Social change and freedom movements around the world are using social media to express themselves. The internet is a platform for liberation. Hence, internet and social media are the best tools to change mind sets while in convergence with agriculture, says Mr. Baidyanath Mishra while talking in the context of the application of digital and web media and mobile technology for development of agriculture sector in Odisha.
Not for nothing Odisha is the poorest of the states in India. It has many veritable reasons to be called so and the single most of them is its negligence to farm sector which determines the fate of 70 percent of the state’s population. Once upon a time death due to starvation was the most talked about phenomenon in the state. Such ugly and abominable incidents though not admitted by the Govt. of the day, it sent a message to the rest of the world that people of the state are dying for want of food.
Phanas Punji selling her sister-in-law for rupees forty to manage her kitchen was the story which went round like wild fire in the 80s and forced Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi to visit Kalahandi’s the then subdivision Nuapada. This led to beginning of the KBK (kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput) scheme and today after 20 years of its launch, there is no improvement in the status of the poverty stricken people of the area. Around 3,000 crores have so far been pumped into this ambitious project of Atal Bihari Bajpayee, but all in vein. This money has been looted by the white elephants by some means or other.
By this time the agriculture sector should have shown an upward trend but that could never become a reality. The ‘one rupee-one kilo’ rice introduced by Naveen government was not the right substitute because this negated the very principle of empowerment to farmers. Rather they were disillusioned by the scheme and in the process a class of idle people having no work was created. With two square meals a day, the labour class rendered themselves jobless which was suicidal. The farmers went short of farm labours and fields were left short of labours both in villages as well as in towns. Floating of the one-rupee rice scheme whether launched consciously or not, became a trump card for BJD in Odisha to win election after election with name of Naveen Pattanaik becoming synonymous with the project.
The agricultural policy of the state was worst hit as more and more people remained in the BPL category and became beneficiary of the scheme. Small and marginal farmers who managed yield from their land went from pillar to post to sale their produce. With no scientific net work available for marketing, many of them suffered in the hands of the middlemen and distressed sale of paddy, cotton, corn etc ruled the roost. Neither the govt. nor the farmers are willing to learn from their neighbours in Andra Pradesh, Chhatisgarh or Madhya Pradesh which follow sound agricultural policies.There was a time the Govt. was denying all starvation deaths and today it denies cases of farmers suicide. On both the count western Odisha has been the victim.
It was Janaki Pattnaik and the congress who did not count the death toll and now it is Naveen Pattnaik who has shut his eyes on farmer suicide. Labour migration is also an offshoot of agricultural debacle and Western Odisha is again a victim in this. NAveen Pattnaik might have created a record by ruling Odisha consequitively for the fourth time, but he has also created a record for rendering the people of Odisha jobless, idle and indolent.
Now this being the scenario of the agriculture sector Vis-à-vis the western Odisha in particular, its convergence with social media is hardly visible today. It is in conceptual stage and therefore the timing of the seminar is appropriate. Convergence of agriculture and IT technology has remained almost in a zero level and therefore it can be discussed only as a future possibility. Strength of web, social media or mobile technology to converge with agriculture is enormous. The internet and social media like facebook, twitter, whatsapp etc. can change mindsets. Yet, the question remains about how does society need to change to keep pace with and take advantage of this digital communication revolution.
Social media is a tool for employment of these oppressed and subjugated class, the farmers community inclusive. From flash mobs to earth quake relief, from corporate launches to movements such as the Swatch Bharat campaign, social media is being used to impact mind sets. Ours is a closed society structure. It is the urban youth in India who is leading the social media growth and the responsibilities lies on them whether they would transform their vision of the digital revolution to the rural class at an emotional level. Humour, awe, anger or even narcissism are expressed on the internet. At its best, it is entertaining, helpful, inspirational and valuable. At its worst, it is unforgiving, humiliating, defaming and shaming.
Social change and freedom movements around the world are using social media to express themselves. The internet is a platform for liberation. Hence, internet and social media are the best tools to change mind sets while in convergence with agriculture. A giant leap is waiting to be made for penetration of internet deep into the far flung villages, from the proposed direct selling of agricultural supplies to farmers to improving access to health care – the future is definitely hi tech and it is arriving. But what about the supporting devices? Are we 24X7 connected to quality supply of electricity? Can anybody bat for it?
With increasing use of pesticides and insecticides that are sprayed, often indiscriminately, on crops and chemicals that are added to process food, intake of toxins entering our system has also grown high. Increasing presence of toxins in the environment has always been a cause for concern. Therefore awareness generation among the farmers is also of crucial importance in order to discourage the use of pollutants and toxicants. There must be adequate research to promote organic foods as an alternative to processed foods, which are loaded with chemicals. Pesticides and other similar toxicants have been linked to a wide range of human health issues and pollutants are often considered quick, easy and inexpensive solution for controlling weeds, insects and pests, but the usage has a significant human and environmental cost.
Engagement of farm labour in organic farming having been costlier, farmers are slowly turning to mechanization of agriculture. But the process does not ensure return on investment. To all such problems use of web, social media or mobile technology though useful will never be a one stop solution. The challenge is so massive, especially when the area of cultivable land is decreasing and requirement of food is increasing with growth of population, there will have to be a multi corner effort to advancement of agriculture, though digital media has an important role to play especially to create awareness among farmers. A great deal of effort is needed to train the rural farmers to make them understand the nuances of e-commerce to the proposed direct selling of agricultural supplies to farmers and marketing agricultural produce to the urban consumer.
The Govt. of Odisha has no doubt taken some steps. Distribution of mobile sets to 5000 farmers to receive agriculture related information such as weather information, market rate etc via sms and voice calls. MIS ( Mobile Information System ) will be maintained by IIT Kanpur and BSNL. Similarly there is a proposal by NCDEX spot exchange ltd. (NSTOP), a leading exchange for daily electronics trading of agricultural commodities for which online trading facility has to be provided in select mandis to begin with.
What Odisha needs is the will to adapt this new technology in an aggressive manner. Disseminating information through digital media is a challenge in Odisha and therefore by Keeping pace with new technology the state can scale new heights especially in agricultural front. What we need is a smart society which is techno savvy to lead the revolution. But then, it must devolve around and does not concentrate in Bhubaneswar alone.
(The opinion expressed here in the article belong to the author himself and it has no direct relation with the Channel or our Editorial Policy.)
The author is the Editor, Kosal Horizon, Rourkela. He can be contacted at +91-94370 83025.