AIKS questions govt intent behind collating farmers’ data without any tangible benefits to them
Even as Modi govt celebrated six years of launch of the ‘Digital India’ campaign on Wednesday, AIKS, associated with CPIM – has slammed it for attempting to hand over farmers’ data to big corporates
Even as the Modi government celebrated six years of the launch of the ‘Digital India’ campaign on Wednesday, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) – the largest farmers’ body in the country, associated with the CPIM – has slammed it for attempting to hand over farmers’ data to big corporates.
To mark the occasion, PM Modi had an interaction with beneficiaries of the Digital India programme on Thursday morning. Organized by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the programme was also attended by Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and experts.
AIKS pointed out that “data in the 21st century is considered like oil in the 18st century and is an immensely, untapped valuable asset”, adding, “Those who see the fundamental value of data and learn to extract and use it will amass huge profits. If data is wealth, the question of why farmers should part with it without any tangible benefits is an important question”.
In response to a consultation paper published by the Ministry of Agriculture, AIKS opined, “The direction of data flow could determine who profits using the India Digital Ecosystem of agriculture. If the data is flowing from farmers to the private sector, wealth will also flow in that direction.”
“Instead of asking farmers to share their data with the private sector, the govt should convince various private companies to provide free data relating to weather, market prices and commodity purchase back to the farmers,” it suggested.
Stating that “the data of farmers to create farmer profiles is completely unacceptable”, the farmers’ body said, “Plan to digitize farming and use of technology in farming is also converting them (farmers) into mere data generators for the private sector without giving them any effective protection”.
Pointing out that land records in India had hardly been updated since the time of British govt, AIKS demanded:
Ministry of Agriculture should do widest possible consultation on the issue
Prior consent of farmers must be taken before using their data for any purpose
In the absence of a data protection law, farmers’ data should not be shared with any one
Talking to NH, joint secretary of All India Kisan Sabha, Viju Krishnan who is widely credited for leading a 180 km long ‘Kisan Long March’ in Maharashtra in 2018 said, “This whole idea of Digital India has become an exclusionary tool for a large section of population because of many factors including lack of knowledge, poor internet etc. Even in welfare schemes like Right to Food, we have seen that a large chunk of the poor have been excluded.”
“Second thing is that the intent of the government is questionable. Big private corporations have been roped in to collect farmers' data. What are farmers going to get in lieu of it from these corporations?” asked Krishnan.