e-Governance for Urban Development

Ajoy Kumar Singh
Secretary, Department of Urban
Development, Government of Jharkhand

“e-Governance initiatives have helped us in bringing more transparency,” says Ajoy  Kumar Singh. In conversation with Kartik Sharma

Give us an overview of the operations of the Urban Development Department of the Jharkhand Government.
The Urban Development Department basically deals with the municipalities which take care of the urban services. There are various programs being run by the Government of Jharkhand. One of the key measures that have been taken up by us is JNNURM for curbing the water issues like drainage and sewage, building water supply, building housing facilities, infrastructure for the rural poor. Rajiv Awas Yojana is also important for us. Apart from these, we have sponsored schemes by Ministry of Environment & Forests like National Waiver Program, National Lake Development Program. Then we have a program of National Mission for clean Ganga. Other than these central government sponsored programs, we have state sponsored programs in sewage and drainage, in road sector, for waste management, clean water supply, municipality reforms, e-Governance etc. Basically we are serving urban population at Jharkhand by providing them with optimum services.

Please elaborate on e-Governance initiatives of your Department?
We are providing online services to the general public like holding tax collection, issuing of licenses to the traders, making birth certificate, making payments for the tax for the Government of Jharkhand. We are trying to bring it on the online portal where the beneficiary can make payment using the online gateway. We are looking to establish e-Governance as one-stop shop, a common portal where everybody can log in and can have access to the portal. Efforts are on to bring upon all the key services on the portal. At present, online services being offered in the Ranchi Municipal Corporation(RMC). Birth & Death Registration Certificates are available online there. They are also doing the online/computerised collection of the taxes, issuing licenses to the likely holders. Other municipalities have not yet done what RMC is doing but we are trying to replicate the RMC experience elsewhere.

What are the challenges you are facing in course of its implementation?
Lack of manpower is a major constraint. Inadequate IT infrastructure is also posing challenge for us. Another problem is that we don’t have common software which can be used by everybody in the office. So we are trying to bring in people on contract basis and outsourcing. We are also looking forward to a pilot project for which we are installing hardware in other municipalities. The Software which is being used by RMC, we are trying to roll it out for others.

Focus of the Department

Urban Development Department provides basic services to urban areas in entire state as per the provision of Municipal Corporation/ Municipality Act. Responsibilities of ULBs have increased manifolds in recent past after enactment of 74th Constitutional Amendment Act. The twelfth Schedule brings into the municipal domain among others such areas like as urban and town planning, regulation of land use, planning for economic and social development, safeguarding the interests of weaker sections of society including the handicapped and mentally retarded, Slum improvement and upgradation, urban poverty alleviation, promotion of cultural, educational and aesthetic aspects. The subject of ‘cattle pounds’ has been extended in the Twelfth Schedule to include ‘prevention of cruelty to animals’. The Constitution thus envisages urban local bodies as being totally responsible for all aspects of development, civic services, and environment in the cities, going far beyond the traditional role. At present, Urban Development Department implements its development programmes through two(2) Municipal Corporations and thirty seven (37) Municipalities & Nagar Panchayats.

What are the outcomes from these e-Governance initiatives being taken up by your department?
There are lots of improvements. Like in the case of Online Registration of Birth & Death certificate, people don’t face any problem now. In the case of computerized tax collection, lots of audit operations are there and the whole process have become much-simpler. It has brought transparency in the system.

Are you considering PPP model in near future?
PPP model is not yet considered for e-Governance projects. But we are going for this model for other areas. Development of land by building multi-storey shopping complex is on the cards. One hospital will be set up in Ranchi Municipality area, where we will provide the land and a private party will develop the hospital and offer services to poor people free of cost. Also in water supply we are thinking to have PPP model.

What is your roadmap for using ICT in your department?
I think most of the municipality services would be available online in coming two-three years in Jharkhand. Everybody will be able to get their Electronic certificate and be able to deposit taxes online. Also we believe there is a scope of improving on the services while e-Governance would be a tool for it. We are trying to strengthen the municipality services by providing manpower, building proper infrastructure.

What is your vision for state of Jharkhand, considering its development and growth?
There is a lot of scope for development in all the cities of Jharkhand. We already have three-four major towns in the state and we are trying to build these cities at par with the national level. Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Dhanbad and Bokaro are the cities whose population is more than 10 lakhs and I think these cities needs to be looked-upon and better facilities/infrastructure needs to be provided in these four cities.

Do you think that providing good infrastructure helps in attracting business hubs?
Yes it does. So Urban Development Department mandate is to provide good infrastructure/ services to the people. We are not into attracting investors but will provide a good support to the people living here, providing all these municipal services to the people. We aim to attract private investors by providing them an emerging IT Destination to invest upon.