India is a land of contradictions. Digital goes hand in hand with agrarian; and modern looks well matched with traditional. And one state that seems to reflect this fabric of India in recent times is West Bengal. Clad in a white saree with blue border and the quintessential blue slippers, the leader of West Bengal is known as Mamata didi. A stranger to Mamata Banerjee’s stature wouldn’t believe in the grit she holds within but holds she does, and she holds steely determination and firebrand social activism. Leading from the front, Mamata Banerjee has reinvented West Bengal and in the process, from villages to cities, Panchayat offices to chief minister’s office, the state has witnessed a governance transformation in ways unprecedented.
The fourth largest state economy in India, growing at 15.64 per cent, West Bengal is leading the charge along the growth curve of India. The state is the perfect blend of economic strength and dynamism, with a strong consumer base, vibrant industry, large talent pool, industryfriendly policies, transparent governance and record social and physical infrastructure development. So, it is no surprise that the state of West Bengal has emerged the topper this year from 9th position in 2017 and 14th position in 2016 SKOCH State of Governance ranking.
As part of the State of Governance study, SKOCH sent request letters and also contacted through different channels like telephones and emails to all ministries, departments, municipalities, district administration and other government bodies for sharing project details and their achievements. There was overwhelming response from across the government departments and organisations of West Bengal. A total number of 44 projects were shortlisted from West Bengal for further assessment and evaluation. All of these projects were thoroughly studied and examined by domain experts. Based on the detailed study of these projects, West Bengal topped the overall ranking and also in several sectoral ranking including Finance and Revenue, Urban Development, Rural Development, Tourism and Culture and Governance.
While carefully studying the various schemes and projects undertaken by the state government of West Bengal, SKOCH noticed how the governance has spread out its wings in all the sectors and have put in place effective and well-thought policies for the overall development of the state. The five best performing projects that were selected are in tourism, rural development, finance and district administration.
Asansol Durgapur Development Authority (ADDA) has launched a new payment gateway services, namely “ADDA ONLINE” to provide smart and citizen friendly services. “ADDA ONLINE” since its launch has successfully enabled the authority to collect more than S11 crore as revenue in a very short span. “ADDA ONLINE” presently accounts for 90 per cent of the revenue collection of the authority and has been readily accepted by the citizens. “ADDA ONLINE” has literally transformed the travails of revenue collection into a seamless process initiated at the click of a mouse not to mention that the entire process is paperless thus entailing promotion of ecofriendly initiatives. It may also be mentioned that post introduction of “ADDA ONLINE” the number of citizens frequenting ADDA Office has reduced considerably as the new system enables to pay all their dues at the click of a mouse from the comfort of their homes. “ADDA ONLINE” has also successfully reduced several overheads thus enabling seamless G2C contact.
Empowering Women Self-help groups
Women self-help groups have been empowered and given livelihoods by giving them the jobs of tailoring and supplying school uniforms to the government schools.
With the coming into force of the RTE Act, 2009, children in the elementary classes had a right to two sets of uniforms annually. This meant that from the financial year 2010-11, funds were being given by the state to schools for procuring of the school uniforms. Between the time of the first round of providing students uniform and the time that the SHGs were recognised as an agency for supply of uniforms, a system of supplying uniforms through private parties had already been established.
In 2013-14, the Sanghas (Gram Panchayat level SHG Federation) in Howrah district were the first to take the initiative by involving SHG members and tagging them to all the eligible schools. The selected SHG members were given training on tailoring and the successful implementation of the pilot initiative encouraged the district administration to ensure that 100 per cent of all school uniform to be supplied in the district would be done through the Sanghas. Following the success of this initiative in Howrah, the model was replicated in all the districts of West Bengal with the active support and supervision of State, District and Block level administration.
