RS Sharma at Project Building on his last day in office on Wednesday. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Ram Sewak Sharma became chief secretary of Jharkhand in April last year. Today, a year later, the 1978 batch IAS officer is ready to leave the state for New Delhi where he will take charge as secretary, department of electronics and information technology.
The former director-general of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is leaving Jharkhand with fond memories and the satisfaction that as the “Aadhaar man” he was able to sow the seeds of technology-based good governance in this state of myriad challenges.
In an exclusive interview to The Telegraph, Sharma talks of his short, but eventful, term in Jharkhand.
TT: Delhi calling again, excited?
RS: A new journey again. But for me, every day, every assignment is an exciting challenge
What was it like being chief secretary in Jharkhand?
Satisfying. I feel privileged that I was appointed chief secretary of the state. Becoming chief secretary is the ultimate wish of any IAS officer. Thanks to the support of the chief minister and my colleagues, we were able to take many strategic decisions which people will realise in the long run. I have been stressing on looking beyond the routine… that change in work culture and attitude is slowly creeping in
One of the major initiatives was to computerise all land records in the last one year. Compilation of digital data is almost on the verge of completion. Secondly, linking public distribution system (PDS) with a biometric system, which we piloted in Ormanjhi, Ranchi, has been successful. After Lok Sabha elections are over, it will be expanded to the whole state. Thirdly, we tied up with India Post for NREGA payments, which again is a unique step. Fourthly, permits of commercial taxes, mines, e-payment gateway, etc, have been activated online. Fifth, going beyond the conventional, we adopted an integrated financial management system for proper tracking of total state allocations, expenditure status etc. There are many more
And biometric attendance?
Yes, the biometric attendance system for all government offices is being done on priority. I was personally pushing for this step at schools, hospitals and universities. Currently, it may look trivial but this small step can virtually eradicate casual work attitude
Can ideas, if not implemented earnestly, bring about change?
A good beginning is important. Now, it depends how fast we embrace the change
How long will the state continue to suffer manpower crunch? In the last 14 years, we have failed miserably to fill vacancies
Agreed. But, let me extend that thought by saying that crisis of ‘quality manpower’ is the real problem for the state. We need professionals, not run of the mill heads to fill chairs. Unfortunately, departments haven’t been able to push things by taking proactive steps to address problems. In the past year, thanks to the proactive attitude of the finance and personnel departments, we have been able to identify 20 crucial recruitment rules. To begin with, we should be able to hire forest guards after the polls
Bureaucracy needs exposure...
Agreed. One of the reasons for slow growth was due to lack of proper exposure among the bureaucratic class and the government set up in general. For example, we don’t have a project monitoring unit for JNNURM in Jharkhand. So, projects suffer
An honest assessment of your pet project Aadhaar
Things close to the heart deserve a genuine response. Aadhaar is on the right track in Jharkhand. We have managed about 93 per cent enrolment. We have managed to link many sectors like education, banking, health etc
Many say Jharkhand isn’t investor friendly
I don’t agree. Yes, there are challenges like land acquisition, environmental clearances, etc. But such problems exist in every state. Yes, there is always scope for betterment
Your suggestions for development in Jharkhand
Three things: focus on developing physical and social infrastructure and introduce technology-based governance. By physical, I mean roads, bridges, parks etc. Social relates to improvement in education, health, happiness quotient etc.