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“Is e-NAM The Solution?”: Technology Enters The Farmer’s Market

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Previously, we have discovered how fragmented, unorganized, procedurally ill, technologically archaic and fragile (in terms of infrastructure) India’s agricultural market system remains. This is, certainly, one of the most important and decisive factors behind the overall distress farming faces today.

In 2016, an online trading platform named National Agriculture Market or eNAM was launched by the government which basically facilitates farmers, traders and buyers with online trading in commodities. Without a doubt, it must be admitted that such a system is the need of the hour. It is going to help in better price discovery for farmers and provide facilities for smooth marketing of their produce.

eNam | process
Credits: eNAM.GOV

There is no denying the fact that the intention of the government has always been to provide farmers with better price for their produce, thereby assuring them of a secure livelihood. The point, however, is that least efforts have been taken to ensure successful implementation on the ground.

There are about 2,477 principal regulated markets (APMCs) and 4,843 sub-market yards regulated by respective APMCs in India. However, roughly 1,000 APMC mandis have been connected to eNAM so far, which raises a pertinent question: Why it is taking too much time to get existing markets integrated with the portal?

If observed carefully, it can be seen that most of the large APMC markets have not been integrated with the portal. Take Azadpur mandi of Delhi or Vashi market of Mumbai, for example. Recently, APMC Vashi Market went online but only due to the social distancing factor.

The reason behind this slow integration is the fact that there is huge resistance for online trading both from the government and other stakeholders involved in the process, including intermediaries with powerful backgrounds. Talking about state governments, since market fee is a huge source of revenue for them, most of the states have been reluctant in introducing eNAM in their respective states from the beginning.

The fundamental flaw with online trading lies in the fact that intermediaries have been understood as villains, and the new system aims to completely eliminate intermediaries from farm-to-fork chain.

Undoubtedly, existence of intermediaries has been one of the factors behind farmers’ low income, but it is unrealistic for the government to ignore the role they play in the entire chain from availing credits to farmers till marketing of their produce. Some even consider them as “Necessary Evils”. Their role in collecting farm produce, saving logistics cost, making prompt payments to farmers, sorting, packing and branding of produce can’t be ignored. The networking is so intricately organized that sometimes even farmers themselves become intermediaries.

Majority of the states have made respective changes in their APMC acts to get markets integrated with eNAM, but the sad part is that the traders still fail to provide a competitive price to the farmers for their agricultural produce in their state. There is no evidence till date suggesting that the new online system has increased farmers’ income significantly in any of the region of India.

Farmer sitting amidst his grain stock
The role of the Government in collecting farm produce, saving logistics cost, making prompt payments to farmers, sorting, packing and branding of produce can’t be ignored.||Credits: REUTERS/Amit Dave (INDIA – Tags: FOOD BUSINESS) – RTR4E4MS

Just making a portal and asking marketing boards to join the same doesn’t solve the challenges of market fragmentation, multi-level taxation and license issues in APMCs. The Telegraph reported that eNAM has not been successful in dealing with existing problems of APMCs like scrappy supply and market chain, scarcity of covered and open auction platforms, common drying yards, grading facilities and electronic weighbridges, lack of accurate and timely market information system, and so on.

In short, we don’t have the infrastructure ready which can support such a highly ambitious initiative. The fact is that we have just made the design of rocket on software but still don’t have the fuel ready.

Going online from offline is not as easy as it seems. We have already seen the chaos created by the implementation of GST. It is to be noted that farmers are much more backward than businesspeople, big or small.

There are numerous factors to be taken into account before such a huge transformation takes place. There are vested interests involved of every stakeholder in the chain. Making the trading online doesn’t ensure all the levies (discussed in part II of this series) are phased out immediately or gradually.

It is unrealistic to think that technologically-driven environment will run without collecting appropriate user fees/cess/taxes at various ends of the supply chain. Considering the low digital illiteracy in rural areas, it will require computer centres with high speed connectivity to be set up, which are easily accessible to farmers. Who will bear the cost of running such centres?

Ensuring that old commissioning agents are not replaced by new agents and the market actually works as per the desired process is hard, and largely dependent on the people who are getting affected by it and those who are responsible for its implementation at the official level.

Moreover, e-auctioning that this electronic portal is about, is tough, indeed. It is not going to be easy for the buyers or traders to assess the quality of food grains sold by producers on the portal itself. We need to understand there is a difference between huge amounts of food grain transported and a small Amazon parcel that we can return if we find that the quality is not good enough.

Transportation of food grains
We need to understand there is a difference between huge amounts of food grain transported and a small Amazon parcel.||Credits: PTI via ET

Even if the model becomes successful at small level, which is highly unlikely, taking it to inter-state level requires extraordinary efforts in terms of infrastructural development. If a paddy producer from Odisha wants to sell their produce to a buyer from Gujarat, I am unable to understand who will bear the transportation cost? And, if the slightest of that cost is incurred by the farmer, the model is a complete failure, and the entire purpose of providing them assured income gets defeated.

Also, inter-state trade may work for cereals and coarse grains, but not for perishable items. Let’s get back to the reality. The reality is that our storage infrastructure is so weak that preservation of food grains in the existing system remains a gigantic challenge. Unfortunately, the policies of government (to be discussed in next part) are nothing but a half-baked cake which can only cause indigestion to the farmers.

You can also Part I of the series, and Part II of the series. Next part is available here.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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