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Rajniti se Lokniti — Politics changes face
Digvijay formally launches the concept of District Government

To bring a new orientation in the administrative function, the Madhya Pradesh government formally launched the new concept of District Government on 31st March, 1999 at Ujjain, M.P.. According to Chief Minister, Mr. Digvijay Singh, the decentralization of power has been done in order to protect people’s rights, to ensure a faster growth of the State, and to bring the deprived sections of the masses into the mainstream.

The government has initiated the concept of District Planning Committees (DPC) to bring about greater co-ordination between the elected panchayats and the civic bodies. The District Planning Committees will now be empowered to analyse, regulate, manage and supplement the schemes of the government departments at the district levels, except those deputized to Panchayati Raj institutions and Urban Civic bodies. Also, DPCs will be given powers to sanction shops-cum-go-downs, control prices and check black-marketing, monitor development schemes of town and country planning, and to grant and strengthen infrastructure of housing co-operative societies.

Other powers include compensation of losses around Rs. 15,000 due to natural calamities. They can postpone and suspend recovery of land revenues on loss of crop and to acquire land for habitation purposes.

The powers of the home department which have been transferred to the DPCs are regulation and improvement of traffic and excise department’s powers to sanction and release grants to promote construction of new cinema halls. Also, the implementation of processing of minor forest produce and value addition schemes will be ensured by the DPCs and the forest department’s powers to monitor and evaluate plantation schemes, collection of tendu leaves and review group instruction scheme for tendu leaves collectors will also be given to the DPCs.

The powers under the Urban Administration and Development Department include delimitation of urban bodies and wards, acquisition of land and transfer of Class III and Class IV officials. Under the Public Works Department, the DPCs have been authorized to review district level activities and give sanction within financial limits and sanction medium and small irrigation schemes.

Registration of births and deaths, family planning programs and other national health programs will now be monitored by the DPCs. They will also have powers to monitor implementation of epidemic control program, functioning of mobile dispensaries, public health insurance scheme, etc.

The ‘District Planning Committees Act’ was passed by the State Assembly in 1995 and according to a provision under this Act, the State Government can pass on any of its powers to the DPCs. Mr. Singh, while addressing at the function said that aim is to delegate maximum powers to the panchayats at the village level in Madhya Pradesh. He further added that earlier the administrative decisions were getting delayed due to red-tapism, but now they could be resolved promptly, as most of the powers of the heads of the departments were being delegated at the district level.

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District Planning Committees
Decentralised planning defaulted

The Government of India has asked 12 states, yet to constitute District Planning Committees (DPCs), the focus of decentralized planning as the 74th Constitution Amendment, to expedite the process without delay. The defaulted states include Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. According to the 74th Amendment to the Constitution of India, the twin functions of the DPCs are to consolidate the plans prepared by the panchayat and the municipalities in the district and to prepare a draft development plan for the districts as a whole. The DPC is expected to examine all the proposals submitted by the rural and urban local bodies and integrate them with the departmental schemes. The DPC should have regard to matters of common interest between panchayat and municipalities including spatial planning, sharing of water and other physical and natural resources, the integrated development of infrastructure and environmental conservation.

The DPC would also provide background information about the district and review past developmental efforts, set out planning principles, make projections and set targets, firm up the costs and estimates for the projects included in the plan. The DPC also determines the extent and type of available resources whether financial or otherwise.

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Election Commission to put Electoral Rolls on the Internet
Gill proposes for “clean” ERs

The Election Commission of India has developed a sophisticated computerized system and is planning to put the constituency-wise electoral rolls on the Internet. The computerized system has already been laid out in most of the states. According to the chief Election Commissioner, Mr. M. S. Gill, the main objective for “clean” electoral rolls was to make them publicly accessible and to make them constantly known document of the correct list. According to him, the availability of full information on each “constituency roll” to every one would lead to accuracy and the computerization of the electoral rolls would make a great deal of progress in the country.

The plan is to put each “constituency roll” would be put on a master computer, after which the EC would print books of the voter list of each constituency. A new format has been prepared which includes the parentage of the voter and the respective photo-identity card number. The computer network developed by the EC would link each district in the country with its respective state headquarters and the master facility in New Delhi. According to Mr. Gill, once the ER is put on the net, one can download street-to-street information to make sure additions or deletions in the voter’s lists.

It is hoped that this will lead to increased use of electronic voting machines in the State Assembly elections in nine states, due from November 1999.

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Rajasthan heading towards Electronic Governance:
Statewide Communication Network to be developed

The Rajasthan Government is looking up towards the 21st century with the intent to become India’s first Electronic State. With the Chief Minister Mr. Ashok Gehlot viewing the IT revolution differently, his government is trying to include the public sector in the setting up of the IT infrastructure.

The Rajasthan Government has already introduced information technology in its functioning and the Department of Information Technology (DoIT) and Rajcomp are currently working together on a project of developing a statewide communication network that would facilitate online data, voice and possibly video communication facilities to the government departments, PSUs and also provide value-added services to the private sector.

