“Objectives of Aadhaar are to create an identity platform in the country which is inclusive, improves governance and
service delivery and enables people access to formal systems of service delivery. More than two third of the population in Jharkhand has been enrolled in Aadhaar,” says Ram Sewak Sharma
Before serving as Chief Secretary of Jharkhand, you were the Mission Director, UIDAI, where you played a pivotal role in the development of the Aadhaar initiative. In your opinion what are the key objectives of Aadhaar?
Before I delve into its objectives, let me talk a bit on the context. In India, there are a large number of people who do not have any formal proof of their identity. This results in denial of a number of services to them. They cannot open a bank-account, they cannot get reservation in a train and they cannot get any mobile connection as some identity documents are necessary to avail these services. In other words, non-possession of any id document denies them the access to many services. Aadhaar fills this gap as it is mandated to provide unique identity to all the residents of the country. Slowly Aadhaar has also been recognized as a valid document for accessing many services including those mentioned above. Secondly, its uniqueness property is very useful in eliminating duplicates and fakes from many subsidy and benefit delivery domains as multiple and fake identities in domains like PDS, Social Security pensions contribute a lot towards leakages and corruption in these programmes. Lastly, its capability of online authentication anywhere enables delivery of services more accessible, cost effective and transparent. Banking services can now be delivered at the doorstep of customers through business correspondences (BCs) using mobile devices which can authenticate identity using Aadhaar authentication. Hence the objectives of Aadhaar are to create an identity platform in the country which is inclusive, improves governance and service delivery and enables people access to formal systems of service delivery.
“The State Government of Jharkhand Recognises the Power and Potential of New Technologies”
How is AADHAR being leveraged in the state and what is the innovation which has already happened in the state?
First of all the Aadhar coverage in the state is nearly 92% which is more or less universal, and wherever there are beneficiaries, we do not B deny service on the basis of non-availability of Aadhar. However, what we do is that when we place the service on the basis of AADHAR, we advice them, in person, to get enrolled so that they get AADHAR. AADHAR is not compulsion in the sense that it is not only meant to clean up the government system but also for providing more facilities and better access to the people, that is the whole purpose. So, we have introduced Aadhar into various domains and we have been able to clean up. Our basic purpose will be lost if we do not make Aadhar useful for the people. So the areas where we have introduced Aadhar is in wage payment system in MNERGA, in the social security NSAP and scholarships. These are the three major areas where the beneficiaries’ payments are involved. We are trying to use Aadhar for Aadhar-based payment system linking their accounts. We have succeeded in the sense that we have actually succeeded in eliminating number of duplicates and fakes from NSAP and the old-age pensions. We have eliminated about 1.3 lakh duplicates. Now on the application of Aadhar for the citizens, what we have done is that we have transferred into their accounts directly, for example scholarships etc.
Please throw more light on how Aadhaar can be used as a financial tool.
The whole fund management becomes very easy if you use Aadhar as the financial tool. It improves traceability, you are able to track the funds, and it is also very cost-effective. It provides better financial management. For citizens, we want is that they should get the information as and when the money comes to their accounts. We have integrated an SMS-gateway where a person, whether a boy or a girl, whose scholarship is due would be able to know that the scholarship amount has come to his account. Similarly, when old pensioners’ pensions come to their accounts they will be able to know through SMS. The Aadhar-enabled payment system will enable people to access any BC and get payment for or get operative account. Now this is going to be a big game changer in the sense that once there is a common service center for the BC, then any old-age pensioner would go to the BC and actually get his money out from the operative account. This kind of system is now being rolled out. We are now providing India Post, a core banking system environment to JAPIT.
Please elaborate on this initiative of providing a core banking environment to JAPIT.
India Post has an agreement with JAPIT which will allow JAPIT to provide core banking system. JAPIT is actually rolling out Micro-ATMs which will be provided to the staff of the India post. These people who are working at the post-office level will be able to provide the payments to the people using Aadhar as the authentication mechanism, and which is very good. There are 400 branch offices which have got computers. We will have computer-based system which can authenticate and provide the payments. So, this is actually a big change in terms of people having access to the funds. Central cooperative banks in Jharkhand are going to be used very substantially to actually have many such outlets as Pragya Kendra operators. They will also become outlets for fund transfer and the Government of India is paying 2 per cent commission of payments like NSAP, old-age pension, etc. We are also using Aadhar for attendance system, authentication tool in the registration offices now you don’t need to have any document, you just come and give your Aadhar number and give your finger print and your identity will be authenticated. Currently, it is optional. The whole idea is to check impersonation and frauds as there are lots of fraud in the land deals. We are trying to build the system.
