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Chandigarh: Two rounds of digitisation and now a third, but glitches remain

In 2004-05, the Chandigarh Administration had announced digitisation of files with the estate office to reduce public interface. In a tie-up with Bank of India, an agency was hired to digitise around 60,000 files. However, the work was left midway.

Written by Hina Rohtaki | Chandigarh |
February 13, 2021 9:34:12 am
Graveyard of Files: ‘Estate office needs major overhaul’Only digitisation of files won’t help rein in corruption in the estate office. (File photo)

WHILE THE UT estate office had claimed that digitisation would rein in corruption and work easier for people, not many would know that digitisation of the estate office’s files has been done twice since 2005 and is being done for the third time.

Residents hope that this time, the digitisation will put an end to the hassles people are facing with this office for decades now.

In 2004-05, the Chandigarh Administration had announced digitisation of files with the estate office to reduce public interface. In a tie-up with Bank of India, an agency was hired to digitise around 60,000 files. However, the work was left midway.

In 2011 again, Administration announced fresh digitisation of files, for which they allocated a Rs 2 crore budget. This was done to digitise around 70,000-odd files. Then assistant estate officer Hargunjit Kaur announced that “they have set in motion the process and the entire exercise will take about six months”.

It was claimed that the digitised record had every detail of the property, including the allotment number; date of possession; date of conversion; history of payments; stamp duty amount; deed execution; sale criteria; property type and percentage of share in the property. A statement issued that time stated, “Besides facilitating people to access details of their property records at the click of mouse, it will enable the estate office to rein in corruption; contain overcrowding; complaints of missing documents from files.”

It took four years to decide on the graphics and in 2015, work began. Sources said that a lobby in the estate office was resisting the digitisation of files all these years — for different reasons.

However, in 2015, work began with a Delhi-based company getting the work for about Rs 1.5 crore. Scanning of 70,000 files was done using scanners set up on the second floor of the estate office in Sector 17. It was said that the work was completed but certain issues in storage were cropping up.

After already spending a humongous amount in the past, now, digitisation of files has begun again afresh — that is all 70,000 files are being digitized again. Sources said that half the work has been completed and Rs 1.5 crore more has been spent as of now. Senior officials said that this digitization is different from the previous process.

However, faults continue to appear in the data. Many people complained that the online system also showed resumption of property while it wasn’t resumed.

HOW IS THIS DIGITISATION DIFFERENT FROM PREVIOUS ONES

Chandigarh Deputy Commissioner Mandip Singh Brar said that in this project, even transactions would be done online, thereby reducing public interface with the officials.

“In the previous digitisation, there were certain gaps. Now, documents will be verified online itself by the clerk and a system of digital signatures has been introduced. This would reduce public interface with the office completely,” Brar said.

It was said that the work will be completed by June-July this year. The estate office initiated the process of fresh digitisation of its record and services on August 15, 2020. NIC has been made the nodal agency for technological development of the software and its implementation.

It is said that citizens will be able to track the movement of their files online and they will be intimated on their registered mobile numbers about every updation in the record, this time.

IS DIGITIZATION HELPFUL FOR COMMON MAN?

U K Batra, a 75-year-old architect whose files are stuck with the SDO buildings branch, says that digitisation is of no use to a common man as officials put some or the other clause or keep your file stuck at one level so that you are compelled to visit their office.

He cited an example of online building plan approvals launched some time ago. “I submitted online building plans under self certification and as per the system, it stands approved. Now, they did not intimate me anything further on it. When my attendant visited the office, they accepted the payment of almost Rs 3 lakh manually. Now, the system is also asking for an online payment. So the same issue is going on a parallel basis. They confuse you to such an extent that you are compelled to go around in circles for something that is going on online. There are many glitches,” he said.

Batra added, “Unless there is accountability of fixing of responsibility, this online system or digitisation wont work. Digitisation will help only the officials find a particular record, not the common man. The common man will check online that his file is at this official’s table but to move it, he will have to visit the clerk. For example, in one of plot’s case, the file is showing online with building assistant since November 13, 2019, and hasn’t moved from there since then. It is only until I go to his office that things will move.”

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