The Union Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR) has made it mandatory to implement the e-panchyaat system containing 11 Panchayat Enterprise Suit (PES) applications throughout India. The system was introduced in 2006, and Haryana began implementing it in 2010. Until now, only 60 per cent of the state’s village panchayats have adopted the system, and not all of its 11 applications. Now, the state government wants all villages on board e-panchayat. The Development and Panchayat Department, Haryana, has fixed April 1 as the deadline for this. Earlier this week, thousands of sarpanches and panchayat members gathered in Panchkula to protest against the move. The next day, the government suspended nine panchayat secretaries, who are appointed by the government, for participating in the protest. Saurabh Prashar looks at what the system is, and the opposition to it.
Exactly how many villages in Haryana have gone digital?
According to government numbers, 3,638 of the state’s 6,204 panchayats have adopted e-Panchayat. The maximum number of applications adopted in the state is eight, but not all panchayats that are on board e-Panchayat have adopted all eight.
What happens on April 1?
The government wants all panchayats to adopt all 11 applications by the start of the new financial year.
So far, the eight applications in use are Local Government Directory, Area Profiler, Plan Plus, PRIAsoft, Actionsoft, National Asset Directory, Training Management and National Panchayat Portal. The Local Government Directory maps panchayats with assembly and parliamentary constituencies with a unique code. Area profiler captures geographic, demographic, infrastructural, socio-economic and natural resources profile of a village/panchayat. Plan Plus helps Panchayats, Urban Local Bodies and line departments in preparing perspective, annual and action Plans. PRIASoft captures receipt and expenditure details through voucher entries and automatically generates cash book and registers. ActionSoft facilitates monitoring of physical and financial outcomes/outputs under various programmes. National Asset Directory captures details of assets created/maintained; helps avoid duplication of works. Training Management is a portal to address training needs of stakeholders including citizens, their feedback and training materials. And National Panchayat Portal, a web site for each Panchayat to share information in public domain.
The three that need to be implemented now are ServicePlus, Social Audit and Meeting Management (SAMM), and Geographic Information System (GIS). ServicePlus is metadata-based service delivery portal to help in providing electronic delivery of all services in all States. SAMM captures all details about the meetings held at the level of zila panchayats, block panchayats and gram panchayats and prepares reports for social audit. GIS is a special layer to view all data generated by all Applications on a GIS map.
The work has been completed in at least five districts — Yamunanagar, Mewat, Rewari, Sirsa and Faridabad. Yamunanagar was the first district, in which all 11 PES applications were implemented.
Why are sarpanches protesting?
Sarpanches, panchayat members and even panchayat secretaries, who are government officials, are up in arms, saying that e-panchayat system is slowing down development work in their villages as the system allows only two supplementaries to the development plans of a village. Also, that it does not allow panchayats to make immediate cash payments to workers carrying out development works. Another objection is that there is no awareness about the system, nor are people trained for it. They are also saying there is no proper infrastructure, such as room and furniture to keep the computer, nor do they even have computers
What is the government saying to this?
The state government says it is trying to introduce provisions for three supplementaries to the development plans for every village in the second, third and fourth quarters of the financial year, plus provision for additional emergency supplementary. It says the fears of not being able to make prompt cash payments are unfounded as e-panchayat enables generation of vouchers for withdrawal of money from banks, and payment vouchers. The government also maintains that adequate training is being given to computer operators, and that laptops have been distributed as well as furniture.
Another official said that it was not so much the applications but the bank integration of one of the applications, PRIYASoft (Panchayati Raj Institutions Accounting Software), from April 1, that the panchayats were opposing. “As PRIYASoft, which keeps a track of the in-flow (receipts) and out- flow (expenditure), becomes bank integrated, Panchayats will have to make entry on the website of expenditure and the bank, from which grant was released, will also make the entry of the releasing of money for the specific work in the system. It will bring transparency in the system.”
What if the panchayats do not comply with the April 1 deadline?
According to the government, the gram panchayats that do not implement e-panchayat by April 1 will have financial powers only to the extent of Rs 10 lakh, while participating panchyats will get the enhanced financial powers of up to Rs 20 lakh. Further, all 11 applications will be applied to the development works to be taken up in the new financial year. Only existing development proposals can be completed without all 11 applications. Panchayats who are not participating in the e-panchayat system will not be eligible for ‘performance grant’ from the Centre.
The government has also said that sarpanches alone could not take the decision not to participate in e- panchayat. Such a decision has to come in the form of a panchayat resolution, endorsed by a resolution of the Gram Sabha.
Why is the implementation necessary?
The Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoRP) and Ministry of Finance has conveyed to state governments that annual grant for the rural development will be released only when e-panchyat system is implemented fully in the state. Haryana has 6,204 gram panchayats, 126 block panchayats and 21 zila panchayats. As per senior officers of Development and Panchayats Department Haryana, the system will bring transparency and there will be minimum chances of embezzlement and bungling. It will empower
ordinary citizens to know and monitor development works in their village. According to the nodal officer, e-panchayat system, Veenus Nathalia, from April 1, the system will become bank integrated. For instance, once a voucher of a development work gets uploaded on the website, it will show how much money was withdrawn from the bank for the work. Nathalia says once the system is implemented fully, there will no need to file RTIs seeking details of expenditure on the development works on the panchayat level as everything will be available on the website.
How many states have implemented all 11 PES applications of e-panchayat system?
As per the website of The Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR), there is hardly any state and UT, which has implemented all 11 applications. Kerala is one of the states, which has implemented Social Audit and Meeting Management (SAMM) application of e-panchayat. Punjab has implemented seven PES applications of e-panchayat. Rajasthan has implemented nine. Among UTs, Chandigarh, has implemented only one PES application. Some of the states have adopted applications under different names. Like, Telangana has adopted Service Plus application changing its name as Mee Seva. Rajasthan is following this application with the name of e-Mitra. In Maharashtra, it is called SangramSoft.