Govt stumbles back to its feet

Even as the Maharashtra state government starts to rebuild its machinery following Thursday’s inferno that gutted three entire floors of the state’s central secretariat building leaving little more than a blackened shell of the building facade,senior bureaucrats claimed burnt files and records would not hamper governance and routine administration.

Written by Kavitha Iyer | Mumbai | Published:June 23, 2012 4:09 am

Even as the Maharashtra state government starts to rebuild its machinery following Thursday’s inferno that gutted three entire floors of the state’s central secretariat building leaving little more than a blackened shell of the building facade,senior bureaucrats claimed burnt files and records would not hamper governance and routine administration.

Even as lower rung staffers moved into Vidhan Bhavan with borrowed pens and notepads to start their working day,officials said electronic transactions with government departments,7/12 records or land records,details of the rural development plans,sales tax and other e-payment gateways will all continue smoothly.

The Cabinet of ministers will function from their offices in the Vidhan Bhavan building while office space has already been made available for each department – the health department moves to nearby Arogya Bhavan,the energy department moves to the electricity board headquarters and so on.

Nearly one lakh sq ft of office space was made available on Friday evening when the court lifted a status quo order on a disputed property.

The annex building to Mantralaya,which is almost entirely intact except for damage during fire-fighting operations,would also be used as early as possible.

“Alternative information technology systems are being set up,” said IT Secretary Rajesh Agrawal,adding that setting up systems for staff moving to new offices is a top priority. Enough spare machines are available for the immediate term,he said.

All electronic data of the government is also completely safe,officials added. The Mantralaya building did not house a central server – a server is located in the New Administrative Building opposite Mantralaya where several officers are now moving including Chief Secretary J K Banthia while more servers are located in Navi Mumbai,in NIC Pune and NIC Delhi as well as in some private data centers including in Hyderabad. “E-transactions will continue as these happen at the tehsil level – Mantralaya is only for policy,” Agrawal said.

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said on Thursday that 2,72,000 files had been digitised in a process that began two years ago with as many as 3.5 crore pages now scanned and backed up.

Agrawal said they also hope to retrieve data from hard disks they hope to find in the debris in Mantralaya,for which the government has sought help from NIC as well as private agencies including NASSCOM and KPMG. Of 3,500 computers in Mantralaya,2,000 are estimated to be burnt.

Video conferencing facilities were also set up in the alternative control room on Friday.

“The work of reconstructing the physical files is crucial too,” said another senior bureaucrat,who heads a department where all paperwork has been destroyed. “But field offices,divisional offices,etc all have copies of paperwork sent to Mantralaya,so though it’s a time-consuming process,we hope to reconstruct files eventually.”

Another senior bureaucrat in the chief minister’s office said their overnight priority had been to restore the staff’s confidence. Chavan himself said the government’s priority would be to just ensure that government starts to function immediately. “With Saturday and Sunday being holidays,we expect to resume work as usual on Monday,” said the chief minister.

He added that all files pertaining to the crucial Urban Land Ceiling (Regulation) Act are safe too,as are file summary sheets or Green Sheets in the CM’s office.

A top bureaucrat also said work on surveying how many files exactly are missing would begin soon,a fairly straightforward task since the Document Journey Management System which tracks all official files in Mantralaya is still functional.

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