Aiming to root out corruption in implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) in Bihar, the state government has decided to cover one million beneficiaries under the e—shakti scheme by March 31, 2010.

“In the very first year, the project, with the help of service provider Smaartech Technologies limited, will cover beneficiaries from Patna district. This will entail issuing 10 lakh E—shakti cards in over 1300 villages spread over 23 blocks in the district,” Smaartech Director (Bihar) B K Mishra told PTI here.

Mr. Mishra said subsequently over the next four years, the project would be set up in the remaining 37 districts to cover 24 million NREGA beneficiaries in approximately 39,000 villages spread over 534 blocks.

In total, about three crore E—shakti cards would be distributed under the state pilot project in Patna which was in the process being implemented early.

Smart cards have already been processed for job card holders of village Baritangrila and the rest of the beneficiaries will be issued their personalised E—shakti cards once the smart card distribution starts in a few months.

E—shakti project is an initiative by the department of rural development, government of Bihar, inspired by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for successful implementation of NREGA in the state.

Since there had been allegations that the NREGA is beset with corruption and there is no proper method of work measurement, taking attendance and disbursing wages, the ICT (Informatiion and Communication Technology) has been used to rid NREGA of corruption charges, official sources said.

The E—shakti would also facilitate registration process of individuals which includes recording of personal information as well as biometric information (photograph and all 10 fingerprints), Mr. Mishra said.

A separate bank account is being opened for each adult member of the household.

The E—shakti project was inaugurated on February 24, 2009 in the Paliganj block of Patna district by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and till now around 8.76 lakh village labourers of 14 blocks have been registered under it.

An estimated 3000 smart cards have already been distributed.

Mr. Mishra said the information technology application was introduced to bring effective coordination in execution, better targeting of beneficiaries, establishing transparency and accountability, e—based grievance redressal mechanism and establishing state of art financial management systems.

All these together constitute a complete technological solution for the preparation and execution of poverty alleviation programmes proposed by the Department of Rural Development in Bihar, Mr. Mishra said.

The project, when fully becoming functional, would empower the rural economy of the state.

Mr. Mishra said Bihar thus became the first state in the country to start a call centre under E—shakti project dedicated exclusively to NREGA.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had on October 14 last inaugurated the E—shakti call centre at 538, AG Place, West Boring Canal Road, Patna, by dialing a toll free number 18003452244 and asking a few questions regarding E—shakti.

He said Smaartech has the expertise in making innovative effort for increased efficiency in e—governance projects country wide.

Mr. Kumar had expressed hope that the call centre would not restrict itself to only providing information and registering complaints but in future would enable beneficiaries to know as to where they could get their work done in respective areas.