[Gist of Kurushetra December 2020] Public Private Partnerships for Digitalisation in Rural India

Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level: mKisan SMS Portal
Mains level: Public Private Partnerships for Digitalisation in Rural India

Introduction:

• Globally 70 percent of the people have access to mobile phones, 40 percent has internet access and there are major initiatives underway to connect those left behind especially in rural areas. It is expected that in the next ten years, there will be dramatic changes in the agrifood system spearheaded by advanced digital technologies like Blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Immerse Reality, etc. Other factors include changing consumer preferences and demands, the influence of e-commerce on global agrifood trade, climate changes etc.

• Major transformations of agricultural systems, rural economies, communities and natural resource management will be required for digitalisation of rural areas to achieve its full potential. Market forecasts suggest that digitalisation technologies will transform agriculture and the food sector over the next decade. These technologies will have their own place and impact within the agrifood value chain. The rural segment could broadly benefit from the raising farmers’ incomes and boosting their income security, one of the highest priorities for the government. This can be aided by three digital themes: — Digital financing and insurance payouts enabled by consolidating information and facilitating credit-scoring and yield-forecasting models using satellite and weather data.

Government Initiatives Below are some of the schemes already rolled out by the government:

• Kisan Suvidha: Kisan Suvidha is an omnibus mobile app developed to help farmers get relevant information instantly. The app provide information on various details such as weather, market prices, seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, agriculture machinery, dealers, agro advisories, plant protection and IPM practices etc. Other unique features like extreme weather alerts, market prices of commodity in nearest area and the maximum price in state as well as in India have been added to empower farmers in the best possible manner.

• Farmer Portal: The portal is envisaged to make available relevant information and services to the farming community and private sector through the use of information and communication technologies, to supplement the existing delivery channels provided for by the department. Farmers’ Portal is an endeavour in this direction to create one-stop shop for meeting all informational needs relating to Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries sectors production, sale/storage of an Indian farmer. With this Indian Farmer will not be required to sift through maze of websites created for specific purposes.

• mKisan: mKisan SMS Portal has been conceptualised to give a quantum leap in coverage of farmers and geographical area in a timely, specific, holistic and need based knowledge dissemination among the farmers by leveraging the power of mobile telephony in such a way that all sectors use this platform to not only reach out to the farmers but also to address their concerns and queries.

• NREGA: NREGA soft envisions implementing e-Governance across State, District and three tiers of Panchayati Raj Institutions. It empowers the common man using the information technology as a facilitator. NREGA soft provides information to citizen in compliance with the right to information Act (RTI Act). It makes available all the documents like Muster Rolls, registration application register, job card/employment register/muster roll issue register, muster roll receipt register which are hidden from public otherwise.

• Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyaan (PMGDISHA): PMGDISHA is a scheme to make six crore persons in rural areas, across States/UTs, digitally literate, reaching to around 40 percent of rural households by covering one member from every eligible household by 31st March, 2019. It aims to bridge the digital divide, specifically targeting the rural population including the marginalised sections of society like Scheduled Castes (SC)/Scheduled Tribes (ST), Minorities, Below Poverty Line (BPL), women and differently-abled persons and minorities.

• Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY): PMJDY is a National Mission on Financial Inclusion encompassing an integrated approach to bring about comprehensive financial inclusion of all the households in the country. The plan envisages universal access to banking facilities at least one basic banking account in every household, financial literacy, access to credit, insurance and pension facility. The initiative envisages channeling all Government benefits (from Centre/State/Local Body) to the beneficiaries’ accounts and pushing the Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) scheme of the Union Government.

• BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money): Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) is an app that makes payment transactions simple, easy and quick using Unified Payments Interface (UPI). It enables direct bank to bank payments instantly and collect money using a Mobile number or Payment address.

• Crop Insurance Mobile App: Crop insurance mobile app can be used to calculate the insurance premium for notified crops based on area, coverage amount and loan amount in case of loanee farmer. It can also be used to get details of normal sum insured, extended sum insured, premium details and subsidy information of any notified crop in any notified area.

• e-Panchayat: e-Panchayat is an e-Governance initiative for the rural sector providing comprehensive software solution attempting automation of Gram Panchayat functions. It is a platform for panchayat representatives to connect with rest of the world, which aims to bring out the local voices by empowering the local communities to showcase and share local social, cultural and economic practices, stories and challenges.

• E-NAM: National Agriculture Market (NAM) is a pan India electronic trading portal which networks the existing APMC (Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee) mandis to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities. The NAM Portal provides a single window service for all APMC related information and services. This includes commodity arrivals and prices, buy and sell trade offers and provision to respond to trade offers, among other services. While material flow (agriculture produce) continues to happen through mandis, an online market reduces transaction costs and information
asymmetry.

• Pusa Krishi: With the vision to take technology to the farm fields, Pusa Krishi application was developed. The app helps the farmers to find easy solutions to problems in their farm fields and get information about weather and accordingly take measures to save crops. It also offers information related to new varieties of crops developed by Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), resource conserving cultivation practices as well as farm machinery and its implementation will help in increasing returns to farmers.

• Soil Health Card: It aims at promoting Integrated Nutrient Management (INM) through judicious use of chemical fertilisers including secondary and micro nutrients in conjunction with organic manures and bio-fertilisers for improving soil health and its productivity; strengthening of soil and fertiliser testing facilities to provide soil test based recommendations to farmers for improving soil fertility; ensuring quality control requirements of fertilisers, bio-fertilisers and organic fertilisers under Fertiliser Control Order, 1985; upgradation of skill and knowledge of soil testing laboratory staff, extension staff and farmers through training and demonstrations; promoting organic farming practices etc.

• Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana: One of the flagship programmes of the Power Ministry (MoP), Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) is designed to provide continuous power supply to the entire rural India. With this scheme, the government had decided to electrify 18,452 unelectrified villages within 1000 days, by May 1, 2018. The DDUGJY can benefit rural households significantly as electricity is extremely vital for growth and development of the country.

• GARV Grameen Vidyutikaran Mobile App: The mobile application provides real-time updated data of ongoing electrification process to all users/stakeholders and provides information about Government schemes and electrification data. The app can also be used for sharing inspirational stories of differently-abled, who achieved success despite all odds.

Conclusion:

• The success of a new and efficient India hinges on the inclusion of rural areas into a digital framework and make the benefits of technology accessible to all sections of society. Public-private initiatives would go a long way in providing even finger print readers for farmers with worn and calloused hands, screens that can be read in the sunlight, and thermal printers to get instant receipts after transactions. Other areas that would be of critical help would be in healthcare, education, virtual kirana stores and even digital voting.

• Digitalisation can help rural India in e-governance services, banking and financials, education and healthcare, mobile/DTH recharge, e-ticketing, online shopping, etc. With financial inclusion being an important priority of the government, any last-mile gap is being filled by banks through a combination of finance and technology enabled by business correspondent agents where customers can open accounts and do normal banking transactions.

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