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COVID-19 Pandemic: A Lesson on Importance of Local Governments

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Rajesh Kankipati

Elets Technomedia organised a three-day India Transformation Summit from July 10 to July 12. The summit highlighted the transformation that India has witnessed indecent years and seen tremendous growth in various spheres. Rajesh Kankipati, Collector and District Magistrate, Surendranagar, Gujarat addressed the summit on ‘Local Governance Through Digital Transformation’.

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Mr Kankipati commenced his address by throwing light on the importance of local government and the leaders driving these governments. He cited examples like Subhash Chandra Bose was once the Mayor of Calcutta, similarly, Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel headed Ahmedabad. He also stated that the local government leaders are at the forefront and are working at the grassroots level to overall improve the village, city, taluk or the district they’re heading.

Speaking on the transformation on the grassroots level, Mr Kankipati said, “Prior to looking at the digital transformation of gram panchayats, we need to graduate the gram panchayat, the taluka panchayat and the district panchayat from school to college to university… The transformation somehow is haywire. And, the parameters that were decided – the funds, functions and functionaries, the devolution index – is not appropriately devolved in terms of the funds and functionaries.”

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Adding on he said, “In southern states, the local government set up is good and in the north, the impact of the local governments is not felt. However, in the case of disasters, pandemics, calamities, people reach out to the local governments for various reasons like – ration, food, various certificates, etc.”

For digital transformation to really kick-off what is primarily required is not the development of software, applications but substance. “Shell with a structure is not important but shell with a substance is” and this what COVID-19 pandemic has taught to all the officers who are at the forefront, highlighted Mr Kankipati.

Also Read: Our Proactiveness Against COVID Proves Our Resilience : Rajesh Kankipati

Turning his words towards motivating the listeners, he underlined that the humans have a capability which animals do not have and that is narrating a fiction. This fiction becomes a bais or a belief among us to hope that the upcoming future will bring better. “Fiction gives one an ideology”. Today there is a need to understand that digital transformation and paucity building of the local governments should go hand in hand, added Mr Kankipati.

“We have had many training programmes, unfortunately, the programmes for the local tier couldn’t desocialise them with the existing skills and couldn’t re-socialise them for the new skills required.  So, this pandemic hs been an eye-opener for us on the importance of a local government”,  he pointed out.

Mr Kankipati said, “A movement ‘Vocal for Local’ has come in existence and recently concepts like ‘glocal’ which is an amalgamation of global and local have been seen. Looking at why our education system is moonwalking and our technology is leapfrogging, an example, let’s assume a farmer sells a potato at Rs 2 but 100 g of chips are being sold at Rs 20. This is simply because the technology has leapfrogged but the farmers or the village community is still moonwalking.”

These systems have not percolated at the grassroots level simply because answers have been given to the gram panchayats but hat they look for is a solution.

Concluding his address, Mr Kankipati said, “It is in this perspective that we need to look at the digital transformation of the local governance. However, before creating these digital structures a system of interaction-influence has to be established wherein the voices and choices of the grassroots representative is respected by the other tier of the government.”

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