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Friday, 14 June, 2002, 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK
India's e-village tackles corruption
A programme operator with one of the village's three computers
The project has been an eye-opener for the villagers

Information technology has transformed a village near India's hi-tech capital of Bangalore, drastically reducing corruption and red-tape.

Bellandur has proved that the concept of IT in rural areas can work

Subramanya Jois
Compusol chief executive
The village of Bellandur, 18 kilometres from the city, is credited with being the first "gram panchayat", or village-level administration, in the country to introduce e-governance.

The gram panchayat covers as many as 10,000 people, and is spread over five villages.

And bribery, which is common practice in official corridors across the country, has been significantly cut.

"There is very little scope for that here," said K Jagannath, the elected president of the village, who initiated the IT experiment in 1998.

"Computerisation has helped to provide an efficient administration. It has greatly reduced corruption and bureaucratic delays," he said.

Records online

Bellandur is a relatively well-off agricultural village and as it is near Bangalore, access to education has contributed in making the village almost 90% literate.

But that is not the only factor at work.

Villagers look at computerised land records
Funds are now available for new projects
"The project has also been successful because of the active co-operation from the villagers," said retired public sector employee Ganga Reddy.

Bellandur's e-governance project started with a single computer that was installed in the village in 1998 to replace the old typewriter.

The village office now has three computers, funded by donations from wealthier farmers as well as companies that operate in the area.

"Revenue loopholes have been plugged. All the records are available at the click of a button," according to Mr Jagannath.

Ms Shobha, a program operator employed by the village administration, explains that the opportunity for officials to hold things up by shuffling paper from file to file or desk to desk has been eliminated.

"People can get their land registered in record time. Earlier, it used to take anywhere between seven and 10 days," she said.

Village-friendly IT

Subramanya Jois, Chief Executive Officer of the Bangalore-based software company Compusol that designed the software package for the village, is proud of the project's success.

I want our administration to be as transparent as possible

K Jagannath
Bellandur village president

"Bellandur has proved that the concept of IT in rural areas can work," he said.

The project's success has inspired an IT-friendly legislator, UR Sabhapathy, from the coastal town of Udupi to replicate the experiment in his municipality with the assistance of Compusol, whose business partners are Microsoft and IBM.

The software package used at Bellandur handles records of property details, tax collection, birth and death certificates and so on.

The Bellandur project has certainly been an eye-opener for many villagers who believed IT was strictly an urban phenomenon.

Muniswamy, a farm hand, said they had all assumed the project would be unsuccessful.

"We thought all this will not work here. But people by and large are happy with the way it is working," he said.

Increasing revenue

In addition to speeding up tax collection and property transfer processes, the e-governance project has helped in recovering huge amounts of outstanding revenue.

Village president K Jagannath
The village president has seen revenues rise
"Property tax arrears used to be huge before we streamlined our revenue collections. There is a steady increase in collections now," said Mr Jagannath.

The village administration is channelling additional funds for development projects such as road surfacing, building underground drainage systems and digging wells.

It is also planning to telecast live proceedings of the weekly official meetings through the local cable network.

"I want our administration to be as transparent as possible. Let people know what is going on," said Mr Jagannath.

See also:

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