There has been a change of guard at the state. On 28 November 2019, Uddhav Thackeray assumed office of the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Shiv Sena, fifty-three years after its founding, a Thackerey was sworn in to assume the top office as the leader of Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance. Amid slogans of “Shiv Sene-cha saga ala” (the Shive Sena’s tiger has arrived), Uddhav stood to take oath in a saffron kurta, red tilak on his forehead and said, “I take this oath after offering respect to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and in the memory of my parents Balasaheb and Meenatai Thackerey.”
He has inherited several accolades and achievements from past as much as a slowing economy, farm distress and an overall infrastructure development of cities like Mumbai and Pune as often criticised as something that has kept investors coming into the state, at bay. The state makes headlines more for politics than for its economy or governance.
Thackeray has outlined “Mumbai 2030 vision” that seeks to make India’s financial capital slum-free through ensuring housing for all. “To make Mumbai slum-free, certain policy decisions have to be taken. For affordable housing in the city, SRA, MHADA, urban development department and BMC now work together; instead we should think for a single planning authority for Mumbai,” he said during his first visit to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) office after becoming the Chief Minister.
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However, the wheels of change grind slowly but surely when it comes to Maharashtra. Over the years, the state has been a consistent reformer as it opened up sectors and eased regulations for businesses to come in. At the same time, it has set up cells for monitoring ease of business in the state, which has proven useful in avoiding a feedback loop and getting things done on the ground.
Maharashtra is now at the forefront in using modern technology for improving governance. The state has taken a number of initiatives to make public service delivery more transparent and efficient. Commendable efforts have been taken in Municipal Governance, Urban Development and Rural Development segments. This led to a significant improvement in Maharashtra’s ranking in the annual SKOCH State of Governance report. With 50 projects Maharashtra stands at the second spot, only next to Gujarat. In 2018, Maharashtra was ranked at eighth position.
Maharashtra also topped the Urban Development category with four projects. Two of them were adjudged highly impactful. Although in terms of the number of projects Andhra Pradesh was ahead with six projects, Maharashtra topped due to the impact of the projects. Chhattisgarh was at the third position in Urban Development category with four projects.
The country’s largest state economy is expected to remain sluggish due to poor agricultural and manufacturing growth. Deficient rainfall and unfavourable Monsoon has hit agricultural growth in recent years. The agriculture and allied activities are estimated to grow at 0.4 per cent in 2018-19 against a negative 8.3 per cent in the previous year. As per the Economic Survey of Maharashtra 2018-19, the state economy is estimated to grow by 7.5 per cent during 2018-19, while the Indian economy is expected to grow by 6 per cent. Industry and Services sectors are expected to grow by 6.9 per cent and 9.2 per cent, respectively. As per the advance estimates, nominal (at current prices) Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) for 2018-19 is expected to be Rs 26,60,318 crore and real (at constant 2011-12 prices) GSDP is expected to be Rs 20,88,835 crore.
Maharashtra’s contribution to India’s nominal GDP is highest at 14.4 per cent. Per capita income in Maharashtra is estimated at Rs 1,91,827 in 2018-19, which is 8.9 per cent higher from the previous year. Maharashtra has taken a number of initiatives to improve service delivery at the grassroots level. More than 100 projects and schemes from Maharashtra were carefully studied. Out of these 50 were shortlisted for final evaluation and assessment. A large number of these projects were found to be highly impactful and has the potential to be replicated in other parts of the country. These projects range from municipal governance and urban development to rural development.
Under the MahaPariksha scheme examination process for recruitment for government jobs has been fully automated. It integrates various department recruitments through a single online portal. The portal offers end-to-end recruitment facilities ranging from candidate registration with integrated online payment option to hall ticket generation, results and other test related updates. Computer-based test ensures that all examination activities are conducted under the strict surveillance of CCTVs and in the presence of trained proctors. Exam systems are designed to minimise the chances of malpractices with efficient system designs like in-center registration with photo capturing and recognition, randomisation of questions and displaying only one question at a time. All data transfers are enabled in a highly encrypted mode with no possibility of breach. The project emphasises on a system driven approach where manual intervention in overall process has been brought down to minimal. The project is implemented by Maharashtra Information Technology Corporation Ltd.
