Think Rajasthan and a typical image that comes to mind is that of the traditional maharajas with their palaces, forts and beautifully decorated havelis. Few are aware that this large yet sparsely populated semi-desert state in northwest part of India is leveraging modern technology to improve citizen services and livability, grow economic prosperity, and keep pace with change.
In a first of its kind e-governance initiative, Rajasthan has created a pioneering IT infrastructure to create a state wide network to deliver citizen services and e-governance initiatives. Christened RajNET—this network will cover all 9,894 gram panchayats, 183 municipal areas along with all district and block headquarters. This is first of its kind network in the country. Under the Digital India programme, the government of India has set the target of creating this level of connectivity across the country by December 2016. Rajasthan has achieved this goal in March 2016 itself.
Last week, chief minister Vasundhara Raje dedicated RajNET to the people of the state. The network will ensure adequate connectivity across state for effective delivery of services and benefits to citizens under various State and
Central initiatives such as Bhamashah Yojana, e-Mitra, MNREGA etc.
On the technology front, RajNET is an integrated platform that provides multimodal (that is, VSAT and terrestrial) network to ensure last mile connectivity up to gram panchayat level, throughout the state. A centralised integrated network operating centre (CINOC) for monitoring of multimode connectivity in the state is also being set up. In addition, the state is deploying a software based video conferencing solution in order to connect gram panchayats with direct interaction with government offices at blocks & district level. The system has been designed to work at low bandwidths available at gram panchayat level.
Speaking on the occasion of the first Rajasthan IT Day in Jaipur, Vasundhara Raje said, “The basic idea in administration for us is ‘SuRaaj’ or good governance. Effective governance has to be based on a robust IT infrastructure and within the framework of a comprehensive e-governance architecture. This is what we are seeking to provide in Rajasthan.” The state chief minister launched RajNET by holding simultaneous video conferencing with interlocutors at eight e-Mitra kiosks at different locations across different districts of the State.
Drawing attention to the transformative power of IT, the chief minister said, “Today in Rajasthan, IT tools are changing lives every day. From the point of sales machine in a ration shop to the drawing of pension through bio-metric verification from an e-Mitra counter, IT is making the lives of citizens simpler and better. E-mitra, Bhamashah and last mile connectivity have made this possible.”
Rajasthan chief secretary CS Rajan emphasised the role of e-governance as a key element of the state’s effective governance and administrative reforms agenda. “Rajasthan recognises the enormous potential of the IT and ESDM sectors and has made significant efforts to ensure that the benefits of these percolate to all its citizens,” he said.
Bhamashah Yojana, named after a general during Maharana Pratap, is a scheme introduced by the state government to transfer financial and non-financial benefits of governmental schemes directly to recipients in a transparent way. The objective of the scheme is financial inclusion, women empowerment and effective service delivery. As such, bank accounts are opened in the name of lady of the house and a Bhamashah card is given to families across the state. All cash benefits under public welfare schemes are then directly transferred to these bank accounts. Till September, 2015, the government has covered more than 90 lakh families out of a total of 95 lakh beneficiary families.
Akhil Arora, secretary, department of IT & communication, government of Rajasthan, said, “In last two years since we launched Bhamashah on August 15, 2014, behaviour change even in rural areas is visible when you can see an old lady going to withdraw either her own social security pension, old-age pension or NREGA wage payment by either biometric validation on BC’s fingerprint machine or using a RuPay card. We are ensuring that whether it is NREGA wage payment, social security pension or scholarship—all the money goes into these bank accounts. As of date, in last three-and-a-half months, more than 250 lakh-odd transactions have happened worth more than R1,470 crore.”
Giving a broad overview, Arora said, “Our chief minister is very clear that whenever she is talking about development, one it is inclusive development; second, she is talking about holistic improvement in happiness index which means whether it is infrastructure, social security or service delivery, everything needs to be taken care of not only in urban area but in far-flung rural areas. What we are trying to do is through Bhamashah, e-Mitra and Rajasthan Sampark, service delivery, entitlement delivery and grievance redressal are being brought onto a single point-of-contact, which is integrated.”
Services at your doorstep
Similarly, e-Mitra is an ambitious e-governance initiative of the state government. This is being implemented in all 33 districts of the state using PPP model for convenience and transparency to citizens in availing various services of the government and private sectors under a single roof at their door steps using an e-platform. The services are delivered via counters known as CSC (common service centre) kiosks in rural areas and
e-Mitra kiosks in urban areas and also online via www.emitra.gov.in. Hence, these counters provide services related to various departments in an integrated and easily accessible manner to people residing in rural as well as urban areas without any need for running around in government offices.
“We have more than 35,000 e-Mitra points of service at the moment, out of which around 25,000 are in rural areas; at least one at every panchayat headquarter is co-located in what we call as Atal Seva Kendra where RajNet is providing connectivity,” the state IT secretary informed. “If you look at the footprint of connectivity, there are now certain places in Rajasthan where because of limitation of connectivity, online service delivery was hitherto not possible. Now, with RajNet being available at all the Atal Seva Kendra, at least at gram panchayat level, it would be ensure that service delivery through e-Mitra, Bhamashah, Rajasthan Sampark—which is cutting across 70 departments, 250 odd services —would be available at a single point. So, the maximum distance that a person would be required to travel is from village to panchayat, not beyond.”
Without doubt, technology is making life easy for citizens in the land of palaces and forts.
Through Bhamashah, e-Mitra and Rajasthan Sampark, service delivery, entitlement delivery and grievance redressal are being brought onto a single point-of-contact, which is integrated”
Akhil Arora, Secretary, department of IT & communication, Rajasthan government