Himachal caught in e-governance fancy without infrastructure


By: Subhash Mendhapurkar

The problem with Himachal is that they have caught up in the fancy of e-governance without creating human infrastructure to handle this – too much literacy without education is the reason, I feel.

Let me give you brief of my talk with a Patwari last evening. The Patwari informed me that he got a PC in his office about a month back, but has not dared to open the box as he had no knowledge how to handle the “monster”. He feared that if something went wrong, he would be made to pay the damages. He requested me whether he could be allowed to learn to handle the “monster” at my NGO centre. I was glad to offer him the services, and we agreed that he would spend couple of hours every evening, learning how to use the machine.

On our way back, he asked me if I knew anything about viruses. In affirmation, I told him about the damages a virus can do to machines. He then asked me, if I could put a virus in his machine so that he could go back to his present style of writing tartimas and farads. He said that he was used to writing tartimas and farads and felt completely uncomfortable handling the computer print-outs. I just laughed and told him that once he learnt how to handle the “monster”, he would love working on it.

Second example – our Gram Panchayat received a PC about 6-7 months ago. It was kept in a box for couple of months till my colleague accidentally found it. She enquired about the box and when she came to know that there was a PC in it and a good one, she immediately motivated the Panchayat Sahayak to start using it. Thankfully, the Panchayat Sahayak was eager enough and she started exposing the machine to him. Soon, she found that the power supply to the computer and to the Panchayat was from an age-old wiring without proper earthing.

She recommended that unless a fresh wiring was done, the machine shouldn’t be used. The Pradhan informed her that there were no funds available for fresh wiring. Thus, the PC is still lying ideal.

I am sure there are large number of such examples. Many youngsters may not remember, but a decade or so ago, the Department of Education purchased PCs for High schools, but most of them became useless, as in many schools, there was no power connection and secondly many Headmasters were not instructed from which ‘account head’ they could pay the electricity bill. It took about a couple of years to sort out the problem and ultimately, after the change of Government, the computer training was handed over to a private firm and students were made to pay for use of power and fees of instructors.

Shifting from paper-governance to e-governance doesn’t mean having machines – it means changing mindsets and creating proper infrastructure, but when purchases are to be made in government departments, everyone rushes to do so (reasons we all know).

The occupational health hazards that may follow in this shifting have never been thought of. Please visit any office of PAs to the Secretaries in the Himachal Secretariat – you shall find them using a PC without a proper table and if you talk to them, they would inform you about the spondylitis problems they have started facing lately. I personally know at least half a dozen such PAs whom I often advise to start exercising to overcome this problem and also start making demands for proper tables.

There is an adage about governments – the government first invests in ‘carts’ and then starts looking for horses to draw them.

* The author is Director, SUTRA, an NGO based in Jagjit Nagar, near Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh .

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  1. Yes, these small examples are very true and I would just say that Intentions are not bad but implementation are not from whole heartly or we can say faulty. Should we expect from the person who has spend his or her 15 to 20 or more years boggling with papers and files and are very much habituals about piling up the file for sign and all these stuff, now all of sudden Govt try to push itself as the fore runner in e-Governance.

    I have also a glaring example of so called e Governance. I came to know that some Police stations are having E-filing of complaint facility and since five months only one mail regarding congratulation came to Sadar Police station Shimla only. So I posted a mail to Ghumarwin Police station to congratulate them for this facility and enquire about how these guys are makeing the peoples aware about this facility as since last five months not even a single mail is there. The response is really good, frist of all when these guys, got my mail, they revert back to me immediately and even called me on my phone in Kolkata.And make me aware that they are trying their best to tell the peoples about online filing of complaint.God know from where my village peoples will file their complaint online???

    But yes, once the new generation will occupy these jobs then we can expect some changes.Still same question where are the jobs in Himachal where almost every youth is a graduate and yes having B Ed degree also.

  2. In fact there is a news today that Himachal has become the first state in the country that would get rid of paper for leave applications.

    Approvals or rejections of leave by the superior official including the chief secretary will also be done via email and circulated in the database for others to view.

    'This is being done with immediate effect to bring transparency and efficiency without delays in government offices,' State Chief Secretary Ravi Dhingra said.


