Interview

Administrative Reforms:Core Objective : Rajni Razdan, Ministry of Personnel, PG & Pensions

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Rajni Razdan
Secretary, (AR & PG), Ministry of Personnel, PG & Pensions, Government of India

“There are several projects across the country that are being supported under ‘Capacity Building for Poverty Reduction’ (CBPR) programme.”

How does e-Governance contribute to the fulfilment of the mandate of DAR&PG? Give us an overview of the various e-Governance initiatives which has been initiated by your Department.

The mandate of Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DAR&PG) is to promote and facilitate administrative reforms, disseminate good practices and handle public grievances. We consider e-Governance projects to be a powerful means in enabling us to fulfil this mandate. As the nodal department for administrative reforms, we take a systems view towards problem solving using technology so as to prevent mere superimposition of technology on existing systems and processes of the government. This I feel is the biggest challenge of my department. It is extremely critical to take a holistic view of reforms and incorporate the e-Governance projects as part of the larger reforms process and to move from individualised e-Governance projects to institutionalised e-Governance processes.

DAR&PG is at present spearheading a number of important e-Governance initiatives such as the Public Grievance portal, Governance Knowledge Centre and e-Office – a Mission Mode Project under the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP). NeGP was jointly  formulated and is now also monitored by DAR&PG with Department of Information Technology (DIT), GoI. Also, the DAR&PG along with the DIT, in association with one of the state governments has been organising the National Conference on e-Governance every year since 1997. The 12th National Conference on e-Governance is being organised on 12th &13th of February, 2009 at Goa.

“In the times to come, government websites would be the first point of contact for the citizens.”

The National Conference on e-Governance has been providing a platform for meaningful interaction to policy makers, practitioners, industry leaders and academicians to deliberate, interact and recommend an actionable strategy for good governance and to improve the standard of services rendered to the common man. Every year in this conference, the DAR&PG, presents National Awards for e-Governance to recognise and promote excellence in implementation of e-Governance initiatives. In addition, DAR&PG funds innovative projects executed by the state governments, a significant number of which pertain to using ICT for improving service delivery.

Could you elaborate on the innovative projects in e-Governance being promoted by DAR&PG?

There are several projects across the country that are being supported under ‘Capacity Building for Poverty Reduction’ (CBPR) programme. This innovation fund has been set up wherein state governments can suggest innovative ideas to improve public service delivery to the poor, and DAR&PG provides funds for pilot implementation of the same. We have been pleasantly surprised at the number of interesting innovative projects which have been sent by the state government officers especially those working at the cutting edge. A large number of the projects undertaken have a significant ICT component. In the North-East, in Tripura we are using IVRS system for transmission of critical nutrition data from ICDS centres from far flung villages to the State HQ for prompt action. The information lag is expected to be reduced from about two months to almost real-time and in Meghalaya we are implementing a project that pertains to setting up of virtual classrooms for students requiring coaching for competitive examinations and another one making the transactions pertaining to the PDS system in state computerised to enable transparency.. In Southern region, in Tamil Nadu we are funding a large pilot encompassing approx 100 villages for bringing in Biometric attendance devices at the NREGA worksites to reduce the risk of leakages due to doctored muster rolls and in Karnataka we are funding a project on developing MIS for improving recovery of loans by Rural Housing Corporation from BPL families by linking them to income generating scheme. In Western region, in Rajasthan we are supporting a project of a website for marketing the product of Women Self Help Groups and in Gujarat, individual BPL families are being tracked for the benefits received by them under various government schemes, through use of ICT. The pilot at Jamnagar tracks the 22,000 BPL families who are targeted through more than 400 government schemes implemented by more than 40 government departments. It is a unique exercise of bringing about convergence of the various programmes at the individual household level.

How is the Public Grievances Portal of DARPG functioning?

DAR&PG is the nodal department for public grievances in Government of India. In order to make the process of grievance registering, tracking and monitoring simple and transparent, DAR&PG has designed a web based portal (CPGRAMS) for handling grievances. This portal at present is being used by a large number of central ministries and their subordinate officers. The receipt of grievances has more than doubled in 2008 as compared to 2007. In 2008, more that 40,000 grievances were received through the CPGRAMS portal. The case disposal rate by the grievance handling officers of the various ministries linked with the portal has increased substantially over last year. The average time for disposal of cases has come down from 157 days to 41 days. We have been able to achieve this through continuous improvements in the portal and by imparting extensive training to grievance handling officers in the use of CPGRAMS.

We are to understand that the Governance Knowledge Centre Portal has been developed by your Department. What is your vision for this portal?

The Governance Knowledge Centre (GKC) was launched by the Prime Minister during the National Conference of Collectors at New Delhi in 2005. The GKC portal design envisaged two distinct purposes- one, to be a Digital Repository of Good Governance Practices in India and abroad and two, to function as a knowledge centre to provide information, expert advice as well as a forum for exchange of views and ideas on governance related issues. It is expected that such a forum would provide resources to the practitioners which would help them appreciate the nuances of administrative and management practices and pave the way for taking up appropriate interventions to improve governance standards. During the course of running of the GKC portal, it has been realised that the larger goal of GKC being a knowledge centre which is used as a referral for practitioners in government on issues related to policy and practice has not yet been fulfilled. It was felt that the knowledge repository of the website is still at nascent stage. It was in this context that DAR&PG has decided to collaborate with Centre for Law and Governance, JNU for managing the site and development of the content. This would not only provide academic rigour to the material posted on the website but also enable us to develop a network of experts who can provide advice to the government officers as and when requested. Our vision is to develop GKC into a facility which provides first rate knowledge resources to government officers in areas of public policy and governance.

Government websites have increasingly become a useful means for the citizens to interact with the government. What are your plans in making this linkage even stronger?

I am of the view that in the times to come, government websites would be the first point of contact for the citizens. A large number of government websites have been published in the cyber space to ensure maximum reach of government information and services to the citizens of India. However, due to varied nomenclatures, layout and content standards as well as use of different navigation strategies in these websites, it was felt that the some standards needed to be prescribed. To address this concern, DAR&PG in collaboration with National Informatics Centre and DIT, GoI, has developed “Guidelines for Government of India Websites”. The Guidelines would ensure uniformity in the quality, promote consistency, citizen-centricity and usability of government websites. These Guidelines would be released at the valedictory session of the XII National Conference on e-Governance.

Sandeep Budki
sandeep@egovonline.net

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