According to the 2006 Census, there are 65 lakh houseless popluation in Andhra Pradesh – of which 52 lakhs fall in rural areas and 13 lakhs in urban areas. Recognising the right to adequate housing as a basic right of this population, the State government in 2006 set out on an ambitious programme called the Integrated Novel Development in Rural Areas & Model Municipal Areas (INDIRAMMA).
INDIRAMMA is aimed at achieving a slum-free and hut-free state of Andhra Pradesh in three-year period. Apart from the most important component of housing, INDIRAMMA also aims to deliver a package of 8 other services like pensions, drinking water, roads, elementary education, electricity, ICDS, health and sanitation to the rural and urban poor.
The overall allocation for the programme is to the tune of INR 20,000 Crore, out of which nearly INR 10,000 crore has been spent resulting in construction of 25 lakh houses, of the allocated 73 lakhs.
MONITORING THROUGH E-GOVERNANCE
R SUBRAHMANYAM,MANAGING DIRECTOR, STATE HOUSING CORPORATION, GOAP.
For a programme as massive and decentralised as housing, a tight monitoring system is required to arrest irregularities, which can only be possible through an IT enabled system. The top management of the AP State Housing Corporation felt that with such huge number of benefi ciaries, the tracking of every single penny, cementing of each walls, could not be done without the application of information and communication technology.
The e-Governance system, developed by the Centre for Good Governance for the project, facilitates making online payment, internal banking system, monitors house-wise progress and follows up on complaints. It comprises mainly of online database, payment gateway and real time MIS.
With special attention on the collection of database, the housing department made mandal wise teams, which went house-to-house and verifi ed nearly 80 lakh benefi ciaries. These teams captured images of the benefi ciary and her dwelling. This data would then be uploaded to the central server through Internet. Once uploaded, the data is frozen, restraining any chance of further editing or tampering. Most importantly, the complete database is available on the housing department website, which provides the option for cross verifi cation.
R Subrahmanyam, MD, AP State Housing Corporation, said, “Database has been developed with a very painstaking effort by large number of interdisciplinary teams and fi nalised by a transparent process, where we go to the doorstep of each benefi ciary. The team goes to each house, assess whether the house needs reconstruction and if it requires, they take a photograph, fi ll up documentation and virtually do the sanction and then bring it to the mandal level, and the database gets stored in the central server and is locked.”
Payment to every individual is done through the central server with the help of Internet with mandal centres as the access points to the data entry operators. The payments for each stage of the programme is fi xed, independent of the place it is being done in the state. With the online payment system, the delivery of payments have been made speedy and ensured that they are going into right the hands. Till date, more than INR 6,000 crore has been delivered to benefi ciaries through this online mechanism, which makes it “largest disbursement gateway” in the fi eld of e-Governance. “We have a system of making payments through corporate net banking system. I have been told that we are the biggest users of corporate net banking in the country, because thousands of crores gets transferred to the benefi ciaries, using the latest technology,” Subrahmanyam said.
REAL TIME MIS
The payment gateway has been synchronised with MIS, and so when ever you promote an individual from a housing stage to the upper stage, the MIS automatically gets updated. With benefi ciaries spread across the state in huge numbers, the MIS has proved to be a good tool, facilitating speedy decision making in the organisation. Explaining about the benefi ts from the MIS, the managing director said, “Several fi nancial reports and general reports comes through this channel, so we know how much is paid where. If any excess amount is transferred to some account it is highlighted immediately.”
CURBING RAMPANT CORRUPTION
Earlier in the manual system, corruption was rampant and there were delays in payments to actual benefi ciaries. Some offi cials, in charge of benefi ciary database, exercised illegitimate discretionary powers and demanded bribes from eligible benefi ciaries for disbursement of payments. In case their demands were not met, the benefi ciaries name would be replaced with someone ready to shell money out.
But now, “the online posting of database has helped us to a great extent and the process has become simpler. Earlier, the concerned offi cial would manually make a payment order, so there was more scope for corruption as it was his discretion whether the benefi ciary would be paid INR 5,000 or INR 20,000 for the work”, Subrahmanyam said.
TRANSPARENCY POST ICT
The deployment of ICT applications has facilitated better control among the top management over the project implementation.
It has also helped a great deal in pegging responsibility and accountability at each level of the department. Earlier, under table deals were reportedly a routine business with corrupt offi cials.
Pointing to the transparency brought on with ICT application, Dr Rajeev Sharma, Director General, Centre for Good Governance said, “In INDIRAMMA, we have been able to create a good support system, which not only provides MIS report to the department to implement the programme but also provides visibility to benefi ciaries in terms of actual records of department which are online.”
“Once you open that particular page you can see full details of how much money has been released for the house, at what stage is construction, how much cement has been provided, etc and all these bring transparency. So if there is any discrepancy, any one can raise question. So this system provides transparency and also access to poor people through technology,” he added.
