From serpentine queues in dusty government offices and endless wait for government files to move, to swanky SUWIDHA centres, SAANJH centres and swift action on file, where a citizen enjoys efficient service delivery as his right, Punjab has come a long way. The country’s food bowl is now known more for its effective and innovative governance reforms than its verdant fields and sun-kissed ripened wheat, reports Priya Yadav of Elets News Network (ENN) from the land of five rivers
Until sometime back, Punjab was considered essentially an agrarian state, but steadily it is now wearing a new look and assuming a different identity. There has been a silent revolu- tion of sorts sweeping its administration that is leaving it more tech-savvy, citizen-centric, advanced and effective in its governance.
This is evident from the fact that the past year alone has seen the central government acknowledge and honour the State for lead- ing in eGovernance and asking the rest of the states to emulate the example it has set. In April 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi conferred the “Best Governance Practice” award on the Punjab Government for its “unique citizen-centric initiative to abolish non-statutory affidavits in the state”.
Punjab pipped states, such as Gujarat, Kerala and Karnataka, to win the honour. The award was received by Punjab Chief Secretary Sarvesh Kaushal at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi on the occasion of the 9th Civil Services Day.
The portfolio of Governance Reforms has been with the dynamic Deputy Chief Minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal, who has been tirelessly introducing initiatives to engage citizens in governance. “The main focus of these reforms is to restore citizen’s trust in institutions. For this we brought about reforms particularly in police administration, revenue collection agencies and district administration. These reforms have provided dignified and easy access to services for citizens and have made administration transparent and accountable,” says Sukhbir Badal.
In fact, what prompted the change was the fact that even after 63 years of Independence, citizens have to prove their identity; for declarations regarding their profession, income, caste, residence proof, etc., affidavits are to be given on stamp papers and sworn before a magistrate or a public notary.
“We, in Punjab, in 2009 decided to do away with filing of affidavits except in cases where it is mandatory by law. It is encouraging that initiatives like rationalisation of affidavits, introduced by Punjab, have been adopted by the Government of India well,” says the Deputy Chief Minister. Apart from the government, its agencies, like Punjab Governance Reforms Com- mission, have been pressed into service and
Apart from the government, its agencies, like Punjab Governance Reforms Com- mission, have been pressed into service and working towards the cause of welfare of the disadvantaged, marginalised and deprived sections in the State, so as to achieve good governance based on high ethical standards, according to the Chairman of Punjab Governance Reforms Commission (PGRC), Dr Pramod Kumar.
Speaking about various initiatives that the State is taking, Kaushal says, “Punjab, during the last seven years, has emerged as a lead- ing State in eGovernance and has also taken pioneering steps in mobile governance. The prime task before the government is to ensure acceptability of new tools of mobile gover- nance amongst the citizens by focusing on data and financial security.” The Chief Secretary has been seeking
The Chief Secretary has been seeking participation of officers at all levels to popularise eGovernance tools, and feels that this can be done by ensuring transparency and quick delivery, besides maintaining the credibility of the system.
“There is a need for the departments to come forward with innovative ideas for effective mobile governance for the benefit of the citizens. In order to build adequate and relevant capacities at all levels, so as to achieve goals of eGovernance and mobile governance, it is important to follow eGovernance Competency Framework,” says Kaushal.
This Framework speaks about bringing India’s eGovernance planning, management and human resource aspects on par with global standards and practices. Since the purpose of this framework is to enable government departments to “Deploy Right and Develop Right”, there is a need to make use of this framework and deploy right people to implement various eGovernance initiatives.
The Central Government has honoured the State for leading in eGovernance. It was conferred with the ‘Best Governance Practice’ award for its ‘unique citizen-centric initiative to abolish non- statutory affidavits in the State’. Punjab pipped states, such as Gujarat, Kerala and Karnataka, to win the honour
Punjab Government’s endeavour to make administrative reforms a reality achieved another milestone with the Central Government ranking the State’s eGovernance project as the best in the country. The Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), Government of India, in its quarterly ranking released on October 31, 2015 rated the e-District project of the State as the number one such project in the country.
The main focus of reforms is to restore citizen’s trust in institutions. We brought about reforms particularly in police administration, revenue collection agencies and district administration. These reforms have provided easy access to services for citizens and made administration transparent and accountable.
–Sukhbir Singh Badal Deputy Chief Minister, Punjab
DeitY assessed e-District projects of 36 states and Union Territories for this ranking and had considered several parameters for assessment. While Madhya Pradesh ranked second, Uttar Pradesh was adjudged third in the country. Chandigarh stood at 15th position, Haryana and Delhi shared 11th rank, Himachal Pradesh ranked 14th, while the State of Jammu & Kashmir finished second- last at 35th position. Bihar remained the laggard at the last 36th position. Punjab’s e-District pilot project had also won Skoch Award and CSI-Nihilent Award for its best implementation last year.
The e-District Punjab project was adjudged as best for its effective pilot project implementation, backend computerisation of maximum number of services among all states, on-time selection of system integrator, delivery of hardware and connectivity in more than 1,000 field offices, robust governance structure in the form of District eGovernance Society, Punjab and other features. After suc- cessful launch and operation of pilot imple- mentation in Kapurthala and Shahid Bhagat Singh Nagar, Punjab has now replicated the e-District project across the remaining 20 districts of the State as part of phase-II of project implementation.
