Govt’s Viral Slowdown

9 mins read

Fayaz Rasool

 laptopAny extension in the bouquet of other services meant that it could have cut the red-tape. But then the government procedures have come in the way and the plan has remained restricted to the paper only.  People have to move from pillar to post to get even the basic services within the stipulated period of time though there is a legislative framework in the form of public service guarantee act (PSGA) that guarantees the disposal of services within a time frame.

Noting that the people have not been able to benefit much from the PSGA and have to grease the palms of the officials for small works, the State Vigilance Commission in a recent recommendation asked the government that it shall ensure speedy delivery of services through online platforms. But the national e-governance programme has not only come as a cropper, senior officials are even not adhering to the simple instruction issued by the State Information Commission that they must use emails to ensure better governance.

A recent communication by the State Information Commission (SIC) to the General Administration Department (GAD) has noted “ government has directed vide its circular to all the departments to indicate telephone number, email address on all letters, letter heads, correspondence, circulars, instructions and orders to make communication specific and easier.

However Commission has found that inspite of the repeated orders and circulars, several government departments are continuously violating such orders and instructions and the officials are not identifying themselves in their official correspondence.’’ Issued by the Deputy Secretary of the State Information Commission the instructions have been conveyed vide order no SIC/CO/6/7-30 to the government and the Commission has referred to many such orders issued earlier in this regard.

When a top bureaucrat can’t write the email in the official communication that speaks about the e-governance plan of the government.  Over the years the government has not shown any seriousness in rolling out the services that could be delivered through online means to cut the red-tape. From the beginning when the state government was yet to create a permanent administrative set up to ensure the e-governance, the government  has remained apathetic to the need for ensuring that online means are utilised for transparency in services.

Failure Of ITU

Initially the role of carrying the digitization in government offices was assigned to the Information Technology Unit (ITU) and later even when the department of Information Technology (DIT) was created there was no delivery of results.  The ITU was created in 1998 which was subsequently replaced by the DIT in 2002. The objective of the ITU and DIT was to provide consultative and guiding role for various e-governance projects of the state government and to implement the projects sponsored by Government of India (GoI).

The ITU remained without identification of any roles and responsibilities for about two years between 1998-2000 and the  DIT after replacing the ITU in 2002, did not have a directorate till  September 2007 as a result of which  the role assigned could not be fulfilled in  setting standards for the usage of  operating systems, application software as well as hardware, setting up of data centre, laying down frame work of personnel policy in IT, formulating an IT security policy and to carving  out a broad frame for IT requirements of the state government.

The pace of implementation of IT initiatives has been slow and the consistent audit reports have highlighted that government missed the intended targets.   Not only did the computerisation of working of Civil Secretariat get delayed,  but measures to use the information technology  (IT) in the process of government functioning and to bring about accountable and  transparent governance  couldn’t be taken.

Due to the lack of action on e-governance front, the government has missed the targets to improve on the delivery of services. Such targets like enhancement in efficiency, bringing about transparency and speedy disposal of files continue to remain unfulfilled.

The non seriousness of successive government can be gauged from the fact that the customised software solutions were not approved to improve on the on-line delivery.  In the wake of this, government continues to lag behind in the key policy objectives. The computerization of state treasuries which is an important step towards implementation of e-governance in  the state has not happened and even the digitalisation of the archival record as well the revenue records has not taken place.  Earlier in a meeting taken to review the computerisation of the treasuries by Finance department it was noted “the computerisation of treasuries is in full swing and almost 90 percent hardware items have been received in the treasuries.   The targets in this regard could not be achieved primarily because of non-availability of some hardware which, despite best efforts, was not supplied by the suppliers nominated by DGS&D, however, the supply orders placed with the DGS&D in this regard has now been cancelled and Director, Accounts & Treasuries Jammu, Kashmir have been asked to make the purchases at their own level through Provincial Level Purchase cum Contract Committee constituted vide Government order No. 70-F of 2014 dated 19 March 2014.’’

Digitization of Land Records

Reviewing the functioning of revenue department, Minister for Revenue, Relief and Rehabilitation, Syed Basharat Bukhari, recently stressed on speeding up the process of digitization of land records. He said that a new impetus to the day-to-day working of “revenue department, refresher courses for patwaris and other field staff would be organised shortly.’’ He instructed the concerned authorities to start the digitization of age old revenue records.  He said preservation of precious revenue records of the state is an important task of the government and no negligence in this regard will be tolerated.

Though the state government has been making tall claims about the digitisation of old records, it has been now only that RAM TECH Software India and assigned the job of scanning, computerization of various old revenue records and the work was assigned to it from 18 April.

Also the government plans to issue the e-ration cards have not fructified even as the CAPD Minister, Zulfikar Ali, had promised smart-governance. In fact widespread discrepancies were noticed in issuing the ration cards under the National Food Safety Act (NFSA) with even some Ministers and Bureaucrats figuring in the BPL category of consumers. As part of its modernisation process, the CAPD department had earlier envisaged that it would introduce “ SMART card service for CAPD consumers on the pattern of Chhattisgarh and that the government would install GPRs trackers in vehicles carrying food grains and introduce electronic weighing machines and electronic transfer of money in the accounts of dealers to improve the system.

“We would ensure the modernization programme, end-to-end computerization of PDS, digitalization of data, computerization of supply demand and management and setting up of transparency portal.’’

With the state having fared poorly to keep pace with the need to carry out the digitalisation of records, it has been seen that the delivery over the key legislation of Public Service Guarantee Act (PSGA) under which the services are to be delivered in a time bound manner has been unsatisfactory. “ The common man has to still grease the palms of officials for small works like getting the state subject issued or even to avail the land record certificates,’’ said an official.

