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Implementing the Agenda of Social Justice

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egovP K Das
Principal Secretary
Department of Social Justice& Empowerment
and Welfare of SC&BC, Government of Haryana

“Information Technology has a major role to play in the way by which the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment ensures timely and efficient disbursement of benefits to the deserving citizens,” says P K Das

Please tell us about the initiatives that are being taken by the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment in Haryana, to bring improvement in the lives of the people?

The main function of the Department is to coordinate and supervise the activities of other departments in the matter of implementation of various schemes designed for the needy citizens. We have a separate department for providing assistance to the Scheduled Caste, Backward Classes and De-notified Tribes. The Social Justice and Empowerment department mainly focuses on the old, handicapped, widows, the destitute and the physically challenged. We also look after the welfare of the minority communities. However, to a large extent our work is focussed on ensuring that there is efficiency in the implementation of various programmes meant for the aged, widows, destitute women, orphans and mentally and physically disabled persons. The government of Haryana provides monthly assistances to all these categories.

What is the quantum of monthly assistance that is being provided for these categories of beneficiaries? Earlier the benefits being provided were different for different categories of beneficiaries. But recently the Government took the decision that the rates in every case should be fixed at Rs.1000 per month, except for the children. For children we have the Ladli scheme. The total number of beneficiaries in the state is more than 22 lakhs. We try our best to ensure that all the beneficiaries receive their entitlements on time every month. As of now the disbursement of the benefits is being carried about through the Panchayats and the municipal bodies.

Are you using IT to bring more efficiency and transparency in the way the benefits are being distributed to various beneficiaries?
Information Technology has a major role to play in the working of Department of Social Justice and Empowerment. At the front end the distribution of benefits is still being done physically through the Panchayats and the municipal bodies, but at the backend there is complete e-Governance. We maintain a digital database of all the beneficiaries on a NIC server, and this database is available online for making additions or deletions and for other departmental work. The designated social welfare officers can add or delete names for taking care of changes in a beneficiary’s status. The software is designed in such a way that it keeps track of who has logged in and what changes he or she has made into the database. On the basis of the updated database we issue an authorisation for the funds that are needed for disbursement of the benefits. The money required is then directly credited into the accounts of the Panchayats and the Municipal Bodies and from there it goes to the beneficiaries. At the end of the month, we get the details of the way in which the money has been distributed and if any amount is left it is returned to the Treasury.

How are the beneficiaries of these schemes selected?
The eligible applicants are scrutinized, and selected for the benefits by District Level Committee formed under the Chairmanship of respective Deputy Commissioner. The application forms of selected beneficiaries are kept at District Social Welfare Officer office who in turn updates records and report to the department at State Level about the number of beneficiaries for the sanction of necessary budget for disbursement of pension on monthly basis.

Is there any initiative being taken to ensure that the final beneficiary’s account can be directly credited with the entitlement?
The system that we currently have is quite efficient as it involves the local people’s representatives in the disbursement of benefits, but there can be a better system. Only transfer of funds into the beneficiary’s bank account can be a good solution, because if a beneficiary falls ill on the day when the disbursement is being made by the local authorities, or he is not present in the village due to some reason, then he might not be able to get his entitlement. He might not even get this month’s entitlement with the next month’s payment if the data has not been uploaded on the central server. It is also a problem that many people are not able to keep track of the months in which they might not have received the payments. If the payment is made directly to the beneficiary’s bank account, then he will be able to withdraw it at his convenience. Also having money in bank account will encourage the beneficiaries to save money, which is something that will provide them with long term financial stability. But the problem is that many of the villages do not have adequate banking infrastructure, there is also lack of awareness about modern banking in some of the beneficiaries. But things are changing slowly and e-Governance is taking root in all the government departments. People are also becoming aware of what technology can do for them.

Earlier you spoke about the Ladli scheme. Please tell us about the implementation of this scheme in Haryana?
The objective of the scheme is to raise the status of the girl child in the family and in the society and to change the mindsets of the people for proper rearing of the girl children and providing them the right to birth and the right to survival. Under the scheme all parents residents of Haryana or having Haryana domicile will be provided financial incentive per year for upto five years whose second girl child is born on or after 20th August,2005 irrespective of their caste, creed, religion, income or number of sons. Financial assistance is also provided under the scheme.

Tell us about the steps that the department is taking to safeguard the interests of the physically handicapped?
We are having schemes to provide free education, and also facilities of boarding and lodging, clothing, food and books free of cost to the blind students. Scholarships are also being provided to the physically challenged students. The educated physically handicapped unemployed persons are provided unemployment allowance from the time of registration with the Employment Exchange. The Government is also running homes for the aged and the infirm where ration money is provided to the needy beneficiaries. The functioning of the department is totally citizen centric and we always working with the aim of providing assistance to people who are in need.

“A dynamic website has been developed to enable the public to access information about various schemes”

What is your view of using modern technology to make it easier for citizens to avail of government services?
Modern technology is now a must for ensuring effective service delivery to the citizens. All government departments are now using it in one way or other to improve their processes. The Department of Social Justice & Empowerment is constantly upgrading its technological systems. For strengthening the quality of our Government to Citizen (G2C) services, a dynamic web site containing useful information has been developed to enable the public to access the required information about various schemes at any time and any where basis. This website will further improve information delivery system at different levels of the administration and ensure an overall efficiency of the office. The ultimate beneficiaries of such systems are the citizens of the country.

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