The Government of Bihar has adopted a number of IT initiatives to take development to the remotest corner of Bihar, says Shri Nitish Mishra, Rural Development Minister of the State in an interaction with Nirav Soni of Elets News Network (ENN). Excerpts from the interview:
How do you think IT tools can be instrumental in better governance?
For ensuring greater transparency and accountability, technology is the tool for the government. IT also helps in speedy delivery of services, whether Government to Government (G2G) or Government to Citizen (G2C) services. For example, for any scheme that our department is executing, like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) or Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), we are putting up all related information in public domain, Panchayat-wise, so that people have access to those information and details of the beneficiaries. We have this data since 1996 when the Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) was started. This not only reduces chances of involvement of middleman and corruption but also leads to effective delivery of rural development programmes. In fact, Bihar was the recipient of a National Award in February 2014 for transparent and accountable implementation of MNREGA.
We have installed an iWDMS (Integrated Work Flow Document Management System) for tracking of different files and documents in the Department. We are also trying to have e-filing facility, wherein whatever comments are noted get recorded digitally and uploaded on to our system.
Do you provide some high-tech facilities to the field staff for effective implementation of the programmes?
Yes, we are supplying Android-based phones to our employees working in the field on MNREGA and IAY. We have also installed a software in these phones wherein realtime data will be available, would be geo-tagged, and we would be able to not only see the progress of construction work under IAY but also onsite photographs and videos of the ongoing MNERGA work. I am hopeful that this entire system would be up and running in all the 38 districts of Bihar by March this year, and we would be able to come up with better results. All the data thus received will also be synchronised with the Government of India website.
What steps have you taken for addressing public grievances?
We have introduced the concept of “Ministry of Rural Development – Application Record Management System (MORD-ARMS)”, which was started around four years back. In this system, we give unique numbers to the applications we receive through this web-based system and thus keep track of the applicants. If mobile numbers are provided, the applicants get auto-generated SMSs containing their respective unique application numbers. And, if I visit a particular district and am asked by a person about the status of his application, I give him the updated information then and there. We believe that a person, who has submitted an application or has come to us with some grievance, needs to be fully satisfied.
Please brief us about the “Samvida” project.
On 31st January 2015, we were awarded at the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) summit at Gandhinagar for our project “Samvida”. Earlier, we didn’t have a dedicated team to look after the progress of IAY. The Government of India allowed some 4% of the total allocation of funds under IAY scheme to be utilised for running the scheme. We then decided to appoint a dedicated team to look after this scheme and we appointed a dedicated person at Panchayat level, and accountants and supervisors at block level.
The entire recruitment was done online in four months’ time, wherein we received some 5.6 lakh applications for different posts. This shows the penetration of IT in rural areas. It was surprising for a state like Bihar, where we have less usage of technology and connectivity is still a major problem at the village level. The entire process was very transparent and merit list was prepared after looking at the abilities and capabilities of an applicant. We also reduced duplicity like a person applying more than one time. With this application process in place, we now have a large database of desired aspirants. In case someone resigns or is removed from the organisation, we have a ready replacement waitlist available, and the district administration can decide on better available candidate. We recruited some 10,000 people through this system that got us accolades and recognition for this innovative use of technology from the Government of India.
How did you ensure capacity building of such a large workforce?
To meet various demands of services under our major flagship schemes, MNREGA and IAY, we have realised that not only implementation of IT tools but also the knowledge to operate and effectively use these tools is essential. While recruiting the people, we were particular about each of them having at least the basic knowledge of operating computer system. Even if they don’t have, we take an undertaking from them that within three months they would get themselves trained. Besides, we also conduct regular training workshops to familiarise our people with the system. I strongly believe that if all employees, be it at the lowest level or at the highest in the department, are not aware about the usage of IT, it would be a problem for them, since every central or state scheme now involves usage of IT.
While implementing any programme like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) or Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), we put up all related information in public domain
What are other developments schemes you intend to implement in the days ahead?
The Department of Rural Development, along with the Social Welfare Department, has taken a loan from the World Bank for making our administration more effective. We are working on having a Smart Office, and are strengthening our block offices and block accounting system. The Block Development Officers will be equipped with latest gadgets and all the 534 Block offices would be connected through Video-Conferencing system. This will enable them to connect with every office simultaneously. This initiative will help in better delivery of our programmes with regular monitoring. I am hopeful that this system will be up and running by the middle of the next financial year.