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This article is written by Ronika Tater, from the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, School of Law. In this article, she discusses the need and the importance of this platform with the support of constitutional provision.

Introduction

The Government aims to double the income of farmers by 2022. Hence, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry virtually inaugurated e-SANTA which is an electronic marketplace providing a platform to connect aqua farmers and buyers. This platform is specifically for aqua or marine farmers. It is similar to that of any other platform such as Flipkart or Amazon, where the seller gets registered to sell or connect with the consumer for selling the product. It is also important to note that for normal farmers there is another platform by the name of e-NAM. To that end, by launching e-SANTA the government is one step closer to its goal.

What is e-SANTA?

The term e-SANTA was coined for the web portal which means Electronic Solution for Augmenting NaCSA farmers Trade-in Aquaculture. National Centre for Sustainable Aquaculture (NaCSA) is a department under the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) which was formed in 1970 by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

The e-SANTA platform enables the farmers to get a better price and to connect with the exporters directly. It assists the exporters to purchase quality products from the farmers thereby enhancing traceability which is a key factor in international trade. Earlier when the farmers used to sell their product through the assistance of the middleman there was a chance of price fluctuation and the ultimate loss was to the farmers. However, through this platform, the connection of the middleman is removed thereby benefiting the farmers to sell their products directly and profiting from the same.

Constitutional provisions for aqua farmers in India

The Indian Constitution is the lengthiest written Constitution in the world and provides various fundamental rights and several principles of democratic government. However, the Constitution does not explicitly provide provisions for farmers but it is left for interpretation by the higher courts such as the Supreme Court or the High Courts of India. The legislature also has to frame such policies or guidelines for the benefit of farmers. As per the United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, (2018), it defines a farmer as any person engaging or wanting to engage alone or in association with others or as a community for production for subsistence or the market or in any other form. The following are some of the rights and duties enshrined in the Constitution for the farmers as mentioned below:

  • Article 13 states that all the laws inconsistent with the fundamental rights shall be void. The main objective of this article is to ensure that laws should be made in accordance with fundamental rights. Hence, the platform is made for the benefit of the aqua farmers.
  • Article 14 states the principle of equality before the law. In the case of Inderpreet Singh Kahlon v. State of Punjab, (2006) the Supreme Court observed the concept of “malefide” and stated that any action taken by the State in undue haste may be held void if it is against the basic concept and principles of  Article 14.
  • Article 38(2) states that every State shall ensure to minimise the inequalities in income and ensure to eliminate inequalities in status, facilities and opportunities in every group of people residing in different areas of the country. Hence, the platform provides opportunities for aqua farmers to connect with the buyers and sell their products with no interference in price fixation or delay. 
  • Article 39 provides that the State, while making policies, should ensure that the development and growth of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth on one hand thereby leading to corruption. Hence, this platform removes the concept of middlemen thereby providing the buyer and the seller to connect directly.
  • This platform agrees with Article 43 which states that legislation or economic organisation should ensure that all the workers, agricultural, industrial should work to ensure a decent standard of life, a living wage, proper conditions of work and leisure and social and cultural opportunities.
  • Article 48 of the Constitution of India envisages every State to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines to preserve and improve the breeds. 
  • Article 51(c) stated that States should respect international law and treaties. However, they have persuasive value in the Indian Courts but the Courts are open to interpret statutes in order to maintain harmony with the international laws and conventions.

Significance for aqua farmers

The platform e-SANTA provides various opportunities to the aqua farmers such as raise income, lifestyle, self-reliance, quality levels, transparency and accountability. The platform changes the traditional form of carrying out business transactions from a non-formal way to more formalised and legally binding. The government stated that the platform will raise the livelihood of farmers which the fundamental rights enshrined in Article 21 as mentioned below:

  • Reducing risk;
  • Awareness of the products and markets;
  • Increase in income;
  • Shielding against the wrong practice;
  • Ease of processes.

Features of e-SANTA

With the growth and development of technology, the internet has played a major role in every sphere of life. e-SANTA is a digital platform for marketing their product between the farmers and the buyers by eliminating middlemen. It is also a revolutionary movement compared to the traditional form of transaction by providing contactless, cashless, and paperless transactions between the farmers and the buyers. This platform acts as a medium to advertise various kinds of products from the buyers, fishermen and fish producing organisations in India to the people within the national market or to the international market. It can also be thought of as an auction platform. One of the main features of this platform is that it is available in many languages considering the diversity and the local population in mind.

Considering the challenges faced in traditional aqua farming by the farmers as mentioned below:

  • Monopoly and exploitation by the middlemen.
  • Exporters were facing inconsistency with the transaction system.
  • Difference between the originally purchased product and the final exported product. There were often quality gaps at the time of the product purchased.
  • Traceability was one of the main issues in international trade.