To enable the means of transmission of data, voice and video, the project of networking is being implemented. The government is providing advanced software training, discounted land rates and flatted-factory complex and plug-and-play facilities for smaller and medium-sized companies.

In the first step, according to the chief minister, his government would put Rajasthan on the World Information Map, for which MOU has already been signed between the Rajasthan government and IBM/IBM Global Services Ltd. One MOU has been signed to jointly set-up a school of E-business and governance in the State and this school will be operated by the state government’s DoIT. The IBMGSL will provide course material, other technological inputs and certification to the students.

In another MOU signed by the Rajasthan Government with the Microsoft, a technology infrastructure for the state will be developed for computerization in the state along with developing a pool of skilled technical resources.

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“Rajnidhi” plays ‘smart’ in Rajasthan

The Rajasthan Government has developed a database warehouse, “Rajnidhi”, a digital library that reveals statistics and information procreated by the government organizations. “Rajnidhi” is intended to facilitate delivery of information- text, graphics, video and audio to the general public. Starting from general information about districts, sector-wise statistics, infrastructure profile, external-aided projects and policy reforms initiatives, “Rajnidhi” also provides guidelines, circulars, policy papers and other publications of the State Government. The users can know how to avail birth and death certificates and land conversion documents and can procure loans for starting small-scale units. IT-related news and post meeting notices are the other attractions of the warehouse.

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Naidu’s APVAN crashed

In his speedy action to implement information technology rapidly in his state, the Andhra Pradesh chief minister Mr. Chandrababu Naidu himself has got entangled in his own plans. The concept of Andhra Pradesh Value-Added Network (APVAN) introduced by him has failed to influence his own officials. If implemented, APVAN would have made routine government services quickly, efficiently and easily accessible to the common man. This networking system promised to provide government services promptly to the citizens without any hassles. Whether a case of registering a property sale deed, enlisting for a job in the employment exchange, filling a sales tax return or getting a nativity certificate, any resident would have been be able to do so with ease without going to the particular offices. The state government planned to appoint a chain of officials all over the state so that the respective department would respond to the citizen electronically.

Apart from the fact that this is a symbol of modern governance for the entire country, reducing the ‘misuse’ of the powers given to the government officials, it would have also reduce the number of hands which are at present operating for the same job. The officials of Naidu’s government itself and the NGOs have protested against this system and charged the chief minister to reconfirm about their job security, and in a recent announcement made by him, Naidu has declared the scrapping of APVAN.

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Cyber governance in Delhi
A step towards greater transparency

As a step towards bringing about greater transparency in governance and to provide citizens authentic in formation at one place, the Delhi Chief Minister Ms. Sheila Dixit has desired that the website of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi be completely redesigned. As per the proposed outline, the website will, after an introduction of the Cabinet and other MLAs, attempt to relate to the people directly. The interactive “I Want” series will contain self-contained answers to questions that the citizens normally ask. For example, “I want a caste certificate”. The answer to questions like these will contain four sub-sections. 1) Where do I have to go and during which hours? 2) Which papers, fee, etc. do I have to take with me? 3) What will be the criteria used while deciding my case? and 4) When will I get the response?

“Citizens should have access to information in the Government offices at the press of a button. Bureaucrats sit on files for 20 days and excuse themselves on the pretext of a missing or a misplaced file”, Ms. Dixit said.

The website will have colony-wise information on works in progress under various departments. This will include such works as the desiltaion work by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, etc. There will be static information on various departments and current information like the examination results, job vacancies, tender noticies and policy initiatives. In the proposed design, there would be close interaction between the citizens and various departmental heads of Delhi Government as well as the ministerial heads. Citizens could email their suggestions on various issues which will be listed. There will also be an appropriately designed chat session with the Chief Minister.

For redesigning the website, a group of web developers and a core group of four officers will work in close coordination.

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‘SMART’ Governance
U. P. to spend Rs. 600 cr. for Internet Infrastructure:

To develop an Internet infrastructure in order to convoy the state government to an era of ‘Smart Governance’, the U. P. government is going to sign a MoU with WorldTel. The ‘SMART’ city concept bids a chain of Info-kiosks to be developed in cities selected under the scheme which will be connected to a computer network to provide online services like payment of electricity bills, telephone bills, information regarding booking of houses and land, and about various government orders.

The project to be implemented in phases, initially three major cities; Lucknow, Kanpur and Allahabad will be developed as ‘SMART’ cities and the first phase will be initiated in the current financial year. The organizations associated with the project are IIT, Kanpur, IIM, Lucknow and U. P. Electronics Corporation, which will jointly work to implement the project in the state. Initially, the departments of Police, Energy, Medical and Health, Food, Housing and Urban Developments will be connected to the network, and all the computerized data relating to these departments will be made available on line for the people.

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