this IDEA architecture is the United Farmers Service Interface (USFI), which is similar to UPI in a digital interface. Here the USFI will be required to handle multiple types of transactions in the digital space, but the document does not detail what these transactions are.
If one looks at the first Office Memorandum dated October 7, 2019, in Annexure 1 of the paper on the constitution of the task force, the very first line says, “… develop a comprehensive Centralised Farmers’ Database based on Revenue land records …”.
The paper says, “Agriculture cannot be seen in isolation. It should be seen as an integral part of a larger ecosystem spanning the entire primary sector including horticulture, animal husbandry, fisheries, dairy, poultry, and other allied activities.”