E-GOVERNANCE STANDS FOR EFFICIENCY AND PROMPTNESS
Information Technology has made a decisive impact on every branch of human life with both the Central and State Governments making every effort to introduce e-governance, thus ensuring efficiency, promptness, transparency and better citizen-friendly interface. Not all the States are making headway at the same pace, but it cannot be gainsaid that every Department at the Centre and every state is making frantic efforts to make the life of the citizen less cumbersome by best utilizing the tools of information technology. Appreciable progress has been made in land registration, motor vehicles departments, railways and utility bills payment centres.
The Union Department of Information Technology is creating a national portal encompassing information on different services extended by the Central and State Governments. This is part of the IT initiative being undertaken by the Government with a view to providing convenience, efficiency, transparency and reliability in the services.
At the ninth National E-governance Conference held in February 2006, the Union IT Secretary, Mr. Brijesh Kumar outlined the plan for setting up web-enabled common service centres at one lakhs locations in rural areas. The project envisages an expenditure of Rs. 6,000 crore and generation of direct employment to four lakhs people. A national level services-agency is proposed to be entrusted with the task of implementing the project under the supervision of the Department of IT and the State Governments. The project could be evolved as a platform to meet challenges of rural development. Apart from providing government services, the common service centres could cater to purposes like launching AIDS awareness poster campaign in villages.
Among the department or undertakings of the Central Government, the Railways have made a considerable headway in e-governance and have several new proposals on the anvil. They are in touch with the banks for utilizing its counters to issue tickets. The Railways are planning to install 5,000 ATMs and an equal number of vending machines at various stations. They are negotiating with the banks for a tie-up to utilize the Railway’s ticket counters, numbering over one lakhs, across the country.
Under the proposed scheme, the ATM would be connected with ticket counters, called ‘electronic dispensing counters’, from where tickets could be issued. The Railways are also introducing e-ticketing. One could travel by presenting one’s identity card or ration card. Presently only 19,000 tickets are being reserved through e-ticketing.
Among the States, the e-pension project of Himachal Pradesh has won kudos for its innovative operations.
Assam Government is proud of its’ Dharitree’, one of the first web-technology-based land records computerization projects of the country. Haryana is also known for its Dynamic Integration of Property Registration and Land Records Administration (HALRIS).
Andhra Pradesh has launched a project on site suitability for water harvesting structures in reserve forests. The Khammam District in the State has introduced an e-immunization project
Lokvani Project of Sitapur Collectorate in Uttar Pradesh is known for its outstanding performance in service delivery. The Jharkhand Government has introduced the computerization and networking of the transport department called “Vahan”. Rajas than has launched “Aarakashi”, die online FIR system.
In Kerala two grama panchayats have been fully computerized. The Public Works Department is ready to use satellite imagery for toad mapping. The Kerala Government is all set to implement a Treasury information Management (TRIM) system that is aimed at making the government treasuries more citizen-friendly. More than325lakh senior citizens drawing their pensions from State Treasuries and 4.26 lakhs persons having treasury savings bank and fixed deposit accounts are among those expected to benefit from the system that is being developed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC). The NIC has already developed a voice guided touch screen information kiosk for 189 districts and sub-treasuries in the State. The kiosk will enable citizens to access their pension and savings account through a password protected system.
Rural multipurpose ICT centres of AISECT, Bhopal have earned reputation in exemplary leadership and ICT achievement.
Web-enabled Fully Automatic Services of Transport (FAST) of the Motor Vehicles Department have been introduced for the Regional Transport Offices in some States. The inordinate delays in getting the services will be avoided with the commencement of FAST.
E-governance, though in elementary form, has been a big boon to many of our North-Eastern States and Sikkim. The Government of India has been implementing an ambitious Rs. 242 crore Community Information Centres (CIC) project for this region. The project envisages setting up of computer rooms at the block headquarters level. Computer rooms, with VS AT connectivity, are coming up in the 487blocks of the North-Eastern region.
The CICs are being manned by local youth, trained by professionals of the National Informatics Centre, which is providing the required software and hardware to the centres. The CICs are designed to be run as small entrepreneurial ventures of that particular block. A cardinal feature of this project is that the content of the programme is made available in local language. Typically, a QC will offer e-mail, web browsing, and online access to government gazettes, government service rules, and latest farming methods, telemedicine, and general healthcare information, status of rail, air and bus reservations. Ultimately, these centres will function as utility centres where people can just walk in to pay the telephone, water and electricity bills, and obtain birth and death certificates.
The MCA 21 project, envisaging electronic filing of documents and paperless administration, pertains to the Registrar of Companies offices. It is already in operation in a few cities in Tamil Nadu and will soon cover the entire country. There is a good public-private partnership between the Ministry of Company Affairs and the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) whereby the latter will man the front offices of all Registrar of Companies (RoC) offices across the country to facilitate easy stabilization of e-filing of documents under company law. Inspection of any document relating to a company allowed under company law can now be done online from anywhere on payment of the prescribed free.
President Dr. A P. J. Abdul Kalam pointed out, a major factor for the lack of transparency; accountability and effectiveness; in company law administration in India is corruption in Roc offices and in the central bureaucracy in charge of the company law.
Delivering the inaugural address at a conference on “Effects of Good Governance and Human Rights”, organized by the National Human Rights, Commission in New Delhi on May9,2006, the President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam described e-governance as a strong tool for ensuring corruption-free, administration. The President cited the Delhi Metro and online railway reservation system as examples of good governance. All courts should follow the example of the Supreme Court and High Courts and make their judgments available online. “This should be facilitated by the Law Ministry and the higher judiciary,” said Dr. Kalam.
In a highly interdependent world, it should be possible to achieve interoperability of e-governance projects if the citizens are to feel the benefit of information technology in day-to-day life. In other words, every IT project should have a clear government to government interface before a meaningful government to citizen solution can be implemented. The National Informatics Centre (NIC) has already started work in this direction.
Slowly, but steadily, e-governance is percolating down to the bottom enabling citizens to have a better and friendly rapport with the government, thereby ensuring a hassle-free life.