Anil Kumar Singh, CIO and General Manager (Management Services), Krishak Bharati Co-operative Limited (KRIBHCO), talks about creating a nationwide digital process platform to aid farmers.
By Satyaki Sarkar
Anil Kumar Singh started off his career as an Electrical Engineer in 1982, and after working in a consultancy firm for six years on various projects, shifted to the fertiliser manufacturing industry and worked for a computerisation drive for the last 30 years. He’s been responsible for developing several solutions for plant maintenance scheduling, lubrication scheduling, inventory management, ERP implementation, data centre commissioning and business continuity solutions, networking and more. He’s worked closely with the Indian Government through the Fertiliser Association of India and the Ministry of Fertilisers to develop policies and processes that aid farmers. For his efforts he was recently awarded as a SCM Icon at CIO Power List 2017. Here, he talks to us about creating a nationwide digital process that helps all farmers avail of government fertiliser subsidies without the need of middlemen, tools, or paperwork.
“One of the biggest projects I’ve had an opportunity to work on is the e-governance direct benefit transfer (DBT) project to develop a process to transfer government fertiliser subsidy benefits directly to farmers. The government recently decided to issue the fertiliser and subsidy based on the land owned by farmers to eliminate the black market and misutilisation. Earlier, chemical fertilisers weren’t only being issued to farmers for their crops, but were also sold for industrial uses and that to at a higher rate, leading to the consumption of fertilisers going up unnecessarily. Thus, the basic purpose of the subsidy was being lost, which is what the government and manufacturers are trying to fix.”
“The government has introduced 100 per cent neem coated urea to control industrial uses, made AADHAR card compulsory for every farmer in order to get the subsidy as per law, and linked farmers’ AADHAR numbers directly with their bank accounts. The subsidy on every fertiliser bag purchased by farmers shall be credited directly into their bank accounts linked with their identification. This way we developed a seamless way for the benefits to be directly transferred to them, without any malpractice or misuse. Also, our AADHAR-linked subsidisation ensures farmers don’t need to have Internet or any other tool to get the subsidies directly in their accounts.
“AADHAR will soon become the basic unique key for banks, as well as identification for every citizen. By 2020 the entire process will be integrated using cloud technology and suitable ERP like SAP, etc. The data will be collated and updated on the basis of farmers, retailers, distributors, and manufacturers. After getting recorded in the system it comes to our SAP ERP, and then goes to the Ministry of Fertilisers’ database and gets updated. POS (point of sale) machines have been provided to retailers to update sale of stock to farmers. This way it will accurately display the actual quantity of fertiliser available and the amount distributed.
“With the database completely digitised and dynamically linked with the AADHAR database, the black marketing of fertilisers will completely be stopped, thereby improving farmers’ lives as well as the agriculture industry by leaps and bounds.”
The challenges of digitisation
“The biggest problem we’re facing right now is that land records aren’t completely digitised in all states. So there isn’t comprehensive, accurate electronic data available identifying the type of farmer, whether he actually owns the land, etc. The digitisation is an on-going effort and it will still take time to credit the subsidy amount directly to the farmer’s account. So till such a time that the database is correctly updated and the online process becomes streamlined, the government has decided on a workaround. For now, the subsidy will be passed on to the manufacturer based on the fertiliser sold to the farmer through POS machines linked to Ministry of Fertiliser sites.
“Despite advances, there are still a number of villages and remote locations that remain without connectivity and even basic electricity. This makes the digitisation process difficult, as Internet/bandwidth is a key requirement. To solve that we have been distributing mobile phones and dongles to farmers to give them a way to connect with the rest of the country and the world, learn about better farming techniques, government schemes, etc. We also hold a number of promotional programs and training courses as part of our CSR activities to increase awareness.”