The Indian Government is being swept away in a technology tornado, leveraging it to combat the adverse effects of corruption on society. Today, bribery and corruption are pervasive and the rules of law are increasingly distorting market forces. To circumvent these challenges and battle the malaise of corruption, Government bodies are increasingly adopting innovative technologies to ensure transparent, timely and seamless delivery of citizen services.
Online transactions are standardizing services and reducing scope for fraudulent or unethical transactions. These computerized procedures additionally allow tracking decisions and actions, serving as key deterrents to corruption even at a grass-root-level. Government offices have not only made their internal processes digital and efficient, but have also started converting tedious, manual citizen-facing processes into electronic formats. The benefits of such systems are huge and in certain cases, may not even require citizens to be physically present at the office to avail or apply for a particular service.
Avail your passport at ease
The Passport Seva – Consular, Passport & Visa Division and the Motor Vehicle Department – RTO are two examples where the Government has digitized procedures, in an attempt to curb unethical practices by middlemen, thereby protecting the common public from risks related to bribery and corruption. Historically, the process to obtain a passport was long drawn, laced with malpractices (under the table payments etc.) by touts who acted as ‘agents’, promising a quick turnaround. It was not uncommon practice to pay a premium for getting work done, which in most cases turned out to be equivalent to the cost of the passport itself.
To curb this menace, the Government initiated an online portal called Passport Seva Kendra (PSK). This IT-driven project was transformative in many aspects; resulting in simpler processes, augmented accessibility and timely delivery of the passport to citizens. The move proved fruitful and eliminated the role of touts to a very large extent. The website even carries an advisory message, cautioning the public not to fall prey to machinations that promise speedy service. The process brings an added layer of security as it provides an interface between the police and the applicant, to verify the latter’s personal details. The service of the India Post for tracking passport delivery also makes the entire procedure swift and hassle-free. All these combined, act as deterrents for people approaching dubious middlemen, and help them take the reins of such matters in their own hands.
Other citizen centric measures such as the launch of the mobile app and SMS service have also been implemented. Through the mobile app, citizens can check the status of their application, locate a PSK and check passport fees. The SMS service further enables citizens to receive alerts and updates regarding the progress of their passport applications and pending actions. All these initiatives, undertaken by the Government have helped diminish the role of touts, leading to enhanced transparency and citizen empowerment.
Get drivers’ licences – quicker, faster and better
But this is not all. The Regional and Sub-Regional Transport Offices (RTO and S-RTO) is another example where technology is utilized optimally and the role of middlemen is diminished for the benefit of the society. Almost everything is available at the click of a button – anyone can visit the RTO website, apply, visit the office and obtain the licence in a short span of time. The portal is extremely user-friendly, where information is readily available to the general public. On evaluating the efficacy of the systems in place, it is apparent that e-Governance has made significant headway to restrict the involvement of middlemen and lowered the hardships faced to obtain any valid facility at the RTO.
At a regional level, the Motor Vehicles Department (MVD) in Kerala launched an SMS and email alert system which shares status updates on services offered by the MVD and transactions made at the RTOs and S-RTOs. To begin with, the facility provides information on five services – registration number of newly registered vehicles, status of e-application, e-payment, inward number and document dispatch. Even though the Government is trying to streamline processes and limit the involvement of agents, many ‘educated’ people still use them to save time and effort.
To sum up, the Government has laid the foundation of a set of systems to facilitate easy delivery of many public services. To make it effective, it is important that citizens work in tandem with the Government. The next step would be for the Government, as well as the general public at large, to pledge seriousness and take the necessary action to mitigate the evils of corruption plaguing the society. With devolving power directly to the people, the promise of a brighter digital tomorrow will augur well for India and further drive greater standards of sound governance.
(The above post is the second in the series on how Government initiatives around digitization and e-Governance are fueling a stronger sentiment of anti-bribery and anti-corruption among the masses)