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Govt paper tigers disarmed

MAY 26: How do you reform a die-hard file-pusher? Simple, don't give him any files. The experiment has begun on the fourth floor of Mantral...

Written by Vijay Singh |
May 27, 1997

MAY 26: How do you reform a die-hard file-pusher? Simple, don’t give him any files. The experiment has begun on the fourth floor of Mantralaya’s annexe building in the state higher and technical education department. Termite-ridden dusty old files, paan-stained furniture, rickety typewriters and antiquated cyclostyling machines are being replaced with gleaming terminals, MS-Word, fax machines, modems and yes — the Internet.

The man leading this technology-driven campaign – department’s principal secretary Navjeevan L Lakhanpal – maintains it is aimed at increasing his department’s efficiency. “As per the state government’s policy, this is the first step towards a paperless office.”

This first step will cost the state exchequer Rs 81 lakh. And if it succeeds in achieving its aim, it is likely to be replicated in other departments also. In fact, simultaneously the Public Works Department is also undergoing a similar change.

But can technology change a man’s mental make-up? “Fortunately for us, none of our 150 staffers have shown any kind of computer-phobia and have responded positively to this change. In fact, all of them have undergone a month-long computer orientation course at Veermata Jeejabai Technological Institute (VJTI) in Matunga,” said O S Bihade, Joint Secretary, Higher and Technical Education.

Interestingly, the officials did not have to look far for technical expertise. A project team of four VJTI professors and around ten engineering students were more than happy to oblige. “It was somewhat challenging for us to build a software for this department as it had to be Marathi-friendly. However, every hurdle was systematically tackled and soon we shall be installing two Intel Pentium pro servers of 200 Megahertz frequency and 256 Megabytes of memory worth Rs 10 lakh; in addition we also have a Compact Diskserver that can play 8 CDs at a time,” said Dr S S Mantha and Prof Shrinivas Iyengar of VJTI, who have been at it since October last year. Their brief was divided into three broad areas — ready reference of government resolutions, registration of incoming and outgoing documents and the official work-flow aimed at eliminating the long delays.

A total of 60 terminals and 25 printers will link all the staffers – including Lakhanpal. And he will now be able to monitor on his screen exactly what his subordinates are doing. One positive outcome of the change is already visible. With bulky racks and almirahas out, there’s more natural light coming in.

Whether the new environment will lift the babu to a new level of efficiency, however, remains to be seen.

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