In IT era, JK’s e-governance deactivated

Srinagar, Oct 9: In era of Information Technology, the much-hyped e-governance in Jammu and Kashmir is proving to be a big failure. While the issue of data collection for proactive disclosure of i...

Srinagar, Oct 9: In era of Information Technology, the much-hyped e-governance in Jammu and Kashmir is proving to be a big failure. While the issue of data collection for proactive disclosure of information under the Right to Information Act-2009 is still a distant dream, some of the key official websites are completely defunct or carry wrong and outdated information.
 The official website of the J&K Government—www.jammuandkashmir.nic.in—is "under construction" for the past several months. The Government is yet to tell public whether the website stands cancelled or it is being re-constructed with latest data. 
 Official websites of almost all districts in J&K carry outdated information while a few of them are completely defunct.
 The website of district Pulwama—www.pulwama.nic.in—hasn't been updated for long. In "infrastructure set-up" column, the website carries "position of roads and their category-wise construction for the period 1994-95 to 1998-99." While information under other columns hasn't been updated for years together, the website throws up a big surprise: it reveals data of Census 1981. "As per Census 1981, 536 villages inhabited stand provided with safe drinking water facilities," it reads. Two decades have passed since this Census has taken place and two Census exercises—in 2001 and 2010—have already been carried out.
 The official website of the Directorate of School Education Jammu—schedujammu.nic.in—carries notifications of 2005 while rest of the data hasn't been updated since then. A page on this website reads: "During 1995-96, 378 districts, 225,000 schools and 33.5 million children have been covered with an expenditure of Rs. 4,412 million. In 1996-97, the scheme was extended to cover 55.4 million children with an expenditure of Rs. 8,110 million. The scheme has become fully operational in 1997-98 covering nearly 110 million children in primary classes.
A positive impact on school enrolment and retention has been reported." The data is at least a decade old and the scheme it talks about has already ended.
 The official website of district Baramulla—www.baramulla.nic.in—is not working at all.
 In the website of J&K Cooperatives, www.jkcooperatives.org, Chief Minister of J&K is Ghulam Nabi Azad. The website hasn't been updated for long.
 The situation is same with almost all other websites—Health, Higher Education, Forests, Finance and others. While some selective orders are regularly uploaded by some departments, the other information happens to be outdated or is concealed.
 Surprisingly, the General Administration Department website carries email IDs of all the Kashmir Administrative and Indian Administrative Officers. But, Greater Kashmir has been receiving complaints every now and that the e-mail IDs are not working and more than 80 percent of them are deactivated.
 "The entire state machinery is directed by IAS or KAS officers in the state apart from heads of various departments. It is sad that their email IDs, mentioned on the website, are not working," said a complainant from Baramulla. "If these email IDs would work properly, it could help in maintaining people-to-official contact."
 According to officials, the concept of e-governance is aimed at ensuring transparency in government departments by making people-to-official contact easy, and also go for proactive disclosure of information under the Right to Information Act.

SECTION 4 IGNORED
 As on date, there has been very little compliance with Section 4 of the legislation which makes it obligatory for a public authority [department falling under RTI Act] to "maintain all its records and indexed in a manner and form which facilitates the right to information." It also calls for ensuring that "all records that are appropriate to be computerized are, within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources, computerized and connected through a network all over the state on different systems so that access to such records is facilitated."

CIC DISAPPOINTED 
 The State Chief Information Commissioner has formally informed the State Chief Secretary that there is not so encouraging response from Public Authorities with regard to implementation of Section 4 of the Act.
 "This Commission has been flooded with complaints regarding failure of public authorities to fulfill this statutory obligation to maintain their records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and form which facilitates the right to information under the Act and ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerized are within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources , computerized and connected through a network all over the state so that access to such records is facilitated within 120 days from the commencement of this act (Section 4 b)," the CIC's letter reads.

RTI ACTIVISTS WANT CHANGE
 According to the RTI activists, all the government websites must be updated regularly. "If information is available on websites, it would naturally bring down the number of RTI applications," says Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat, head of the J&K RTI Movement.
 He says the website must carry all the relevant information including data, orders, circulars, notifications, and schemes— both state-based and centrally-sponsored. "This would bring transparency in the system to a great extent," Bhat said.

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