Applauded by the citizens of Navi Mumbai as people’s Commissioner, Tukaram Mundhe, Municipal Commissioner, Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation, reveals his plans of making the planned township smarter, healthier and safer, in an interview with Harshal Y Desai of Elets News Network (ENN).
What are your views on the concept of smart city? Which are the areas that need to be focussed on primarily?
When we envisage a smart city, we have to have smart solutions. These smart solutions can be developed with or without the help of Information Technology. What matters the most is that the solutions must be convenient, accessible and affordable.
So, a smart city is where all civic issues and amenities are planned smartly taking into consideration all needs of the city. In a smart city, IT plays a major role. It works as an enabler, but it is not the end. With the help of IT, particularly software, computer and mobile applications, we can achieve transparency in our operations making the lives of citizens, administrators and other stakeholders easier. One thing must be noted here that unless the administrators are not involved in developing these IT solutions, they are not likely to be effective.
Navi Mumbai is not in the list of smart cities, but we are working on all these fronts and leaving no stone unturned to make the city smarter.
Would you share your views on how Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) is making the most of IT in its operations?
As I said earlier, IT can be leveraged to ensure transparent governance. It can be a boon to make the governance affordable, accessible, simple and transparent and thus contribute in the overall development of the city. Technology has to be economical and viable.
NMMC is making the most of available IT solutions to strengthen e-governance. As many as 21 of our services – which are end-to-end solutions eliminating the need to interact with officers – are already online. We have been able to do that in just six months’ time. Let’s take a look at a scenario to understand the role of IT in NMMC. Earlier, to apply for a trade license a person had to come to office, fill the form, submit it, pay at the counter and seek ‘No Objections Certificates’ from related authorities. The person had to visit offices multiple times meet multiple officers and undergo multiple processes.
We did not just focused on IT solutions, but also on process re-engineering. As a result, we were able to reduce the required documents. We could also eliminate the need for a common citizen to go to different departments to seek permissions. Now, No Objections Certificates and permissions can be sought online. The entire process right from applying for the licenses to getting the certificates has been made online. We also made the life of builders and architectures easier by making the entire process of seeking various certificates online. Earlier a builder, developer or architect had to submit more than 35 documents to seek certificates, but we at NMMC reduced the number of these required certificates to just seven. Thanks to process engineering. Building Plan Management System:
- Extensivebusiness process reengineering has been done and number of steps have been reduced from 30 to 4 for issuance of commencement (CC) and Occupancy Certificate (OC)
- Number of steps have been reduced from 16 to 4 for issuance of Plinth commencement Certificate and the same is available through Self-certification
- Document reduction for CC from 35 to 7 and from 15 to 5 for OC
- Certificates and Licenses:
- Extensive business process reengineering has been done and number of steps and stakeholders have been reduced from 13 to 6 for issuances of trade and industrial license
- The complete process has been made electronic and digitally signed licenses are being issued, the authenticity of which can be verified at any point of time on the portal.
- Single window mechanism for obtaining NOCs, medical fitness certificate and license certificate
While developing e-governance solutions, you need to first streamline the processes and develop the software or systems. This system needs to be simplified and made user-friendly.
How have you been able to streamline e-grievance redressal process? We have done a remarkable job in e-grievance redressal area. We have made the system so simple that people can lodge their complaints easily without having to answer too many questions. We not just ensured proper tracking of complaints, but at the same time, we designed a system where officers are required to address the issues within a stipulated time frame. If they do not do that, the matter is escalated to seniors. If someone fails to address the issue, it affects his or her performance. We also ensure that the complaints are resolved satisfactorily. People are authorised to submit their feedback based on the level of satisfaction. If they claim their complaints were not addressed properly; the system again escalates to the deputy commissioner level. Further, through random survey we started the mechanism to seek feedback from citizens. You see, this is called end-to-end solutions. In the system, built in accountability of officers and transparency has been ensured and that’s the hall of mark of the grievance redressal mechanism. As far as human intervention is concerned, I believe we cannot do away with it completely, but it should be defined properly so that the accountability is fixed.
Since we started the e-grievance system – about four months back – we have received more than 2,800 complaints, of which more than 95 per cent have been resolved. We are happy to claim that out of 100 complainants more than 95 are satisfied with the system.
If the online service is not user-friendly, it will not be used by people. If the people are not using the online service, it is of no use. A citizen must be able to access the page he or she is looking for at the portal in third click and we have been able to ensure it.
What is the role of IT companies in developing such solutions?
IT companies can develop algorithms, but we as administrative leaders must be involved right from the conceptualisation of the software till the end product, including process re-engineering. Unless we do that, we will not be able to develop effective solutions.
How has been the response towards NMMC E-Connect mobile app?
Around 5,000 people have downloaded the applications. All our 21 services are online and we are going to increase the number of services to 52. We are also planning to launch another app for transportation purpose and soon, we will intergrate both the apps. The app for transportation that we are planning to launch will be first-of-its-kind in India. With the help of this app, people will be able to know the locations of their busses in real time. This system will not be lesser than the applications that you see in Western countries. My objective of e-governance is “zero footfalls” in administration offices as far as civic services are concerned.
Features of NMMC e-Connect are :-
- Pay Water and Property Tax
- Post Grievances
- Online 21 civic services
- Real time bus information
- Nearby stops along with buses on route
- Travel Information sharing through Whatsapp & SMS
- Set favorite route and alarms for buses
- Passenger Information System
- Automatic Vehicle Tracking System
- Mobile Ticket Booking
- Ticketing through Debit card & Credit card
- Smart Card Services to commuters
- Real Time availability of seat
- Make conductor less bus service through technology intervention and upgradation
What are your views on environment-friendly practices?
Climate change is one of the most serious concerns in the world today. We want to reduce carbon footprints, and to achieve that we need to limit use of vehicles and want every citizen to use footpaths and roads up to two to three kilometres periphery. I want to design roads and footpaths, which are safe and accessible. Further, we are also increasing the frequency of public transport. We have proposed a water transport system connecting Navi Mumbai with Mumbai. We have also started segregation of waste at the source.
What are the challenges you face when it comes to involving citizens in your initiatives?
I emphasise a lot on citizens’ engagement. We at NMMC have started the programme ‘Walk with the Commissioner’ where I meet people and listen to their complaints. Further, I am available between 4-5 pm everyday to meet people from Navi Mumbai without appointment. We have taken several decisions on the basis of complaints and suggestions received during our Walk with the Commissioner programme. Till date, 2021 suggestions and feedback have been received till date, of which 89% issues have been addressed. 11% items have been taken up in city planning and budget for further improvement in the city.
You have been applauded by the citizens of Navi Mumbai. Some of them even call you people’s commissioner.
Yes they do. I am thankful to them for appreciating my efforts. I just want to mention one thing that I believe in doing things rather than pondering over them for months and years. We aim to make Navi Mumbai a smarter, healthier and safer city for all.