India lives in its villages. As many as 68.84% of the people in India live in villages according to Census, 2011. Therefore, focusing on the all round wellbeing of villages has been the principal objective of various government policies over the years. With the government’s policy initiative to make sure various government services reach people in the rural areas, the process of adoption of e-governance has led to opening common services centers at village level across the country under NeGP. The government has initiated e-Panchayat system in villages by providing panchayats with computers and broadband connectivity. E-Panchayat has been adopted as a measure under NeGP.
As a follow-up to the e-governance initiative of the Union government, many state governments have provided the necessary information to the people in villages. The e-governance measure has enabled people to access government services easily and in a cost-effective way to address their grievances.
e-Panchayat as tool of rural development
Because of the large size and diversity of the country, public services delivery becomes a tough challenge in remote rural areas. The National e-Governance Plan envisages the establishment of e-Panchayts. The e-Panchayats for the villages aim to provide numerous basic services for the rural population across the country.
The objective of e-Panchayat is to effectively tackle the tasks that confront rural villages in general. The challenges include lack of reliable communication infrastructure, inordinate delays in delivery of the services, little revenue realization at Gram Panchayat level, and absence of a meaningful monitoring system.
e-Panchayat yields various benefits where adopted. The benefits include the following:
Public services delivery has improved because of the adoption of e-governance. It has led to easy access for people at minimal cost and delays. Processing of payment of property tax, user charges (water, electricity, etc.), getting license grievances addressed etc has become easier and cost effective. It would make services delivery transparent, and free from abuses and corruption.
Better financial management
The 73rd Amendment to the Constitution provides special financial powers to Panchayat bodies. Under the new rules, Panchayats are empowered to levy, collect and expend tax revenue, tolls, fees and the like. PriaSoft, a software application, is being deployed to process the financial transaction of e-Panchayats. The software application would help in the collection of revenues and enable the authorities to track the expenditure by funding authorities.
Monitoring the programs
Evaluating and monitoring the various development programs constitutes a significant task for the authorities. e-Panchayats help the authorities use ICT to do the job efficiently and in a timely manner. Further, it helps create a database of all development programs.
e-Panchayat leads to easy access to information with respect to the function of Panchayats and other services. Citizens can access the internal tasks done by e-panchayats, such as meetings for agenda setting, voting on proposals, the decisions taken and so on. Further, information pertaining to Pensions, BPL food grains, Census data can be provided and also be accessed. Further, it makes dissemination of information faster among all levels within the Panchayats and government departments.
e-Panchayat makes the village local bodies more participatory – women and weaker sections get the opportunity to join in the economic growth process. This leads to equitable and inclusive growth. Information becomes available to all with respect to social services/schemes without bureaucratic interference.
Rural development has always been the foremost priority of all governments and this reflects in the various policy initiatives adopted by the government. The e-Panchayat MMM project under NeGP is contributing to accelerate the process of services delivery to the citizens, and leads to people playing a critical role in their own growth.