  3. I don't think anything wrong in the part of Government by providing Computers to Patwaris or Gram-Panchayat.In fact it is a step in right direction. I remember only few years back Mobile phone functions were considered very difficult to be handled by common villager and u see today a most illiterate person knows to handle all the functions of his mobile more skillfully than an educated man. What I wish to convey is if some innocent Himachali has asked your favour to handle computer and expressed his ignorance about it honestly,you should never ever ridicule him or Government for that.I think even Bill Gates will never do that. There are many things in world which many people do not know. The one who is skilled in computer may not know most basic things like how to cook food for himself which I feel is more important than knowing computers.In my view we should think positive, it is very easy to find faults and ridicule others but our motive should be to heal the wounds not to spread salt on wounds. Himachal is going in tansition phase in technological advancements (besides financial crisis).Being sons of soil we must applause the Government for what they are doing and come forward to do what government has left undone. Let us tell HP government dont worry if you don't have money for providing computer teacher buy only the computers we are ready to work as trainers for the sake of development of our state, we will treat with dignity to every one who wants to learn from us. I will feel proud in taking the responsibilty for my village.

  4. Dear Mukeshji,

    Nobody's ridiculing the non-knowledge of operation of the computers here. What we are trying to suggest to the government is to invest in training first and then hand over the gadgets.

    Instead the government is handing over the gadgets first and thinking of a training at a later stage. Meanwhile the computers lay useless for months. And you'll understand that technology only gets depreciated by the day. By the time these people learn the computers, the market value of the computers has already depreciated by 60 per cent.

    The government could have bought the same computer configuration at a lower price or a better configuration at the same price after training its officers.

  5. Dear all,

    No where I intended to defame the Government or ridicule the government for trying to get paperless governance. In fact I proudly tell everyone outside the Himachal that we are all proud of level of literacy that the state has achieved without any social organizations or NGos' assistance.

    The problem is of `mindset' and deciding the priorities. The present mindset of top bureaucracy is not to look at e-mails that they receive – in fact large number of Principle Secretaries/Secretaries donot even have e-mail ids leave apart regularly responding to e-mails.

    As Vividh says, it is the priorities – first invest in developing human infrastructure – change the mindset of existing bureaucracy and then goin for hardware. We all know that developing software is more important than hardware.

    Hope, the readers shall take this in positive sense.


    Subhash Mendhapurkar

  6. I can recall two instances of dealing with patwaris.. once in my village and once at a place called Narkanda and these people were in there mid 40s. Both the times they asked me to bring a full bottle of DSP to get my work done. The computers I haven't seen in there offices till date. I envy you people who have computers installed at Patwari's offices.

    In my part of world.. Patwari Sahib is the LORD and a bottle of DSP can do many wonders 🙂

  7. I agree with the rampant corruption prevailing mostly in the Revenue, PWD and Transport Departments of HP.Unfortunately many of us have seen it with our own eyes.I noticed every body wants to speak against corruption in India but there are very few who can sacrify their benefits at the cost of not supporting the corruption. HimVani should conduct a debate on this issue. Let us first enumerate the areas where corruption is frequent ( I can help you identify those areas)then let us present our views to stop them. Once we all approve the best and practical solutions, let us send them to our Hon'ble CM and Chief secretary (who appears to be very dynamic and transparent).Let us wait and see their approach, if not satisfactory let us review the strategy and make a mission to expose the corruption through RTIs and sting operations statewide.I always say to Himvani readers let us have an approach to find solutions for everything otherwise just dicussing the issues and blamimg others is a mere gossip.We all know in every tea stalls in HP people are discussing problems ad blaming Governemnet/ politicians for years, which is very easy.Let us not do the same, I wish Let us be solution providers.We, the honest people can create an atmosphere where a corrupt person will think 10 times before demanding a bribe. Do you know, Pakistan envy only two things that India have

    1. Taj Mahal

    2. The T.N.Seshan

    Had there been no T.N.Seshan, the corruption level in India would have been unimaginable. So let us not think that one person can not change the age old practice.

  8. well hello to all

    its grt to see that people are giving their priceless time to think about all these issues.

    mr. mukesh mentioned rightly the crruption is one hampering the growth.

    i think its due to lack of soft skills that are not the part of hp educational system. so govt have to take some initiative to develope all these skill from primary level itself.

    friends other thing is that we have to strenthen media in state because that is the way we can reduce the unwanted political interference in various issues (from water or electricity connection to tranfers).

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