Going paperless

Print edition : June 14, 2013

The fire that broke out at Mantralaya in Mumbai in June 2012, which destroyed at least 63,000 files and hastened the plan to convert paper files into e-files. Photo: SHASHI ASHIWAL

SOON the nightmarish sight of desks and cupboards crammed with stacks of paper and dog-eared files in Mumbai’s Mantralaya, will be a thing of the past. The State is heading towards having a paperless administration. Though discussion on this started two years ago, the real impetus seems to have been the fire last June in Mantralaya. It spurred all departments to begin converting paper files into e-files. It is estimated that about 63,000 files were lost and there were no back-ups.

The transformation will come about via a system called e-office, which is supported by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) and is already in use in some Union Ministries under the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP). The e-office system will enable a transparency and efficient moving between departments with electronic ease enabling Ministers and officials to make and share their notes until the files are finally signed off with digital signatures.

Home, urban development and the school education departments will be the first to incorporate the new system. All records of files and documents will have to be recreated in the new e-system. The NIC, along with the Information Technology Department, has set up a central technical cell and a training cell for capacity building. Security is, of course, a big concern and there is a complex system to regulate access and recall of files.

Sindhudurg has become the first district to walk the paperless path. Collector Virendra Singh has been particularly enthusiastic about going the e-way and his southern-most district is the first to integrate the entire revenue administration from the tehsil level to the Collector’s office. It took 18 months and Rs.1.2 crore to achieve this, but it cuts out paper to an amazing extent.

Just one fact is enough to appreciate the e-move—92 per cent of information in government offices is stored in manila folders and at any given time 3 to 5 per cent are lost.

One of the aims of the paperless office is to create more efficiency, more transparency and to minimise the chances of loss of files. While all this sounds very progressive and technologically with it, an email joke doing the rounds wondered whether the next step ‘deals’ would be struck by e-transfer of funds. This is unlikely because paper leaves no trail, e-exchanges do. There will still be a little bit of paper in use since one physical copy of every document will be kept… in a fireproof room, of course.

Lyla Bavadam

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