He added that it has been due to this that the state government’s General Administration department (GAD) recently took a strong note that the implementation of the PSGA in the state was not satisfactory. The GAD recently took cognisance of non-submission of monthly progress reports (MPRs) about the implementation of the J&K Public Services Guarantee Act (PSGA) by various departments.

Setting April 25 as the deadline for all functionaries to submit their reports, the GAD noted in its order that the lax approach of different departments has adversely affected the implementation of the key legislation in the state. The order noted that on April 5, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had directed all government departments to implement the Act in letter and spirit and also adhere to the timeline for submission of the requisite reports to the General Administration Department (GAD). CM has taken a strong note of the delay in the delivery of “public services to the people of the state.’’

“It has been observed that the monthly progress reports about the implementation of the J&K Public Services Guarantee Act (PSGA), 2011, are not being submitted to the GAD regularly and within the stipulated time, that is, by or before the 10th of the following month. Consequently, the consolidation and analysis of such reports gets delayed which, in turn, adversely affects the monitoring of the implementation of the Act at this level,” the state government said in an order.

The order read that it was observed that the progress reports were not even compiled as per the circulated format. It noted that the Jammu & Kashmir Public Services Guarantee Rules, 2011, were notified on July 21, 2011, during the then government headed by former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah for better delivery of public services to the people under which it was made obligatory for the designated officers to provide public services notified under the rules within the specified time limit.

“The implementation of the PSGA also came up during the review meeting taken by the Chief Minister on April 5, who has desired to pass on strict instructions to all concerned for implementation of the Act in letter and spirit,” the order said.

The departments concerned have also been enjoined upon to communicate the current status of the state and the district level nodal officers for carrying out the implementation of the Act and also ensure that the progress report (both hard and soft copy) from April 2015 onwards, consolidated at the district level (department-wise), reaches the GAD by or before April 25 without fail.

The government has overlooked the need for online delivery of services even as the state’s premiere anti-corruption body, State Vigilance Commission, had noted that it was important to ensure the transparency and to check corruption in public offices. Recently while stressing on making e.payment and e.tendering system more relevant especially in the procurement of hospital supplies, SVC asked for evolving a “ better system to achieve these targets.’’

 At the meeting of the Commission supervised by Chief Vigilance Commissioner to review the status of the complaints and enquiries pending with the health and medical education department for disposal, the stress on e-governnace was emphasised. At the meeting it was conveyed that there are 394 complaints and 20 Regular Departmental Actions (RDAs) lying with various wings of the department for reply and action. Taking serious note of the negligence of the officers for not coming up with satisfactory reply to the queries, the Commission directed them to come in meetings fully prepared with specific and unambiguous replies enabling Commission to reach to the logical conclusion of the matter. To curb illicit practice of demanding bribe in govt run health institutions, especially in maternity hospitals, the Commission instructed the officers of health department to strengthen the surveillance system by installing adequate number of CCTVs at vulnerable points so that employees resorting to practice are identified and punished as per law, while stressing on the need for strengthening the e-tendering and e-payments.

Khidmat Centres

Moreover, under the national e-governance project which was started in the state in the year 2009 qualified youth were to set up the Khidmat centres and the government had promised routing all the government to customer services through these Centres. Though this could have ensured the timely delivery of the services and the process of service delivery could have become transparent, smart, accountable, hassle free and cost effective to develop corruption free system, the outsourcing of the services has not taken place. An Association of Khidmat Centres recently called upon the government to live upto its promise. Association President, Shah Shabir, said that the “ national’ e-governance project was started in the state in the year 2009 and Khidmat Centres were rolled out. Qualified youth were taken into this project who invested in this to act as front end delivery points especially in the far flung rural areas of J&K.   Government had promised routing all the Government to Customer services through these Centres to make them sustainable and viable, which has however not happened.’’

The Khidmat Centres were opened with a view to bridge  the gap between government and citizens and make the process of service delivery transparent, smart, accountable, hassle free and cost effective set up for “developing a corruption free system.’’

However Shabir said that the government till date has totally failed to implement this project at par with the Union Government directives and guidelines. “The project is doing well in other states on comparative basis.’’  “ Hundreds of orders have been issued and review meetings have been a part of the Government curriculum regarding this auspicious centrally sponsored project but the situation at ground level is very grim and pathetic.  We have continuously pressed for the proper implementation of this project but people at the helm of affairs are ignoring our requests and exploiting this project as per their personal need and requirement. This project has been so far victimized politically.  It seems that State administration doesn’t want to implement this project practically to make the process of Governance smart and corruption free. The system by ignoring this project and Khidmat Centres/CSCs is encouraging Red Tapism and Corruption.’’

The Association has noted that the financial support due to Khidmat Centre Operators vide Govt Order No, 46 ITD of 2011, Dated 14-12-2011 hasn’t been released, forcing  Khidmat Centres and their families to suffer. Also the services like electricity mill collection, Aadhaar, Electoral Services, Revenue records, Birth/Death Certificates, e-PDS, connectivity etc haven’t been provided to Khidmat Centres till date.

Darbar Move

The annual darbar move which involves crores of rupees for the transportation of files and other essential stuffs would have been substantially reduced with the computerization of data in civil secretariat. The non implementation of programme, however,, not only involve huge state exchequer for the transportation of truck load files and other documents but also it is reported that hundreds of files of crucial importance went missing in pack and drop process by the officials. Even the former chief minister, Omar Abdulalh few years back opined to have two Darbars in both the cities of Srinagar and Jammu to reduce the moving costs.

The story first appeared in print edition of April 27. 

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