ROLE OF SHGS
It is almost impossible to open a bank account for each benefi ciary, viewing the number and the monetary capabilities. So the daunting task of transfer of payments has been addressed with the help of Self Help Groups. In a village, eight to ten SHGs join and make a Village Organisation, which is headed by one of the SHG members. Now, a bank account is opened in the name of every VO. The payments for each group member is done through this bank account, which is further distributed within the SHG members. The involvement of groups and group-wise distribution makes way for third party auditing too.
Commenting on the critical role of SHGs, Subrahmanyam said, “We ride on the shoulders of our SHG movement, comprising 8.5 lakh groups, covering almost of one crore families. A woman from each family is the member of SHG. We are very closely associated with the SHG network, in terms of disbursement of payment, monitoring and even manufacturing of the materials like bricks, door frames, etc.”
Explaining further, he said, “We nominate the Village Organiasation, which is the apex body of SHGs at the village level, as disbursing agents. So if in a particular village, 789 people are benefi ciaries, and payments have to be disbursed, the amount will fi rst come to VO’s account. So instead of having accounts in the bank, we are doing the payments (of that particular village) through one account. So the VO head goes to the bank, collects the money and then distributes among the 789 members.”
NON-INVOLVEMENT OF CONTRACTORS
An interesting fact abut this housing scheme is the non-involvement of contractors, for the construction of houses or even for manufacturing of housing materials. Apart from reducing cost, it has also dwindled the number of issues cropping up due to involvement of external party in the implementation.
However, the direct involvement with people demands great attention, since one has to look to every individual problem and issues, and this is considered as one of challenges in the implementation of the scheme. The housing department senior offi cial said, “Basically our scheme runs with the people. It is for the people and by the people. We don’t encourage any contractor system and is purely implemented by the people. So that is our greatest strength, as there is no middleman. But yes, sometimes it becomes a weak point too, because we have to handle lakhs and lakhs of people. We have to monitor the progress of every single person. Every person has got some problem or the other, which demand redressal.”
EXECUTIVE WILL AT SUCCESS
Whenever things are done in a different manner, especially against the existing legacy set-up, one has to face lot of resistance within the organisation. The sanctioning of computing devices to each of assistant engineers and opting for ICT for project monitoring demands strong will at the top executive level, and this can be seen inINDIRAMMA.
Damodar Abbai, Senior Project Manager, CGG, who looks after INDIRAMMA ICT application, said, “Getting sanction orders for laptops for each of the assistant engineers in 1200 mandals and getting the most appropriate ICT applications for monitoring the project has been possible only because of the resolve of the senior management of the housing corporation.”
“The interface of the INDIRAMMA website meant for updating information about various benefi ciaries, is so user friendly that no special change management or training was required to develop the ICT skills among the data entry operators,” he added.
24X7 CUSTOMER SUPPORT
Another reason behind the popularity of this scheme is the 24×7 customer support for addressing the queries and grievances of the targeted people, which is quite rare in any of the government institutions, leaving aside telecommunications and some other departments. Interestingly, a unit of the call centre has been equipped with an SMS facility, through which grievances are forwarded to concerned offi cials. Elaborating on the call centre facility, Subrahmanyam said, “We have a 24×7 toll free number, a call centre, which registers complaints from any body. One just needs to dial 1100 and we have a comprehensive programme, which registers the complaint, transmits it through an SMS to the concerned offi cial. If not resolved within a particular time frame the complaint is forwarded to a higher level.”
“Till date we have received 4000 complains. Out of this, 1000 are pending, some are incorrect, and rest has been resolved. You can click on the pending ones, and check why they are pending, see where the delay is. This has helped us to monitor the programme. So as I said, the fact that we work with millions of people is both our strength and weakness,” he added.
CHALLENGES IN ICT IMPLEMENTATION
Despite the ICT inclusion in project monitoring, there are some components of the programme, which are yet to be made completely online, mitigating any chance of manipulation.
In mid-July this year, a news report appeared, claiming that a government offi cial had siphoned away nearly INR 2 crore. Although the case was tracked down without much delay, but the issue of manipulation is still there and is quite apparent with this incident. “As we still depend on the manual system of transferring money, the possibility of fraud is always there,” Dr Sharma said.
The target of constructing another 50 lakh houses by 2011 is not an easier task for either the Housing department or the CGG technical team, which has been responding to every minute changes, synchronising them at the ground and policy level. Thanks to the vigilant Housing department and the technical team, the initial list of 80 lakh benefi ciaries has been corrected through determined inspections bringing down the actual benefi ciaries to 73 lakhs and curbing money pilferage. Further achievement demands continued ‘will’ on the part of the senior management, till the very last benefi ciary has been facilitated with a ‘pucca’ house.