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'Digital India' - A Good Scheme or a Scam?

 Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched a popular scheme known as Digital India on 1st July, 2015, a year into his term. It was started with the intention to improve digital infrastructure, deliver government services and universal digital literacy. Mr. Modi envisioned that in the near future almost everybody in India would possess a smart phone and could use it to seek redress. His thoughts were not wrong. Almost everyone possesses a minimum of one smart phone with an Internet Connection (thank you Jio!).
As usual, when the scheme was launched, everyone praised it. BJP Bhakts believed that Modi was transforming India and bringing it at par with technologically and administratively advanced countries like Singapore. However, almost three years later how is this program faring?
Image result for narendra modi digital india
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While on the face of it, a common man may think that Digital India is a success, and they are not wrong. However, as most Government projects are, this one too is only superficially successful. For any grievance that we face, a simple download of an app is said to help us. I recently downloaded the BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) Sahaaya ("Help" in Kannada) app to raise a complaint against the garbage collectors. The app has a very basic and archaic interface. However, unlike most other Government services, it functions and at least allows you to lodge a complaint without crashing or asking for a bribe. My complaint was duly noted. Using Google Maps, I was able to submit my exact location as well as type in my address. The app asked for a few more details and allowed me to submit my complaint. Within seconds, I received a message on my phone saying that my complaint has been noted. The system then allotted it to a specific person whose job is to follow up and solve my issue. Within a few hours, I was intimated that my complaint had been allotted and was given the name and phone number of a person. Being a frequent user of popular ride sharing companies, I expected the person to solve my issue without them needing me to call them and cross verify. Well, I was wrong.
Orange Mantra Shows Its Supports To Digital India Programme
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Just like the formerly stubborn Ola Auto Drivers who demanded that you call them before they moved (thankfully this has changed and they do not expect a call anymore), I learnt online that the BBMP officials did not get of their seat unless you called them. I called them and a gentleman speaking in relatively good English answered. When I asked about when my issue would be solved as it had been over 24 hours since I had lodged the complaint and over 3 days since garbage had been picked up, he promised me in a very convincing tone that he would look into it and solve it. Five weeks hence, garbage collectors still come irregularly and not very often and the problem still persists.

My main issue with the entire Digital India program is that tons of money is budgeted for app creation. BBMP has created many apps such as Sahaaya, Green App (for buying saplings), a Toilet Finder app and others. There is no doubt that a lot of money would have been used to create these apps and a lot of it might have been 'used up due to other expenses'. The apps hope to solve many different problems. Pollution is a problem in Bengaluru and there is a Government app that sells saplings that will help us to do our bit to increase oxygen supply. Open defecation is an issue that is yet to be solved and so is garbage collection, roads cleaning and likewise. For all these civic issues that we face on a day-to-day basis, there is an app that can help us. However, the app only exists to say that we as a country are modern and digital. No work is even processed unless we pick up the phone and hold a conversation like we used to do even before the Digital Era. People complain on apps to fix road conditions and no one replies even after weeks. What is the point of calling ourselves a Digital Nation when all we can do is create apps that in no way benefits citizens? It reminds me of a famous saying-"All talk and no play". This is exactly what the Government is doing.

While you may argue that I am criticising the entire nation when a majority of my article deals with Bengaluru, let me substantiate my argument with two other points that is applicable to the whole of India.

All Government companies float tenders. These tenders can now be filled online. Filling these tenders is a cumbersome process.  They work only on specific browsers, require a specific version of Javascript that no one has used since the seventeen hundreds (a later and modern version cannot be used) and various other peculiarities. Even after conforming to all these annoying requirements, only luck will allow you to submit/upload whatever you want to. There is no guarantee that anything that you wish to do can be done in the first few tries. Taking all this into consideration, it is easier to just fill out paperwork and mail the tender application rather than submitting it online and "being a part of Digital India".

There is also a website that allows us to do all our RTO work such as applying for a license, renewals, car registrations and such. The website functions decently, but does not allow you to get your job done without visiting the RTO and standing in queue at least once. This is due to a bug. Payments (application fees) can either be paid online or at the RTO according to website. However, each time your try to pay online, the website crashes. It is easier to just go to RTO and pay in person after standing in a long queue rather than trying to pay online countless number of times. The Government, while advertising about Digital India says 'No More Queues'. Well, they are far from that.

In my opinion, Digital India is a brilliant scheme that has been badly implemented. Like most Government policies, there is no follow up after a service has been launched. The systems are outdated and apps are dreary to look at and use. Digital India is a scheme on which a lot of money has been spent, with no benefits for the common man. Fie Fie!

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