Information and Communication Technology and its Potential to Transform Indian Agriculture

Information and Communication Technology and its Potential to Transform Indian Agriculture

Saurabh Singh (College of Agribusiness Management, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2655-3.ch012
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The role of Information Communication Technology in enhancing food security is well established and has been recognized at worldwide forums like World Summit of Information Society (WSIS) 2004-2005. Information Technology includes use of computer, internet, geographical information system, and mobile phone, besides traditional media. Every sphere having to do with agriculture has scope for information technology to make significant contribution, but in a few areas, its impact can be instantaneous. The present era, also known as the information era, requires creation of information expressway interlinking farmers, markets, corporate, agricultural scientists, and buyers of agricultural products. This may help producers to realize maximum share from the price paid by end consumer. In the present agricultural marketing system, middlemen share a significant portion from price paid by end consumer, and what the farmer gets is residue. Thus, the two major areas where information technology intervention can create progress are creation of information expressway for farmers; and strengthening farmers’ linkages to supply chain. These two aspects have been discussed with the help of initiatives like AGMARKNET, NDDB Procurement Process, e-Choupal, and EID’s Parry’s Corner. The effort is to facilitate learning with real life examples as contrasted against pure and abstract discussion based learning.
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Historical Overview Of Indian Agriculture

India, which always enjoyed the envious position of being ‘Global Seat of Power and Trade’, was forced to suffer tyranny and oppression, at the hands of its foreign conquerors, for nearly four centuries. Preceding line is important in the context that the structure of India’s present day economy is not just of current making; it has its roots steeped in history. Particular reference is being made of period when India was under British rule, which lasted for almost two centuries, before India finally won independence on August 15, 1947.

This was a period, when the renaissance of Britain as well as Europe was shaping up in all the spheres of human activity after its long unwelcome tryst with dark ages, spanning centuries, approximately from 600 AD to 1600 AD (Hodge 1982). Besides Britain, few other nations that harbored imperialistic agenda were Spain, France and Portugal, and all being nearly contemporary. Fascinated by wealth and developed trade in orient, British with intension to trade reached the Indian shores. After a brief period of trading relationship, these traders started to ruin the fortune of India’s Trade and Development, as they turned greedy, invaders, conquerors and exploiters. It seems pertinent here, before deliberating ahead about British India and Indian Agriculture; to provide a glimpse of Agriculture, as it was, in India during Pre- British era, and the same could be found in the words of a seventeenth century French Traveler to Bengal (Uppal, 2006).

“(Bernier, 17th Century) the knowledge I have acquired of Bengal in two visits inclines me to believe that it is richer than Egypt. It exports in abundance, cottons and silks, rice, sugar and butter. It produces amply – for its own consumption – wheat, vegetables, grains, fowls, ducks and geese. It has immense herds of pigs and flocks of sheep and goats. Fish of every kind it has in profusion. From ‘Rajmahal (Palace)’ to the sea is an endless number of canals, cut in bygone ages from the Ganges by immense labour for navigation and irrigation”. In India, Bernier came under the protection of Daneshmand Khan (Mullah Shafi'a'i, a native of Yazd), an important official at the court of Aurangzeb. (Wikipedia).

Economy of India prior to being forced turned as a colony of British imperialists, was an independent one. Though agriculture was the mainstay of livelihood for majority of Indians, the nation’s economy had made enough strides in manufacturing industry, to enable it to be called as developed. Prominent among the industries were handicrafts, cotton & textile, metal and precious stone works etc. The economic policies pursued by the colonial government in India were concerned with protection and promotion of economic interests of their home country than with the development of Indian Economy (Uppal, 2006). Such policies transformed Indian economy and country into just being a supplier of raw material and consumer of finished industrial products for Britain.

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