The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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SMS for farm price, then fix rate
- Sales figures on cell

Siliguri, March 12: Text your queries to choose sales date, stay connected for a better price.

Smart and sleek as the message sounds, it could well be a life-saving mantra for hundreds of farmers spread across the region. But this will be possible only if a proposal forwarded by Federation of Scientists, Engineers and Technologists (Foset) is pursued by the information technology department of Bengal.

“Nowadays, the prime concern of farmers is not the yield but the price of the products,” said Joy Chakrobarty, a state secretariat member of Foset.

“We have been working on this problem. Recently, we devised a system by which farmers could use mobile phones to know the prevailing rates of crops in different markets in their respective areas. They can then decide on the price before heading for the market. This will be in contrast to the prevailing system in which a farmer has not the slightest knowledge of the prevailing rates and goes to the market only to find that the price of his product is perhaps the lowest on that day,” Chakrobarty said.

With the SMS system in place, the data (rates of crops at different markets) would be stored in a central server to be kept in areas like Siliguri. Anybody curious about the rates would only have to send an SMS to a particular number. “He would soon receive a message from the server, showing the prices,” a Foset member said.

Regarding storage of data, he said: “Once the state accepts the proposal, we are contemplating opening offices in different districts where toll-free landlines would be positioned. Farmers can call these numbers and get necessary information on market rates.” The concept, he added, has been named Computer-Aided Shared Mobile Service.

“We have succeeded with a pilot project in the Dudhkumrohat area of West Midnapore. While entering the data, we will consider the locations where farmers sell their produce,” said Chakrobarty.

For example, a farmer of Dhupguri in Jalpaiguri district, through an SMS or call, would be able to know the rates of markets spread over all the districts of north Bengal and even parts of Bihar.

The proposed service had caught the attention of state IT minister Debesh Das, who has agreed to give it a thought, Foset members claimed.

“We had displayed it at the All India People’s Technical Congress held in Calcutta last month. The minister was impressed when he was briefed, and affirmed that his department would scrutinise the project,” said Subhendu Nag, a member of Foset from north Bengal.

The Foset members also mentioned that the expenses incurred for the project would not be much, as the department only had to hire servers from agencies like BSNL.

Agriculture department officials, however, said the limitations of selling goods at the local market would still be there. “Even if a farmer gets to know the market rates of the region and plans to sell his produce at a competitive rate, he would have to find a buyer at the particular market where he sells his products,” said Sarthak Burma, the additional director of agriculture, no-rth Bengal.

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