It was hailed as a solution to perennial problems of farmers
Eleven years after it was piloted and hailed as a promising solution to perennial problems faced by farmers, Information Technology for Agriculture Project (ITAP) appears to have been caught in a bureaucratic quagmire.
Claimed to be a unique Private Public Partnership venture, it was to be a model of harnessing the immense potential of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for farmer-centric integrated rural and agriculture development.
But the ITAP was bounced from one department/ Ministry to another, various financial institutions and now, no one in the officialdom knows its fate. “Though it was approved by the then Chief Minister, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, the Agriculture Minister, top State officials, officials of Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) and the State-level Sanctioning Committee (SLSC) in 2008, there is no forward movement”, Thiruchelvam Ramakrishnan, IT professional and originator of the project laments.
The project piloted in some villages of Pulivendula mandal in Kadapa district was aimed at using ICT for addressing farmers’ problems and filling the gaps in selection of right kind of crop, the area, supply of inputs, credit and remunerative price for agriculture produce.
After the pilot was hailed by experts, a proposal was submitted to the Department of Information and Communication Technology and Department of Rural Development to extend it to the entire Kadapa district and then to the State. A MoU was signed on August 25, 2006, without any financial commitment from the government.
As Mr. Thiruchelvam and others were in the process of bringing investors, the Central government announced Common Service Centre scheme first and then launched the RKVY with a financial outlay of Rs.25,000 crore. The ITAP was considered for inclusion in the RKVY programme in October 2007.
On the direction of the SLSC, it was re-submitted on PPP mode on January 23, 2008. With Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) showing interest, Mr. Thiruchelvam formed a company, ITR Technology India Private Limited and a MoU was signed. Both submitted a joint proposal to the State government. The government was to own the infrastructure while the private partners were to roll-out their IT solution and manage the recurring expenditure of Rs.54 crore for a period of four years. The SLSC approved the proposal on March 15, 2008.
From here, Mr. Thiruchelvam, said the project ran into rough weather with the transfer of two key officials of Agriculture Department. Despite clarification by the then MD of and CEO of IL&FS on November 22, 2008, the ITR was asked to submit micro-level details of the project.
“We furnished the details though it ran the risk of a unique content developing algorithm being pirated,” Mr. Thiruchelvam said.
‘No response now’
He alleged that though Rajasekhara Reddy, who returned for second term gave a go-ahead in January 2009, some top Agriculture officials were reluctant and worked against the project.
“These officials misled the Chief Minister over availability of funds and another Central scheme Agriculture Information System Network (AGRISNET). And now no official is giving a proper response”.