Tell us about some key initiatives which you have taken in the state of Jharkhand.
The State Government of Jharkhand recognises the power and potential of new technologies. We understand how new technologies can lead to improvement in the quality of people’s lives. We believe that the developments in the field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can be effectively leveraged to deliver a variety of information and services to the citizens effectively and efficiently. Government of Jharkhand is committed to use ICT to transform its functioning and build citizen-centric, inclusive and development oriented information society. We want to provide services to the common man in a cost-effective, transparent and easily accessible manner. Government of Jharkhand plans to set-up 4,562 Common Service Centres (CSC) throughout all the panchayats in the State in first phase and 872 CSCs in the second phase to provide e-Governance services and other value added services. Web based software is being developed to disseminate information on essential Commodities dispatch to PDS Shops from the Food Corporation of India (FCI).
You have also done important work in the treasuries department.
That’s right. We have taken up the work of computerising and networking in the State Treasuries and sub-treasuries. The project seeks to computerise the functioning of all the treasuries and link them together and with Accountant General. This will ensure an extremely efficient system of financial management for the Government. It will completely eliminate the possibility of forged withdrawals. It will, in fact, ensure that the GPF accounts of all the Government employees are up-to-date. The GPF and Treasury administration could be integrated in a seamless manner. Every head of office could check the details of the withdrawals done by him head/sub-head wise. He could use this information to plan further office expenditure. He could also check the available allocation to him head/sub-head wise.
We have also embarked upon an ambitious project on computerization and networking of field offices as well as Headquarters of Commercial Taxes Department. It provides an efficient, transparent, responsive and citizen friendly public interface to users of the Department. It has helped in improving the efficiency and affectivity of taxes of administration. We have also initiated some key UIDAI projects in the state. We have launched a micro-ATM device that can enable beneficiaries of projects like MG-NREGA to withdraw money at their doorstep through the BC model. This will certainly help in connecting rural people with the banking service.
“Developments in the field of ICT can be leveraged to deliver a variety of services to the citizens effectively and efficiently”
Has the IT got accelerated after you had joined here?
I will not make that statement, but I will say that for bringing the true reforms in governance, the only way is through ICT because it enables you to do many things. For example, in provident fund, there was a huge amount of corruption, delays and harassments for people, but now our provident funds are completely online. Everybody can see his provided fund online. Secondly we have done a lot of reforms in provident funds which basically enable employees to draw his/ her provident fund. He/she doesn’t requires anybody’s approval. He can just log on, and submit his application. Once his application is approved he can go to the toil and disbursing officer and gives the approval number and the disbursing officer will be able to make the bill and present the bill and get passed.
After so much IT adoptions in various departments, has attracting the IT industry been a challenge?
Unfortunately not, we have serious problems of the quality manpower availability. People are moving out of the states. This is what is happening, and this is a happening place also. We have the payment gateway which I don’t think people have done elsewhere. So the realtime stuff is our real innovation. If you look at the registration site, the e-Nibandhan will tell you the details of the people. It is a real time and it was done about 8 years back in 2005 or something. You can see the real time stuff how many pages are scanned, how many registries has been done throughout the state, who has taken the token, etc. This kind of transaction level track ability in real time is actually in some sense is innovation in our state. Our state is really much ahead because we have insisted upon this.
The whole ICT implementation or e-Governance which the Department of IT is not able to implement because other departments may not take IT as much seriously. As a head, have you faced any such challenges?
We have now introduced biometric-based delivery system in PDS and that was inaugurated by chief minister. We are having a realtime PDS tracking system which keeps records of people taking grains from where, and from which shop. We also have Financial Management system. We are also doing the National Land Records Management program, scholarships, and integrated check post project which is completely IT-based check post. For example, when a vehicle enters, the driver enters the vehicle number. It checks the data related to the permit of the vehicle from a particular site. It then takes the data related to the tax-payment status of the vehicle from transport department, and it is a real-time service.
We also have done in Jails, for example, e-Mulakat, e-Trials allow visitors to meet from outside. We have introduced payment gateways which are actually doing the whole transactions for registrations, transport and commercial taxes. Currently, it is optional but we will make it mandatory very soon. For example, we have the NDML portal. NSDL is our service provider. We are also planning to implement Human Resource Management System, and rolling it out horizontally.