NEW DELHI: A national lockdown in place, the finance ministry found itself wrestling with an unusual problem: The government printing press would not publish the amended finance bill passed by Parliament without getting written orders in physical form in hand.
The rest of the work had been done online and remotely, including file work that is part of such time-honoured processes. But the government printing press protocol was another matter altogether. Now, the ministry came up with a solution. A DO (demi official) letter was generated under a rule change that carried the phone number of the signatory. The folks at the press called the official to complete verification and the finance bill was finally printed well in time.
The nationwide lockdown has led to the adoption of innovative practices in the government to ensure the wheels of governance continue to move. Several of the relief measures announced by the government in the wake of the lockdown will require ordinances to be signed by the President, said sources. The paperwork will be done remotely but since the final stage will need the President’s signature, a “fully sanitised” messenger will be sent to Rashtrapati Bhavan to present and receive the documents.
There are similar tales of “jugad” in other departments. On Thursday, the Smart City Mission of urban affairs ministry held seven official meetings through Zoom (video conference) over six and a half hours. A total of 86 people took part.
On the same day, new and renewable energy minister R K Singh chaired a review meeting through video conference with officers and ministry officials who are working through e-offices from home. Even movement of files and notings are being done online to ensure no necessary work suffers.
Physical movement of files and normal meetings have almost stopped, and different departments are working on alternative models to see that office work doesn’t suffer.
While curfew passes have been issued to a few officials in each department and ministry who may need to clear some important files, many are finding it safer to work remotely.
“Email, Whatsapp and video conferencing are better ways to deal with the current situation. We are going through a new phase,” said a senior official of National Informatics Centre. An NIC software is providing a video interface.
A senior functionary of the Smart City Mission said they have decided to document the outcomes of implementation of work-from-home set up within the mission, which will help study the impact and propose suggestions should there be need to continue this pilot further.