(GS-III: Agriculture and related issues)
The government is working on a digital ‘stack’ of agricultural datasets, with its core as land records.
But, such a centralised stack will use old and inaccurate land records; farmers’ personal and financial details will be used without a strong data protection law; and rural areas have a low level of digital literacy. Hence, experts say such an ‘AgriStack’ is problematic.
What is AgriStack?
The AgriStack is a collection of technologies and digital databases proposed by the Central Government focusing on India’s farmers and the agricultural sector.
The central government has claimed that these new databases are being built to primarily tackle issues such as poor access to credit and wastage in the agricultural supply chain.
Features and significance:
Under AgriStack’, the government aims to provide ‘required data sets’ of farmers’ personal information to Microsoft to develop a farmer interface for ‘smart and well-organized agriculture’.
The digital repository will aid precise targeting of subsidies, services and policies, the officials added.
Under the programme, each farmer of the country will get what is being called an FID, or a farmers’ ID, linked to land records to uniquely identify them. India has 140 million operational farm-land holdings.
Issues with the move:
Agriculture has become the latest sector getting a boost of ‘techno solutionism’ by the government.
But it has, since then, also become the latest sector to enter the whole debate about data privacy and surveillance.
Since the signing of the MoUs, several concerns related to sharing farmers’ data with private companies are raised.
The development has raised serious concerns about information asymmetry, data privacy and consent, profiling of farmers, mismanaged land records and corporatization of agriculture.
The formation of ‘Agristack’ also implies commercialization of agriculture extension activities as they will shift into a digital and private sphere.
Why such concerns?
The project was being implemented in the absence of a data protection legislation.
It might end up being an exercise where private data processing entities may know more about a farmer’s land than the farmer himself.
Without safeguards, private entities would be able to exploit farmers’ data to whatever extent they wish to.
This information asymmetry, tilted towards the technology companies, might further exploit farmers, especially small and marginal ones.
At present, the majority of farmers across India are small and marginal farmers with limited access to advanced technologies or formal credit that can help improve output and fetch better prices.
Among the new proposed digital farming technologies and services under the programme include sensors to monitor cattle, drones to analyse soil and apply pesticide, may significantly improve the farm yields and boost farmers’ incomes.
(GS-III: Agriculture and related issues)
The India Greenhouse Horticulture market held a market value of USD 190.84 Million in 2021 and is estimated to reach USD 271.25 Million by the year 2030.
The market is expected to register a growth rate of 4.19% over the projected period. In 2021, India’s greenhouse horticulture production was 27.71 million tonnes.
What is greenhouse horticulture?
Greenhouse Horticulture is also known as protected cropping. It is the production of horticultural crops within, under or sheltered by structures for providing modified growing conditions and/or protection from adverse weather, pests, and diseases.
Robust increase in population and food demand.
Rising entrepreneurship under horticulture due to government intervention.
What is Horticulture?
The term horticulture is derived from two Latin words hortus, meaning ‘garden’, and cultura meaning ‘cultivation’ hence meaning, crops cultivated in a garden cultivation.
It is a science and art of production, utilisation and improvement of fruits, vegetables, flowers and other plants for human food, non-food uses and social needs.
L.H. Bailey is considered the Father of American Horticulture and M.H. Marigowda is considered the Father of Indian Horticulture.
Diverse agro-climatic conditions in India ensure the production of all types of fresh fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants.
Horticulture crops perform a vital role in the Indian economy by generating employment, providing raw material to various food processing industries, and higher farm profitability due to higher production and export earnings from foreign exchange.
The comparative production per unit area of horticultural crops is higher than field crops.
Such crops are of high value, labour intensive and generate employment throughout the year. It has gained prominence over contributing a growing share in Gross Value Addition of agriculture.
They have national and international demand and are a good source of foreign exchange.
It is imperative to cater to the country’s estimated demand of 650 MT of fruits and vegetables by the year 2050.
