<TABLE cellSpacing=0 cols=3 cellPadding=5 width=760 bgColor=#ffffff><TBODY><TR><TD vAlign=top width=505><TABLE borderColor=#cccccc cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=5 border=1><TBODY><TR><TD vAlign=top>Baksa shows way in e-governance
</B>By Sivasish Thakur
GUWAHATI, June 9 – Even though a lot has been said about promoting e-governance in Assam, in practice it continues to be at a low ebb, and the common man is yet to derive the benefits, especially in matters related to administration. While many of the comparatively advanced districts have not been able to make much headway in e-governance, the newly-created Baksa district with little infrastructure has demonstrated that something can be done if the will is there. The Deputy Commissioner’s office in Baksa functions from a few tarja-walled huts inside the campus of the PWD bungalow, with even a partially-damaged garage converted to an office room.

The scene inside the bamboo huts belies the non-descript appearance of the office. From its functioning, it seems e-governance is gaining ground in Baksa. E-governance, however, is much more than merely switching over from typewriters to computers. Unless it is done through the web and is readily available to all the beneficiaries, it is not e-governance.

“Almost all the items of the administration, especially those relating to the common public, are now being processed through a web-based integrated portal. It has made things much easier for the people and also for the administration,” Dr Anwaruddin Choudhury, Deputy Commissioner, told The Assam Tribune.

The web-based integrated portal has been designed and developed by F Ahmed, SDO (Headquarters) of Baksa. Impressed with his portal, the district administration of Kamrup (Metro) has requisitioned Ahmed’s services for a demonstration of Baksa’s successful e-governance model so that it can be replicated there, Dr Choudhury said.

The salient features of the portal include online entry of public petitions such as PRC, certificates for kith and kin, death and birth, registration, permission for meetings, etc., at the facilitation centre of the office as well as at the community service centres, and disposal of petitions through a computerized process and auto generation of certificates, etc.

“People can also view the status of their petitions through the Internet, while computerized selection of beneficiaries under the National Family Benefit Scheme where there is no manual process (the first-ever in the State). Hence, there is no scope of favouritism or manipulation,” Dr Choudhury said.

Back-end process on development schemes such as the National Family Benefit Scheme, National Old Age Pension Scheme, Mid-Day Meal, ex-gratia grants antecedents and character verification (in service matters) are some other advantages under the system, leading to the phasing out the age-old manual system. “This has resulted in detection of a large number of ‘death’ cases in the National Old Age Pension Scheme, most of which could have evaded notice in the manual system,” Dr Choudhury said.

The display of information, especially those necessary for the common public through the Internet, matters related to the Right to Information Act (RTI), and monitoring modules for administrators have also benefited the people.

“The new office buildings would be a long-drawn process. But we thought that we could give people the benefits of e-governance even while functioning from a thatched house. The Right to Information Act has also got some justice here,” Dr Choudhury said, adding that the system had helped the administration in bringing transparency besides saving a great deal of time in the disposal of public petitions, generation of reports, etc.

The e-governance initiatives were first introduced in the district in March 2006 with a few items, i.e. development schemes under MLA Area Development Fund and National Family Benefit Scheme. Later, other items and services were incorporated in a phased manner.

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The Assam Tribune Online