Source: The Daily Star, http://www.thedailystar.net/story.php?nid=151417, 20 August, 2010
Farmers of the subcontinent have started to grow sugarcane commercially since the colonial era and the process of procuring sugarcane, founded by the British, was a bit messy and lengthy since then.
The then governments gave estimations to the farmers according to the capacity of their lands through a ‘Purjee’- a hand-written purchase order- and the system had not been improved till 2008 when there are around 2.5 lakh sugarcane farmers in the country.
‘Purjee’ is a legal permit for the sugarcane growers given by the sugar mill, which help them to supply produces and receive payment against it.
A ‘Purjee’ validity remains only for three days in which growers must supply their produces to the sugar mills. The criticality of this period gives certain groups of people an opportunity to foster corruption, thus depriving the growers of their rights to access information.
Besides, the growers need to wait in the mill gate for several days after which the mill management buy their crop. As a result, the sugarcane lose its weight reducing returns for the farmers.
Against the backdrop of various sufferings of the farmers, Forhad Zahid Shaikh, a visionary system analyst of the Access to Information (A2I) Programme at Prime Minister’s Office, realised the urgency of improving the existing system in 2008.
In his voice, “I have a first-hand experience of how sugarcane farmers suffer during the harvesting”.
“I wanted to do help the farmers in a way that serves the best and then the idea of digitising the ‘Purjee’ system came to my mind”, said Shaikh.
The Digital Sugarcane Procurement and Development System or Digital Purjee Information Service, a joint initiative of A2I programme and Bangladesh Sugar and Food Industries Corporation (BSFIC) was preliminarily introduced in two sugar mills out of 15 across the country — Faridpur and Mobarakganj sugar mills.
The SMS based “Purjee Management System” sends text messages from authorise centre of the sugar mills to the listed growers’ mobile phone, notifying them the beginning of the harvesting season in late October.
More importantly, the system relieves the farmers from queuing in front of the sugar mills.
“In case of emergency, like information of Purjee cancellation, stoppage of cane supply or inclement weather, the notifying system is very efficient, cost and time effective”, Shaikh stated.
Shahidul Islam, a Sugarcane grower of Magura said, “This service not only acted as a confirmation of Purjee issuance, but also reduced our challenges in supplying Sugarcane on time.”
“We are going to implement the system in all sugar mills from October this year. And we are taking all the field level preparations right now”, Shaikh told this reporter.
Hats off to A2I and BSFIC for the initiative.