Slow Internet, middlemen derail govt's e-mandi scheme
The government's move to bring transparency in mandis by eliminating middlemen through a pan-India electronic trading portal has been 'abruptly' hit by a cartel of aadtis (mandi middlemen) and poor Internet connectivity. According to an internal review of the Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Ministry, the electronic National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) is making little headway as out of total auctioning worth Rs 23,125 crore, only Rs 5.86 crore were made through the e-NAM portal.
The e-NAM was started with the aim of reducing transaction costs and providing accurate information on prices in different markets to enable better price discovery for farmers in April 2016, but till date, only 1,546 farmers have been paid through the online payment system. The review report has revealed that aadtis are 'intentionally' not trading through e-NAM as it would hit their 'margin'.
According to the review report, the share of electronic auctioning in all the 13 states, which have adopted e-NAM, stands at a meagre 0.025 per cent of the total trading and the rest is taking place through offline mode.
The worrying fact is that out of the 13 states, there are seven states where no transactions have been made through the e-NAM portal.
These states are Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Uttarakhand.
The review report further states that Haryana and Telangana have performed much better with online transactions worth Rs 224 lakh and Rs 208 lakh, respectively. In mandis of Uttar Pradesh, online transactions worth Rs 120 lakh took place since the e-NAM was launched in April 2016 while in Himachal Pradesh online transactions stand at just Rs 16 lakh.
The major roadblock in the implementation of e-NAM is a shortage of computer terminals at entry gates as well the paucity of trained manpower to handle the operational part of e-NAM. According to the report, Maharashtra has a shortage of 13 computers out of total 32 computers to be installed at entry gates. Similarly, Madhya Pradesh is struggling to deploy 26 trained computer operators at its 32 e-NAM entry gates.
Apart from a staff crunch, poor Internet speed is another major impediment. According to the report, out of the total 421 e-NAM centres, 272 e-mandis have reported slow Internet speed. In the case of Uttar Pradesh, out of 66 e-mandis, the state has only one e-mandi with 'good' Internet speed.
The government has envisaged e-NAM as a pan-India electronic trading portal which networks the existing APMC (Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee) mandis to create a unified national market.
E-NAM was launched by the Prime Minister in April 2016, with the target of reaching 400 large mandis by the first year and 585 by March 2018. Initially, 25 commodities were to be available for trade.
Small Farmers' Agribusiness Consortium, a body under the agriculture ministry, is the implementing agency, with technical support from Nagarjuna Fertiliser and Chemicals.