The Jan Soochna Portal (JSP) launched by the government of Rajasthan yesterday is a remarkable achievement in furtherance of the right to information (RTI) — especially Section 4 of the RTI Act — that deals with proactive disclosure of information.
Key features –
Details of every activity of the government such as availability of food grains and ration shops and their distribution, implementation of various schemes and their beneficiaries and a variety of other information are available on a real-time basis virtually making it a Janta Information System.
The portal has been arrived at through a regular and rigorous consultative process between government officials, IT professionals and civil society. Such a process of dialogue should be practised in all spheres to genuinely harness the benefits of information technology.
Since the information is available on the Internet, every citizen, right down to the municipal ward and panchayat, has access to the information. The portal gives the details of every farmer in every bank branch whose loans have been waived, along with the amounts.
This portal gives the list of mines in every district, provides geographical coordinates, and the area where mining has been permitted, including the land deed identifiers. It also provides details about pollution and environment clearances.
Finally, the portal provides details of production and royalties and taxes paid. This kind of information can facilitate a progressive partnership between government and citizens for a cleaner society.
With the use of technology and digitisation of records and information, this information is made freely available on the JSP. To this extent, there is no need for anyone to take recourse to the RTI Act and await a response. All information can be accessed immediately, free of cost.
Meeting the challenges –
There are huge challenges with regard to maintenance issues and ensuring that there is no let-up in the availability of information. With this in mind, draft guidelines have been framed for the development and maintenance of the JSP.
Once implemented, this will ensure that the information system continues uninterrupted. Various departments of the government of Rajasthan, called Line Departments, have been given a set of obligations that they are expected to fulfil.
This department has been informed of its obligations, which includes adherence to the norms and standards laid down by a digital dialogue advisory group.
To ensure that the responsibilities are carried out, the advisory group will be the monitoring agency. Grievance redressal officers will be appointed so that citizens can make the State government truly accountable.
Training for citizens –
The government of Rajasthan has also taken steps to train citizens so that they are aware of the facilities available. This by itself may not be enough. Therefore, it has been decided to host the JSP in decentralised locations, right down to the municipal ward and panchayat levels. They will have access to welfare schemes, revenue activities such as mining, and other service delivery issues such as health and education.
It would be wonderful if all other State governments follow the Rajasthan government’s initiative, which aims to make people, including the marginalised sections, a part of the governance process.
TheNITI Aayog has drafted the three years’ action plan for Evergreen revolution, for all the sectors including agriculture. The action plan on agriculture deals with remunerative prices for farmers and raising productivity.
Strategies include –
Increase in production of Pulses –
National Food Security Mission (NFSM-Pulses) is being implemented in 638 districts of 29 States in the country. The interventions covered under NFSM-Pulses include cluster demonstrations on improved package of practices, demonstrations on cropping system, distribution of High Yielding Varieties (HYVs), INM, IPM, resource conservation technologies/tools, efficient water application tools and cropping system based training for increasing production and productivity of pulses.
Under this scheme, new initiatives have been taken up during 2016-17 i.e., creation of seed hubs, breeder seed production, minikit distribution, cluster frontline demonstrations etc.
Use of wasteland –
PMKSY is principally for development of rainfed portions of net cultivated & culturable wastelands and it will act as a bulwark for Evergreen revolution to be successful.
Seed Village programme –
To upgrade the quality of farmer’s saved seeds financial assistance for distribution of foundation/certified seeds at 50% cost of the seeds for agricultural crops for half an acre per farmer was available up to the year 2013-14. From the year 2014-15, the financial assistance for distribution of foundation/certified seeds at 50% cost of the seeds for cereal crops and 60% for pulses, oilseeds, fodder and green manure crops for production of quality seeds is now available for one acre per farmer.
Certified Seed Production of Pulses, oilseeds, Fodder & Green Manure crops through Seed Village –
In order to enhance certified seed production of Pulses, oilseeds, Fodder & Green manure crops in the country, this component has been initiated from 2014-15. Under this component the financial assistance for distribution of foundation seeds at 75% cost of the seeds for pulses, oilseeds, fodder and green manure crops for production of Certified Seeds is available for the farmers.
The above schemes are demand driven and implemented by the States/implementing agencies for benefiting the farmers.
Model Contract Farming Act –
In pursuance of announcement in the Union budget 2017-18, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has constituted a Committee on 28.02.2017 to formulate a Model Contract Farming Act for adoption by the States. This Model Act on Contract Farming would address the constraints in promoting contract farming in a holistic manner by the States.
The agriculture and allied sector road map endeavours growth of agriculture for meeting food and nutrition security of the country.
