“Today it is possible for us to cater information related needs of rural population, including illiterates, through videos packed in handheld tablets. Why not do so! And bring the hitherto left over population in the mainstream of Digital revolution. Simply sending modern computing technology to the rural areas might not work, the more sensible goal is to determine how best to use technology to promote bottom-up development,” says Atul Sinha
Please provide us an overview of the work of BELTRON is doing in Bihar.
Bihar State Electronics Development Corporation (BELTRON) caters to the technological needs of the government and carries out conceptualisation and implementation of IT projects for State Government Departments and corporations. BELTRON is engaged in businesses related to Electronics, Computer goods and IT training services. BELTRON was constituted in 1978, with basic philosophy of doing some electronic work. Initially it started with the manufacturing of black and white TV, in the name of BELTRON only. In 2006, the State Government nominated BELTRON to serve as the nodal agency for IT procurement and execution of IT projects.
BELTRON started its journey as a manufacturer of black and white TV. Is there a chance that the organisation may once again diversify into the electronic products manufacturing?
We have been looking at some products that have high consumption in Bihar, essentially in the government sector. For instance, currently we are working on a project for promoting digital literacy by distribution of around 3 crore tablets to household women of Bihar. This is a huge project. We are expecting that the manufacturers will start their units in Bihar to cater to the demand of so many tablet computing devices. BELTRON would definitely look forward to facilitating them and partnering with such manufacturing units.
BELTRON has been a loss making body for many years, but now it has been revived. What is the current financial status of BELTRON?
Yes, BELTRON has been making losses for more than three decades since it was created in 1978. But in the last three financial years, it has made profit. The organization has been turned around completely and all the accumulated losses have also been wiped out by BELTRON. I am very happy to inform you that few days back, the Cabinet approved the End of Liquidation for BELTRON. About a decade back, along with 19 other companies of State Government, BELTRON had been put into the list of companies to be liquidated. BELTRON has now fulfilled all the criteria for coming out of the list. It is quite rare for any company to emerge out of the list of companies to be liquidated, but BELTRON has managed the feat. This is like a rebirth for the organisation and we are now even more determined to take it forward to new highs.
How did BELTRON become a profit making body from being a loss making body for decades?
I would like to credit the entire staff at BELTRON for making the company profitable. We follow a very disciplined and rather consistent and painstaking process to ensure the success of any project entrusted to us. In any government organization, taking quick and appropriate decisions is very important. And we follow this principle of taking decisions on any issue as quickly as possible. We start our work early in the morning and we work till late in the evening for completing the projects on time. Earlier new projects did not come to BELTRON as the organization was unable to complete them. But now large numbers of new projects have started coming to us as we are able to deliver on time.
What is your vision for BELTRON?
I believe that BELTRON should emerge as a company that not only assists the Government of Bihar in creating the IT roadmap for the future, it should also empower and transform itself in such a way that it is in a position of executing all the IT projects for Government of Bihar, according to the roadmap. It is quite normal for most Government departments to keep evolving their IT roadmap as per their current needs, but for consistent growth and development it is important that there should be a long term vision of where we want to be, say, “Bihar is all Set to Emerge as an Attractive Destination of World’s Information Technology Companies” in next 5 years. BELTRON can play the role of an organisation that assists various departments in the creation of their IT roadmap. This kind of a system will ensure that there is very little room for uncertainty or lack of proper planning in the IT roadmap of the departments. There will be more efficiency and the IT implementations will get executed within a set time frame.
“Bihar is all Set to Emerge as an Attractive Destination of World’s Information Technology Companies”
As chairman of ICT Core Committee in Bihar what is your vision for growth of IT industry in the state?
The Government of Bihar is taking lot of steps to ensure that there is significant growth of IT industry in Bihar. We have set up highly ambitious targets. The targets relate to year wise revenue for each sector of the IT industry, building of world class IT Park and IT Building, creation of significant number of jobs and also the enhancement of many societal values. Very soon you will find many good IT companies opening up their development centres in Bihar.
The State Government is currently working on a project for distributing tablet computers to illiterate village women. What is your view of using modern digital technology for promoting social inclusion?
You see, it is important for us to find a solution to the digital divide that exists in the society. This is because digital divide is a symptom of deeper, more important divides, related to income, development and literacy. Today it is possible for us to provide information related to healthcare, education, social factors, agriculture, animal husbandry through handheld tablets. So why not do so! Why not empower our illiterate rural women by providing them tablets that have easy to understand apps for delivering all kinds of critical information. Simply sending modern computing technology to the rural areas might not work, the more sensible goal is to determine how best to use technology to promote bottomup development.
What is the status of SDC and BSWAN in Bihar?
I would like to tell you that Bihar is one of the first states to have completed the State Wide Area Network (SWAN). BSWAN has been fully implemented in the SHQ at Patna, all 38 DHQs and approximately 500 BHQs. Different services such as Video Conferencing between the Government officials, IWDMS, VAT MIS and e-District are currently running successfully on BSWAN. On the other hand, State Data Centre (SDC) started little late in Bihar. But it is now days away from being inaugurated by the Chief Minister. Currently we are using the BRAIN-Data Centre (Bihar Revenue Administration Data Centre) to meet the State’s needs. This is also managed by BELTRON. All the important applications of Bihar government like- CTMIS, VAT MIS, e-procurement, INDMS, SSDG, e-District, etc., are running from there only. Let me tell you that, Bihar State Wide Area Network is one of the very few networks in the country that are being used so extensively for video conferencing. More than 900 sessions are being organized every day. All the District Magistrates are doing video conferencing with the block level officers.
