E-Seva is the name of a massive e-governance project of the Andhra Pradesh Government. "The most evolved model of electronic service delivery in India," notes Subhash Bhatnagar in one of the essays included in Reinventing Public Service Delivery in India, from Sage (www.indiasage.com). "A one-stop shop for more than 130 government-to-consumer (G2C) and business-to-consumer (B2C) services," he adds.
E-Seva centres were based on PPP or public-private partnership. "In a typical district with five centres, the investment by the private operator in equipment is approximately Rs 35 lakh. Annual operating expense for each centre is Rs 10 lakh."
Revenue model of these centres had three streams: First, transaction-based service charges from each agency. "For example, for every bill collected on its behalf the utility company pays a fee of Rs 5," explains Bhatnagar. The second component was "a service fee collected from citizens for certain types of transactions." And third, "revenues from advertisers" for ads carried on receipts issued to citizens.
Statistics about E-Seva are amazing. Such as, nearly 1.6 million citizens used the services every month, and the number of transactions averaged around 1.5 million a month in 2004.
"Simplifying transactions is a more superficial process than restructuring agency processes, as it only involves re-engineering the relationship between citizens and agencies at the point where they interact," observes Vikram K. Chand, the editor of the book.
Jonathan Caseley elaborates upon this point, in a case study about the reform in the Department of Registration and Stamps in Maharashtra. One reads about how Dr Nitin Kareer, the Inspector-General who worked for the transformation, identified two critical problems right at the start. "First, SR (sub-registrar) had wide discretion in registering a document, determining its value, and deciding when to return it to a customer. This provided considerable scope for corruption."
A common problem, you'd agree. The second problem was "the lack of clear service standards in the registration process" which made it impossible to hold staff to account for the delivery of efficient registration services. "As a consequence, document registration often took weeks and it was common for documents to take years to be returned to customers."
Shockingly, a survey conducted in July 2000 found "more than one million documents pending registration across the State." Plus there was "an enormous backlog of 15 million registered documents, due to a requirement that all registered documents be microfilmed in Pune before being returned to customers." The book has essays on telecom competition, hospital reforms in Madhya Pradesh, education experiments in Rajasthan, PDS (public distribution system) in Tamil Nadu, and electoral finance.
At the time of writing, a Visakhapatnam datelined report in the day's news informs about the closure of `the land purchase counselling centre set up at the eSeva centre on Beach Road in the city last year.' It was `the first of its kind in the State', and `an instant hit', one learns. But why shut it down? `Shortage of hands'.