Kisan portal: Opportunities and challenges for farmers | By Makhdoom Shahab-ud-Din


Kisan portal: Opportunities and challenges for farmers

AGRICULTURE, being the corner stone of our economy, has established to about 18.9 percent of the GDP in previous years, making it a quintessential work sector.

However, during recent times, largely because of strong landlords and the adverse effects of COVID-19, small farmers have a very hard making a stable livelihood for their families.

Considering this in mind Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated the Kisan Portal — a category incorporated within the Citizen Portal that caters exclusively for farmers. This initiative aims to enkindle the voices of those farmers that were forced to be silent.

With a total of 123 dashboards, being set in relevant provincial and federal departments, the program seems to be a very unique initiative which will help in providing support to struggling farmers throughout the nation and will also provide a platform where they can address their concerns and problems.

Needless to say, the incumbent government is the only such government in Pakistan’s history that actually is helping small farmers as previous successive governments failed to do so. Small farmers have always been overlooked in Pakistan in many rural areas where the majority of such people is forced to preside over tenements with very low wages.

Many tenants will work for their entire lifetime and will never be able to own their personal lands as several landlords in our rural culture prove to be a force to be reckon with.

Those, however, who do own their land, at times, are forced to give up their lands at the hands of these very landlords or land mafia for personal nefarious reasons.

It is also worth mentioning that it was the current government that retrieved more than Rs 425 billion worth of land from land mafia in Punjab.

With the Kisan Portal in place, the current government will be able to provide even better justice to these “voiceless” farmers who have always been persecuted by various politicians and land lords.

Instead of relying on big landlords this Kisan Portal when fully operational, is expected to not only provide a voice but will also benefit the small farmers with more options for selling their produce with competitive returns while working in unison with the local traders who have access to larger national market for secondary trading and with bulk buyers.

Now farmers won’t have to rely on politicians and land mafia for buying and selling crops and produce.

This e-portal will also be helping to reduce information asymmetry, will help in increasing market reach for the farmers and will help in reducing transactional costs in the future if implemented properly.

Earlier the issues facing the farmers were not being brought forth to the quarters concerned for agriculture as there was no dedicated category for them in the Citizen’s Portal. Now things seem to take a change for the best as farmers can raise a voice against injustice.

On paper, this e-portal for farmers seems to be a game changer, however, by no means its free from its caveats.

The Citizen portal in general has a plethora of chinks within its armour as several users of the app have complained that their issues have never been acknowledged or resolved as people accountable for this shove their requests under the rug.

The Premier, however, did order, earlier in April to reopen more than 150,000 unresolved cases that were apportioned to high-ranking officers to resolve these cases but the situation has been a hit and miss scenario.

Moreover, if this issue trickles down to the farmer category of the app, Imran Khan’s vision will have a tall steep mountain to surmount as tension and unease among the farmer community might increase.

Another stifling situation is the inability of the farmers to use the app or file the complaint properly as most farmers have little or no education, therefore using the app can be quite cumbersome for them.

What the government can do for this is to create a farmer-friendly user interface for the app that farmers have no issue in using the Citizen Portal.

Another way to bypass this issue is by setting up training workshops in different villages and rural areas which would help these farmers use the app and will also help them understand their rights.

They should also be given information to which government official they should approach through the Portal when filing a complaint.

Moreover each district should have its own window desks in unison with the citizen portal which can further guide farmers in order to help them understand their rights.

It is only through these efforts, that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision can truly be given life. The government has been taking a lot of measures for farmers throughout the country.

With the success of the KisanCard and Prime Minister’s pledge to create more yielding seeds; this Kisan Portal seems to be the icing on the cake for every farmer throughout the nation.

—The writer is an award-winning journalist, TV anchor and social media influencer.

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