With eastern India now boasting of infrastructural development, the states across this region are all gearing up for major infrastructural projects specially in IT, telecom and communications sector. As the BFSI sector is witnessing a period of stagnancy in the East with no major expansion plans, the IT sector is enjoying patronage by the state governments here.
E-governance has now evolved as the new mantra for state governments in the East following the successful implementation of these projects in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and others. In the East, Bihar and West Bengal are the two states which are emerging strong in this arena with Bengal already having stronger infrastructure and human capital base within it's periphery.
Covering 210 gram panchayats across all 19 districts in West Bengal, the state has taken up initiatives to draw in more IT capabilities in the upcountry market also while the state capital, Kolkata and the port-city Haldia, features among the hub for the primary IT installations and development. The project spans across 1,250 blocks with two deployments in every block.
Discussing the emerging opportunities that the Panchayat Raj & Rural Development Department, Govt of West Bengal is stressing on, Ranjit Kr Maiti, Jt Secretary, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department declared that the development avenues open for government investment are concentrated around five sectors. Agriculture has been the primary sector throughout. Now, the state government is heavily stressing on the investment opportunities focused on the growth areas in e-Learning, medical services, the FMCG sector and ETC (entertainment, telecom and communications).
Speaking to Cybermedia, Maiti said, “In the process for e-governance, the central government has already allocated Rs 100 crore for project implementation for e-gov and SAHAY projects (State Action against Hunger and Destitution) spanning across all the 19 districts. We are implementing the latest technologies at our disposal and monitoring them through GPS technology. The e-gov projects have led to decentralized administration and have made the process faster and easier with two site installations at every block.”
Initiating rural employment generation in the state, already over 500 personnel have been employed from the rural areas by the government to man its project sites. Commenting on the status and the prospective of e-gov in Bengal, Maiti commented, “So far, from the Rs 100 crore allocations, Rs 2.6 crore has been used for primary installation orders. We have used 40 percent of the funds for capacity building and the rest has been allotted for deployments covering operational and fixed costs.”
He further stated, “Entrepreneurship in the villages has been low overtime mainly because of lack of initiative and the lack of proper communications, but now they are taking initiatives for learning data entry and operational management at the primary level. Software support has always been provided by the central government and funds were given previously for software project implementations. This has been the first instance that Bengal has received monetary allotment for hardware installation at the district level.”
Presently, the installations are running manually with the programming and the schedule being run by the software Gram Panchayat Management System (GPMS) developed indigenously by Centre for Development of Advanced Computing, Govt of West Bengal. Steadily, the entire e-gov system is heading towards parallel operations with the new software required henceforth is in the stage of testing and improvising with an objective of making the system entirely automatic.
Discussing the infrastructural problems in the rural areas, Maiti said, “Shortage of electricity has been a persistent problem in the rural areas with the problem being acute in south Bengal belt covering the coastal areas and Sunderbans. Also, parts of Purulia and 24 Parganas (South) are the worst affected in this case. For the time being, we are having two UPS sets having a backup of 15 minutes each in every installation, but we are planning to introduce solar power panels in the affected sites for power generation.”