How an e-Mitra Kiosk owner introduced me to Rajasthan’s ‘Good Governance’

His wrinkled skin adds to his years as an officiating ‘karta-dharta’ of the sole e-Mitra Kiosk at a non-descript village near my hometown. Satyapal Singh aka Sattujee is the most hard-working 60-year old I have ever met.

Aged and experienced a little less than his age, Sattujee is a happy man, only when he is not interacting with the residents of the village. Hearsay is that he wanted to contest elections but couldn’t. And that the bottled-up regret has now fermented to become a constant nagging against any and every governance there is.

I met him with a restless hesitation when I went to his propriety — the Common Service Centre — to pay the electricity bill of my grandparents’ ancestral home.

“Why not call this a CSC when it is a CSC? e-Mitra?” I said. I have never anyway been a fan of the policies of the government. Any government.

“But do you know, child, that Rajasthan has the highest number of CSCs if compared to other states? More than 35,000 kiosks. And a web portal. And an app too. Rajasthan government has its priorities set right,” answered the unfamiliar voice seeming to bear familiarity with the governance.

“I’m sorry. But I thought you hated the government. It’s surprising you’re defending it,” I said.

“Why not? I quite like the government. You know, had I been a practising politician, I’d have done what exactly the government is doing,” he replied.

I had read someone addressing Smt Vasundhara Raje as the ‘Rani of Reforms’. It wasn’t for nothing. For the next few days, I met Sattujee daily and the mighty happy-with-the-government citizen explained to me all about good governance. Good governance, because by his experience, Rajasthan has never been this happy.

Since her return to power in December 2013, Smt Vasundhara Raje has brought about a plethora of economic reforms that go beyond rebates. She and her entourage have effectively broken the monopoly of the government sector in transportation, health and education.

The private sector has come to its very own under her governance; not restricted to construction of roads. Public Private Partnerships are making way to every sphere, be it consumer durables as Annapurna Bhandar Yojana (partnership with Future Group to make good quality products available at affordable prices to the rural poor), medical facilities as Arogya Online (automation and computerisation of hospitals), or electricity distribution.

Business-friendlier economic reforms have given way to people-centric initiatives. “You know the government incentivised my daughter’s education too. There’s a scheme called Mukhyamantri Rajshri Yojana under which the total financial support provided is Rs 50,000, provided in six different installments at pre-decided intervals,” Sattujee told me, adding, “My daughter is very bright. She topped Class X and got to meet Smt Raje through ‘Humaari Betiyaan Yojana’.” Rajasthan shone out in PM’s ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ campaign primarily because of these schemes. Installation of GPS Tracker in sonography machines and Ashray Palna Yojana among others also brought back our girls.

“My son filled his RPSC forms through my e-Mitra kiosk. I couldn’t contain my happiness when I handed him his scholarship letter that I received at my e-Mitra centre,” Sattujee expressed his joy. Now, e-Mitra reaches till the remotest areas of inhabitation, and provides a single-window access to close to 300 services, including bill/fee payment, form filling, grievance redressal, recharge, and banking services.

With the aim of financial inclusion, women empowerment and service delivery, the government started Bhamashah Yojana. Under it, bank accounts are opened and Bhamashah Card is made in the name of the lady of the house empowering her to be the decision-maker. All cash and non-cash benefits under all public welfare schemes are directly transferred to the accounts.

“Bhamashah Yojana is a boon to us. I get my pension on time. The amount from Rajshree Yojana also gets deposited to our bank account,” said Sattujee.

Bhamashah covers a Health Insurance Scheme too, known as Bhamashah Swasthya Bima Yojana, framed for BPL families, which can get access to quality CASHLESS health treatment.

Grievance redressal is primarily done with Rajasthan Sampark — providing transparent means of resolving grievances. It’s a centralised platform comprising a call centre, a web portal, Jan Sampark centres with video conferencing facility. “I have forgot count of the times I have logged on to the Sampark Portal and got roads, street lights, pipelines repaired. Rajasthan Sampark is a saviour by all means,” Sattujee went on detailing the Rajasthan Government.

He added, “A scheme that really impresses me is ‘Mukhyamantri Jal Swavlamban Abhiyan’. Who could have otherwise imagined a desert state to receive flood-inducing rains this year? It’s all Science, implemented in a subtle way by Smt Raje — conservation of water through rainwater harvesting. Rainfall broke all records this year. I have heard that more than 92,000 structures were erected in Phase I of the campaign. And Phase II will start soon.

“In the last three years, what helped Smt Raje push through so many reforms with such ease and non-existent marketing is her zeal to work for the people.

“Marketing is an issue. But I think they are working towards it,” he added and coaxed me to find a way out, since, you know, I write.

On our last day together, I gifted him a shawl and a box of laddoos as a token of this great learning. Who says governments don’t work? The Vasundhara Raje-led government is certainly one of the rarities.

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