The Maharashtra government will bring in a digital revolution by connecting all its 28,000 gram panchayats in 36 districts by 2017-18 to open the world to rural Maharashtra. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has taken up the uphill task with a strict timeline to give a boost to core sectors like primary and secondary education, health and agriculture.
The chief minister-led war room will regularly monitor the digital Maharashtra project. Along with the nodal department of ministry of information technology and telecommunications, at least five major ministries have been told to simultaneously expedite their projects across rural sectors.
At internal meetings, Fadnavis, however, cautioned his team that the digital revolution needs to be adequately backed by stronger infrastructure in the core sectors of health, education and the agriculture departments to serve its larger objectives.
Fadnavis said, “Digital Maharashtra is going to be a reality as we work towards smart cities and smart villages. Our endeavour is to bring development in all sectors across the state. The grampanchayats are going to be nodes, through which the digital revolution along with infrastructure would be strengthened to provide better health services, education, agriculture and security.”
The success of the pilot project, launched in Nagpur three months ago, has paved the way for replicating the model in other gram panchayats. In chief minister’s home town, 776 grampanchayats have executed the project to make Nagpur the first digitally smart district of Maharashtra.
The technology involves laying of optical fibre connectivity. In the pilot project at Nagpur, 4-Mbps connectivity with WiFI has been installed facilitating e-health, e-education and e-marketing.
Reckoning that the digital revolution will bring in new challenges as demands for better services in core sectors will multiply, the chief minister has decided to shortlist five critical mega-projects in the core ministries to keep pace with the digital revolution.
The finance ministry has already drawn a list and set aside 35,000 crore to tackle projects related to socio-economy. Sources revealed, “The ministry of tribal welfare has a provision for allocating five per cent of its budget for development work in gram panchayats. So, there is no need to provide additional allocations.”
Similarly, the ministry of health and education can avail of the resources set aside for upgrading its infrastructure in rural sectors.
Fadnavis has laid greater thrust on better services in primary healthcare and primary and secondary school education across 40,000 villages. The concept of tele-medicine or tele-education will have to be adequately backed at the village levels to bring a better outcome, he said.
A senior officer, citing an example, said, “Once the villages get digitised, we can impart quality education both academic and vocational”” Already, the department of IT is working with private organisations to integrate 32 ITI institutions with industrial sectors, for knowledge-sharing and to resolve employment problems of youths.
To ensure that no district is left out of digital Maharashtra, a dedicated team has been constituted to address the concerns of tribal villages in distant hilly terrains. While beginning the project from the epicentre of malnourishment, Harisal (Maleghat), Fadnavis directed his team to extend the digital project to all tribal belts to bring them into the mainstream of development.