Empowered by Technology

The Department of Social Justice & Empowerment is entrusted with the mandate of providing the disadvantaged and marginalized sections of population equal opportunities in fields of education, as well as economic and social areas. Today, it is possible to track, trace and monitor the benefits of each of the schemes announced by the department at the click of a button

By Rachita Jha

Accountability of the government has become much desired from the citizens, both at the centre and state level. Challenged by the daunting task of upliftment of disadvantaged and marginalized sections of the society, the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment (SJE) has announced several social, educational and economic programmes/schemes for upliftment of SC, OBC, persons with disability, and senior citizens. Apart from these central government initiatives, the states also announce several steps.

It is an overwhelming task to track, trace and monitor the beneficiaries of so many schemes and map the success of each. However, with customised software, it becomes possible for state governments to conduct real time monitoring, assessment and evaluation of all the social benefit schemes . An easy-to-use, cost effective and time-saving tool, the software is designed to help state SJE departments in moving towards e-government and assist them in their commitment to bring the backward communities to the heart of the development agenda.

Governance Conundrum

According to Census (2001), the target groups population of social justice and empowerment department includes 16.7 crore SC, 2.19 crore persons with disability, whereas OBC population is estimated at 41 percent of the total population by NSSO, and senior citizens 7.7 crore. Participation of these marginalized groups in the overall growth and development process has been the vision of the Eleventh Five Year Plan, 2011-12 that aims at faster and more inclusive growth. It seeks to achieve inclusiveness through significant improvements in literacy, education and health, greater employment opportunities, and greater focus on disadvantaged groups.

Inclusive growth yields broad based benefits and ensures equality of opportunity for all, especially the disadvantaged sections, like the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, minorities, persons with disabilities and women. The multi-level operations and decision-making machinery of the government has been much critiqued over the years in this regard. In this governance ecosystem, it becomes even more difficult for a petite villager of the backward class to first have awareness of the many schemes that have been announced by the centre/state government and then avail the benefits of the same. “There are states that have more than 40 percent of the population in the backward class and hence for such states it becomes mission critical to monitor and assess the progress of such social upliftment schemes for good governance. We aim to build holistic, structured and process-oriented software designed in sync with the needs of any state Social Justice & Empowerment department. Gujarat is the first state to implement end-to-end solutions, which promise to synchronise more than 200 schemes for the target group that constitutes more than 50 percent of the state populace,” says Mangesh Desai, Group Manager, Government Sales Support (India & APAC), Mastek.

Technology Connect

An end-to-end software solution that aims to re-engineer the governance model of the SJE department in Gujarat is underway. The core objective of the tool is to assist the state government in ensuring economic upliftment of backward classes through rendering of social welfare schemes and empowering them through training and other facilities as offered by the government. To ensure that the software acts as a last mile integrator for the government, it is incorporated with many features that address the challenges of large and variable number of beneficiaries, dispersed operations, traditional methods of disbursement, unique schemes, multiple beneficiary dimensions and voluminous increases in the number of schemes each year.

Moreover, the ability of the tool to connect and engage various core and linked department offices like sachivayala, corporation office, commission office and other line departments, facilitates a cohesive application verification workflow before an application qualifies for benefits. As much desired, the tool offers last-mile connectivity with panchayats and CSCs and is UID compliant in its beneficiary registration. The departments connected through technology gain significant savings on time, cost, and efforts in implementation and monitoring of all their schemes.

Modular approach

A multi-beneficiary framework of the SJE unit and multi-pronged approach of interventions made by the department create a complex grid of the schemes and their route of disbursements. The software has created seven core modules based on the type of beneficiary engagement – Loan & Finance, Certificates &Licenses, Scholarships, Training & Stipend, Facility, ICAP and Works. This activity aims to significantly reduce the efforts of the department and government machinery. It also streamlines the activities in a particular scheme and provides an easy-to-follow mechanism for measuring the social impacts of the schemes in a particular module.

Overall, due to standardization, activating a new scheme becomes easier in terms of setting up a process for its rendition. The status of each scheme and key statistical data on each module can be accessed by the stakeholders in the department anytime. This is further detailed according to the sub-categorisation of the beneficiary into caste, gender, age, occupation, health and disability to gain intelligence on the overall performance for various beneficiaries. Such data is crucial for the formulation of new schemes and allocation of funds to the lagging spheres of impact.

The departments connected through technology gain significant savings on time, cost, and efforts in implementation and monitoring of all their schemes

Application-to-Disbursement Cycle

To ensure an ecosystem that has the beneficiary in the centre of all the activities of SJE department, an added feature of a beneficiary directory gives the department an integrated view of the benefits consumed by a beneficiary through the various schemes that are active in the state. Designed to address the problem of dispersed operations and beneficiary dimensions, the repository aims to expedite the verification and approval process for sanctioning a benefit. It also helps in weeding out duplicate candidates.

The online platform of the SJE interface is designed such a way that it allows the beneficiaries to register themselves and apply for schemes online without the need of travelling to any government office. The software then takes the request through an electronic route of application acknowledgement, verification and approval, following which the benefits can be delivered directly to the beneficiary thus eliminating the menace of middlemen dealings and bringing-in transparency and accountability in the department works.

“Gujarat is the first state to implement the end-to-end solution, which can synchronise more than 200 schemes for a target group that constitutes more than 50 percent per cent of the state’s population.”

Mangesh Desai
Group Manager, Government Sales Support
(India & APAC) Mastek

Governance Intelligence

The impact of the schemes and programmes are assessed and evaluated from time to time. Towards the furtherance of its objectives, the Ministry of SJE provides financial assistance to State Government, NGOs and other implementation agencies for programmes meant for the target groups. It makes the provision of concessional loans (and in appropriate cases, subsidy) to members of the target groups for income generating activities through its National Finance & Development Corporations. In this process, access to intelligence on the schemes status and beneficiaries profile assists SJE in better predictability of demand from the target group in a particular state based on the demography. Therefore, precise forecasting and planning of budgets can be achieved based on the statistical evidence and analysis of the performance of on-going schemes in the state. It also facilitates expedited introduction of new schemes and identification of redundant administrative and operational costs.