How are you are using e-procurement to bring in transparency and efficiency in the procurement process?
The e-procurement platform of BELTRON is serving the purpose of Bihar government quite well. A total of 17446 tenders with estimated cost of Rs. 72 thousand crores have been floated till 31st January 2014. The e-procurement system is very successfully serving all the departments of the state government. Bihar government has already issued orders that any tender worth more than 25 lakhs must compulsorily be done through the e-tendering platform. To bring even more efficiency to the system we are shortly introducing a system of e-Payments.
Please shed light on the other e-Governance initiatives that have been implemented in Bihar?
The State Government has undertaken lot of initiatives for having effective e-Governance. However, it is possible that we have not been able to project our initiatives on the national level and that is why many people outside of Bihar don’t know about the work that has been done here. The pilot e-District rollout has been very successful in four districts of the State, namely Nalanda, Gaya, Aurangabad and Madhubani. In this project we are providing digitally signed certificates. A citizen does not have to go to the respective government offices for getting his work done. They can go to the local CSC and submit their forms and collect their certificates. If they have registered their mobile number with us, they will even get an SMS alert. It is a matter of pride for us that Bihar has issued highest number of digitally signed certificates in the country. The work flow is electronic from end to end, this saves lot of paper and thereby trees. This system is bringing Bihar close to its objective of having paperless offices in the government. After successful completion and execution of the project in the first four pilot districts the scheme would be launched in rest 34 districts of Bihar.
Please provide us with an overview of e-Shakti initiative.
e-Shakti project is an flagship IT initiative of Government of Bihar. This project seeks to leverage the advances in Information and Communication Technology for ensuring transparent and efficient implementation of MGNREG for the benefit of common persons, especially the rural poor of the state. The project, first of its kind in India, has introduced “Electronic Benefit Transfer” for the MNREGA workers. Under this project, demographic and biometric data of rural adult population between the ages of 18 years to 60 years is collected and after de-duplication of the data, polycarbonate based smart cards are issued to the beneficiaries. The muster roll at the work site is generated electronically after taking the biometric attendance of the beneficiaries using a Hand Held Machine supplied to field officials. Wages are calculated automatically by the software application and are credited into the linked bank accounts of the beneficiaries, thereby reducing the manual intervention and increasing the transparency in the implementation of the scheme. At present, the project has been completely rolled out in all the 23 blocks of Patna District and in the next phase it will be rolled out in the other districts of state. A people centered Call Centre has also been started whereby people can seek information and get their grievances redressed.
Projects Under BELTRON
=> VAT MIS
=> City Survillence & Dial 100
=> Modernisation of Prison Security
=> SEC ID
=> Vasudha Kendras (CSC)
=> Jankari Call Centre
What are the special features of the e-Shakti initiative? In what ways is it different from the UIDAI programme of Government of India?
Under e-Shakti project, the bank account of each and every beneficiary is being opened using “Financial Inclusion” program of the banks. This account is a “Zero Balance Account” where residents are provided with banking services at their door step. Secondly, the projects provides the facility of both online and offline authentication of the beneficiary for the purpose of marking his/her attendance unlike UID, where only online authentication has been planned. Thirdly, smart cards are being issued to each and every beneficiary while no smart cards are being issued in UID program. Fourthly, concept of Geo fencing using the Geo Positioning by the satellites has been used to ensure that correct muster roll is generated at the work site only. Fifthly, the de-duplicated data will be used to create “Bihar State Resident Registry” that will be used later to provide benefits to eligible residents under various other schemes of the Government of Bihar. Beneficiaries would be able to avail the services of Social Welfare and PDS department by using the smart cards issued to them.
Please tell us about the City Surveillance and Dial 100 project?
This project is currently under trail run in Patna will be inaugurated by the Hon’ble Chief Minister of the State shortly. Under this project, entire city has been covered by close to 150 cameras. It is covering almost all the main roads with cameras. A state-of-the-art control room has been created to monitor the feed from the cameras. One important point is that we are not connecting these cameras onto the private network of any telecom operator, we have created government’s own network for connecting the cameras across the city. In case of the ‘Dial 100’ we are providing the facility of keeping track of 140 vehicles of Patna police. All the vehicles are incorporated with GPS equipments; whenever any stressed caller calls 100 number, he will get connected to police vehicle nearest to the incident through operator. Another unique point is that we have achieved the integration between the City Surveillance and Dial 100 projects, so the location of all the police vehicles and cameras can be seen on digital map of Patna in the control room. Automatic number plate recording systems (ANPR) have been installed in all roads going out of Patna to detect any particular vehicle, which may be unauthorised or stolen, moving in or out of the city.
City WiFi Project has become talk of the town. Please tell us about the Project.
This project have been conceptualized for the establishment of Mobile (Cellular) authentication based free Wi-Fi access facility for citizens of Patna over an stretch of approximately 20 Kms from Saguna More to NIIT College along Bailey Road. Students will be encouraged to access huge multimedia educational contents freely available on internet through low cost tablets or mobiles. It would also encourage common citizen to use internet and thereby improve their quality of life. It will certainly help in bridging the digital divide. Due care has been taken for the security aspect. It would be probably world’s longest WiFi stretch.