Connecting rickshaw pullers, self-help groups and street vendors

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Dr S. Siddharth, Secretary, Urban Development & Housing Department, Government of Bihar

After the huge success of  skill development programme, the Urban Development & Housing Department of Government of Bihar is planning to set up and connect Federation of Rickshaw Pullers, Self-Help Groups and Street Vendors electronically with the help of smart card. “This is going to be one of the first such projects of the country,” says Dr S Siddharth, Secretary, Urban Development & Housing, Government of Bihar in conversation with Mohd Ujaley.

You have served in the Ministry of IT and Communication, Government of India and have good exposure on the state of IT and Communication in the country. In your opinion, has Information Technology been able to revamp our governance system?
Yes, I worked at Government of India in 2002, and I did have a good exposure on the state of IT and Communication in the country. The progress has been so fast that the e-Governance system has not been able to catch up with the pace. The most important thing that technology has brought in is increased transparency in governance and making information easily available to the people. That has been the biggest challenge and achievement of the technology. Today, more and more information is being demanded by the people. The e-Governance system has been created to cater to these demands. And, it is a good sign for a healthy democracy.

Housing is one of the most essential things for people and increasing urbanisation creates demand for these facilities. Doesn’t urbanisation require heavy investment in e-Governance also to streamline the process?
I agree with you, basically there are two wings of urbanisation: one is regulatory and another is development. Development involves infrastructure road, sewage and water supply. Regulatory involves approval of building plans, permissions, etc. It gives a shape to the whole township how it evolves? As far as e-Governance is concerned, regulatory plays a very important role because people have to seek for permissions, licences, approvals, etc. Every work has fixed time-frame also, which have to be complied with. True, this part of urbanisation requires heavy investment in e-Governance.

As you mentioned about requirement of heavy investment in e-governance, how your department has been able to use Information Technology for the better administration and integration?
Presently, we have a portal called ‘Nagar Seva,’ which has few modules like grievance-handling system and property-tax module. The grievance-handling system is a module which has a back-end call centre, but the canvas of the department is so huge that we decided that we should have an integrated module to cater to all departments. And, there should be cross sharing of information across all the departments. So, we came up with the project called e-Municipality. It’s got 22 modules in it. And, it has everything right from accounts to building plan approvals, birth and death registration, grievance handling, human-resource development and solid-waste management. The development has already started. We expect to roll it out on April 1. The most important part of the system is that it has got inter linkages between each other. Suppose, something is being done with solid-waste management, it will automatically reflect in finance module, and similarly, something with building-plan approval will have automatic reflections in the master plan. It is a system where people can know about the status of their requests. For sure, it leads to better monitoring and administration. Apart from that, there is also plan for e-connecting elected representative or office bearer of various bodies. The computer system would be provided for the same.

There are some mission-mode projects of the central government. Some of the states are fairly doing well with it. How far Bihar has been able to utilise the mission-mode project such as JNNURM?
As far as JNNURM is concerned, we started late but we had late-comer advantage such as availability of better and tested technologies. Today, we have centralised control room for tracking the buses, their uses and security system for women. We also got approval from Nirbhaya Fund for setting up of CCTV cameras and other security systems for safety and security. In urban transport, we are in the process of approving an integrated traffic light system in the city. It will be based on centralised control room and will have automatic centralised control of all traffic lights of the city. So, we will be able to monitor the traffic density. And, in case of any Dharna or any disturbances on the road, traffic can be diverted.

Urban Development & Housing Department is a huge department and has important role to play in the reform agenda of the state. What are the major challenges, you see in the state?
First, literacy is still one of the challenges. For using modern technology it is desired that you understand and use technology for bringing best of it. I think, we should move from computer literacy to mobile literacy. Any system, which can integrate with mobile and people can retrieve information through mobiles, is something we should aim at. As far as the younger generation is concerned, they have an access to internet and computers, but the other generation did not have the chance to sit on the computer. Secondly, is infrastructure deficiency, although a lot of things from law and order to infrastructure, power etc. have improved over the years. However, we still have to heavily focus on infrastructure development for attracting industries, investments and raising the standard of living in the state. Third, is skill development and education, we need to train our people for various skills. In education, we have made a tremendous progress, however, skilled manpower is still a challenge for us. There is huge requirement of skilled manpower in various sectors in the state.

Your department was awarded for outstanding work in the area of skill development, now you are focusing on interconnecting the self-help groups, rickshaw pullers and street vendors. What progress has been made on that front?
Yes, we are discussing to set up Federation of Rickshaw Pullers, Self-Help Groups and Street Vendors. They will all be electronically interconnected. Everybody would get a smart card, information of rickshaw puller or vendor will be electronically connected. The services of micro-credit will be available through an electronic card. This is going to be one of the first such projects of the country. We are planning to roll out within 10 days. Apart from that, as you mentioned we have got award for skill development. In this area, we had recently sanctioned schemes for upgradation of 1,402 slums across the state. We are also focusing on housing for poor and various schemes are being planned for the same.

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