Use of information and communication technology (ICT) can facilitate many business and commercial activities in India. Perry4Law Organisation (P4LO) has been advocating use of ICT for various commercial and vocational activities in India. P4LO is also a stern supporter for strengthening of e-agriculture in India. This is the reason why we started the project titled Association For people Of Haryana (AFPOH) in the August 2007 so that ICT for development (ICT4D) can be a reality in India. After 9 years of launch of AFPOH, we are now witnessing some positive developments in the e-agriculture and ICT4D fields due to increased use of e-governance and launch of Digital India project in India.
Agriculture in India is considered to be a primary occupation for a major segment of population in India. A vast majority of rural population depends upon agriculture as their primary occupation. However, agriculture in India is in doldrums and needs rejuvenation. In this interview with Mr. Praveen Dalal, the Leading Techno-Legal ICT, Cyber Security and Cyber Law Specialist of India and Managing Member of AFPOH, the agricultural development aspects are analysed keeping in mind the benefits of e-agriculture in India. This interview was given in April 2008 and the same is still providing a techno legal strategy to the Narendra Modi government that can be implemented on an urgent basis.
SP-1: What do you think about the present state of agriculture in India?
PD-1: The agricultural sector in India is currently passing through a difficult phase. India is moving towards an agricultural emergency due to lack of attention, insufficient land reforms, defective land management, non-providing of fair prices to farmers for their crops, inadequate investment in irrigational and agricultural infrastructure in India, etc. India’s food production and productivity is declining while its food consumption is increasing. The position has further been worsened due to use of food grains to meet the demands of bio fuels. Even the solution of import of food grains would be troublesome as India does not have ports and logistical systems for large scale food imports.
SP-2: What according to you are the possible solutions that may be adopted by India in this situation?
PD-2: The ultimate solution to this problem is a solid political will along with a competent bureaucracy as without them all proposed reforms remain only paper works. India must also act at the grassroot and ground level. For instance, Panchayats should encourage cooperative farming, power and irrigational facilities must be provided to the farmers, easy and effective financial access must be provided to the farmers, direct marketing and sale must be adopted by farmers, public investment in agricultural infrastructure must be enhanced, a minimum support price for food grains must be set, etc. Finally, farmers in India must use Information and Information Technology (ICT) for agricultural purposes.
SP-3: How can ICT be used for strengthening agriculture in India?
PD-3: India’s food production and productivity may be increased by an effective use of ICT for agricultural purposes. The Developed Nations are using laser technology instead of tractors to plough lands. This helps in optimising the use of various inputs such as water, seeds, fertilisers, etc. The problem is that Indian farmers cannot afford this technology and unless government comes in support for agricultural infrastructure the same remains a dream only. Further, power and electricity also remains a major problem for Indian farmers and alternative means of power like solar energy panels, regulated and optimised by ICT, can be a blessing for them. Thus, e-agriculture in India can put India on the higher pedestal of Green Resolution making India self-sufficient in the matters of food grains.
SP-4: What are the advantages of ICT/e-agriculture in India?
PD-4: Some of the benefits of ICT for the improvement and strengthening of agriculture sector in India include timely information on weather forecasts and calamities, better and spontaneous agricultural practices, better marketing exposure and pricing, reduction of agricultural risks and enhanced incomes, better awareness and information, improved networking and communication, facility of online trading and e-commerce, better representation at various forums, authorities and platform, etc. E-agriculture can play a major role in the increased food production and productivity in India.
SP-5: Have you or your organisation started any initiative(s) for e-agriculture in India?
PD-5: Yes. The Association For People of Haryana (AFPOH), established in the year 2007, has taken many steps and initiatives at national and international level in the fields of agriculture, health, rural infrastructure development, revitalising financial access to rural farmers, etc. As far as initiatives for e-agriculture in India are concerned, we have shared our research works and suggestions with national and international community. We have also started an initiative titled e-agriculture in India that would endeavour to amalgamate ICT with agriculture in India.
SP-6: Tell us something more about AFPOH?
PD-6: Well AFPOH is a social initiative by an association of people who are working in the direction of empowering the marginalised and deprived people in rural and other areas. The area of operation of AFPOH covers segments like agriculture, health, banking, finance and insurance, education, rural infrastructure development, power, etc. We have strengthened the initiative of AFPOH by extending support for legal and regulatory measure that farmers and other people may face in various situations. Similarly, for ICT matters our other initiatives would provide their support and expertise.
SP-7: How is AFPOH using ICT for its mission and objectives?
PD-7: AFPOH is using ICT for all its objectives and areas of functioning. For instance, concepts like e-agriculture, e-health, e-learning, e-commerce, e-banking, etc are some of the initiatives that are in the process of implementation by AFPOH. Further, AFPOH is also working in the direction of use of ICT for communication and sharing of views, expertise, suggestions, problems, etc at national and international level. AFPOH intends to provide a “voice to the marginalised and deprived segment so that national and international communities can coordinate and collaborate their empowerment initiatives.