India’s Digital Database for Farmers AgriStack Piloted by Microsoft Stirs Fears About Privateness, Exclusion

A plan by India to construct digital databases of farmers to spice up their incomes has raised issues about privateness and the exclusion of poor farmers and people with out land titles.

Tech agency Microsoft will run a pilot for the agriculture ministry’s AgriStack in 100 villages in six Indian states to “develop (a) farmer interface for sensible and well-organised agriculture” geared toward enhancing effectivity and decreasing waste.

Every farmer can have a novel digital identification that comprises private particulars, details about the land they farm, in addition to manufacturing and monetary particulars. Every ID can be linked to the person’s digital nationwide ID Aadhaar.

AgriStack will create “a unified platform for farmers to offer them finish to finish companies throughout the agriculture meals worth chain,” authorities have mentioned, amid a broader push to digitise information in India, from land titles to medical data..

However the undertaking is being rolled out with out consultations with farmers, and with no authorized framework to guard their private information, in keeping with greater than 50 farmers’ teams and digital rights organisations which have criticised the proposal.

“These developments … appear to be going down in a coverage vacuum with respect to the info privateness of farmers,” they mentioned in a press release. “Such an method could fail to resolve structural points and as an alternative offers rise to new issues.”

A spokesman for the agriculture ministry didn’t reply to a request for remark.

About two-thirds of India’s 1.3 billion inhabitants depends on farming for a residing, however a majority are small and marginal farmers with restricted entry to superior applied sciences or formal credit score that may assist enhance output and fetch higher costs.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has vowed to double farmers’ incomes by 2022-23, final September handed three new legal guidelines that search to decontrol and modernise agriculture.

Farmer teams have opposed the legal guidelines, saying they’ll solely profit massive personal consumers at their expense.

Digital farming applied sciences and companies, together with sensors to monitor cattle, drones to analyse soil and apply pesticide, can enhance yields and considerably increase farmers’ incomes, in keeping with a examine by consulting agency Accenture.

However such applied sciences additionally generate big quantities of knowledge that can be utilized with out the consent of farmers, mentioned Rohin Garg, affiliate coverage counsel on the non-profit Web Freedom Basis.

“Within the absence of an information safety regulation, farmers’ information could also be exploited by personal sector entities” and result in excessive rates of interest on farm loans and compelled evictions, he mentioned.

Digitisation also can exclude pastoral communities, Dalits and indigenous people who find themselves typically prevented from proudly owning land.

“These cultivators and farmers are nonetheless not a part of information techniques and they aren’t recognised as farmers,” mentioned the non-profit Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture.

“In the end, any proposal which seeks to deal with the problems that plague Indian agriculture should deal with the elemental causes of those points – one thing the prevailing implementation of the AgriStack fails to do.”

© Thomson Reuters 2021


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