An excellent example of using ICT in governance, e-Pension is a webbased application and it extends the benefits of e-Governance by providing end to end solution to matters related with all pension benefits to about 7 lakh employees getting grants from the state government. The move has improved efficiency, transparency and accountability, resulting in effectiveness and faster delivery of services to all stakeholders. The system obviates the necessity of to and fro movements of voluminous files from field level offices and ensures online disposal of pension cases and transmission of digitally signed e-PPO to the Treasuries which is unique in nature.
The e-Pension is fully integrated with individual portals of the departments which maintain activities and database of such employees’ service related matters. Through web service records like name, family details, date of joining, date of birth, etc. are fetched from the departmental portals and then SMS and email alerts are sent to the employees who are due to retire. They are encouraged to initiate online process for settlement of pension related matters.
GIS based Integrated Planning and Monitoring System
Introduction of GIS based technology to Gram Panchayat monitoring is a rich value addition to the state oversight run by a comprehensive web-based application. The GIS protocol has been designed in a way that it validates the progress with regard to planning, institutional functioning, people centric governance with the help of GPS technology. The system functions on real-time satellite coordinates for tracking of project execution based on approved annual integrated plan of the Gram Panchayats. In addition, this system is also capable of capturing key decision making process of the Gram Panchayat through various meetings.
Tourism and Culture
West Bengal has a rich legacy of art and culture and the state is synonymous with arts, literature, music, theatre and films. But there is always a risk of art being eroded and wilted if it is not sustainable enough in the winds of modernity. Therefore, the Department of Information and Culture has initiated “Lok Prasar Prakalpa” to rejuvenate Bengal’s folk arts through a livelihood programme.
Started in 2014, the programme has now become the world’s largest mass communication programme, involving nearly two lakh performing artists who are on government payrolls for propagating government’s messages through their folk arts. There are more than half a dozen genres of folk music besides drama, dance, recitation which are covered under the LPP programme. Folk artists between the age of 18 and 60 receive a retainer’s fee of S1,000 each month besides a performance fee of S1,000 for each performance. Folk artists above the age of 60 receive a monthly pension of S1,000. The state government spent S210 crore during 2017-18 on the artists’ remuneration alone.
From setting up an online grievance system for the policies implemented in the rural areas beautifying the most congested and polluted areas of Kolkata into green zone, from introducing RFID equipped taxi system to providing dynamic ICT platform for farmers’ problems, West Bengal government has introduced schemes and policies in all the sectors from health, urban development, MSME, e-Governance to agriculture and rural development. Here are the eleven projects from these sectors that have been catching up and soon they should rise to the best performing schemes by the state government.
Fair Price Diagnostic Center Monitoring system
The Fair Price Diagnostic Center Monitoring System, initiated by the Department of Health and Family Welfare, is a scheme aimed to strengthen the medical care services for greater benefit of the people in the state. The objectives of the scheme are providing diagnostic service by tapping the expertise of the private sector, Speedier diagnosis thus significantly reduces the incidence due to delays in diagnosis and improved ability of the public health system to respond to health needs of the people.
MSME Facilitation Centre
MSME Facilitation Centers (MFC) are set up in every district of West Bengal as ‘’points of single contacts’’ through which MSME entrepreneurs can obtain all information and complete necessary statutory procedures for starting and operating business in the state. Traditionally, due to lack of access to information, the MSME Entrepreneurs are required to run around various departments and offices for enquiry, consultation, guidance and finally handholding support to submit application related to various government departments. Apart from the usual harassment they often become victims of unscrupulous agents/touts. The MFCs save the entrepreneurs all these roadblocks and ease their way for businesses.
GPS enable e-attendance
The GPS enabled e-attendance system for the field staffs of Panchayat & Rural Development Department is a real time android mobile application to capture the real time attendance including core area of support provided by the onfield support personnel to all Gram Panchayats across West Bengal. The system collects real time information from field and non-real time uploading of the report. It has been designed in such a way that in case of feeble internet connectivity, the data is locally saved in the phone memory.
