TODAY -

Indispensable e-Governance but

Free Thinker *



Manipur is almost shifted to e-services and e-governance. We are following the national and global trends; it is important, progressive, and futuristic. In the ’90s the Andhra Pradesh Government started e-governance first with their revenue administration.

Those days other states were not very keen to emulate. Within a few years, all other states started taking the Andhra model of computerization of land records and the e-processing of revenue details.

The introduction of e-services in the State is a wonderful thing, and it must be done. But, there is still a big bottleneck; the poor people in the rural and remote hill areas are not well equipped. They don’t have smartphones, computers, net connection, and reliable-electric supply.

Net connectivity is still a big issue, power shortage is another perennial problem. Under such circumstances can we insist or compel our people to do everything online? The offline option must continue for some more time.

A villager has to come to a cyber-café in the city to apply for or get his or her OBC, caste, or tribe certificate online. Even for the Permanent Residence certificate (PRC), you have to apply online. In urban areas it is not difficult, people have easy access to computers either at home or in a nearby cyber-cafe.

The contention is not against the technological revolution or computerization or digitization or e-governance. It is just to flag some issues which are genuine and linked with ground realities.

In the remote villages and interior hill areas people are still not having a regular power supply, forget about consistent net connectivity. Again, in the absence of computers, laptops, or smartphones – if we insist on online application -that sounds quite unreasonable and arbitrary.

We should remember that there is still a digital divide between the poor and the rich; there is also an obvious divide between the urban areas and rural-hill areas. Only a few affluent people in rural and hilly regions can acquire the requisite gadgets and generate their own electricity. They have ‘generators’ or solar panels.

The reality of the lesser mortals is well known; can we still move ahead with a fully digitized government or governance or e- administrative system without incorporating or involving the poor people?

In fact, for successful digitization and e-governance, we need a regular power supply; second, we need equipment like computers, laptops, tablets or palmtops, smartphones etc; third, we require proper net connectivity; fourth, the people must be literate to operate or encounter the system – it is more than hello-hello.

An unemployed graduate (good in studies) from a poor family who does not have a smartphone, who does not have even a few hundred rupees, who is struggling to support his poor ailing parents living in a remote corner of the State, wants to apply for a first class job of the State.

How can we help him? We can’t go to each and everyone to help. However, we can still make the process people-friendly. The least expensive or free off-line services for the poor for getting requisite certificates and applying for jobs may continue for the time being.

For getting Permanent Residence Certificate (PRC) one has to apply online. Please imagine the plight of a poor chap in a rural or remote hill area who has no proper infrastructure, not even a smartphone; he or she has to go to a nearby cyber-shop (maybe some 5-10 miles away from his residence).

The cyber café-wale will charge a fee for sending the application; if the applicant has to pay the application fee also, the café wale will charge more for doing the required transaction.

A poor candidate has to come to a cyber café far away from his home to fill up the form; then he has to pay the fee; it may cost him a thousand rupees; a thousand rupees is nothing for the haves but for a person who is living hand to mouth is a good amount.

Someone who belongs to a well-to-do family applied for Permanent Residence Certificate (PRC) and she thought that it will come in ten days or so; even after 15 days she did not get it; if there are any discrepancies or deficiencies it should be intimated to the applicant on line so that it is rectified at the earliest; without any reason, if the application is held back, it smacks of dishonesty.

It was expedited only after an earnest request was made. Competent authorities need not wait for the request or instruction to come - if the applications are in order, certificates should be issued immediately. Many hapless applicants are anxiously waiting for PRC; mind you the last date to submit the application form for the MPSC exam is 31 January 2023.

Off-line facilities may also be made available for all kinds of applications and certificates till all our people are technologically well-equipped. Ponder about the chai-wallas, street vendors, hawkers, daily- wage-earners, and farmers who are still not fully prepared to face e-governance or e-services. Nothing against cybercafes!


* Free Thinker wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on February 02 2023 .



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