Its software was developed and first used in Bidar, six years ago

The software that serves as the backbone of the Karnataka Guarantee of Services to Citizens Act (Sakala) was developed and first used in Bidar six years ago. Developed by the National Informatics Centre, it was successfully implemented under the Spandana public grievance redressal programme. Later, an improved version was implemented in Ramanagaram district.

Meanwhile, the Administrative Training Institute in Mysore conducted an impact study of the system and suggested that the model may be replicated in other districts.

Last year, a team headed by Urban Development Minister S. Suresh Kumar visited Bihar to study a similar project being implemented there.

The Karnataka Guarantee of Services to Citizens Act was passed in 2011 and the pilot project was started in one taluk each in four districts. The government announced that it would be extended to the entire State from April 2.

Background

Interestingly, the project that now relies heavily on software for delivery of services and monitoring of applications was started without a software programme.

The unfortunate event of the death of an official's father led to an idea that formed the basis of the Spandana project.

“After my father's death, I had to run around government offices in Punjab to get things such as the family pension for my mother and transfer of property records. I had a tough time,” recalled Munish Moudgil, who served as the Bidar Deputy Commissioner then. “I understood the troubles common people faced in government offices. I realised that what people needed was a single window system to air their grievances. If the government assured them that their work would be done on a particular date and if the promise was kept, people would be so happy. This idea shaped the Spandana project,” he said.

The then district in-charge Minister Bandeppa Kashempur inaugurated the Spandana programme on Rajyotsava Day, November 1, 2006.

Mr. Moudgil set up a separate counter in the Deputy Commissioner's office for receiving grievances. Personnel from various departments were posted to this section. They screened applications and ensured that all the necessary documents were attached to the applications.

Applicants were given an acknowledgment number that had the expected date of delivery. The Deputy Commissioner held review meetings every Saturday and, along with other senior officials, followed up the progress of each file.

A software programme was then developed that digitised the whole process from receiving applications, processing, checking the status of applications, service delivery and pendency.

The format of the Spandana software was simpler. The district administration chose 20 services from six departments and the City Municipal Council of Bidar. At first, applications on white paper were accepted. But later, a standard format of application with key words and ‘Yes/No' alternatives was developed. In the second phase of implementation in Ramanagaram, 25 formats were distributed among applicants.

Mr. Moudgil is now the Additional Mission Director of the Sakala project, which is more evolved than Spandana and was also multi-dimensional. It now offers 150 services from 11 departments and has provisions for compensation in case of delay and punishment for officials who cause it.

The Sakala scheme is an improvement over the Bihar model. The Bihar software is offline while the one developed in Karnataka is online. This means the whole process — from filing of applications to disposal — is transparent and trackable.

“We want to perfect the software to such a level that it starts working on autopilot,” said Mr. Moudgil, an Indian Institute of Technology alumnus.

The software programme will have a database containing mobile numbers of all employees who handle files in government offices. This will have multiple uses. It will send SMS alerts to officials if a file is pending on their desk. Two, personnel in remote villages without computers or Internet who receive applications will be able to update the database in the central server just by sending an SMS and generating an acknowledgment number.

“The Act will not just deliver services in time, but also establish systems and processes in the government and strengthen people's faith in it,” said Shalini Rajneesh, Mission Director, Sakala.

She said she strongly believed it would bring down corruption and unnecessary delays in administration and improve the quality of governance. “It is probably the most important tool of administrative reform in recent years,” she said.