The on-field support personnel also known as the “Mentors” strengthen the GPs as local self-government and their role also comprises providing useful advice regarding GP functions, knowledge and skill sharing, providing information and clarification in response to queries. The mentoring teams also act as monitors and are treated as invaluable sources of information about each and every Gram Panchayat.
E-Grievance System for the Rural Citizens
As the Gram Panchayats in West Bengal undertake various developmental activities through different kinds of schemes, programmes, projects and services for the socio-economic development in rural areas, it is necessary that the process of implementation of those schemes become transparent. Also equally important is a grievance redress mechanism and no administration can claim to be accountable, responsive and userfriendly unless it has established an efficient and effective grievance redress mechanism.
The Grievance Redress Management System (GRMS) or ‘Panchayater Pratikar’ allows an easy way to lodge complaints that get captured on software and are then forwarded to the respective PRI level for redress. The software has the ability to segregate grievances at the various levels as well.
ICT @ School
The school Education Department of West Bengal has embarked upon providing ICT-enabled education environment in the Primary, Secondary and Higher Secondary Schools. Though there are schemes like ICT@ school under MHRD for ICT enabled education, the volume of fund available and expected share to the state seems too inadequate to bring the maximum possible schools under the ICT umbrella.
With ICT@School project being implemented in schools, every school has a fully functional IT Lab and interactive multimedia content, both being crucial elements of learning environments in modern schools. Deployment of ICT solutions and high-quality infrastructure facilitates better instruction, improves student outcomes, and reduces dropout rates, among other benefits. In addition, with deployment of school coordinators, all school administrative work has been digitised.
Green Zone in Kolkata
The Government of West Bengal has initiated a unique scheme, namely ‘Green City Mission’ which aims for sustainable and eco-friendly green and clean cities and planned development of all 125 Municipal cities and towns of West Bengal, where more than 2500 schemes covering green space development, LED lights, high mast illumination lights, conservation and beautification of water bodies, development of road median, landscaping, beautification of hospitals, tree plantation and CCTV camera etc. are going on since 2016-17.
Development of Green Zone within monotonous and hectic urban fringe is an initiative to bring a vibrant eco-friendly safe and hygienic environment at the entrance and approach way to Kolkata that will extend all its residents and guest to the city a warmth welcome. The innovative aspect of “Green Zone” project is providing an eco-friendly environment at the busiest and crowded zone without affecting its urban activities and facilities. The move was initiated in the Capital as a run up to the FIFA Under-17 World Cup Football Tournament that was to be held in the city. The benefit of the project of greening the city at the time of an International Event is not only for the event but is also a permanent solution to protect the city from environmental pollution. The steps taken for greening the city and illuminating the city with energy saving lighting at the time of FIFA had a long reaching effect.
Meaningful inclusion of the poor in the formal financial system is one of the key mandates for the National Rural Livelihoods Mission by the Government of India. Anandadhara works on both demand and supply side of the financial inclusion. On the demand side it promotes financial literacy among the poor and provides catalytic capital to the Self Help Groups and their federations. On the supply side, Anandadhara coordinates with the financial sector to deliver credit and related services to the groups.
Agriculture has been the way of life and continues to be the single most important livelihood of the rural masses of West Bengal. So the Agriculture Department is working on a mission mode for development of the sector in a holistic manner with the vision of doubling farmers’ income by 2020 by ensuring farmers’ access to skills, technologies, markets and financial inclusion.
Adhering to their mission, the state government has launched an ICTbased agri-extension portal, Matir Katha, which provides a dynamic platform to disseminate crop solution to farmers at farm-gate level.
