Smart Governance is key to Vibrant Gujarat

Ravi S Saxena

Capturing demand-side issues of citizens and other stakeholders is critical to the effectiveness of e-governance architecture

Gujarat is at the forefront of governance reforms in India. A slew of policy measures such as administrative reforms, innovative citizen-centric programmes, active participation of the citizens in governance and above all, the e-governance initiatives that lent credence to the service delivery needs of citizens, has brought a radical change in people’s perception about governance in Gujarat. Our Chief Minister Narendra Modi often emphasises that “We don’t need more Acts, we need action.”

The major structural changes in the business of governance came about some 10-years ago with Chintan Shivirs – a novel initiative where the Chief Minister along with his entire bureaucracy and ministers from all levels actively participate and brainstorm on innovative citizen-centric approaches for good governance affecting the common man.

Led by the Chief Minister, the biennial Chintan Shivars, over a decade, have addressed the educational needs of the girl child, child enrolment in schools, improvising education standards, health and nutrition for infants and their mothers as few of the key challenges as part of human development.

Under this, the front-ranking officials and all ministers compulsorily have to pay personal visits to various schools in the State as part of Gunotsav – a programme aimed at improving education standard and strengthening quality outcomes in primary schools. In another first, the concerned officials are required to camp in the villages and at least visit 5 schools everyday between 17th and 19th June as part of Kanya Kelavni & Shala Praveshotsav, every year (scheduled day for admissions) to ensure the enrolment of girls into schools in a ceremonial style. The idea of enrolling girls in a ceremonial fashion was to create a positive impression on children that would last a lifetime.  Net enrolment ratio increased dramatically and dropout rate decreased drastically as officials went through the dropout lists and personally spoke to the parents. During all these visits, the officials and ministers have to visit the Anganwadi Kendras to verify the amenities, infrastructure and food packet utilisation. 

In short, Chintan Shivir experiment has turned out to be a useful governance enabler as government officials could do grassroots level tackling of governance issues (especially from the demand side). The entire State cabinet and bureaucracy reside in the shivirs (camps) to brainstorm on governance issues that usually results in out-of-the-box solutions. Taking cue from girl child enrolment success, Gujarat has launched similar campaigns in the field of agriculture (mobile agricultural campaign called Krishi-rath), livestock (called Cattle Health Campaign to care for the livestock in villages) and on restoring gender balance (called Beti Bachao campaign). 

Similarly, another area where Gujarat has initiated pioneering reforms is in the power sector. Given the centrality of power to economic growth and development and peoples’ daily needs and well-being, Gujarat government has initiated a series of ground-breaking reforms to ensure power is available 24x7 in all its constituencies. Under an innovative scheme Jyoti Gram, 24x7 power has been made available to the villages, thus resulting in huge improvement in the income and well-being of the state’s rural population. This is the single biggest factor that has brought down outward migration.

Gujarat entered the e-governance field as early as 2001 by setting up the State Wide Area Network that brought all departments and government offices on a single network. Now, the state has its own State Data Centre with state-of-the-art information technologies spread across all tiers. The same is linked to National e-Governance Plan (NeGP).

Even before the State Data Centre was set up, Gujarat had already initiated its computerisation programme. We have made significant improvements over Citizens Services Centre (CSC) model rolled out by NeGP (which lays a lot of emphasis on infrastructure on the supply side, i.e., government) by bringing our own e-Gram. An e-Gram takes into account the demand side issues of citizens. Importantly, as per National CSC Scheme while there is a provision for 1 CSC per 6 villages, we have planned to have 1 e-Gram for every village panchayat and that ultimately has connected all 18,000 villages of Gujarat. We feel it is the state’s responsibility to ensure information and knowledge in important areas is made available to villagers that has direct impact on their lives. Further, while NeGP does not address issues involving social media, we are making all possible efforts to have this in our e-governance architecture. We feel there is an absolute need for an NeGP 2.0 that focuses on demand side issues as well.

In the context of boosting e-governance initiatives, Aadhaar could be a possible game changer. Even though, of late, the enrolments have picked up, the de-duplication of Aadhaar remains a concern. Aadhaar is only about providing an identity and the resident-ship and it is up to respective departments to use Aadhaar for delivering services. In this, they have a big responsibility of eliminating bogus names. Although challenging, Gujarat has made steady progress. For example, the bar-coded ration card system of Gujarat has been able to weed out hundreds and thousands of bogus card holders. This barcode system is one-and-half years old and has been working very well to prevent leakages. In fact, the Supreme Court reviewed this bar-coded ration card system recently and issued advisory to other Indian states to take a look at the Gujarat model. Similarly, on Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) payments, Gujarat is using mobile applications to check any fraudulent payments. Currently, the state is in the process of developing an application for Anganwadi workers to enable them to capture pictures to ensure that a correct head count of children is made.

With regard to healthcare, Gujarat has come out with Hospital Management Information System (HMIS) which connects more than 30 major hospitals across the state. This application is so comprehensive that one can check out every OPD patient and his prescription from a central location. The HMIS module usage has been quite extensive (71.33 per cent). So far a mammoth 14.6 million OPD and 1.77 million IPD registrations have been made using the HMIS module. Another e-governance initiative Drug Logistics and Inventory Management System (DLIMS) has become an inventory management for all drugs and surgical equipment all across the state. We have another application called e-Mamta that tracks a child’s well-being right from the point of its conception to the level where it reaches a safe stage. Presently, e-Mamta covers 1,090 public health centres, 7,274 sub-centres, 26 district hospitals and 283 community health centres. The programme is so successful that it has been rolled out in all 26 districts, 8 corporations and all villages of Gujarat. So far, nearly 1.3 million pregnant women, 400,000 infants and 362,000 children in the age group of one to six years have been tracked for essential Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) Services with e-Mamta initiative. e-Mamta has enabled us to significantly reduce infant mortality rate (IMR) and maternity mortality rate (MMR) in the State. This has also helped us to reduce the level of anemia and malnutrition. Currently, we are developing an omnibus programme for health which would take care of all applications. Further, Gujarat has made significant progress on telemedicine. The state plans to connect all major hospitals with the villages through telemedicine in the next few years. 

With regard to attaining energy self-sufficiency, Gujarat has planned a 600-megawatt solar energy park, which once completed will be the largest solar energy park in the world. Given our project implementation records, we are confident of attracting a good deal of investment in the production of solar cells and generation equipments. We also have innovative Gujarat Solar Power Policy to take care of such initiatives. Not only is the state making every effort to become a global centre for industry, trade and commerce, it is leaving no stone unturned to become a global knowledge hub and an active beneficiary of the knowledge economy. The Vibrant Gujarat programme is putting a lot of emphasis on creation of Smart and Knowledge Cities.

Ravi S Saxena is Additional Chief Secretary, Science & Technology, Government of Gujarat

(The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of INCLUSION. Comments are welcome at info@skoch.in)

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