Code Of Ethics
by Bashir Assad
The Jammu & Kashmir government has digitised the entire administrative system. It’s a great achievement but not without the biggest loophole being lack of ethics among those who operate the online systems. That is the area that needs working upon.
LOOKS like Jammu & Kashmir is on a fast-way with technology. The government of Jammu & Kashmir claims to have digitised the tools and media of governance. According to the UT Chief Secretary Dr. Arun Kumar Mehta, no administrative operation is offline anymore and all the services have been brought under the e-governance mode.
It’s All Online!
As per the Chief Secretary, all the 440 services of governance are online and this has been achieved in just a year and a half. The administration claims that Jammu & Kashmir is the first UT in the country which has completely transformed its delivery system and there is 100 % online governance. There is no doubt that Mehta has indeed been more than curious about transformation of the governance system. There has been a buzz in the Civil
Secretariat corridors that his topmost priority as Chief Secretary was always online governance.
As is famously said ‘charity begins at home’, A K Mehta first digitised his office completely followed by the General Administration Department. Now, this is really a great achievement in terms of providing a hassle-free, efficient and transparent administration to the people of Jammu & Kashmir who, as everybody would agree, have suffered deeply on accounts of corruption and corrupt practices of both political and bureaucratic systems. Earlier, it was a given that files wouldn’t move from the desks and it would take money to move them. There is also an opinion that violence erupted in Kashmir primarily because of this level of corruption and corrupt practices. This opinion holds merit to a great extent.
The Big D Cometh
It goes without saying that digitisation could really eradicate corruption and inefficiency and could help in winning the confidence of the public. There has been a certain disillusionment among all sections of the society and corruption has been seen as an incurable disease for a long time. So in that light, Chief Secretary Mehta deserves appreciation for his tireless efforts in digitising the system. Online systems are transparent, they can be tracked. According to the Chief Secretary, 85% among those who responded to the feedback SMS are satisfied with the e-governance mode and describe it as ‘good initiative’. There are only 15%, as claimed by the Chief Secretary during a function at Sher-i- Kashmir International Conference Centre in Srinagar (SKICC) on March 19, who are not satisfied with the online system. He also informed the gathering that the government was seriously working on putting the system on auto-escalation mode – which means, if you don’t provide the service within the timeline laid down, it goes to the next officer. The CS said that three services had already been auto escalated. The delivery is 99.99% on time, he added. He also informed that the government was going to auto escalate 144 services in the next one month.
Now there are some fundamental questions. The transition of the system from offline to online is fantastic but there still are complaints of fraud, mismanagement and corruption in certain services despite being online. Let us take for instance, the Jammu and Kashmir Services Selection Board (JKSSB). Why is this nodal employment agency of the government always in news for all kinds of frauds? The exams are conducted online and yet the candidates appear in these exams after much sweat and blood. Remember everything is online! The in-famous company APTECH, hired by JKSSB for conducting online exams under various categories of posts advertised by the premier recruiting agency, also commits fraud not offline but online!
The investigation following an FIR at Leh has revealed that everything is compromised by
APTECH because the systems are remotely controlled and frauds are committed in that space. Online bullying and cheating is more dangerous than the age-old crimes of fudging records and resorting to omissions and commissions. Similarly, another important service is the Revenue Department. Chief Secretary AK Mehta, from day one, has been very particular about digitisation of revenue records. This ambitious goal has been achieved but not without follies and frauds. The recent anti-encroachment drive has brought to fore the vulnerability of the online revenue records. The records in the Revenue Department particularly, are prone to fudging and forgery and that is what came to light during the drive. And digitisation has not addressed the issue of corruption here so far. But yes, it has secured the records. Now there is no question of displacement or stealing of files. The culture of touts and brokers is over. There is no more exploitation and blackmailing. But digitisation alone cannot eradicate corruption completely. The new age crimes are more lethal than what the mankind was used to for centuries. What is actually important is the intention of the officers who manage the services online. And that is something which neither the sincere and honest Chief Secretary AK Mehta can measure, nor can someone else judge. The past track record of JKSSB has reflected on the vulnerability of online services and it once again takes us to the conclusion that if the handlers of records are not ethical, anything is possible.
Case Of The Conscience
There is a tradition among all the services – be it military, civil or for that matter, clerical, all go through refreshment programmes, crash courses, and training programmes. The need of the hour is that there be more thrust on integrity and ethics which are most crucial in the modern digital era. The awakening of the conscience should be the area to work upon, if we want to make the most of online services.