Hence, this platform provides an improvement in the living standards of the farmers thereby enhancing India’s reputation in the global market and trade. The portal acts as an assistance between the fishermen and the buyers within the domestic market or abroad. The Government also stated that this platform is one step closer to help achieve Atma Nirbhar Bharat vision of making India self-reliant. 

What are the steps for transaction?

The following are the steps that provide how the transaction takes place in this platform:

  • It is a paperless end-to-end electronic trade platform, this is a movement towards sustainable growth and development.
  • Farmers have the freedom to list and mark their products according to their quality. The electronic payment system is supported by NaCSA as an escrow agent.
  • Online negotiation will be made for the crops and advance payment with an estimated invoice will be generated electronically.
  • After finalising the harvested crop by the buyer, the final amount is decided with the issuance of a delivery challan.
  • On receiving the assigned material to the exporter, the final invoice is generated and the exporter makes the rest of the payment. The payment is verified by the NaCSA agent and accordingly made to the farmers.

What is the standard operating procedure in e-SANTA?

This platform enables farmers to participate, quality seed procurement, water exchange and harvesting regimes leading to a reduction in the cost of production and also prevention of various transmission of disease. Hence, the aqua societies provide social, environmental obligations and food safety. The standard operating procedure for harvesting is conducted as mentioned below:

  • Based on the market price and economic viability of the crop.
  • Considering the report of any natural calamity by the meteorological department.

Pre-harvest quality check

In this step, the harvesting sampling needs to meet the quality standards as expected by the buyer or the exporter. Hence, before draining the pond it is advisable to check the following:

  • The moulting percentage should be less than five per cent.
  • The gill or body fouling should not be delayed or otherwise corrective measures should be adopted.
  • To ensure that the pre-harvest testing is in advance testified for the absence of antibiotics by the laboratory of MPEDA.

Post-harvesting quality check

The following are some of the steps that need to be analysed during this process:

  • To check the harvesting net and implement any necessary repairs if required and rectify the same.
  • To preserve the appropriate quantity of good quality ice on time.
  • To keep sufficient tanks for preserving immediately harvested shrimps.
  • To keep sufficient clean plastic containers for transporting shrimps.
  • To avoid shades for avoiding exposure of the harvest shrimps to direct sunlight.
  • To ensure harvesting of shrimps hygienically and faster delivery of the product to maintain the freshness and quality.
  • The harvesting elevator or harvesting pump machines should be kept ready at this stage to avoid any unnecessary delay.
  • The harvester shrimp must be maintained and stored at a steady temperature.
  • Water and ice should be clean, safe and as per the approved standards. 
  • To ensure that all the equipment, containers and machines should be maintained clean.
  • All the operators involved in the process of harvesting should wear proper and disinfected boots and gloves.
  • Potable water with ice for chilling should be used at this stage.
  • To avoid any quality gap between the originally ordered product, the shrimp to the processing plant should be sent at the earliest.
  • To ensure and record all the declaration certificates safety.

Hazardous substances 

In case if dealing with any hazardous substances it is advisable to analyse the following steps:

  • For precaution, shrimps should be periodically checked for any residue of suspect pesticides and injected with Poly Chloro Biphenyls or any other heavy metal.
  • For disposal of plastic bags should be made as per the local regulation and not be disposed of in water thereby violating the life of marine animals.
  • To preserve fuel, lubricants and other chemicals for cleaning and disaffection in a storage place.

Difference between e-SANTA and e-NAM

e-SANTA is a platform for aqua farmers or marine farmers, whereas e-NAM is the national network for other farmers which can be accessed online. It provides an online trading portal for all the “mandis” (also known as a marketplace) and the buyers to participate and transact. This platform has been created by the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare which is available to each mandi to join the network free of cost and follow the necessary regulations as stated by the various State Mandi Acts. It provides an alternative platform for the farmers to accept the offers from other “mandis” online or through the local market. Consequently, increasing the volume of business and greater competition for specific products results in higher profit for the mandi.

Conclusion

e-SANTA is a paperless and end-to-end electronic trade platform between farmers and exporters. This platform provides the farmers with a monopoly over the products list and fixation on the price of the product. It also provides the exporters with the freedom to list their requirements and needs to choose the product based on the geographical location, size, season, harvest dates, etc. In a nutshell, it enables both the farmers and the buyers to have control over the trade and to make a reasonable decision thereby making it a transparent and accountable platform for the transaction. Recently, in the month of July, aqua farmers in Andhra Pradesh signed up to sell their products through this platform. This move has been appreciated by both the State Government and the farmers as it provides good returns to the farmers and avoids middlemen.

References


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