When they set out to computerize transport departments across the country, the hardworking staff of the National Informatics Center was not exactly looking to win an award. But that's what they got, at least in the state of Jharkhand, for their efforts to automate the processing of various transactions between citizens and the state transport department.
- NIC implemented both Vahan and Sarathi software in all the 18 district transport offices (DTOs), four regional transport authority and state transport authority offices
- In 12 districts, including Dhanbad, Ranchi, Hazaribagh, Jamshedpur, Bokaro, and Koderma, registration certificate (RC) booklets and driving license are now issued as smart cards
- So far, the registration certificates of 1.15 lakh vehicles and about 20,000 driving licenses have been given out in a smart card form
- For Vahan, Jharkhand won an award at the 9th National Conference on e-Governance, under the service delivery category.
- How standardizing data can help governments enforce the law
- Why smart cards are a great way to provide hassle-free service for end users
Shahid Ahmad, technical director of NIC's unit in Jharkhand, and the state's informatics officer, says NIC implemented both Vahan and Sarathi software in all the 18 district transport offices (DTOs), four regional transport authority and state transport authority offices. Vahan will help to register vehicles, collect tax, issue various permits and record the fitness of vehicles. Sarathi, which complements Vahan, is used to issue driving and conductors licenses and licenses for driving schools, Ahmad says.
Ahmad credits Jharkhand's success with the implementation, and the lead its taken in introducing smart cards, to the excellent working relationship between the NIC, the state IT department and the state transport department.
The National Informatics Center, whose state units are entrusted with rolling out the software in their respective states or with aiding the roll out, also built and pilot-tested the software. In the next step, when states from Jharkhand to Kerala complete the roll out of the software across DTOs, sharing data can happen at the touch of a few buttons and enforcing becomes real-time. In parallel, smart cards are being introduced that will hold relevant information about a vehicle and its owner.
A. Venkatesan, a senior technical director with NIC and Ahmad's opposite number in Karnataka, says the computerization of the transport department in the state started in 1998-99.
Ahmad said that the top four objectives of implementing Vahan and Sarathi were the quick and hassle-free issuance of RC books and driving licenses, collecting road tax, monitoring vehicle records and tax defaulters more easily, and enabling other government departments to access information instantly. NIC was asked to figure out the nitty-gritty of the project. This included coming up with hardware specs and planning the kind of software that would be required, and what exactly the software would do. The project was then approved for execution by NIC.
Some of Vahan and Sarathi’s objectives were issuing RC books and driving licenses quickly and without hassle; and monitoring tax defaulters more easily.
The state government, which funded the entire pilot project, has recovered its investment.
In Karnataka, it started with testing the software at one transport office, in Yeswantapur in Bangalore. Later it was extended to four other transport offices as part of the pilot. This took about a year. NIC trained the existing manpower of the front office of the transport offices.
The result was an increase in transparency, a reduction in delays, which meant that people didn't have to go back and forth trying to figure out what was happening with their applications - and an increase in revenue generation because defaulters were easier to track with computerization.
The statewide rollout of Vahan and Sarathi in Karnataka will be handled by a third-party outsourcing vendor in a public-private partnership. In a build-own-operate-and-transfer deal, the private partner will invest in the hardware and maintain it. The transport department will pay the vendor on a quarterly basis for the use of the hardware. Jharkhand however, is going it on its own. The IT department of the state government itself is handling the hardware maintenance part. The smart cards, however, are being supplied by a private vendor in Jharkhand, Amity Infosystems, which charges a fee to end-users for the cards. The software comes from NIC - Vahan was developed by NIC Delhi, and Sarathi was developed in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Delhi.
The objectives behind introducing smart cards included replacing paper documents; storing information securely on a chip; inter-operability across the country; eliminating fake reproductions; and monitoring tax collection. While Jharkhand has already introduced the smart cards, other states are at various stages of doing so.