The Hindu Editorials ( 14th Sep 2019) -Mains Sure Shot for UPSC IAS Exam
- Note: on 14th Sep there was two articles ‘ A milestone in greater transparency and accountability’ and ‘In Afghan peace derailment, a wagon of hope’.
- ‘In Afghan peace derailment, a wagon of hope’ – this article is about U.S.-Taliban talks and has already been covered earlier (21st August).
Question – One of the basic features of good governance is transparency and accountability. Keeping this in mind how is Jan Soochna Portal (JSP) launched by the Rajasthan government an example for other states to follow?(200 words)
Context – the launching of JSP by the Rajasthan government.
What is Jan Soochna Portal?
- It is a portal launched by the Rajasthan government to bring about transparency and accountability in governance.
- It provides access to information about the working on 13 departments on a single platform. It is the first time that citizens can access to details pertaining to 13 departments in one place.
- The portal has been launched under Rajasthan Innovation Vision (RAJIV) campaign.
Why is it unique?
- JSP works on the principle of ‘transparency must be accompanied by accountability’.
- It is the accountability part that makes it unique and because it not only provides information but also holds the state government accountable.
- It has provision for appointment of ‘Grievance redressal Officers’ – so that people can keep a check on the accountability part of the government. Merely providing information without any provision for complain, in case they are aggrieved with the information, does not help make the process complete.
- The pressure of accountability also increases on the government as the reach of the portal increases because more and more people will be aware of the various schemes and services that they are entitled to in various fields like education and health. Despite this the government of Rajasthan has taken steps to train the citizens so that they are aware of the facilities available.
- They have also decided to host the JSP in decentralised locations, right down to the municipal ward and panchayat levels.
The positive aspects of the portal:
- Details of every activity of the government such as availability of food grains and ration shops and their distribution, implementation of various schemes and their beneficiaries and a variety of other information are available on a real-time basis.
- Since the information is available on the Internet, every citizen, right down to the municipal ward and panchayat, has access to the information. Till now the people needed to file an RTI to get the information but now with the information freely available on JSP there is no need for anyone to take recourse to the RTI Act and await a response. All information can be accessed immediately, free of cost.
- Also any one can know, for example, the number of people in their area who have not availed themselves of any rations for several months. Such persons can be easily contacted and if they do not want to avail the benefits available to them, they can surrender it in favour of some other deserving person.
- Similarly, the government of Rajasthan, like some other States, has waived farmers’ loans. The portal gives the details of every farmer in every bank branch whose loans have been waived, along with the amounts.
- Also, this portal gives the list of mines in every district, provides geographical coordinates, and the area where mining has been permitted, including the land deed identifiers. It also provides details about pollution and environment clearances. This kind of information can facilitate a progressive partnership between government and citizens for a cleaner society.
- Maintenance of the portal so that the information is updated regularly on a real-time basis and there is no let-up in the availability of information.
- The problem of digital divide.
Steps taken to deal with the problems:
- The government has already made draft guidelines for the development and maintenance of the JSP. Once implemented, this will ensure that the information system continues uninterrupted.
- Various departments of the government of Rajasthan, called Line Departments, have been given a set of obligations that they are expected to fulfil. For example, they are expected to ensure continuous digitisation of records. So that there is no let-up in the availability of information.
- In addition, the Department of Information Technology has been made the nodal department for the development, operationalisation and maintenance of the JSP.
- To ensure that the responsibilities are carried out by the departments, an advisory group has been formed. The advisory group will be the monitoring agency.
- Also, grievance redressal officers will be appointed so that citizens can make the State government truly accountable.
- Since the digital divide is a big problem in India and many people in the villages do not know how to use the internet, the government of Rajasthan has also taken steps to train citizens so that they are aware of the facilities available to them.
- Since digital divide (i.e. those who have access to computers and the internet and those who do not) is a major problem in India. So there is a need to address this issue at the earliest otherwise the reach of it might be limited to a small group.
- To bridge this, care should be taken to ensure that there are adequate access points for those who do not access to computers or the internet.
- And these access points should be open and free.
What can other states learn from this?
- To make such digital portals and train the people to use them so that they are aware of the various facilities that they are entitled to.
- Also similar provisions of accountability has to be added.
- This will make people, including the marginalised sections, a part of the governance process.