India is the second-largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world after China.
Horticultural crops constitute a significant portion of the total agricultural produce in India. They cover a wide cultivation area and contribute about 28 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
These crops account for 37 per cent of the total exports of agricultural commodities from India.
During the year 2019-20, the country recorded its highest ever horticulture production of 320.77 million tonnes from an area of 25.66 million hectares.
Faces high post-harvest loss and gaps in post-harvest management due to less or limited input by machinery and equipment.
Lack of supply chain infrastructures like cold storage and well-connected transport networks.
Difficulties in setting up due to higher input costs and limited availability of market intelligence, mainly for exports.
There are no safety net provisions like the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for foodgrains.
The production of horticultural commodities is far less as compared to the existing demand in the country.
Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH):
Centrally Sponsored Scheme for the holistic growth of the horticulture sector covering fruits, vegetables and other areas.
Under MIDH, Government of India contributes 60% of the total outlay for developmental programmes in all the states (except North Eastern and Himalayan states where GOI contributes 90%) & 40% is contributed by State governments.
It has five major schemes on horticulture-
National Horticulture Mission (NHM)
Horticulture Mission for North East and Himalayan States (HMNEH)
National Horticulture Board (NHB)
Coconut Development Board (CDB) &
Central Institute of Horticulture (CIH), Nagaland.
National Horticulture Board (NHB):
It was set up in 1984 on the basis of recommendations of the “Group on Perishable Agricultural Commodities”, headed by Dr M. S. Swaminathan.
Headquartered at Gurugram.
Objective is to improve integrated development of Horticulture industry and to help in coordinating, sustaining the production and processing of fruits and vegetables.
Act East Policy
(GS-II: India and neighbourhood relations)
A webinar was recently organised on “Act East Policy”.
What is the ‘Act East Policy’?
India’s ‘Act East’ policy is a diplomatic initiative to promote economic, strategic and cultural relations with the vast Asia-Pacific region at different levels.
It is considered as the modern version of the ‘Look East Policy’ which was launched in 1991 by then Prime Minister V. Narasimha Rao.
The main focus of ‘Look East Policy’ was to shift the country’s trading focus from the west and neighbors to the booming South East Asian countries.
The “Act East Policy” was launched at the East Asia Summit in Myanmar in November 2014.
Under the “Act East Policy” the government is relying on the 3 C’s (Culture, Connectivity, and Commerce) to develop better relations with ASEAN nations.
Key differences between “Look East Policy” and “Act East Policy”:
The focus of the “Look East Policy ” was to increase economic integration with the South East Asian countries and the area was confined to SouthEast Asia only.
On the other hand the focus of the “Act East Policy” is economic and security integration and the focus area increased to South East Asia as well as East Asia.
Objectives of ‘Act East Policy’:
Promote economic cooperation, cultural ties, and develop a strategic relationship with countries in the Asia-Pacific region through continuous engagement at regional, bilateral, and multilateral levels.
To increase the interaction of the North-Eastern Indian states with other neighboring countries.
To find out the alternatives of the traditional business partners like; more focus on the Pacific countries in addition to the South East Asian countries.
To curb the increasing impact of China in the ASEAN region.
Experts say that under the “Act East Policy” the government is relying on the 3 C’s (Culture, Connectivity, and Commerce) to develop better relations with ASEAN nations.
Under the Act East Policy (AEP), the India-Japan strategic partnership has been lifted to an entirely new level, underscoring the importance of Indo- Pacific cooperation.
India believes in an Indo-Pacific that is free, open and inclusive, and one that is founded upon a cooperative and collaborative rules-based order.
ASEAN’s centrality remains the abiding contemporary characteristic of the Indo-Pacific at the regional level.
India has placed the ‘Indo-Pacific’ at the heart of its engagement with the countries of South, Southeast and East Asia. Gradually, Act ‘East’ is getting transformed into Act ‘Indo-Pacific’.