While we were not looking, India won some battles


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A call from a political party scare-mongered me into checking if my name had indeed been struck off the election list. A visit to the Election Commission site for Delhi told me that all it needed was an SMS to check if my name is on the list—I message at 7738299899, write EPIC space my voter ID number. Thirty seconds later, I get a confirmation that my name is there and it gives me the booth address where I will vote.

After the sheer delight at this super smooth process, I remember that I had got my Provident Fund (PF) balance on SMS too. Also, the passport and visa processes is mostly all automated and keeps us well-informed about the progress of the process. So I began to count what else works in India. We know and are vocally critical about what does not. So what works? Well, the metro network where it exists, as it does in Delhi, is superb. Do we hear of strikes or regular breakdowns in the cities in India they operate in? We don’t. Travel to Europe and see what breakdown of such services means. France especially is constantly on strike.

Getting or renewing a passport used to be a total nightmare a decade back. Enter private sector plus technology and the average time it takes for the passport application process is 30 minutes to under 4 hours. The passport reaches home by courier in a couple of days. At every stage, you get an SMS informing you what will happen next. In a country this large, there will be anecdotes of mis-service, but the average experience is now ahead of global standards. Take another area full of rent-seeking, long waits, harassment and bribes—getting a driving licence. At least in Delhi, the process is mostly painless—online form filling, and 30 minutes to three hours of time in the local office. The licence reaches home in just a few days. Property registration used to be a nightmare. That again is a breeze. Again a mix of technology and processes has reduced transaction time and pain hugely.

Payments is the other huge success story. Forgetting your wallet at home is no big deal anymore. The money is in the phone. In a wallet, on an app or available through mobile banking. Riding on the backbone built by the National Payments Corp. of India (NPCI), transaction options and ease are both world-class.

So how long does it take you to get a Wi-fi connection? How long does it take you to open a bank account? At least in the big metros, a Wi-fi connection happens within a day. Opening a bank account takes lesser time. The average time for these services in most developed countries is much longer. In most of Europe, for instance, it takes at least a month to get both these services. I have not heard of a faster initiation to completion time taken anywhere in the world than in India. Click on “buy" at 11pm and hear the door bell ring at 9am the next morning. That’s home delivery of stuff for you in big-city India. Want to return? Tap, tap, tap. They pick it up in the next few hours. Food delivery is transformed. We were popping golgappas at the local chaat wala when I caught a hand-written sign that said they deliver at home with Swiggy. Minimum order? Nope, one patta of bhel, he said, is happy to travel the 5 km to my home. Super good!

Friends and relatives in other parts of the developed world tell me that many of these services and speed are unique to India. While we were busy cribbing in India, a huge shift happened in the last 10-15 years in services—both public and private—that we’ve failed to notice. A mix of technology, cheap labour and super competitive firms have unleashed this service boom in the private sector. Technology, political will (across parties and governments) and the failure of the human government interface in public services has driven the public service boom. Just on the services metric, India will soon plunge ahead of most of the developed world. Take a moment and reflect on how far we’ve come in just a decade.

Source: https://www.livemint.com/opinion/co...ing-india-won-some-battles-1554796447382.html

Just in case someone thinks this is about some political party, it is not. As the last line says - changes in a decade. And I think the biggest point is - whatever party you believe have some faith in your country.


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Again, this is not about any political party but, out of that decade, the initial half was important, second half was wasted in show-offs only.


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Friends and relatives in other parts of the developed world tell me that many of these services and speed are unique to India

Your saying all this because you stay in a Metro area. Go outside metro area and you will know the difference. Even 30km outside Mumbai, it takes a week for my Amazon Prime items to come to me. If I was in Mumbai, i would have got it next day. All that internet stuff etc is possible since lot of companies are playing for customers in one small 30-60KM area. Go outside of that and there is only BSNL and one or two other players and they will take 3 days (to a month or two in case of BSNL to give you a landline) for internet or wifi.

there is no 24 hrs power or water supply outside metros. everyday there is 2-3 hrs power cuts and water supply is just for 1/2 hour to 1 hr in lots of places.

metro and rail trouble is very common in mumbai. i've heard of entire metro getting stopped because some wheels caught fire etc. During rainy season, water logging on tracks causes entire local train system to run only for few stations instead of entire line.
mumbai smells literally like shit when you come from outside mumbai. i stay outside mumbai and when i come to mumbai, all i can smell is poop. i feel like wearing a gas mask to stop the poop smell and pollution in air from coming into my lungs. i think mumbai people have got used this shit and don't care even after paying crores of rupees for flats there.