RFID Based Taxi Management
Radio Frequency Identity Device (RFID) is implemented for the first time in India by Howrah City Police. The technology makes use of electromagnetic fields to automatically detect tags attached to it. There are 6 RFID lanes outside the station and each lane has an individual RFID reader attached to it. Now, these readers are paired with tags; every tag has a unique sequence pairing with the reader and every taxi has a unique tag attached to it. These tags are simple sticker strips stuck on the windshield of these cabs. The transparency introduced through RFIDs by Howrah City Police has seen prepaid counter getting 6,500 taxis recorded per day instead of just 500 as was the case earlier. This has eliminated the role of touts in the station completely. Implementation of this technology has earned the Howrah City Police a nomination in the Prime Minister’s award for innovation. The other part of this scheme is introduction of e-taxis which enables people to book the pre-paid taxis by paying online for the service beforehand.
Initiated by the Department of Transport, GATIDHARA provides financial assistance to unemployed youths of the state for purchasing commercial vehicles and getting selfemployed as micro entrepreneur in transport sector. Successful implementation of the scheme in last two and half years has created scope of employment for more than 24,000 beneficiaries in the state.
Livelihood development to fight malnutrition and social exclusion
Bankura district of West Bengal adopted the unique strategy to attack malnutrition and identified malnourished children with the help of Child Development Department as well as Health Department. All such identified families were provided Nutrition Garden under NREGA. Another major initiative was inclusion of the marginalised group in the development fold. The Gouripur Leprosy Colony adjacent to biggest Leprosy Hospital of Asia is the example of such intervention. The families have been provided with orchard and Animal Shelter as way of livelihood and thus the entire community has been shifted from begging. The district spends around S300 crore each year out of which 75% schemes are in family-based livelihood development.
catching up projects
SKOCH has found that nine other projects, though still in nascent stages of implementation, execution and planning, have immense potential to excel.
District Administration in Coochbehar initiated the Livelihood in Rural development and the district has implemented maximum treebased livelihood and to stop drainage of income through disease by building sanitised villages. Another district administration initiative in Purba Bardhaan promotes livelihood through “Brikha Patta” project which provides “usufruct” right to planters on government land as tools of livelihood development. ALO is a cooperative society for women in Dakshin Dinajpur, a remote border district in West Bengal, for a better & evocative living and has been registered for their income generation & collective living, for their capacity building & leadership development and for their entitlement and emancipation.
The Government of West Bengal has initiated a unique scheme, namely ‘Green City Mission’ which aims for sustainable and ecofriendly green and clean cities and planned development for all municipality, municipal corporation and urban areas under development authorities with more than 2500 schemes to build environment friendly, sustainable, livable, energy efficient, I.T. friendly and safe city since 2016- 17. Till date around 300 schemes are started for installation of High mast Solar Lights under Green City Mission.
To ease the problems faced by the entrepreneurs, West Bengal has developed SWAS (Service With A Smile) mobile app based helpdesk and enquiry handling system which offers ready & On-the-go solutions to queries faced by the MSME entrepreneurs. SWAS app gives entrepreneurs a digital platform to lodge their questions and/or concerns and help them get answer or solution of their queries within a given time frame.
Economy of the State
Today, West Bengal’s GSDP at $163.87 billion (12.47 per cent higher than in previous year) has registed robust growth in the recent years. Between 2015-16 and 2017-18, the annual growth rate (at constant prices) of the state GSDP has increased from 5.8 per cent to 11.4 per cent. Services lead the contribution to the GSDP at 57.15 per cent, followed by industry (19.83 per cent) and agriculture (23 per cent). Industrial contribution to state GSDP has been constant in the range of 25 per ent while the agriculture has posted a decline. The state’s Per Capita income (at constant prices) has grown from RS75,992 in 2015-16 to RS95,562 in 2017-18. The state has introduced structural reforms to boost investments and growth.
Strikes and labour unrest used to be a common scene in the state but the series of structural reforms to ensure that the businesses function in the conducive environment. The state government has taken multiple initiatives to ease the procedures and steps related to clearances, inspections and certifications form its various directorates.
Besides making the state encouraging and favorable for business and investment, steps have been taken across the departments to make public service delivery systems more transparent and efficient. The spectacular rise in the state’s ranking SKOCH State of Governance 2018 is the testimony of the all-round good governance initiatives.
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