The current government has launched a variety of schemes for the development of poor and rural communities. An expansive marketing strategy based on an adroit usage of social media has made the common man aware of these schemes. While every government frames policies after serious contemplation, the real challenge lies in their implementation. An increase in allocation of funds towards realisation of a scheme’s goals has to be complemented by an attitudinal shift in the officers responsible for implementing them.
In my current capacity as a SPARC fellow to a Member of Parliament I have been spectating on how a policy takes root on the ground and it doesn’t make for a pleasant viewing.
Here, I would like to cite an example for ‘exhibiting’ the malaise. In Rampur(a village in my MPs constituency) the Sarpanch wanted to build community toilets near the Panchayat Bhavan. He wrote a letter on his letterhead and gave it to the Gram secretary. The secretary evaluated the case and forwarded it to the Junior Engineer, who prepared an estimate and passed it to the Block Development Officer, (BDO). He again evaluated the proposal and sent it to the Swacch Bharat Mission Nodal officer, SBM – NO who transferred the document to the Additional Deputy Commissioner.
Finally, on his approval an amount of rupees 2 lacs was sanctioned, and it took an year to construct just three toilets.
One can see the complexity of the process which is further compounded by the utilisation of pen-and-paper for recording the proceedings. A survey conducted by a Maharashtra Cadre IAS officer Virendra Singh to document the reasons behind delays in processing offical requests gave astonishing results. According to his study an average document gets photocopied 19 times, 80 % of today’s information is paper-based and almost half of the officer’s time is spent on handling paper/data entry. The average search time for any document is 18 mins and some documents are never found.
The study concluded that the District Administrator’s office functions inefficiently in comparison to any private company’s office.
To tackle the problem,National Informatics Centre (NIC) Delhi has developed an innovative tool. It is called the E-office Management System and is being run in a mission mode under the National E-Governance plan (NeGP). It is a single product which can be used across all departments and should digitise all government offices.Its benefits include enhancing transparency, increasing accountability, assuring data security and data integrity, and transforming the work culture in government offices. It intends to promote innovation by energising the staff and relieving them from cumbersome tasks..
This tool is being used in almost all the central government offices. However out of 707 districts, it is operational only in 35 districts and they have seen startling results through its utilisation.
The irony of the situation is that despite being created by a government department, other wings are reluctant to use it. The reason why this software hasn’t been adopted pan-India is because of the mind-set of the officers. It grates with their traditional style of working and learning how to use it seems to be a burdensome proposition.
Having seen the ills that arise from inordinate delays I believe that this tool can improve the implementation of various government schemes and urge the all district administrators to embrace it wholeheartedly.
This was written by Navneet Dangra, a SPARC associate with Swaniti Initiative