e-Governance for better services to citizens

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Suresh Kumar

Suresh Kumar
Principal Secretary to Government, Home Department, Government of Jammu & Kashmir

Suresh Kumar sheds light on some of the key e-Governance initiatives that he initiated when he was in the Urban Affairs Department. He also talks about his vision for e-Governance in the Home Department where he is currently posted

eGovernance has gained a lot of traction in rest of the country. In J&K also we are seeing lot of developments in this area.Please tell us about some key e-Governance initiatives that are being undertaken by the Home Department in the State.
We have taken many new initiatives to promote of e-Governance in the state. The IT Department in the state has developed lot of new infrastructure for facilitating e-Governance in various departments. I would say that the governance in J&K is on the cusp of change; new technologies are leading to vast improvements in efficiency and transparency.One major initiative that the Home Department is undertaking is concerned with the issuance of passports. Due to the past problems of militancy and insurgency,we have a rather lengthy system of passport issuance. Even though the population of the state is not very large, we receive lot of passport applications. Every year close to 90,000 passport applications are handled by the state. We have made the IG CID the nodal officer for passports. So the passport office sends the hard file to the CID office, from where two separate files go to the district SP and to the district CID office.

When both the reports are received, and the verification done at state CID is also fine, then the NOC for passport issuance goes to the passport office. This process can take anywhere between 3 months to more than a year. Now we are trying to make this system online, to improve transparency and cut down on the time. The entire data of the applicants will be put online and different agencies will be able to access the data in seamless and orderly manner. They can then file their reports instantly through the online system and the same report can be sent online to the passport office.

The Home Department has also been taking initiatives for streamlining the way by which gun licenses in the state are being issued. Please tell us about it.
We are now in the process of streamlining the system of issuance of gun licenses. Such licenses are issued at the district level. The District Magistrates issue the licenses and they intimate the Home Department through hard copy files. We are now putting in place a web based system to improve efficiency and transparency.The website is already ready, and soon we will be able to put all the weapon licenses in each district online. The local SP and other officials can provide their reports regarding the threat perception and other factors through the online route. Sitting in my office, I will be able to view how many arms licenses have been issued by which DM, and how many of these licenses have been referred to the Home Department for extension of jurisdiction or renewal. The online system is now in final stages of development, and the major issue before us is to find ways of incorporating it with the huge amount of legacy data.

You have done considerable amount of work on e-Governance in your previous department,which is the Housing & Urban Development Ministry. Please tell us about it.
During my tenure in the Urban Development Ministry, I tried my best to use technology for providing better and timely services to the citizens. We put in place a system for online registration of death and birth certificates.The certificates can be issued to the citizens through the online system. We also developed a system through which building permission status can be tracked online. Earlier our municipalities used to manually maintain their accounts, but now we have developed an online system for accounting. The software and the application for accounting are very versatile, as it can generate balance sheets and other things at a single click. The online system has led to vast improvements in the efficiency and transparency of our accounting procedures.

You can go to the website of the Housing & Urban Development Department, to have an overview of the e-Governance initiatives that have been undertaken in that department. Through this website, it is possible for you to have all kind of important information from various municipalities.We have created a system of “Super- User” in this website. This system allows a senior official to gain insight of the work that is being done by the various municipalities. All the services have been integrated with the SMS gateway. If any citizen has provided his or her mobile number, they will be able to get SMS updates on their application status.

“Governance in J&K is on the cusp of change; new technologies are leading to vast improvements in efficiency and transparency”

What kind of response is your on online system for registration of birth and deaths seeing from the public side?
We are seeing fairly high amount of response.Earlier people were forced to travel to the municipal office to have the births and deaths in their family registered. We have integrated all the hospitals and nursing homes with the online system, so whether the birth takes place in home, in hospital or a nursing home, the applicant can avail of the certificate through he online gateway. The system is fairly secure, as at the time of discharge the incident of birth or death is recorded at the hospital itself and the data is automatically captured by our website. The online data is available to the citizens at the click of a mouse and they can authenticate in a convenient and seamless manner. I keep meeting citizens who tell me that their lives have become really easier with the coming up of this online system for birth and death registration.

Your online system of tracking of the status of building permission is also very popular in the State. Please provide us the details of this system.
Earlier people had to come to the office of the municipality and submit their application for building permission. The application would include the details of engineering and architectural designs, land ownership data, revenue related data and few other things. Based on this application the municipalities would create five or six sets of files to be sent to various offices, which are concerned with verifying the land title and other norms. Applicants had to come to the office many times to get their work done. So now what we have done is create a system where an applicant has to come to the municipality only once. On arrival he is given an automatically generated seat, and he gets a unique reference number. All his documents are scanned and the data is uploaded on a central server.

After that the data is sent to the different government departments.The citizen gets an SMS confirming that his application has been uploaded and sent to the concerned departments. In future the citizen can track the status of his application through SMS or through online systems. If you go to the website, you will find that it is very easy for citizens to log in and find the necessary information regarding their application. All that the citizen needs is his reference number, and date of filing his application. Corruption has gone down to a large extent ever since this e-Governance system has been implemented.

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