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ICT in agriculture needs financial support, tax incentives

Ekgaon Technologies CEO VIJAY PRATAP SINGH ADITYA talks on persisting problems in providing ICT services to farmers and expectations from the Budget

Ekgaon Technologies provides farm advisories to farmers in various parts of India, its CEO VIJAY PRATAP SINGH ADITYA talks to MOHD MUSTAQUIM on persisting problems in providing ICT services to farmers and expectations from the Budget

How do you asses the NDA government’s focus on the role of ICT in agriculture sector so far?
The Government has made some big announcements on use of ICT in agriculture, from Kisan Channel, Kisan Helpline, Kisan Suvidha Mobile App among other ICT services. However, each of these initiatives remains largely ineffective due to quality of content, delivery method and not meeting farmers' needs.
The ineffectiveness is evident from viewership numbers, number of calls and decrease in their numbers, App engagement duration and trading volumes among various other reasons.

What should be the Budgetary allocation to ITeS in agriculture?
Governments cannot and should not play direct role in implementation of programmes in agriculture in socially non-homogeneousness and agro-climatically diverse country. It should encourage entrepreneurs and NGOs who work with farmers. It should give incentives such as service tax waivers. The budgetary allocation for these services could be around 5 percent of the agriculture budget.

What are the major pain points for the ICT companies who are providing services to farmers which the Government should give special focus in the budget?
The main problem that ITeS companies face in service delivery to farmers are, cost of delivery, cost of adoption, how to get farmers adopt the services and continue it over time and framework for adoption of services, due to weak institutional support mechanism.
There is a need of financial support for extension and training tax waivers, along with affordable technical architecture that could be used by companies to subsidise their services for farmers.

How is ICT helpful for farming community, particularly for small and marginal farmers?
Access to information for small and marginal farmers is limited. With increasing role of women in taking key farming decision due to ‘MaleOut’ migration, the situation becomes more unique as the most important learning group for small and marginal women farmers, "the peers" becomes in-accessible due to social issues. Hence, ICTs play a very important role, as mobile phone and television access have become more widespread and most farmers have access to these means of communication.

What measures need to be taken in the upcoming budget to make the agriculture remunerative?
The Government should ensure better access to agri-credit, particularly to small and marginal ones, value chain finance should work on ground. Beside, the Government should improve efforts on availability of quality inputs, ensuring market access, re-organising APMCs to be more efficient and discourage cartelling and allow farmers to sell their produce as per their choice and not compulsion. The agri chain needs to be re-organised and be made more accountable to farmers. 

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