Mumbai: The Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government has decided to create a master database of all Maharashtra residents, coupled with a state-level unique ID, ThePrint has learnt.
Under the project, data from all state government departments will be brought on a single platform to give a “360-degree view of citizens” and the government schemes and services that they have availed, officials in the Maharashtra administration said.
The idea, a state government official said, is to create a “golden record of every citizen with a layer of intelligence” that can help the government in making data-driven decisions.
As part of the project, titled ‘Maharashtra Unified Citizen Data for Digital Delivery of Services’, the government plans to maintain a unified database where every individual is linked with their households.
The initiative is aimed at helping state government departments plan their schemes better, reduce the time spent in preparing fresh beneficiary lists for every scheme, and bring down instances of fraud or duplication of beneficiaries.
The project is being implemented by the state Information Technology (IT) department.
The state cabinet approved the project in December last year. According to a government resolution dated February, accessed by ThePrint, the state administration decided to allocate Rs 294.02 crore for the project.
Explaining the initiative, the aforementioned state government official said that “whenever any department implements any new scheme, it has to undertake fresh surveys to draw up a list of eligible beneficiaries”.
“As a result, every department already has a large database of citizens with it, but fresh surveys are still needed simply because all this data from different departments hasn’t been merged,” the official added.
Sometimes, the official said, “details in the databases of individual departments are inaccurate or don’t match with each other”.
“They are also not updated,” the official added. “We will try to address these issues through technology in the unified master data. It will also help eliminate the scope for fraud and malpractices that arises out of the inefficiencies in the current system.”
The state IT department has floated bids to pick a company that can help create such a unified data hub by merging existing databases of all different departments in 18 months, and then provide support to run it for three years after that.
Multiple calls and texts to Aseem Gupta, who holds additional charge as principal secretary of the IT department, for a comment on the matter went unanswered.
‘Departments will have to compulsorily on-board all data’
According to information from the IT department, there are 246 active schemes in the state, implemented across 31 departments and the 30 commissionerates and 29 directorates under them.
Data from the 2020-21 annual report of Maharashtra’s ‘Aaple Sarkar’ portal shows that the state government provides 506 types of services, of which 389 are implemented digitally.
The state has a population of 11.24 crore, according to the 2011 Census.
As of now, every individual department collects data, verifies it and determines the eligibility of beneficiaries, plans schemes, and then disburses their benefit.
For most schemes, the state government currently disburses benefits directly into the bank accounts of beneficiaries with its direct benefit transfer portal.
State government sources said while the direct benefit transfer portal has helped speed up the singular process of delivery of benefits to a certain extent, a lot of time is still spent in planning schemes and identifying beneficiaries, delaying the government’s response in unforeseen events such as natural disasters, disease outbreaks or social unrest.
Aadhaar seeding, they added, has helped to a great extent, as it has reduced instances of people impersonating beneficiaries. But it has its limitations as data on payouts before the linking of Aadhaar is not available, they said.
An overall household-based analysis — for the government to be able to see the history of payouts to individual members of a single household — is also not available, they added.
With these factors in mind, sources said, the state government has instructed all departments to compulsorily on-board the data on their individual schemes with the IT department in a computerised manner at the earliest.
The government resolution says that the IT department will have to be the custodian of the data in line with the regulations put down in the IT Act 2000, Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, the Maharashtra Right to Services Act 2015, and the Maharashtra e-governance policy of 2011.
A unique ID for every resident
The unique ID number created for every resident under the project will, for now, not be shared with individuals through any chip or biometric card, and will be used only for internal record-keeping, officials from the IT department said.
The “golden record” of every citizen that the government plans to maintain will have at least 30 different parameters, including name, address, date of birth, educational qualifications, marital status, number of children, income, family details, land ownership details, PAN card number, and driving licence number.
The IT department will also create a ‘unique citizen data hub’ portal, where residents will register themselves for various social welfare schemes such as scholarships, aid in case of disasters, and so on, sources in the government said. The citizens will be required to enter their KYC details and upload relevant documents in a document vault, or allow the state government access to relevant documents through their DigiLocker accounts. There will also be a similar mobile app, officials said.
This is to help speedy verification of potential beneficiaries and determine their eligibility.
“Maintaining unique IDs and master data will help the government identify the right target audience for specific schemes, helping in better planning,” the above-mentioned state government official added.
The company helping the state government set up the project, the official said, will also be expected to give the government analytical reports based on the master data that can be insightful for overall governance, especially when correlated with other indicators such as the number of schools and hospitals.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)