NITI Aayog | VISION DOCUMENT, STRATEGY & ACTION AGENDA BEYOND 12TH FIVE YEAR PLAN
Replacing the Five Year Plans beyond 31st March, 2017, NITI Aayog is in the process of preparing the 15-year vision document keeping in view the social goals set and/ or proposed for a period of 15 years; A 7-year strategy document spanning 2017-18 to 2023-24 to convert the longer-term vision into implementable policy and action as a part of a “National Development Agenda” is also being worked upon. The 3-year Action Agenda for 2017-18 to 2019-20, aligned to the predictability of financial resources during the 14th Finance Commission Award period, has been completed and will be submitted before the Prime Minister on April 23rd at the 3rd Governing Council Meeting
NITI Aayog | REFORMS IN AGRICULTURE
Model Land Leasing Law
Taking note of increasing incidents of leasing in and out of land and suboptimal use of land with lesser number of cultivators, NITI Aayog has formulated a Model Agricultural Land Leasing Act, 2016 to both recognize the rights of the tenant and safeguard interest of landowners. A dedicated cell for land reforms was also set up in NITI. Based on the model act, Madhya Pradesh has enacted separate land leasing law and Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have modified their land leasing laws. Some States, including Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, are already at an advance stage of formulating legislations to enact their land leasing laws for agriculture.
Reforms of the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Act
NITI Aayog consulted with the States on 21 October 2016 on three critical reforms –
Agricultural marketing reforms
Felling and transit laws for tree produce grown at private land
Agricultural land leasing
Subsequently, Model APMC Act version 2 prepared. States are being consulted to adopt APMC Act version 2.
Agricultural Marketing and Farmer Friendly Reforms Index
NITI Aayog has developed the first ever ‘Agriculture Marketing and Farmer Friendly Reforms Index’ to sensitise states about the need to undertake reforms in the three key areas of Agriculture Market Reforms, Land Lease Reforms and Forestry on Private Land (Felling and Transit of Trees). The index carries a score with a minimum value “0” implying no reforms and maximum value “100” implying complete reforms in the selected areas.
As per NITI Aayog’s index, Maharashtra ranks highest in implementation of various agricultural reforms. The State has implemented most of the marketing reforms and offers the best environment for undertaking agri-business among all the States and UTs. Gujarat ranks second with a score of 71.50 out of 100, closely followed by Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Almost two third States have not been able to reach even the halfway mark of reforms score, in the year 2016-17. The index aims to induce a healthy competition between States and percolate best practices in implementing farmer-friendly reforms.
Reforming Medical Education
A committee chaired by Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog recommended scrapping of the Medical Council of India and suggested a new body for regulating medical education. The draft legislation for the proposed National Medical Commission has been submitted to the Government for further necessary action.
NITI Aayog | DIGITAL PAYMENTS MOVEMENT
An action plan on advocacy, awareness and co-ordination of handholding efforts among general public, micro enterprises and other stakeholders was prepared. Appropriate literature in print and multimedia was prepared on the subject for widespread dissemination. Presentations/ interactions were organized by NITI Aayog for training and capacity building of various Ministries/Departments of Government of India, representatives of State/UTs, Trade and Industry Bodies as well as all other stakeholders.
NITI Aayog also constituted a Committee of Chief Ministers on Digital Payments on 30th November 2016 with the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Chandrababu Naidu, as the Convener to promote transparency, financial inclusion and a healthy financial ecosystem nationwide. The Committee submitted its interim report to Hon’ble Prime Minister in January 2017.
To incentivize the States/UTs for promotion of digital transactions, Central assistance of Rs. 50 crores would be provided to the districts for undertaking Information, Education and Communication activities to bring 5 crore Jan Dhan accounts to digital platform.
Cashback and referral bonus schemes were launched by the Prime Minister on 14.4.2017 to promote the use of digital payments through the BHIM App.
Niti Aayog also launched two incentive schemes to to promote digital payments across all sections of society – the Lucky Grahak Yojana and the Digi Dhan Vyapar Yojana – Over 16 lakh consumers and merchants have won Rs. 256 crores under these two schemes.
Digi Dhan Melas were also held for 100 days in 100 cities, from December 25th to April 14th.
NITI Aayog | ATAL INNOVATION MISSION
The Government has set up Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) in NITI Aayog with a view to strengthen the country’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem by creating institutions and programs that spur innovation in schools, colleges, and entrepreneurs in general. In 2016-17, the following major schemes were rolled out:
Atal Tinkering Labs (ATLs): To foster creativity and scientific temper in students, AIM is helping to establish 500 ATLs in schools across India, where students can design and make small prototypes to solve challenges they see around them, using rapid prototyping technologies that have emerged in recent years.
