Originally Published 2012-12-29 00:00:00 Published on Dec 29, 2012
There is a genuine endeavour in the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi to enhance their public delivery mechanisms. And, its example of harnessing ICT can come handy for other states currently implementing Right to Service Acts.
Delivering on service guarantee: A case of Delhi's e-SLA
    Public Service Guarantee Act, also known as Right to Service Act (RTS) is a significant piece of legislation brought out by a number of Indian states in the recent time to improve the critical service delivery component of public administration. Under RTS, for the first time in the country, all notified public services are treated as legally binding. In other words, the new Act empowers the citizenry to avail public services in a time bound manner. As of today, some 15 Indian states have enacted this landmark legislation, with Madhya Pradesh (MP), Bihar, Punjab and Delhi leading the wayi

    The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) was among the first few states to enact the legislation titled The Delhi (Right to Citizen to Time Bound Delivery of Services) Act in April 2011. Under the Act, various government departments have to deliver services as requested by citizens within a given time period failing which the in-charge official is subject to a penalization of Rs. 10 per day. The upper limit of penalization goes up to Rs. 200 per day. Essential services like issuance of ration card, SC/ST/OBC certificates, electricity and water connections, vendor registration etc have been listed so far under the Delhi Act.

Leveraging on Strong IT Base

    A quick glance at the implementation of the Act indicates Delhi has made an impressive stride so far. In fact, it is among handful of states (others being MP, Punjab, Bihar) to have put in place a robust support infrastructure and information system to address the service delivery issues in quick time. One thing that makes Delhi different from other states is its robust online monitoring system called the Electronic-Service Level Agreement (eSLA) that does a handy job in facilitating the service delivery process.

    As a monitoring system, eSLA is being hosted on the Delhi State Wide Area Network (DSWAN). As part of the several e-governance initiatives and re-engineering processes undertaken by the Department of Information Technology (DIT) in the recent times, efforts have been made to shift servers of departments to the State Data Centreii , thereby allowing the Management Information System (MIS) of every department to integrate with the eSLA system. The eSLA server automatically monitors, tracks and updates useful data on service delivery, generating reports and evaluations for use of higher officials (through SMS and other mediums). The work flow of every department continues to be monitored internally by the concerned department, only in-date and out-date of applications are monitored by eSLA, which is essentially the time is taken to deliver the service.

Good things first

    There are two ways to look at the effectiveness of this system. One from the side of the citizens, and other from the concerned departments. When the required data (service requests) is fed into the system by the official, a unique Application ID is raised by the system. This ID can be tracked online to check the status of the application. An assessment conducted by the Management Development Institute (MDI) on eSLA recently shows that this system has reduced the number of physical visits made by a citizen for an application. Some 66.6% of those surveyed reported that they are not required to visit the office of the service provider more than once after submitting their applications'iii .

    On the other hand, many of the departments assigned to deliver key services have shown some degree of ownership and seriousness to integrate their services with eSLA. This is because eSLA effectively isolates systemic errors and other inefficiencies, thus enabling officials to put suitable resources to remove bottlenecks in service delivery. Additionally, it allows for creating efficient timelines dependent on staff capacity and pilot runs. They are also being regularly assessed and reviewed. For example, Delhi's Transport Department revised its timeline for issuing permanent driving licence from 7 days to 3 days after they integrated with the eSLA system.

    The most noteworthy aspect about eSLA is that it permits departments that are yet to build internal software system to catch up at some stage. They have the option of recording applications and delivery through Delhi's existing Common Service Centres (CSC or Jeevan Kiosks) through which data can be pushed to the eSLA systemiii. Besides the obvious incentive of making redundancies in service delivery easily "identifiable", it allows easy integration to the system at no additional cost. No wonder, there is encouraging response from across various departments to incorporate eSLA. Buoyed by the initial responses, the Delhi Chief Minister at a recent e-Governance Leadership Meet in November 2012 declared that the State Government would raise the number of services under eSLA to over 200 services post March 2013iv> .

    To further harness from this integration process, Delhi government has initiated a number of orientation programmes and technical sessions for officials. So far, the DIT has trained about 1500 employees, raising targets each yearii. Further, considerable budgetary resources have been utilized for the promotion of IT applications through mass awareness campaigns - Bhagidari utsav, e-India exhibitions etc. Also creating awareness through brochures/literature distributed through Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) and Market Traders Association (MTAs), radio and print advertisements. Good thing about eSLA is that it required a one-time capital expenditure and subsequent minor capex to integrate more services, making it extremely cost effectivev . In short, eSLA is the good example of how e-governance tools can be leveraged to enhance service delivery. Governance Knowledge Centre (promoted by Government of India), a digital single point of reference on good governance practices, recognizes eSLA as best practice.

Major Challenges Remain

    Notwithstanding many benefits, eSLA is ridden with problems and challenges of all kind. As pointed out by the MDI survey, while the system has been in place for more than two years, there is no feedback system in place as yet. The citizen or the beneficiaries, who avail these services, have no avenue to put their views forth of how the system is performing. It is more of the concerned department's prerogative to internally audit and resolve customer related feedbacks. Furthermore, statistics of operations monitored by eSLA system are not available in public domain. Figures on number of applications, pendency, disposal rate, performing and underperforming departments etc are accessible only to government officials.

    Another concern is with regard to awareness. In the survey undertaken by MDI, 99% respondents are aware of the unique Application ID number provided to them subsequent to the submission of their application for a service. However, only 50% of them know that this unique ID can be tracked online i.e. through internet. Moving from awareness to actual tracking, only about 15% of respondents actually tracked their application onlineiii.

    An important area that needs to be sorted out urgently is the fact that even though many departments have shown their willingness to incorporate this system, internal resistance by senior officials still remains a major bottleneck in its speedier expansion. Some quarters of the officials believe this system primarily provides for penalizing/upholding government officials, rather than building a robust pro-citizen arrangementvi . This is a major challenge requiring an attitude change and will probably see amends only as its benefits become more prominent in the long run.


    Among other measures, the efficacy of the Delhi RTS Act rests on its innovative monitoring system - eSLA. As seen from the above analysis, E-SLA comes out as an excellent example of leveraging IT tools for supporting and strengthening governance processes. The various departments have been able to correctly identify systemic errors, eliminating long standing problems like duplication of efforts, indefinite delays and red-tapism. Even though issues like bureaucratic resistance and mass awareness are a concern, concerted efforts to tackle them will bear fruit in due course. On a whole, there is a genuine endeavour in the GNCTD to enhance their public delivery mechanisms. To conclude, Delhi example of harnessing ICT can come handy for other states currently implementing RTS.

Mr. Rohit Sinha, Research Intern.

i.     For a detailed update on implementation of RTS, see Niranjan Sahoo and Arjun Kappor. Indian's Shifting Governance Structure: Form Charter of Promises to Services Guarantee, ORF Occasional Paper, July 2012.

ii.     Outcome Budgets 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11; Department of Planning, GNCTD

iii.    Audit of Functioning of Government of Delhi's e-SLA Scheme; Conducted by Management Development Institute, Gurgaon; 2012.

iv.    "200 services to be brought under e-SLA system", The Hindu, November 22, 2012.

v.     e-SLA Monitoring System, New Delhi; Documentation of Best Practice; Conducted by OneWorld Foundation India; January 2012.

vi.     Based on interviews of Delhi officials (IT department) by the author.

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