Millennium Post

The future is here!

Through presentations on vibrant subjects to the PM, Assistant Secretaries from ‘17 IAS batch displayed their preparedness in shaping the new India

The future is here!

Eight excellent presentations were made by the Assistant Secretaries – all officers of the 2017 batch of the IAS – to the Prime Minister during their valediction program on October 1 in New Delhi. These officers had been posted for three months to 58 departments/ministries of the Government of India on the completion of their professional training at LBS National Academy of Administration. Their presentations covered a very wide range of subjects such as crowdfunding for higher education (Boond Boond se Vidyasagar); hand-holding for start-ups in defence, also called Innovations for excellence in Defence (IDEX); Credit Linked Subsidy Scheme for Interest subvention on home loans taken by EWS/LIG/MIG for purchase, construction or enhancement of house (CLAP); a one-stop mobile-application for all the beneficiary schemes (Sahuliyat); E-Darpan: a portal for the Department of Personnel and Training; DigiPath: a path to record all inspections across departments in the country; a single-window system to usher transparency for the coal sector and last but not the least, an application to synchronise and leverage data collection in aspirational districts, thereby making the task less time-consuming but more effective.

Let me describe each of these very briefly. Divya Murugesan's project on crowdfunding for higher education would link students who were meritorious but had limited access to funds for higher education. On the other hand, there were philanthropies, donor organisations, Trusts and NGOs who wanted to fund students, and they could be wanting to support students in a particular field of study/gender/linguistic or geographical affiliation. With the IT exemption under 80G, this would also be a very fair and transparent mechanism for the transfer of funds for a good cause!

Saumya Pandey's IDEX addressed the issue of hand-holding technology entrepreneurs; especially start-ups in the defence industry. They had to be 'embedded' in the ground situation so that the product is very much in sync with the user requirement.

DigiPath by Himanshu Jain is certainly an app whose time has come. After seeing the presentation one wonders why no one thought of it before. This application logs all inspections – of the district, directorate and government officials as well as elected members of Zilla Panchayats, Assembly and Parliament to institutions in the district – from schools to hospitals to ICDS centres, the Krishi Vegan Kendra and the APMC. One can, therefore, draw a comparison of inspection reports of hospitals across the country.

Then we have Sahuliyat, an application designed by Mirant Parikh which matches the socio-economic profiles of individuals with their eligibility of different government schemes. Based on the data related to the demographic status, land holdings and livelihood opportunities in a block, it will self-generate information about the various schemes – subsidy to old-age pensions and a card under Ayushman Bharat.

Governance and data have a close connect but we have not really applied our minds to the relationship between the effort to collect data and its relevance to critical decision-making. Divyank Singh, in his study of aspirational districts, suggests a one-stop solution for data frequency, credibility and utility. This will cut down the paperwork in aspirational districts and give officers more time to focus on action. Likewise, CLAP, designed by Prateek Tayal, will link all stakeholders – banks, government department releasing the subsidy and the individual and also generate the milestones for all payments. Individuals will not have to run to banks the check the status of their loan or repayment.

An application to track applications from the coal industry can cut both time and cost overruns in this crucial sector. After identifying the problems within the existing system, Pravimal Abhishek, Vivek Kumar and Vishram Meena propose a Single Window with a uniform procedure across states, simplifying workflow easy to fill applications, completeness check, end-to-end and auto-generated notifications and cutting down on discretion.

Last, but not the least, there is Sagar Setia's E Darpan – an HR management portal for recruitment, training and matching expertise in domains and competencies with

the profile of the position at hand. Thus, if the government is looking for the CMD of FCI, a profile of all officers who have a degree in management, experience in logistics, procurement, warehousing and agro markets will automatically be generated.

It is both significant and imperative to note that the focus in the PM's programs is on functionality rather than on the format or the language of presentation. While the text of the presentations was in English, the oral address was mostly in Hindi with a lot of acronyms and functional words in English. The Prime Minister, of course, has a wonderful connection with all those present – he broke the ice by sharing his experiences when he first joined as the CM of Gujarat. The point he was making is that one should always have an open and inquisitive mind and a willingness to learn.

In his address, the PM emphasised three key takeaways: the first being that the IAS was a service, not a job and that officers had taken an oath on the constituent to serve the public, that the younger officers were more tech-savvy, ebullient and in sync with the aspirations of the new India, and that while Artificial Intelligence had to be put to use, the natural intelligence, cultural practices and the civilisational values which are endowed in abundance should be leveraged in shaping the new India!

(Dr. Sanjeev Chopra is Director, LBSNAA, Mussoorie, and Honorary Curator, Valley of Words: Literature and Arts Festival, Dehradun. The views expressed are strictly personal)

Sanjeev Chopra

Sanjeev Chopra

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