With the decentralization of the paddy procurement scheme, the state agencies of Odisha have taken charge of carrying out procurement and avoiding the distressed sale of paddy in the state. While agencies like Marketing Federation of Odisha, National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India, Tribal Development Co-operative Corp. of Odisha Ltd and National Federation of Farmers’ Procurement, Processing and Retailing Cooperatives of India Ltd appointed officers to carry out the procedure, Odisha State Civil Supplies Corp. Ltd (OSCSC) engaged Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS), a closer entity to the farmers, to procure the paddy from the latter. OSCSC was responsible for acquiring almost 95% of the total paddy produced in the state but a manual system of recording made the job problematic and complicated.

However, these problems were soon dealt with when an international development consultancy, IPE Global Pvt. Ltd, came up with an automation system to look into the functionalities of the paddy procurement centres (PPCs).

The Paddy Procurement Automation System (P-PAS) is integrated with the farmer registration software of the food supplies and consumer welfare department of the state government.

“With the ability to import the information about the individual farmers, this software has generated an online queue system for the sale of paddy. The farmers can get token slips from the software that mentions the entire schedule for the farmer to sell his paddy," said Debabrata Mallick, management information systems and information technology expert, Odisha Modernising Economy, Government and Administration Programme of IPE Global. The software also records the quality and weight of the paddy and auto generates a vendor receipt for the farmers.

Not just this, P-PAS has also simplified the payment mechanism for the paddy farmers. Earlier, the farmers had to wait for 15-30 days to get their payments. But with the automation system, the farmers can get their payment by three days. The compilation of the paddy purchase and farmer data can now be done in no time, something that earlier took months under the manual system.

“There was no actual system for the registration of the farmers of the state, because of which dalals (middlemen) would pose as farmers and reap as much as 30% of the revenue. Identification of the real farmers was a big issue when we started working on this system," said Mallick. Also, it was found that the poor farmers were forced to sell their crop at a price which was about 300-400 per quintal less than the actual support price prescribed by the government (as per a survey conducted by the organization). With the entire farmer registration process going digital, it has become easier for the revenue inspectors to locate the discrepancies in the system.

Amid these administrative hassles, infrastructure inadequacy emerges as another challenge for this system. The lack of Internet connectivity, coverage and bandwidth and a shortage of power hinder the operations of this fully online system.

“We are trying to manage these constraints by implementing an online-offline architecture. A desktop component that works at PACS/PPC when Internet is not available and a web portal component for concurrent access to information by all stakeholders have been developed. We are also trying to ensure a proper synchronization of online and offline data," said Debashis Nag, the IT and e-governance lead at IPE global.

“For the implementation of any e-governance project, technology is one challenge but resistance to change on the part of the populace is something that every initiative has to fight with. The stakeholders, especially the government officials, are set in their ways and often consider transparency as a threat to the system. It took us a long time to convince all the stakeholders before this system got accepted and adopted," he added.

Talking about the success of P-PAS, this tech-duo said that synchronization of different departments (government and technical) is the most significant driver that keeps their model running. They believe that the entire system would have been a failure if there were no convergence among stakeholders. “The Odisha government has supported us a lot in this journey," they said.

This project has been going for nearly three years. It started in May 2013 with a single PAC and today over 700 PPCs and 600 PACS follow this system. The procedure of farmer registration is carried out in all the 30 districts of Odisha. This system is being used by 20 branches of district credit co-operative banks. “We are trying to develop a system which would be able to procure all the paddy produced in the state and we are hopeful that we would be able to achieve this target by 2016," they said.

Mint has a strategic partnership with Digital Empowerment Foundation, which hosts the Manthan and mBillionth awards.

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