Bank accounts etc take a week or so if all your papers are in order. Hell, I don't even get any post since last few years because there is no post man in my area. I bet the post office just dumps the post into trash and burns it. I had to go digital everywhere so i could get bills and receipts etc.

I could write a lot more here but don't feel like it since its depressing.

Lord Nemesis

A lot of this stuff has been in place for more than a decade ago. The trouble with the govt stuff is that nothing is done properly and people tend to pat ourselves in the back without accomplishing much of anything.

We had the ability to easily check name on electoral lists via website even in the previous decade. However, that website stops working when people need it the most which is right before the actual elections. For example it was down for quite some time even today. Since the SMS service also relies on the same data source, that also wen for a toss. The message "Could not fetch content, sorry" is what I got today when using the SMS service.

I registered for voter id in Hyderabad about 8 years ago. I filled the application online. It was a poorly implemented and dysfunctional website which didn't even ask for a ID or address proof along with the application. A guy later calls us for verification and tells us that house number is not entered correctly (I entered name of building and flat number instead of govt issued building number) and he is rejecting my application and to apply again. Few days later I get a SMS saying that my voter id is ready and to go to a Mee Seva center to collect a copy. I went and sure enough, I got a voter id issued without submitting a single identity or address proof. After AP/Telangana segregation, a lot of people from AP living in Hyderabad have had their names removed from electoral lists to prevent them from casting votes which may be unfavorable to the present ruling party here. I too lost my voter id in the process with no means of contesting it.

Last year, we had a voter registration camp setup up in our township and registered again for voter id. This time, it was a physical registration with some govt officials coming to our premises for it. I filled the application, provided a photo and attached a copy of aadhaar as ID and address proof. After several months, I got the voter id. I guess, they didn't like the photo or the gender that I gave on the form. So they sent me a voter id on which my gender was printed as female, but guess what, the photo was of some well groomed guy. With all the technology they have and us filling the forms, they could not be bothered to ensure that right data is printed on to the card. What kind of verification must they have done? Don't forget that this card not only entitles us to vote, but the card is an ID proof that could be used to open bank accounts and what not. I applied for correction online and after a month, the request was closed as rejected recently with no other explanation of the basis. This not unique either, a bunch of other people had errors in their voter ids. If 20-30 people have issues out of 200 odd who registered in a single camp, its a big percentage of failure. Its the same shit with Aadhaar registration too. People have received aadhaar cards with pictures of dogs and cats or empty chairs.

Next, lets look at PF.

The ability to check PF balance by sending an SMS was there for about 15 years now. However, the data hardly used to get updated. More recently, they have begin to send updates on the deposit of PF by the employer. For the month of Jan, I got the update in Apr. just a few days ago. They couldn't even keep this website running properly. If it ever went down, it would not be available for weeks or months. Just a couple of years back they announced a revamped portal for UAN services and checking PF. It was announced the launch pompously via all news sources. They even removed the links to the old implementation and linked the new one. But guess what, the portal was non functional and it remained so for several months. What we got later and can also be seen today is a pile of mess, You know a website is bad if you have to resort to Chrome Dev Tools to make use of it.

Going further, the UAN implementation itself was a massive mess. At the fundamental level, the concept of a Universal account number may sound like it may be some hassle to link with existing and previous accounts, but it should be seamless future changes, but no, you will still be issued a local account every time you switch job and same has to be linked up to UAN explicitly. The transfer process also doesn't happen automatically and you have to do it explicitly. So what is the purpose of this Universal Account Number except being another number.

The height of lethargy in this whole system is reflected from the situation I faced couple of years back. Due to a glitch in the software systems they use at my local PF office, they zapped the prior joining and ending date records for nearly a thousand employees from my company. Instead of restoring it from backup or fixing the issue by themselves, they made a 1000 employees submit a application and declaration to have it corrected and took a major part of a year to fix it.

I can go on and on like this, but to cut it short lets not pat ourselves in the back for taking a decade or more for making minor enhancements to existing systems while not bothering to fix fundamental problems with those systems. It is not so difficult to build functional systems and also cut off 70-80% work force of the govt, but no, that is a big taboo. We need to have poorly implemented systems that over complicate everything and involve employees at every stage to leave the mark of their negligence. We need the kind of poor use of technology that requires us to fill a form online and then print it out send it via post so that some lethargic employee processes it introduce unwarranted errors for which you will need to keep running around them.

People have somehow reached this stage where even a simple and minor feature added is a cause for celebration and are also deluded enough to think that we are ahead of the rest of the world.