The Gram Panchayats are the post-independence entities that plan, budget and execute all development work in the villages of India. The members of the Gram Panchayat, headed by a sarpanch, are elected for a five-year term.
In 2006, as part of the National Electronic Government Plan (NeGP), the government planned to introduce technology to improve the efficiency of the operations of Gram Panchayats in India. In 2018, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj launched the e-Panchayat Mission as part of the Mission Mode Project (MMP) to achieve this goal. The project covers all aspects of Gram Panchayats including planning, monitoring, implementation, budgeting, accounting, social auditing and providing public services in issuing certificates, licenses, etc.
The aim of e-Panchayat mission is to enable the Panchayat to function efficiently through the extensive use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). In addition, as the government strives to build a digitally inclusive society, it is important that these grassroots public welfare organizations make the most of the technological tools at their disposal.
The e-Panchayat program aims to provide rural India with up-to-date online information, enabling the computerization of gram panchayats. To this end, e-Panchayat MMP aims to automate the internal workflows of approximately 2.45 lakh panchayats across India. This will cover approximately 30 lakh elected members and several PRI officials.
As part of the e-Panchayat mission, the government plans to use ICT to:
- Automation of Panchayats internal workflow processes.
- Capacity building of Panchayat representatives and officers
- Panchayats transparency, accountability, efficiency and RTI compliance.
- Improving the governance of local self-government by ensuring people’s participation in decision-making.
- Improving the delivery of services to citizens.
In a state where the Gram Panchayat has been able to fully adopt the workings of the E Panchayat, all the data and information about the Gram Panchayat can be easily accessed through the Internet. In states like Andhra Pradesh and Goa, where the e-Panchayat program has been partially implemented, citizens can use certain online facilities. These include the issuance of birth and death certificates, property taxes, pension benefits, subsidy benefits, e-health care, e-learning and agricultural advisory services, etc.
The lack of ICT infrastructure and internet connection at the base (Gram Panchayat) is an issue but has not prevented the implementation of the project. Until the National Fiber Optic Network (NOFN) provides connectivity to all Gram panchayats, most states recommend data entry through the nearest internet-connected panchayat. For example, states such as Maharashtra, Tripura, Andhra Pradesh have mandated a fixed data entry schedule. In addition, to maximize the adoption and use of PES applications, the MoPR and states place a strong emphasis on the capacity building of elected officials and panchayat officials. For this purpose, a cascade model for training master trainers was used.
In the 12th Plan Period, the e-Panchayat Mission Mode Project was integrated into Rajiv Gandhi Panchayat Sashaktikaran Abhiyan (RGPSA). Therefore, states must achieve their rehabilitation (ICT infrastructure and manpower) as part of their annual RGPSA plans. In addition, with the Gram-Panchayat-level connectivity achieved through the NOFN program, MoPR plans to further drive the adoption and deployment of e-Panchayat applications across PRIs.