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Farming tips on mobile

Jan 28, 2008

First of its kind in India, the Rajasthan State Cooperative Department has launched the ‘Kisan SIM card’. Farmers can now get free tips on various aspects of farming from weather updates to guidance on livestock rearing to crop infection through SMS and voice messages.

Jaipur, Rajasthan: From the daily horoscope to the sensex tantrums, updates and pointers on almost everything under the sun are available on mobile handsets.

Keeping in stride with the latest technology, the Rajasthan State Cooperative Department has launched a scheme for farmers in which they could subscribe to an exclusive prepaid mobile service package using a “Kisan SIM card,” aptly called green card.

The subscribers are to receive free SMSs and voice messages on various farming and agriculture tips daily.

They would also have the option of making local calls at 50 paise a minute. The move is part of the state government's Rajasthan Sahakar Kisan Sanchar Yojana, an initiative undertaken to ensure connectivity and a communication network across rural areas of the state.

“This is a major initiative from the cooperative department and with this, Rajasthan has become the first state in the country to extend the facility to its farmers. We will introduce schemes in future on similar lines to ensure that all help is extended to our farmers to become a part of the telecommunication revolution sweeping across the urban and semi-rural sectors,” said Nathusingh Gurjar, state cooperative minister.

The state cooperative department, with the Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative Organisation, will distribute green cards through Primary Agriculture cooperative societies in villages across the state. Farmers who subscribe to the service will receive five free text and voice messages in Hindi on their mobile handsets on farming, weather updates, livestock rearing and crop infection.

“We plan to distribute mobile handsets to farmers at concessional rates. These green cards would be called IFFCO Kisan green cards and distributed only through our department's village societies. Special recharge coupons will be made available,” said Vinod Zutshi, principal secretary, state cooperative department which has also decided to set up exclusive mobile handset retail outlets in villages and deploy volunteers from its rural societies to make farmers familiarise themselves with the nuances of mobile technology.

“Apart from agriculture tips, the subscribers will also get regular updates on policies and schemes launched by our department,” he said.

The IFFCO has signed an MoU with leading mobile service provider Bharti Airtel Ltd and floated the Kisan Sanchar Ltd on a private-public partnership basis for implementing the scheme. The cooperative department has decided to ensure maximum promotion through grassroots-level cooperative societies such as the gram seva sahakari samitis and other primary marketing and cooperative societies.

"We have established a network in 31,000 villages of the state. It will be extended to 10,000 villages soon. The Kisan Sanchar Yojana will be a major success, especially, once we ensure complete network coverage across the state,” said Raghunath Mandwa, marketing manager, Airtel.

According to cooperative department officials, farmers have shown interest in the green card scheme and is likely to emerge as one of the most popular cooperative ventures.

“Our volunteers’ initial reports suggest that those farmers who were not keen on using mobile phones in the past have decided to go for it since we have incorporated the free SMS and voice message package on farming,” said Rajendra Sharma, PRO, cooperative department.

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