If a resident of a village in Narmada district faces delay in the arrival of subsidised rations in Fair Price Shop,he can simply take out his mobile phone,type “ration not arrived in shop,along with the name of his taluka and send an SMS to 99-04-70-55-55. His complaint will be codified by a team sitting at the district headquarters on the basis of which of the 15 government departments it concerns. The SMS will be then forwarded to a server,following which the complainant will get an acknowledgment SMS containing registration number which he can later use to check the status of his complaint.
But given that the tribal-dominated district bordering Maharashtra has low mobile phone penetration only around 40,000 out of the 5.9 lakh population own a mobile phone of their own the person registering his complaint may have borrowed the mobile phone of his fellow villager for the purpose or have called in a volunteer to help him out.
While the ambitious initiative of the district collectorate,called Mission Jagruti, depends heavily on the use of mobile phone by the citizens,phone penetration,poor network connection in remote regions,and a lack of understanding on how to use the system pose a challenge to district collectorate officials who are now making an extra effort to get the initiative working. They are also changing the way it functions to suit the need of the tribal citizens.
While citizens were earlier required to send SMS along with one of the 170 codes formulated for the purpose,such as DelayFPS which stands for problem of delay in a fair-price shop,the codification is now done by a trained team which does so based on the nature of the complaint. Also,a team of volunteers are being trained across the district who could help people without a mobile phone in registering complaints.
Considering that citizens may not be able to recall codes when registering their complaints,we have now decided to make the SMS open-ended. Citizens can now send a simple SMS about the problem which will then be codified by our team for further action, collector Rakesh Shankar said.
Citizens are being educated on how to monitor quality of services offered by the government and report cases of quality lapses or their unavailability. They are also being trained on how to use the SMS. While not every citizen has a mobile phone of his own,40,000 mobile phones across 550 villages is not a low number. So far,we have trained 3,000 people,including volunteers from rural areas,on how to use the system. The volunteers can help others in registering the complaint, Shankar added.
The government departments covered under the scheme include Anganwadi,Municipality,Panchayat,MDM Centres,hospitals Janseva Kendra,Fair Price Shops,gas agencies,ST buses,primary,secondary and higher secondary schools. The mechanism covers issues such as no breakfast in Anganwadi Kendra,less teachers in the college,no beds in community health centre,closed fair price shop,no bus in state transport,bad teaching in higher secondary school,delay in treatment at hospital.