Under phase-II of the project, the required IT infrastructure of more than 2,000 desktops, 1,200 network printers, 1,400 scanners and other basic infrastructure have now been provided across 959 locations covering 1,500 government offices at district, tehsil and sub- tehsil level across 20 non-pilot districts. All these offices have been provided internet connectivity and more than 9,000 officials have been trained as part of capacity building for enabling service delivery under this project.
During the last seven years, Punjab has emerged as a leading State in eGovernance and has also taken pioneering steps in mobile governance. The prime task before the government is to ensure acceptability of new tools of mobile governance amongst the citizens by focusing on data and financial security.
-Sarvesh Kaushal Chief Secretary, Government of Punjab
To date, out of the total 42 planned ser- vices, a numbers of services have already been made live across the State. As per consolidated numbers, approximately 90 per cent of the services have already been made live and are running successfully across the State, and the Punjab Governance Reforms Commission been asked to achieve 100 per cent rollout at the earliest.
Until now, more than 1.3 lakh service requests have been received through e-District application in 20 non-pilot districts and are in various stages of processing. Currently, these services are delivered through Suwidha centres, and in the near future, the same shall be provided across all the counters at Sewa Kendras being established in the State.
Apart from the government, its agencies, like Punjab Governance Reforms Commission, have been pressed into service and are working towards the cause of welfare of the disadvantaged, marginalised and deprived sections in Punjab and achieving good governance based on high ethical standards, says PGRC Chairman Dr Kumar, an eminent social scientist himself.
Only recently, the Commission recommended or 35 per cent reservation for women in government jobs – a decision which is set to have far-reaching implications in upliftment of women in the State, and it has been approved by the State Government. A practical shape to this decision will be given when the government starts filling 1.14 lakh vacant posts in 41 departments. In November last year, the government had announced to start the process to fill the vacant posts, mostly in the school education, water supply and sanitation and agriculture departments. The decision to reserve 35 per cent jobs for women will account for 40,000 of the 1.14 lakh jobs.
Then there are initiatives taken by the Punjab Bureau of Investment Promotion (PBIP) that have been acknowledged by the World Bank in its recent report where it pegged Punjab at 16th position in ease of doing business across India. However, the State topped in the area of setting up of a business, stealing march over other so-called business-friendly states. Punjab scored 81.48 per cent against the national average of 31.91 per cent.
“Remarkably, Punjab is the only State in which the single-window system allows application for all of the licences studied in this assessment, although some others come very close,” the report said.
The “Assessment of State Implementation of Business Reforms Report” for September points out that good practices being followed in the State include setting up of the Punjab Bureau of Investment Promotion by the government that “acts as a unified regulator and provides a one-stop system for all state regulatory and fiscal incentive approvals”. This also means that it functions as a single point of contact for the investors with senior gov- ernment officials who work as “relationship officers for corporate houses”.
“The Bureau is headed by a chief executive officer empowered by all regulatory departments to provide approvals. Officers on deputation from all regulatory departments work together as part of the single window. Further, to complement the single-window structure, an online workflow-based single window portal helps the investor track approvals in real time,” the report added.
e-District Punjab project has emerged as the best among all states for its effective implementation, backend computerisation of maximum number of services, delivery of hardware and connectivity in more than 1,000 field offices, robust governance structure in the form of District eGovernance Society, Punjab, etc.
For the past couple of years, police reforms have been one of the key points in governance reforms in the State. Set up in 2012 by the Punjab Government, there are 363 SAANJH Kendras or Police Station Outreach Centres, set up across the State that are now dealing with registration of foreigners, investigation of cases of missing passports, complaints of fraud by travel agents, NRI complaints, tenant verification, registration and investigation of servants, passport verification, police clear- ance certificate at the time of foreign immigration, apart from other minor clearances. This means that only heinous crimes such as murder, rape, abduction or drug trafficking are left to be handled by police stations.
The SAANJH, which again is credited to be a brain child of the Deputy Chief Minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal, has been appreciated by the central organisation – Bureau of Police Research and Development, which is now trying to get replicated across the nation due to its effectiveness and good governance.
The State already has the honour of being the first in the country to abolish affidavits in 2010, which came as a major relief to residents. Since then, all other states in the country have been trying to emulate this and implement it. In their efforts, Punjab has been lending a helping hand – providing training and access to government procedures, which allowed this to happen in more than 17 states until now, including Mizoram, Nagalan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana.
Apart from the government, the Punjab Governance Reforms Commission has been pressed into service for ensuring welfare of the disadvantaged, marginalised and deprived sections in Punjab and achieving good governance based on high ethical standards.
– Dr Pramod Kumar Chairman – PGRC, Government of Punjab
Punjab has also become one of the few states in the country which has not only notified the Right to Service Act in 2011 but also set up a commission to enforce this. Until July 2013, as many as 1.21 crore people availed ser- vices of this Act. Until now 4.36 crore applicants have been provided notified services since the inception of Punjab Right to Service Act. Sixty-six officers have been penalised for causing undue delay in providing services within the notified time lines.