The successful completion of the E-Gram project-which involved a mass collaboration between the Panchayat Rural Housing and Rural Development Department of the Government of Gujarat, and Adobe Systems Incorporated-was announced on Monday (November 26, 2012). As a result of the project meant "to deliver transformational solutions to [Gujarat's] citizens through Common Service Centers" or CSCs, more than 18,000 gram panchayats (village or small town local government offices) across the Indian state now deliver a broad variety of services to villages, "including the electronic issue of certificates of birth, death, income, caste, domicile, property, residence proof, agriculture, tax collection, marriage, family information and land ownership."
Residents of villages and small towns under the Gram Panchayats' charge now have access to a selection of essential citizen services at speeds which were hitherto unknown in India outside of its major cities. According to Development Commissioner of the Government of Gujarat, A.K. Rakesh, this was a primary objective of the E-Gram project.
"We wanted to take governance to every level across the state. It was our aim through the E-Gram initiative to provide all the basic amenities that are available in big cities to villages across the state so that citizens do not feel the need to migrate to urban centres," he said. "Earlier, citizens had to travel to the district taluka [district centre] for these requirements; today, citizens across these 18,000 villages can access these services at their gram panchayat. Life has become simpler for them."
For a better idea of the scale of the E-Gram project's achievement, consider the following numbers. The state of Gujarat is currently divided into 26 districts, and for governance it is made up of 226 talukas, 18, 618 villages and 242 towns.
With the new system in place, a "digitalised databank [serves up] citizen certificates" to villagers who make their requests at their respective village E-Gram centres, which are operated by Village Computer Entrepreneurs (VCEs). According to various sources, the new setup even goes beyond just the quick and inexpensive delivery of public services to villages and small towns in Gujarat. They have argued that it "also provides local employment and income-generation opportunities to the village panchayats and rural youth."
"Earlier, it would take three days to process a document but today, we are able to immediately process the document. This saves both time and money for us as citizens," said one VCE from the village called Sardhav, Satish Patel. "Additionally, working as a VCE has helped increase my income as well as helped give me a whole new identify n the village."
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