Mumbai Fire Brigade has launched a programme on enhancement of emergency response. The Brigade has introduced a mission “Emergency Enhancement Programme“, which is based on preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation. To achieve this mission, the Programme for the Enhancement of Emergency Response was introduced for achieving optimum use of available resources in the short-term and at the same time initiate a long-term transformation process in the area of infrastructure, capacity building, communication for better command and control, enforcement and awareness.
Fire Chief, Prabhat Rahangdale said, with an objective to minimise the response time, the Mumbai Fire Brigade has set up mini fire stations, equipped with fire motorcycles and mini fire engine. Mini fire stations are set up on priority in the areas which are densely populated and have narrow lane.
Caste Validity Committee
Caste Validity Committee acts as a nodal agency to provide citizens with services related to caste certificates. It acts as a watchdog to safeguard the interests of marginalised by eliminating the false and bogus applications.
Direct Benefit Transfer
Maharashtra government has launched pan-state Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) and Services portal as a single platform for an end-to-end online workflow for Aadhaar-based DBT. In this portal, Aadhaar number is being used as the primary identifier. At the time of registration, the portal requires the applicant to enter his/her Aadhaar number as the first field. On successful authentication (using biometric or OTP route), the demographic data available with the Aadhaar repository (date of birth, address, gender) is automatically ported into the application database. There is no need for the individual to enter any additional details.
The portal has been developed on an Enterprise Architecture Framework with the basic principle that the government will not ask for any information from a citizen that any Department or agency of the government has. The portal ensures that a ledger of any beneficiary based on Aadhaar number being created based on the information regarding all benefits, schemes and subsidies availed by the individual. The state government has identified around 300 services, amongst which 40 services have been taken up in Phase I, which was launched in August 2018.
Regularisation of Encroached Government Land
With a view to ensure housing to marginalised section of the society, Maharashtra’s Rural Development Department has taken measures to regularise encroached government land in Gram Panchayats. To ensure transparency in the system the government has implemented a web based system to enable data entry of Village Form 8, identification of properties on encroached land, and fee calculation of processing of applications for regularisation of all encroached land (Gaothan and non Gaothan land) in Gram Panchayats. Under this project, regularisation of all encroached land in the Gram Panchayat which are mentioned in Village Form-8 (A) for the years 2000 & 2011 shall be considered.
Governance Goes Online
With an objective to improve the quality of roads and their maintenance, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) has started online monitoring of work on trenches across the city. A dug up road is expected to be restored to its original condition within seven days after the trenching activity ends. But many contractors don’t follow this or end up doing a shabby job that results in bad patches. It also reduces the life span of the road because water penetrates through these patches and the road structure gets damaged. To minimise the impact of trenches, the BMC has launched an initiative under which all works are monitored through an online process, said Sharad Ughade, Director IT, MCGM
Hospital Information Management System (HMIS) has led to a significant reduction in the turnaround time making the patient care services quick and efficient. It enables tracking the drugs inventory for all hospitals under MCGM’s jurisdiction thus facilitating and better planning of distribution and availability of medicines across all medical institutions under the preview of the Corporation.
With a view to provide seamless services to the citizens of Mumbai, MCGM has launched an initiative called MCGM 24*7 mobile platform to provide services like property tax payment; water bill payment; license renewal; lodging complaint and toilet locator are provided through mobile applications.
The MCGM has introduced a system to provide online permission related to organisation of important festivals like Ganpati and Navratri. All the permissions are provided through a single platform. This has been integrated with the payment gateway, making the payment process hassle-free. Permission and receipt copy is mailed to the applicant on respective email IDs. There is no need to take NOC separately from Local Police Station & Traffic Division to erect Pandals.
