Maharashtra Finance Minister, Sudhir Mungantiwar, presented the state’s budget for 2017-18 with an emphasis on the need for bringing transparency to governance. He stated that integrating technology in the existing governance structure is one of the best ways to achieve this objective. Allocations to e-governance initiatives and technology enabled schemes have seen an exponential increase in this year’s budget.
E-Governance expenditure gets a boost
The FM stated that the sue of IT is a great tool to increase responsiveness of Government and to meet day to day needs of people who interact with Government.
- The FM increased the allocation for state IT directorate to Rs. 200 Crore from Rs. 8 crore. The increased allocation is expected to help the department in taking up projects like upgradation of State Data Centers (SDCs), Direct Bank Transfers (DBTs) portal, initiation of new citizen facing portals, provision of technically skilled manpower and cyber security initiatives. This is probably the first time that securing state IT projects finds a direct mention in the budget
- While mentioning that Maharashtra is the first state to notify the Maharashtra Aadhar enabled Services Act, 2016, the FM declared that the state has decided to directly transfer various benefits to the citizens and target groups through DBT route in as many as 62 categories of benefits
- A new project for provisioning POS machines at ration shops of the Food and Civil Supplies department will be undertaken to enable them to do cashless transactions
- Rs. 47 crores has been allotted to a pilot project of re-measuring of lands in six districts and digitizing these entries for future. Also, Rs. 33.66 crores has been allotted to the Transport Commissioner for digitization programs
Smart Cities and Villages too!
Maharashtra is the state with the highest number of cities shortlisted for center’s Smart City initiative with as many as 7 cities getting shortlisted after two rounds. The provisions for undertaking Urban Development projects have found prime space in the budget.
- Rs. 1600 has been allotted for undertaking projects under the Smart City initiative in Pune, Solapur, Kalyan-Dombivali, Nagpur, Nashik, Thane and Aurangabad
- Under the AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation), 1870 crore has been allotted for basic infrastructure such as water supply, sewage, urban transport, and green spaces in urban areas
- A new scheme for ‘Smart’ villages (Smart Gram Yojana) was launched last November. The budget saw an allocation Rs. 53.80 crores to facilitate a reward scheme for villages at taluka and district levels. It is expected that this will encourage the village administration to initiate e-governance projects at village level.
- The budget speech also had a mention of laying optical fibre network to 28,000 villages without any details about money allotted for this project
While announcing tax concessions, the FM proposed scrapping VAT on card swiping machines (13.5% at present) with an aim to nudge cashless transactions.
It would be interesting to see if implementation of digitization initiatives actually helps in bringing about transparency in governance and makes the administration more efficient. Past experiences with e-governance initiatives show that such initiatives tend to be vendor driven instead of being citizen centric, continuing with such models will make it difficult for citizens to partake the most from them.