| Homepage of the Odisha e-despatch website. Marked in red are the departments that are yet to introduce the system |
Bhubaneswar, Jan. 31: The state’s e-despatch system fails to function as promised, because the government is apparently losing sleep over too much transparency.
Most departments are avoiding posting letters and online notices through the e-despatch system, fearing it may boomerang on them, because it involves sharing vital information with the public. Some departments have even stopped posting letters on the government website.
Of the 38 government departments, eight departments — fisheries and animal resources development, law, micro, small and medium enterprises, parliamentary affairs, pension grievance and public administration, science and technology, sports and youth services and tourism and culture — have not even introduced the e-despatch system.
The housing and urban development department has also stopped posting letters on its website since January 14. Their counterparts in the forest and environment department discontinued posting letters on the website two months ago after it had drawn public criticism following a series of elephant deaths.
Not a single file has moved through e-despatch system from January 22 to 30 in the home department. The last time it happened was on January 21.
File movement through the system has been restricted in the planning and co-ordination department as well.
“We have been asked to put the general letters only on the department website. Earlier, we used to place all the records there, but that system is not being followed now,” said an official.
The problem of posting letters snowballed into a major controversy after the government had found itself at the receiving end earlier this month, when the accountant-general of Odisha’s letter objecting to the government’s industrialisation policy was uploaded on the website.
“It forced the state to devise a strategy on how to block information flow. In the name of right to public service, they will try to hide information,” said Opposition chief whip Prasad Harichandan.
To bring transparency in the administration and minimise file work, the state government introduced the e-dispatch system two years ago.
Now, the government, instead of posting all the contents of its official letters, as was the practice earlier, has adopted a pick-and-choose policy.
“We have been told not to post all letters and be careful while posting anything on the website,” said a senior official, adding that no important letters or those on confidential issues would be posted through the e-despatch system.
On the e-despatch system, it is not even possible to open the portals of a number of departments. If you click the e-despatch system of the commerce and transport department, you will land in the e-dispatch system of the chief electoral officer. Besides, not a single letter is available on the e-despatch system of this department.
The finance department has no letters sent trough the system from January 28 to 29, both of which were working days. The steel and mines department has also been careful in this regard.
On the other hand, the panchayati raj department, which has come out with a number of letters, is careful that no major leakage takes place from its side. It mainly posts letters concerning disciplinary actions against block development officers or other staff members. The department also prefers to keep all letters to the Centre a secret.
On being asked the reason for maintaining secrecy, an official said: “We will provide all information if asked through an RTI application.”