BMC pips Maharashtra in e-governance

Thursday, 19 December 2013 - 7:10am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
dna takes stock of government's policy and BMC's use of technology in its day-to-day functioning.

As the state government grapples to recover documents lost in the Mantralaya fire last year, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has already taken a futuristic step by computerising all its departments.

However, although the BMC has implemented e-governance and e-office for its consumers and officials, there is a loophole in the system. Even after going through the necessary procedures, one still has to visit civic ward offices to get a final approval ‘on paper’, which defeats the whole purpose of the glorified e-office. Nevertheless, the BMC takes pride in being the first government organisation in the country to have e-governance since 2006.

Maharashtra is the first state to release a dedicated e-governance policy, which aims at a standardised and seamless implementation of e-governance projects across the state and encourages interoperability, data collaboration, sharing and linkage with UIDAI and for delivery of Government to Citizen (G2C), Government to Business (G2B), Government to Government (G2G) and Government to (G2E) services.

Apart from introducing e-tendering and e-auctions to maximise revenue and reduce corruption, the state government has made it mandatory for its employees to have Aadhaar cards and rolled out the e-office and document journey management system.

“Municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte is the biggest force behind implementing the e-office idea. A paperless office will ensure transparency even while allotting contracts through e-tendering and while approving new development proposals,” said a senior civic official.

This year, the civic administration created more than 4,000 IDs for its employees. It is in the process of creating another 22,000 IDs for all employees, except labour and non-clerical staff.

The National Informatics Centre is compiling the data and creating new IDs.

“The BMC has its own server and data centre. It also has a back-up system of ‘disaster recovery system’ in case of a glitch. It has also planned to create another back-up data centre in different seismic zones in the case of a natural disaster,” said an official.

Computerisation in the BMC is done on two fronts – service-oriented for consumers and e-office for internal usage.

“We have achieved success in e-governance – the service of government to citizens. We are planning to bring this within the administration – from government to government. We are bringing this transition from e-governance to e-office seamlessly. Now, we have to integrate both the sectors,” said SVR Srinivas, additional municipal commissioner.

Srinivas said the civic administration is trying to build the required infrastructure for the successful implementation of computerisation. Presently, the infrastructure facility is limited to only heads of the departments and deputy municipal commissioners. This has to be extended to second and third level staff, including clerks.

“We are creating infrastructure, networking and connecting all the civic offices. There are 600 BMC offices of different departments in the city. All these will have to be connected and networked,” said Srinivas.

State IT secretary Rajesh Aggarwal said the state government was rolling out CCTV project for Pune and Mumbai and the high-security registration plates for vehicles and modernisation of border check posts were also in the pipeline.

“The digital database for PDS (beneficiaries) is ready and is being cleaned up,” said Aggarwal, adding that Maharashtra had touched around 8 crore in UIDAI enrollment. The department is also fine-tuning the e-scholarship projects.

“Those recruited by the state government in recent years are tech-savvy and are bringing changes in the system, with the older generation too catching up,” he added.

The initiative
Some e-governance projects of the state government include a website to register complaints on sex determination of a child, crime and criminal information system and other crime control projects, tax automation projects, online school sanctions and approvals, village records computerisation, scanning of old land records and videoconferencing in jails.

Lacunae in the system
The unwillingness of civic officials to accept complete computerisation may hamper the success of the ambitious project. One of the most important steps in making the BMC’s functioning paperless would be to use digital signatures.

Samajwadi Party leader Rais Shaikh has moved a notice of motion in the corporation meeting demanding that the civic body should consider digital signatures for birth and death certificate which otherwise has to be obtained after doing all the formalities online and then take signature on a printout. “This defeats the purpose of e-governance where ultimately a person has to use paper,” said Shaikh.

In the building proposals department, the soft copies of proposals are given in pen drives and CDs, however, the architect is expected to submit the hard copy of the proposal which is moved to different departments for the approvals.

How the network has spread over the last three years
In 2010, the state government mandated that 0.5% of plan and non-plan budget of all departments be utilised for e-governance. MahaOnline, a joint venture of the state government and Tata Consultancy Services, helps provide e-governance services to citizens. The Maha e-Seva Kendra Scheme plans setting up of a network of 11,818 IT enabled centres across the state, in rural and urban areas for delivery of government, social and private sector services to citizens.

Under the e-panchayat project, the 33 zilla parishads, 351 panchayat samitis and 27,900 gram panchayats in Maharashtra are equipped with infrastructure and designated as Sangram centres.

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