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‘Panchkula will get more technology-enabled services,’ says Deputy Commissioner

As the Panchkula district administration completes 20 years of its existence, its Deputy Commissioner speaks about the development projects, the problems that the district continues to face.

Written by Srishti Choudhary | Panchkula |
Updated: August 3, 2015 4:36:47 am
Panchkula-dy-commissioner75 Panchkula Deputy Commissioner Vivek Atray. (Source: Express photo by Sumit Malhotra)

What were the top agendas when you took charge as the Deputy Commissioner (DC) in November 2014?

When I took over as the DC, I knew that this district was different from all other 20 districts of the state. Panchkula has more shades of being a state capital than a district. Among the top agendas was striving for efficiency in dealing with the protocol and capital-related issues. Right from the beginning, we worked out a strategy that if the Governor, the CM or some minister came here, then there would be a state-level function. However, we made sure that if some of the top police personnel were busy in attending these functions, some police officials were free to do their work.

The next agenda was to get the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) and the Municipal Corporation (MC) to work together and also to define their areas properly. Also, it was to get HUDA to do a little more than they were doing because they had already handed over the responsibility of major portions of the city to the MC.

Has the proximity to Chandigarh been an advantage or a disadvantage to Panchkula ?

Proximity to Chandigarh is obviously an advantage because people who would have otherwise settled in Chandigarh found another avenue. The layout of Panchkula, although not linear like Chandigarh, is largely similar. The sectors have their markets, schools and health centres. So, each sector is like a unit in Panchkula also.

But the disadvantage is that if the level of services does not commensurate with the requirements, then expectations are not going to be met. Our MC is under-staffed. The police, too, for instance, have only a 1,000-odd personnel. We need at least 3,000. Now, in Chandigarh, the police to public ratio is much higher. So, the traffic policing is much better. At each traffic light there is someone to monitor the traffic. You can get challaned very easily and therefore, people are more rule-bound.

You were formerly Director,IT, with the Chandigarh Administration. How do you plan to bring Panchkula on the IT platform? There is an IT park here on the lines of Chandigarh. But it’s not that popular.

In Chandigarh, when I was the Director, IT, there was very little ‘governmentalisation’ of IT. The IT Ministry in Delhi also did not really exist that time. There were initiatives being undertaken by Hyderabad and Bangalore, and, we in Chandigarh, started replicating those. We had some ideas in Chandigarh, we had a boss, Mr Karan Avtar Singh, then General Jacob was the Governor. Then we started e-sampark centres. Even today, they are doing very well, they are popular. For example, when we started off with six services, we did not have to take permission from anyone. We started rolling out electricity bills, senior citizens’ card, bus passes, so people instead of going to government offices started visiting the e-sampark centres. Instead of waiting in unending queues, there were more windows that were open from 8 am to 8 pm.

But, in the last 10 years, the government has come up with a lot of IT-based schemes, and laid down as to how government services centres are to be set up. They have to follow certain norms, they can charge only a certain amount of fee, and they can offer only certain services. So, it has become very straight-jacketed.

So, you cannot start programmes on your own?

Yes. There are norms laid down for the Common Service Centres (CSCs). We have to do what everyone else is doing. However, we can innovate to some extent. For example, we would like that Panchkula residents can pay electricity bills at the CSCs. But, for that, we need approval from the government. What we can do at our level we are doing. For instance, we have a mobile app that facilitates communication between the general public and top police personnel as well as the MC. So, if there is something urgent, people can drop a message on the app and we respond. 

We will also start a payment gateway-related function shortly, which will allow people to pay bills from home. This facility was recently introduced by the Chandigarh Administration.

Panchkula, unlike Chandigarh, has more than 500 villages. In a scenario where most of the services that you are planning to launch have an online version, how are you planning to promote Internet usage in the villages?

We have focused a lot on the rural areas. There are some CSCs set up in the rural areas, and there is a national optic fibre network that is being set up in all the villages of Haryana. In Panchkula district, we started with the Barwala block where we have a national fibre optic network that has a good bandwidth. Also, we have tie-ups with Infosys and the Indian School of Business to provide online education facilities to girl students. Infosys will also set up a computer laboratory at Moginand village.

Recently, after Panchkula lost the race for securing the status of smart city, local MLA Gian Chand Gupta pointed out that there was a lack of co-ordination between the senior-level officers and the departments, be it HUDA, MC or the DC office. What do you have to say about that?

I do not think there is a lack of co-ordination at all. The application for smart city was not sent out on time as there was no MC Commissioner then.

However, the post is no longer vacant and I have asked the new Commissioner to submit a report on the delay. When I went to Sector 2 to attend a public grievances redressal session, representatives from all the departments were there.

Although the MC is a little weak in terms of staffing, co-ordination has never been a problem.

Would you enlist three key areas of concern in Panchkula? What are you now looking forward to do?

I would like to provide more online facilities, more services at CSCs, and improve e-Disha centres. We have increased the working hours, and number of windows from 12 to 24. We had some problem with the High Security Number Plates (HSRPs), and it continues to exist, but it is beyond our control as the Transport Commissioner is dealing with it. I would like to bring these facilities in areas like Kalka, Raipur Rani, Barwala and Pinjore. There also, the offices of MC, Tehsil and Block Development Officers should be similarly efficient.

Next in line would be to improve the quality of services that the MC offers. The key areas include maintenance of cleanliness, tackling problems of stray dogs and monkeys, sound road repair work, and curbing water wastage.

The third would entail boosting the Aadar Samman project for the elderly, the music and art culture society, Pancham, and rural initiatives with ISB, improving the girl child ratio, and promoting education, especially among girls.

What can the residents expect from the administration in the coming few months?

More-technology enabled service delivery, and they can hope for better services from the MC. Rural citizens can hope for developmental works after September as per the Panchayati Raj schemes. They can also hope for better education and healthcare. In healthcare, Panchkula is actually number one in the state.

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