Property Tax Reforms
In a major step towards property tax reforms, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department has launched a drive to provide Property Cards to nearly 1.4 crore households in rural Maharashtra.GIS and drone survey technology is being used to ensure that the Property Cards are only issued to genuine people. This is the first of its kind initiative in the country. The initiative has proved very helpful in resolution of property disputes and ownership rights and benefiting the Gram Panchayat in reforming and including all assessed properties in taxation process. Through this scheme, the Government seeks to provide rural citizens with a basic right of ownership.
Maharashtra Real Estate Regulatory Authority has been the pioneer in implementation of the provisions of the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 (RERA). It is the first Authority to have a complete website and online portal for all the services that it provides to all the stakeholders across Maharashtra. It is the first Authority in real estate regulation to provide: online portal for registration of projects; online registration of agents; online complaint filing; conciliation forum for dispute resolution; a permanent Appellate Authority with online portal for filing appeals; and GIS based project mapping.
Apart from this, MahaRERA has been able to register more than 19,000 projects, 18,000 agents, 5,600 complaints, 600 appeals and 600+ conciliation requests. Moreover, it has been able to resolve more than 67 per cent of complaints, 50 per cent of appeals and 90 per cent of conciliations, said Gautam Chatterjee, Chairperson, MahaRERA, adding that it has taken initiatives to provide training to all its stakeholders in various parts of Maharashtra including the rural areas.
Online payment to Panchayat Employees
Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department has introduced online payment system for Gram Panchayat employees. Under the new system introduced in collaboration with HDFC Bank, salary of Gram Panchayat level employees is now credited directly in their bank accounts. While online salary transfer is quite common for private sector and government employees, implementing it at the Gram Panchayat level is, indeed, a commendable effort. Gram Panchayat employees include Shipai, Diwabattai, Panipurawtha Karmachari, Lipik, Wasuli Karkun and Safai Kamgar. Maharashtra has 34 districts with 351 blocks and almost 28,000 Gram Panchayat. More than 48,000 employees working for the Gram Panchayats in the state benefit from the initiative.
PPP Rental Housing
MMRDA has introduced rental housing project under Public Private Partnership (PPP) model to ensure access of housing for low-paid workers and people from economically weaker section. It seeks to make available a self-contained dwelling unit of 160 sq ft/320 sq ft carpet area on leave and license basis in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) within the financial reach of Economically Weaker Section (EWS) and Low Income Group (LIG) at an affordable rent. Rental housing scheme is a self-sustainable project where no initial funds/investment is required from the government, said Pradeep Yadav, MMRDA.
Project Management System (PMS)
Maharashtra has digitised the entire manual process for construction works undertaken by Zilla Parishads. The system tracks the entire life-cycle of work right from estimation stage to billing. The system facilitates viewing of status of projects to decision makers at state level thereby enabling assessment of coverage of projects for the rural population under various schemes. The system has been a remarkable step in promoting ease-of-doing-business with vendors/contractors. The implementation of system has enabled elimination of process gaps, slippages, errors due to manual interventions, with an audit trail maintained in system.
Project Management System (PMS) has been designed in such a way that it eliminates slippages, process gaps and enables faster administrative approvals and escalations. It has brought in more transparency with a consolidated analytical dashboard to determine the status and progress of projects aiding to monitoring and comparison of projects within a scheme and across schemes. Audit trail and use of digital signatures makes this a fool-proof system.
Thane Municipal Corporation has introduced a project called DigiThane, a digital ecosystem for providing better services to the citizen. It provides G2C, B2C and C2C services to the citizens of Thane. It has registered more than 1.5 lakh households, helping them interact with the Municipality through more than 6 lakh interactions, availing municipal services and making payments online, taking part in governance through digital surveys, providing alerts regarding water, traffic, disaster etc.
Maharashtra will continue to perform and lead the way for the rest of the country in improving governance and fuelling the economy. The only thing it should probably watch out for is to not get either too ambitious or too complacent by resting on its laurels. However, with a reformist government at the helm, it’s more than likely to achieve its goals ahead of time.