The social welfare department of Andhra Pradesh is handling the post metric scholarship programme of 6000 crore per annum involving 26 lakh students and 12000 institutions. The entire system has been placed online to ensure that the people from the grassroots levels are able to understand the system and processes. Dr A Vidya Sagar, Principal Secretary, Social Welfare Department, Government of Andhra Pradesh in conversation with Mohd Ujaley says “Efficient use of technology has tremendously improved transparency”
What have been the key achievements in the implementation of e-Governance initiatives in your departments?
We are applying e-Governance policy in various projects like post metric scholarship programme in welfare departments. As of now, the scheme has been implemented in almost 12,000 institutions across the state, and today we are having 20,000 courses covering dozens of universities, 6000 crores per annum involving 26 lakh students. The entire system has been placed online to ensure that the people from the grassroots levels are able to understand the system and processes. Over the period of time, transparency has improved tremendously.
Recently Government of Andhra Pradesh announced that it will partially fund the education of ST/SC students selected to study in foreign universities. Are you focusing in grooming them besides just providing them with financial assistance?
This scheme was announced for those students who have been selected by their own efforts. The aim is to make it easier for students from weaker sections to study abroad. We try to create remedial measures rather than resorting to grooming students. There would be a chaos in selection process if we start grooming people. We provide financial assistance to those students who are selected on their own, but lack the financial wherewithal for paying fees and meeting other expenses. We want to enable the students from weaker sections of society.
Direct Benefit Transfer is a key e-Governance policy of central government. How do you see this scheme? Does it going to benefit the minority, tribal and socially weaker section of the society?
It will defiantly benefit the people but the government should first create an enabling mechanism. Fortunately, Andhra Pradesh is in much better position as compared to other states. We have created online scholarship for the students in the year 2008. We have bank accounts of all the children. We are now in a process of linking Aadhaar with those bank account numbers. It will enable students to get direct benefit through Direct Cash Transfer Scheme.
Andhra Pradesh has developed a number of e-Governance initiatives that have even been adopted by other states and even the Central Government. What is your opinion regarding such projects. Do you feel that it will enhance the level of financial inclusion?
Mee Seva has changed the dynamics of financial inclusion in this country. It has led to much needed improvements in the entire system of governance. It has helped citizens to get certificates in specified time framework. I feel that projects like Mee Seva can lead to vast improvements in terms of service delivery. Instead of each department providing services, there should be a platform like Mee Seva where all the services can be provided in an efficient and seamless way. It will help to bring down the input cost. It will also enhance the delivery mechanism. e-Governance is particularly helpful in creating a positive relationship between the citizens and the government. There is more transparency and people are able to connect with the government in a more positive manner.
The Gross Enrollment Ratio, especially for students from weaker sections of society, is an area of concern. What steps government is taking to bring about an improvement in GER?
We are trying to improve the scope of education right from the primary level. We have 600 ashram schools and 280 residential schools in the tribal areas. The real challenge is to analyse the number of children covered among the total number of children belonging to that age group. Today we have covered three lakh students out of six lakh. We want to have residential institutions across the state. The dropout level of students in residential schools, as compared to day schools, is very less. Our endeavour is to make residential schools accessible to each and every child in the state.