In an effort to leverage e-Governance and provide citizens with the convenience of electronic access to Government services, the Administration of Chandigarh – a union territory in north India, started with a project – ‘Sampark’, in September, 2004. Under this project, the local administration has set up citizen service centers (named Sampark Centres) at select places in Chandigarh, for providing e-Government services. These centres located at refurbished existing bill collection offices of Electric Supply and Municipal Corporation of Chandigarh, are acting as single-point, multi-service delivery centres for various Government departments. At present, about 11 services are being offered through these centres ranging from Tax payment, payment of electricity bills, issuing of bus passes and even submission of passport applications. (A detailed list of services, categorized according to their concerned Departments, is provided in the adjoining table).
(N.B. – Payment of Telephone bills will soon be added to service offerings of Sampark centres)
Currently, there are six operational Sampark centres in Chandigarh, with another three soon to be commissioned. Although these centres are housed within Government premises, they are almost entirely run and operated on a public-private partnership model, wherein, the service delivery and maintenance are being handled by personnel of a private IT partner – SQL Star International. Sampark also involves UTI Bank – a public sector bank, as its official banking partner for handling payments, collections and financial transactions done through its centres. All Sampark centres are operational between 8a.m. to 8 p.m. on working days, providing maximum time convenience for citizens to avail the facility. Each centre is headed by a ‘Supervisor’ – a Government employee, who manages a team of three ‘operators’, a ‘receptionist’ and a ‘team leader’, being deputed by SQL. Although general operations and customer service are being handled by operators themselves, the Supervisor is the sole authorised signatory for putting initials and Government stamps on documents requiring the same.
According to Ms. Sandip Kaur, team leader of one of the Sampark centre, the number of transactions performed on an average weekday at her centre reaches about 800-1000, while weekend registers as much as 1200-1500 transactions. On financial terms, this amounts to a gross average monthly transaction of about INR 60,000. According to her, the most popular services at her centre are payment of water and electricity bills and issue of bus passes. On asking about the general demand of public for new service addition in Sampark centres, Ms Kaur names railway reservation, telephone bill payment, issue of voter ID card and ration card as most desired services for the users.
According Devi Lal – caretaker of a local school and a user of Sampark centre for over a year, “the convenience of bill payment at these centres saves me a lot of time and effort”. He further comments that even a year before he used to spend about an hour standing in the queue of the bill collection office… “through Sampark centres, it is just a matter of minutes,” says Devi Lal.
Another user Rajni Sharma – a college student, who came to get a bus pass from the Sampark centre was against the idea of issuing such passes from the centre and rather finds it convenient to get the pass directly at bus depots.
Citizen’s Wish list
Although citizens are quite satisfied with the services of Sampark centres, a few demands from their end are as follows:
• There is a need to open more Sampark centres in Chandigarh. The six existing centres are found to be quite inadequate for serving the entire population of around 0.9 million.
• Centres should be well distributed all around the city. Currently, the distribution of existing Sampark centres is not sufficient to make them easily accessible from all places.
• There should be more effort on behalf of the Government to promote these centres. Presently there are no landmarks/hoardings/banners/posters within the city for publicizing and promoting these centres.
• More services should be offered by Sampark centres. Some of these are – railway reservation, telephone bill payment, issue of voter ID card, issue of ration card, ticket booking for cultural programmes/events.
• There is a need to offer Sampark services for migrant population of the city. Due to increased in-flow of non-native people from other parts of the country, there is a demand for services like – change of residence address in government documents like ration card, voter ID card, PAN card etc., application for new telephone connection, application for admission in Government schools and like wise.
Information and services provided by Sampark centres are also available on-line at the Chandigarh Administration website (http://www.chandigarh.nic.in).
“Each Sampark centre is headed by a Supervisor (a government employee) who takes care of authentication functions on behalf of different departments that provide services through
Team Leader of
one of the
“The number of transactions performed on an average weekday at her centre reaches about 800-1000, while weekend registers as much as 1200-1500 transactions. On financial terms, this amounts to a gross average monthly transaction of about INR 60,000.”
Rickshaw puller and a
care taker in a
school, user of
“The convenience of bill payment at these centres saves me a lot of time and effort… through Sampark centres, it is just a matter of minutes.”