August 2014

Productivity Efficiency Transparency

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Vijay Singhal

Vijay Singhal
Sugar Commissioner, Government of Maharashtra

ICT has not only changed the way the sugar industry operates, but also proved to be a boon for farmers and various people associated with the industry, says Vijay Singhal in an interview with Veena Kurup of ENN

Share your outlook on the potentials of ICT in enhancing the scope of governance.

Technology is a great enabler. Today every department/regulator is migrating to technology-centric innovative governance models. Various government departments are embracing technologycentric reforms for effective governance and providing quick, affordable and reliable services to its stakeholders. The biggest contribution of IT and ICT technology is that it increases the productivity, efficiency and transparency, and brings down the cost of our operations.

What challenges do you face in managing the sugar domain and what counter measures do you intend for them?

The Commissionerate of Sugar has an important role to play in the development of the socio-economic landscape of the state. The role of the Sugar Commissioner is both Developmental and Regulatory.
We observed few challenges in managing this domain manually on paper. The sugar industry sees a turnover of Rs 30,000 crore annually and is spread across the vast geography of the state. Governing these large entities is an arduous task that requires leadership,vision, co-ordination at various levels and the ability to understand problems faced by the industries and farmers in their everyday operations.
Maintaining the databases of information related to these entities is a huge task and efficient communication between the sugar offices and the factories across the state is very much required. Information about factories, various schemes proposed by the government, important government resolutions, court judgments etc, need to be readily available to various stakeholders of the industry. Also, it is important for the Commissionerate to provide appropriate mechanisms for farmers to convey their issues/grievances to the government.
Another major challenge faced by the Sugar Commissionerate, especially in last few years, has been protests by farmer’s association (Shetakari Sanghatana) demanding higher prices for cane.
In order to overcome all these challenges we chalked out an eGovernance roadmap to bring in technology-centric reforms in the system. Our eGovernance roadmap was prepared with the assistance of KPMG under which we have identified key areas and processes which could be digitised and made more effective and efficient through ICT. We have also implemented solutions on mGovernance for the use of innovative crowd sourcing. Technology has changed the way we do governance to develop and regulate the domain.

Detail us about the key initiatives being implemented using ICT.

As part of our eGovernance roadmap, a new web portal of the Sugar Commissionerate has been developed. It contains information about the sugar industry in Maharashtra, details of the Commissionerate, and all cooperatives and private sugar factories in the state including their address and Google maps of their locations. The website will also carry information related to the Sugar Department like important government resolutions (GR), circulars, court orders, guidelines etc.
Web portal of the Sugar Commissionerate won the Bronze medal at Government of Maharashtra’s eGovernance Awards 2013. This project also won the Skoch Gold National Award in “Innovative Use of Technology for eGovernance”.
The Commissionerate has also implemented a push SMS system for quick and efficient communication between sugar offices and factories. Pull SMS system is being used to collect daily crushing report from factories in a predefined SMS format. The pull SMS project also won the Silver medal at the Government of Maharashtra’s “eGovernance Awards 2013” and the Skoch Gold National Award for “Innovative Use of Technology for e-Governance”. The Project for RealTime Cane Crushing Information Collection through Pull SMS won the eIndia National Award in “Innovative Use of Mobile Technology in eGovernance” category.
Commissionerate has also implemented Business Intelligence for better assessment and analysis of data.The various dashboards developed with BI tools give a complete picture of current position of any sugar factory in the state. All information related to a factory’s crushing statistics, financial position, efficiency, working of plants etc is available on a single platform. The BI dashboards help in identifying the best performing factories in state or a particular region and also in comparison of working of different factories of same capacity. Their methods could be analysed and replicated across the industry for improvement in overall performance.
Sugar Commissionerate is implementing a GIS solution. In first phase, all sugar factories in the state have been mapped on the states district wise map and all factory information is available at the click of a button. In the next phase, village wise listing of factory working are is marked on GIS maps to denote high and low recovery zones, high production capacity areas, and factories showing good financial performance etc.
There is also progress in the development of the Maharashtra Sugar Information System (MSIS) – an application for automating the governance structure of various sections in the Commissionerate and allied offices across the state including the sugar factories. The MSIS will have users at various levels –Mantralaya, the Sugar Commissionerate and its Regional offices as well as the sugar factories.
Through this software, the department will be able to track various details like sugar crushing, production statistics, administrative and financial details of factories etc. Using these applications factories will be able to submit online proposals for cane crushing license, technical sanctions, expansion, modernisation, administrative and financial approvals, various loans and grants, proposals etc.

What were the prime challenges faced while utilising these technologies for operational initiatives?

Key challenges faced by department were stakeholder awareness and internal capacity building. KPMG is managing the implementation and rollout of various applications. Detailed bilingual user manual were made available online to various stakeholders through our website. SMS gateway also helped us in sending bulk SMSes related to compliances etc to our stakeholders. Detailed training sessions were conducted at regular intervals by consultants deployed at the Divisional and Commissionerate level in order to build capacity as required.

“The Commissionerate of Sugar has implemented Business Intelligence for better assessment and analysis of data. Various dashboards developed with BI tools give a complete picture of current position of any sugar factory in the state”

How equipped is the department to tackle cyber security concerns?

We are very thankful to our IT department which has ensured proper compliance mechanism which safeguards all our concerns related to cyber security. Our vendor has to adhere to standards, guidelines and policies framed by DIT, so that our application could be hosted on SDC. All our applications are thoroughly tested and certified by agencies to ensure full compliance towards IT security.

Share with us the department’s vision and initiatives towards enhancing the scope of utilising such technologies?

The department is planning to revive the portal developed for online sale of sugar and by products by SSKs. The total annual turnover of sugar and its by-products is estimated at Rs 25,000-30,000 crore. Implementing sugar sale online will help in improving transparency in the sale process and accordingly sugar factories will start getting better realisation.
Our vision is to connect all sugar factories in the state of Maharashtra with Commissioner of sugar office online and make the entire office paperless. It is our endeavor to provide all information on our website and also through the use of m-Governance and e-Governance.
It is also proposed to create a UID Aadhar linked database of members of all co-operative sugar factories in the state. This will enable factories to transfer the member’s payment directly into their Aadhar-linked bank accounts which in turn will result in simplified and quick processing of cane payments to the farmers.

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