Atal Incubation Centres (AICs): AIM will provide financial support of Rs.10 crore and capacity buidling for setting AICs across India, which will help startups expand quicker and enable innovation-entrepreneurship, in core sectors such as manufacturing, transport, energy, education, agriculture, water and sanitation, etc.
NITI Aayog | INDICES MEASURING STATES’ PERFORMANCE IN HEALTH, EDUCATION AND WATER MANAGEMENT
As part of the Prime Minister’s Focus on outcomes, NITI has come out with indices to measure incremental annual outcomes in critical social sectors like health, education and water with a view to nudge the states into competing with each other for better outcomes, while at the same time sharing best practices & innovations to help each other – an example of competitive and cooperative federalism.
NITI Aayog | SUB-GROUP OF CHIEF MINISTERS ON RATIONALIZATION OF CENTRALLY SPONSORED SCHEMES
Based on the recommendations of this Sub-Group, a Cabinet note was prepared by NITI Aayog which was approved by the Cabinet on 3rd August, 2016. Among several key decisions, the sub-group led to the rationalization of the existing CSSs into 28 umbrella schemes.
NITI Aayog | SUB-GROUP OF CHIEF MINISTERS ON SWACHH BHARAT ABHIYAN
Constituted by NITI Aayog on 9thMarch, 2015, the Sub-Group has submitted its report to the Hon’ble Prime Minister in October, 2015 and most of its recommendations have been accepted.
NITI Aayog | SUB-GROUP OF CHIEF MINISTERS ON SKILL DEVELOPMENT
Constituted on 9th March, 2015, the report of the Sub-Group of Chief Ministers on Skill Development was presented before the Hon’ble Prime Minister on 31/12/2015. The recommendation and actionable points emerging from the Report were approved by the Hon’ble Prime Minister and are in implementation by the Ministry of Skill Development
NITI Aayog | TASK FORCE ON ELIMINATION OF POVERTY IN INDIA
Constituted on 16th March, 2015 under the Chairmanship of Dr. Arvind Panagariya, Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog, the report of the Task Force was finalized and submitted to the Prime Minister on 11th July, 2016.The report of the Task Force primarily focusses on issues of measurement of poverty and strategies to combat poverty. Regarding estimation of poverty, the report of the Task Force states that “a consensus in favour of either the Tendulkar or a higher poverty line did not emerge. Therefore, the Task Force has concluded that the matter be considered in greater depth by the country’s top experts on poverty before a final decision is made. Accordingly, it is recommended that an expert committee be set up to arrive at an informed decision on the level at which the poverty line should be set.” With respect to strategies to combat poverty, the Task Force has made recommendations on faster poverty reduction through employment intensive sustained rapid growth and effective implementation of anti-poverty programs.
NITI Aayog | TASK FORCE ON AGRICULTURE DEVELOPMENT
The Task Force on Agricultural development was constituted on 16th March, 2015 under the Chairmanship of Dr. Arvind Panagariya, Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog. The Task Force based on its works prepared an occasional paper entitled “Raising Agricultural Productivity and Making Farming Remunerative for Farmers” focusing on 5 critical areas of Indian Agriculture. These are (i) Raising Productivity, (ii) Remunerative Prices to Farmers, (iii) Land Leasing, Land Records & Land Titles; (iv) Second Green Revolution-Focus on Eastern States; and (v) Responding to Farmers’ Distress. After taking inputs of all the States on occasional paper and through their reports, the Task Force submitted the final report to Prime Minister on 31st May, 2016. It has suggested important policy measures to bring in reforms in agriculture for the welfare of the farmers as well as enhancing their income.
NITI Aayog | TRANSFORMING INDIA LECTURE SERIES
As the government’s premier think-tank, NITI Aayog views knowledge building & transfer as the enabler of real transformation in States. To build knowledge systems for States and the Centre, NITI Aayog launched the ‘NITI Lectures: Transforming India’ series, with full support of the Prime Minister on 26th August 2016. The lecture series is aimed at addressing the top policy making team of the Government of India, including members of the cabinet and several top layers of the bureaucracy. It aims is to bring cutting edge ideas in development policy to Indian policy makers and public, so as to promote the cause of transformation of India into a prosperous modern economy. The Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, Shri Tharman Shanmugaratnam, delivered the first lecture on the topic: India and the Global Economy. On November 16th, 2016, Bill Gates, Co-Founder, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, delivered the second lecture in the series under the theme: ‘Technology and Transformation’.