GMC in urgent need of digitisation as a vital file goes missing
There is no second opinion that as an organisation grows in business as well as clientele the paperwork can pile up into heaps and heaps of unorganised bundles and be stacked up in a storage unit that may be as large as a whole room. This storage often has a tendency to become unorganized and haphazard. This is not a very favourable situation as a lot of time can be wasted sorting through the paperwork for small pieces of information or records. Document digitization is the only way to minimise the stacks of files and easily convert these into storable files and folders on a computer hard disk by transforming physical information into digital information. The ‘Digitise India Platform’ speaks of the same, where the initiative would facilitate efficient delivery of services and reduce piles of paper in record rooms of offices. The government’s files and documents, which are shareable and useful to citizens, would be digitised through ‘crowd sourcing.’ However, when it comes to the most important departments of the Assam government, huge piles of files and assortment of applications are still a common sight. It would not be surprising if one or two of them go untraceably missing and to no one’s surprise, a similar incident has taken place in the Building Planning & Permission Division of the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC).
The corporation has come under scanner as an FIR has been lodged against it as also present officials of the GMC, charging them with conspiracy to suppress records relating to irregularities in grant of building permission. In the FIR, Right to Information (RTI) activist Joydeb Das has named two IAS officers viz. Ashish Kumar Bhutani and Rajesh Prasad and as many GMC officials viz. Deepak Bezbaruah who was then the associate planner of GMC and Dilip Baishya who is currently the Upper Division Assistant (UDA) of the department. The name of one Dhireshwar Sarma of Diha Builders has also been mentioned in the FIR.
Das alleged that files pertaining to illegal construction of a building in the Christian Basti area have gone missing and no missing report was lodged with police by the GMC officials. The complainant alleged that the officials conspired to suppress records so that no harm could come to the building construction. "The accused have violated the provisions of the GMC Act, 1971 and influenced others," the complaint said.
“The FIR is about the deviation of a building that was issued the ‘no objection certificate’ (NOC) through illegitimate means. The incident dates back to 2009. But it soon came to the notice of the then GMC commissioner who had ordered the demolishing of the building. The owner of the building then made an appeal to the council body but no progress could be seen. On not getting any response the building owner moved the High Court which ordered necessary steps to be taken in order to resolve the issue,” Das mentioned to G Plus.
The RTI activist also informed that the council body of GMC was dissolved in 2009 during which Ashish Kumar Bhutani was made the administrator and there was no follow-up of the High Court direction. “The case of the missing file surfaced after I filed an RTI and the department could not provide me any information. If the High Court had directed something to the department then it should have been followed. If no steps were initiated then there must be some kind of illegal understanding involved,” Das alleged.
Meanwhile, police said that a case has been registered under sections 119 (public servant concealing designs to commit offence which it is his duty to prevent), 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intention) of the IPC.
The accused’s version
Meanwhile, on being asked about the allegations made by the RTI activist, UDA Dilip Baishya said, “I do not understand about my involvement in the file going missing. I have presented a written application in reply to the RTI that the file came to me on 4th June 2011 and was handed over to Sabed Ali, Zonal Engineer, on 26th September the same year. So that excludes me from the allegation that I was the last one to be in possession of the file.”
Similarly, the then commissioner of GMC, Rajesh Prasad, has said that he was transferred to a different post in 2008 itself whereas the file supposedly went missing in 2011. “I left the post of Commissioner of GMC in 2008 and in 2011 I had completed my tenure as Deputy Commissioner of Sonitpur and came back to Guwahati and joined as Secretary, Labour. Around the month of June 2008, I was already posted as the Deputy Commissioner of Sonitpur. As far as I remember it was in April 2008 when I had issued a show-cause notice and by June 2008 I had to go for a mandatory training for IAS officers at Mussoorie and so, I was already transferred before my arrival at Guwahati. In 2011, I was the Secretary, Labour. So, I can hardly relate to my involvement in the file going missing.
The possible reasons
While allegations in the FIR direct towards unethical means of personal benefit, the sight of massive stacks of files occupying space that can be used for much more productive purposes present a sorry picture of government offices. It was also mentioned by GMC officials that managing and storing files in a proper place consumes a huge amount of time and the officers have to do that on their own. “It is very difficult to find one out of such large stack of files and I am sure that the file has not gone missing and must be in some corner of the office,” the GMC official said.
Corruption or otherwise, such incidents certainly demands the urgent need for digitisation in the government offices. The move will not only make necessary documents easily accessible but also mitigate the efforts required in maintenance of files besides freeing up huge space.
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