Thrust on increased use of IT has virtually transformed the state of affairs in urban Bihar, claims Shri Samrat Choudhary, Urban Development and Housing Minister of the State, in an interview with Nirav Soni of Elets News Network (ENN)
What are the steps the Urban Development Department is taking to provide better services to the citizens of Bihar?
The Government of Bihar is responsible for Town Planning, Urban Development, Urban Water Supply, Sewerage and Sanitation, etc. The Urban Development and Housing Department is responsible for housing policies, land ceilings, rent control, reconstruction of old and dilapidated buildings, slum upgrading, and supervision of foreign-aided projects.
We have also constituted a proper citizens’ charter that represents the commitment of the organisation towards standard, quality and time frame for service delivery, grievance redressal mechanism, transparency and accountability. It is now a clear mandate that since the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) are the last level of the governance structure, which are directly involved in managing towns and cities, they will have to heighten their efforts to provide more responsive and citizen-friendly administration through formulating and operationalising citizens’ charter.
In addition to this, Service Level Benchmarking is now well recognised as an important mechanism for introducing accountability in service delivery. Sustained benchmarking will be done, so as to help ULBs and utilities in identifying performance gap areas and effecting improvements through the sharing of information and best practices, ultimately resulting in better services to people.
How is Information Technology being utilised as a tool in your department to offer improved services to the citizens in a more efficient manner?
We are in the forefront of using Information Technology (IT) at all levels in our department. For example, ULBs are required to register all births and deaths within 21 days of occurrence, irrespective of the event taking place at home or in the hospital. Since everything is digitised today, any citizen can have a copy of Birth / Death Certificate from the ULB by paying a meagre amount of `10. Additional copies will also be available on payment of the same fee. Also, say in taxation, we have made everything online. Anyone can deposit any type of tax online, whether it is a holding tax, advertising tax or a property tax. We have implemented a very strong accounting system and personal information system for effective and efficient utilisation of our resources.
Going a step further, now we are implementing a GIS (Geographical Information System) for spatial information like images and maps to form the foundation for most of the planning and implementation of developmental activities. In fact, by using this technology, we want to have better infrastructure development, disaster management support, environmental monitoring, natural resources management and much more.
When can the people of Patna expect to travel by Metro train?
Very soon. In 2012, the Town and Country Planning Department under the Housing and Urban Development Department, Government of Bihar, had revised the city limits and formulated a Draft Master Plan for an area of about 2,200 sq km with horizon year 2031. The master plan also identified the need of having a rapid public transit system to cater to the mobility requirements of the present and future generations.
We very well understand that the overall road network in the city is not adequate, as only about 4.5 percent of the planned / developed area is used for transportation purposes as against the desired range of 15-20 percent for metropolitan cities. The major traffic corridors of the city are Ashok Raj Path, Patna-Danapur Road, Bailey Road, Hardinge Road and Kankarbagh Road. Moreover, total vehicles in Patna have increased tremendously in the last 30 years and at present more than 8.3 lakh vehicles are registered in the city. Out of these, two-wheelers account for about 68 percent, while cars are around 13 percent. Over the time, we have realised that there is an urgent need of a rapid public transit system, and therefore, we are working on the Patna Metro project.
We (Urban Development and Housing Department) are in the forefront of using IT at all levels in our department. Since everything is digitised today, any citizen can have a copy of Birth/ Death certificate from the ULB by paying a meagre amount of `10
We have commissioned the services of M/s Rites Limited, to conduct the technical feasibility and prepare Detailed Project Report (DPR) for Metro Rail system in the state capital. The total estimated cost of the project is to the tune of `12,000 crore, and the project will be implemented in a phased manner. Recently, on January 27, 2015 we conducted an investor summit, where some 32 companies participated in a discussion to decide the mode of implementation of this project. Most likely, we will go for a Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode.