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West Bengal :: Upgrading the State Machinery

Posted by egovernance on November 2, 2006

Dr. Debesh Das, minister-in-charge of IT, West Bengal, says that e-governance can help improve the quality of life of the people of the state.

SOURCE: CIO

http://www.cio.in/govern/viewArticles/ARTICLEID=2306/page=0

CIO: With rising investor-interest in West Bengal, what are the recent e-governance initiatives in the state?
Dr. Debesh Das: We are starting work in e-governance now. We have selected 14 departments out of 54 in our state. Some of the selected departments include transport, health, education, land reforms and panchayats, among others. A state-level steering committee has also been formed, with the CM as the chairman and I as the working chairman.

You plan to equip all gram panchayats with PCs and provide farmers e-information about price movements of agri-products. What is the status of this project?
Actually, we are trying to do it in one district first, so that this can act as a pilot for other parts of the state. The place we have selected is Burdwan. In this place, we will reach every gram panchayat and provide them with PCs along with connectivity.

In 2007, we plan to connect every block with the state headquarters. This will ensure proper flow of information across the state. We have also given an e-district proposal to the Central Government for two districts, namely Bankura and Jalpaiguri. We are still awaiting clearance for this proposal from the Center, and once this comes, we will go ahead with it. I think that this project will be done in 2008.

The chief minister of West Bengal recently inaugurated e-governance in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation. What benefits do you see from this move?
We feel that this will be of great help to the people of Kolkata in various areas like health, death and birth certificates, for the application of trade licences, and others. Everything will become much easier.

Our ultimate vision is that everybody in West Bengal should feel that the government is trying to help him or her by reaching out to them. In short, we want accessibility to be enhanced.

Only 15 percent of e-gov projects are believed to succeed in India. What is the status in West Bengal? What is the most common reason for failure?
Most of our e-governance initiatives are at a nascent stage. In some departments, we have done very good work, especially in areas like the management of land records. With some of our newer e-governance projects, we are just starting the work. And since not much has been done in West Bengal till now, it is still too early to say whether the project will succeed or not.

What is your take on open source software and e-governance? Do you think that environments like Linux will deliver better ROI?
In my view, you must go in for open source for e-governance. There are several reasons why I believe that operating systems like Linux and other open source initiatives are good for e-governance. One reason is obviously because open source products are less expensive.

But a bigger reason why I endorse open source for e-governance projects is localization. Not everybody is comfortable with English, and we are therefore very keen on giving the people of West Bengal access to information in Bengali. Because of the customization that is possible with open source, this will be easier.

How do you believe e-gov can improve quality of life in West Bengal?
There are doubts about whether e-governance does actually improve the quality of life. I believe it can have a huge impact. One place where it can help is in administration. Second, we have the Right to Information Act, which is better facilitated by e-governance. Third, people can interact more easily with the government thanks to e-governance.

Can you give us examples of how this is happening?
Let’s consider something like registration and the issuance of birth certificates. People can go to a kiosk and get the job done quickly, instead of doing it the manual way, which takes longer. It is also great for agriculture — if the farmer can know the price of his crop, then it will be very much easier for him. If somebody is applying over the Internet for something like tenders, then again, e-governance is of tremendous use.

How do you believe e-governance reduces corruption?
Obviously, e-governance reduces corruption considerably. In the birth certificate module I just cited, if somebody can apply through a kiosk, he doesn’t need to bribe anybody to get the job done. Similarly, when more e-governance projects go online, corruption will be brought down. Also, if the Right to Information Act is properly implemented, corruption in the government will definitely come down because the system itself becomes more transparent.

Before becoming the IT minister, you were a professor of computer science. How much has that helped you in the process of enhancing e-governance in West Bengal?
My prior experience with IT has been of great help to me in getting investments. One reason is because I understand the language that the people in the IT sector speak. When I interact with top officials, I understand the quality of the companies they represent. If a small company comes, which doesn’t have too much money, I’m able to determine if the company can still show some sort of entrepreneurial skills.

With reference to e-governance, I understand what the people of the state need, and how IT can make their lives better. For instance, based on my knowledge, I understand why open source software is so crucial for e-governance projects.

While you believe that IT can help improve work culture, are government employees buying this argument? Is there any resistance to IT?
Actually, there has been a lot of change in West Bengal recently with respect to the mindsets of the people in general and government employees in particular. I don’t think that there is any resistance to computerization now. The only problem is that people are not habituated to using computers. This apart, people understand that computers form a crucial part of the machinery required for running the state.

So, if people are interested in IT but not habituated, what sort of training investments is the government making?
I plan to train all the people in my department shortly. We have a policy for training all government employees of the state vis-à-vis IT usage. While we have not set any specific deadline for this task, we are quite confident that we can do this within one or two years. We have already given some training to a few people, but we need to give them more rigorous training.

What happens when large projects like the Tata’s Rs 1-lakh car project come to West Bengal? Will this not put a strain on the official machinery and call for a greater thrust on e-governance? How do you plan to handle huge projects like this?
Naturally, a huge project in West Bengal will place a strain on the machinery of the state. But investments help the state, and we plan to ensure that our e-governance initiatives are also expanded to ensure that governance doesn’t suffer. You also have to remember that when a huge project comes our way, it helps the people of the state by providing them with employment and better quality of life. Along with this, our e-governance plans will also make the lives of these people more meaningful.

Posted in States in INDIA | 1 Comment »

J’khand nominated for best e-governed state award

Posted by egovernance on November 2, 2006

J’khand nominated for best e-governed state award

United News of India

Ranchi, November 2, 2006

http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1833974,000900030009.htm

Marching ahead in its campaign for introduction of e-governance to improve efficiency, transparency and responsiveness in administrative system, Jharkhand has been nominated for best e-governed state award given by the Computer Society of India.

The other nominated members vying for the award are Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and New Delhi.

The award called CSI/Nihilent e-governance is given every year in two categories – project and state.

While individual projects are selected for awards on various criteria, the states which make significant progress in the e-governance area are awarded best e-governed state award.

The final selection would be made by a jury on November 4 in New Delhi at the department of management studies at IIT. They will make a presentation before the jury.

Jharkhand is the first state in the country to have completed its statewide area network (SWAN), called Jharnet.

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TN::From rural to e-world for netting rich benefits

Posted by egovernance on November 2, 2006

From rural to e-world for netting rich benefits

R. Sairam

http://www.hindu.com/2006/11/02/stories/2006110219300300.htm

Village Information Centre is ushering in a cyber revolution

 

 



RUSTIC WONDER: R. Arasama of Tiruvadavur near Madurai working in a computer at the Village Information Centre. — Photo: K. Ganesan

 

 

MADURAI: Situated about 15 km north of Madurai, Tiruvadavur, the birth place of legendary poet Manickavasagar, is a village that is a throw back to the olden days with huts, mud roads and half-built buildings.

However, the Village Information Centre, established here by the DHAN Foundation, is inspiring a cyber revolution among the villagers, who have taken up to the e-world in a big way. The kiosk offers a range of Internet-based services, right from bringing agriculture experts to their villages via video conferencing to the latest prices of essential commodities.

Using a wireless local loop technology called `Cord Tech system’ and a video conferencing technology `ISEE,’ that can operate in low bandwidth, developed by Indian Institute of Technology-Madras, all the 50 centres are connected. The main transmitter is based in Melur and its transmission is received by these kiosks through their `wall set’ equipment.

The DHAN (Development of Humane Action) Foundation, a Madurai-based development organisation, has set up 50 of these kiosks in rural localities that dot the suburbs of Madurai. Thanks to its efforts, the villagers have become increasingly aware of their rights.

Says P. Aarumugam, a 69-year-old farmer in Tiruvadavur, “Through video conferencing, I consulted a lawyer in Madurai about a legal problem I had faced and had the issue sorted out.”

These kiosks also have a public address system, which is utilised to convey a range of information to the entire village, apart from who will be participating in the video conferencing that day.

“Next month, farming operations will commence, so we consulted agriculture experts from Agriculture College and Research Institute here on what seeds and type of fertiliser to be used,” says R. Arasama, 53, of the same village.

The kiosk in Therkkutheru, about 10 km north of here, is one of the centres where telemedicine, is being made available.

“At present, telemedicine is being done at four of the centres. Based on our experience, we are planning to expand this to all 40 centres,” says R. Senramar, team leader of the Information and Communication Technology programme.

Besides these Internet programmes, DHAN foundation also offers computer application courses through its Thagavalagam Community College, where about 400 students attend classes every year.

T. Pannerselvam, Melur Agriculture Officer, says, “Being an agriculture officer, I interact with farmers through video conferencing after my office hours and advise them on how to go about farming that season. Besides, I also use this opportunity to take the Government schemes to them.”

Need for community radio

“We have requested the Government to give us permission to establish a community radio centre with a radius of 30 km as it would go a long way in helping these people,” says an official from DHAN. “However, at present, it is allowed only for educational institutions,” he said.

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Bihar panchayats set for e-governance

Posted by egovernance on October 31, 2006

Bihar panchayats set for e-governance

India NewsPatna, Oct 27 (IANS) Bihar has approved a proposal to introduce e-governance in all its 8,479 panchayats at a cost of Rs.252 million, state Cabinet Secretary A.K. Chauhan said Friday.

The proposal was approved late Thursday at a state cabinet meeting here, said the official.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and the Bihar State Electronics Development Corporation, a state-owned IT body, are to design the software for the e-governance project. The Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (ILFS) will monitor its implementation.

Under the project, panchayat information centres or panchayat portals called Vasudha Kendras will be set up. This will enable villagers to connect with the outside world and provide affordable and easy access to information about the government and its policies, said Chauhan.

He said the Vasudha Kendras would be connected to all state departments through the Internet and the government will provide computers and Internet connections at the panchayat level centre.

According to the plan, eight government departments, including the chief minister secretariat, will be linked to the State-wide Area Network (SWAN).

The project aims at establishing direct contact with villagers and making the functioning of the government more transparent.

“People will come to know the progress of developmental projects, their implementation, costs incurred and can seek redressal of their problems with the click of a mouse,” Chauhan said.

It was on the advice of President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, during his visit to the state earlier this year, that the state took the e-governance project seriously.

Kalam had suggested that Bihar use e-governance as a tool for development and to ensure a corruption free administration.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s official residence is to be the main operational centre for e-governance.

A few months ago, top administrative officials and ministers were provided with laptops as part of the e-governance drive. Video-conferencing facility has also been set up in the state’s 38 district headquarters.

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Bihar to make the e-leap into IT age

Posted by egovernance on October 31, 2006

Patna, Oct 27 (IANS) Bihar, where once former chief minister Lalu Prasad saw IT as an elitist preoccupation, has approved a proposal to introduce e-governance in all its 8,479 panchayats at a huge cost of Rs.252 million (Rs25.2 crores).

http://www.teluguportal.net/modules/news/article.php?storyid=19184

But his successor government of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar approved a sweeping proposal late Thursday that will enable villagers to connect with the outside world and get easy information access, state Cabinet Secretary A.K. Chauhan said Friday.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and the Bihar State Electronics Development Corporation, a state-owned IT body, are to design the software for the e-governance project. The Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (ILFS) will monitor its implementation.

Under the project, panchayat information centres, or panchayat portals called Vasudha Kendras, will be set up. This will enable villagers to connect with the outside world and provide affordable and easy access to information about the government and its policies, said Chauhan.

He said the Vasudha Kendras would be connected to all state departments through the Internet and the government will provide computers and Internet connections at the panchayat level centre.

According to the plan, eight government departments, including the chief minister secretariat, will be linked to the State-wide Area Network (SWAN).

The project aims at establishing direct contact with villagers and making the functioning of the government more transparent.

“People will come to know the progress of developmental projects, their implementation, costs incurred and can seek redressal of their problems with the click of a mouse,” Chauhan said.

It was on the advice of President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, during his visit to the state earlier this year, that the state took the e-governance project seriously.

Kalam had suggested that Bihar use e-governance as a tool for development and to ensure a corruption free administration.

The chief minister’s official residence is to be the main operational hub for e-governance.

A few months ago, top administrative officials and ministers were provided with laptops as part of the e-governance drive. Video-conferencing facility has also been set up in the state’s 38 district headquarters.

This was the same state where Lalu Prasad said famously not too many years ago that IT was a new-fangled concept and of no use to an agrarian state like Bihar.

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Punjab first state to implement national e-governance plan

Posted by egovernance on October 26, 2006

Punjab first state to implement national egovernance plan
Zee News, India – 21 hours ago
Moga, Oct 25: Punjab would be the first state in the country to begin implementation of the Centre’s national egovernance plan under the National Common

Punjab first state to implement national e-governance plan
 

Moga, Oct 25: Punjab would be the first state in the country to begin implementation of the Centre’s national e-governance plan under the National Common Service Centre (NCSC).

Under this programme, which was chalked out by the Union government, Punjab plans to set up 2500 common service centers across the state.

Out of these, 2112 centres will be set up in the rural areas while the rest will be in urban and semi-urban areas.

The project based on public-private partnership is slated to begin soon. Punjab Infotech will be the nodal agency for initiating the project in the state.

Giving details, Punjab Infotech Director N S Kalsi yesterday said here today that on the lines of the IT- Ministry guidelines, private parties or companies will be appointed for operating the common service centres in villages across the state. The private parties will be given the charge of managing of the centres, he added.

However, private parties will be roping in village level entrepreneurs (VLE) to facilitate the functioning and dissemination of service in the rural areas, specially in the border districts. The private companies would fund 66 per cent of the project, the government will put in 33 per cent funds and one per cent would come from the VLEs.

Bureau Report

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Chhattisgarh villages to be connected via internet

Posted by egovernance on October 22, 2006

Chhattisgarh villages to be connected via internet

http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/002200610060310.htm

Raipur, Oct 6. (PTI): Residents of over 19,000 villages in Chhattisgarh will soon be able to access information and avail of various facilities at the click of a mouse when they are connected to internet-based common service centres.

The Chhattisgarh InfoTech and Biotech Promotion Society (CHiPS) has adopted an ambitious plan to connect all 19,700 villages through the service centres, officials said on Thursday.

Taking six villages as a group, as many as 3,290 Common Service Centres will be opened to provide public utility services, they said.

Fully supported by the Centre, the project will start operating across the State within a year, they said.

People will be able to pay electricity bills, obtain birth and death certificates, as well as caste, domicile and income certificates through these common centres.

Such service centers will also provide “online” public and private information to the rural people, and village students can obtain their tenth and twelfth board examination results and employment related information, they said.

The project will increase employment opportunities among rural people as there is a plan to authorise private operators with knowledge of computers to open such centres. The project will also increase computer literacy in the State, especially in rural areas, the officials said.

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WB govt to make e-governance platform interactive

Posted by egovernance on October 21, 2006

WB govt to make e-governance platform interactive

20th October, 2006

http://www.indlawnews.com/924238E27D060540BAAF7EDAEA1F21F4

The West Bengal government plans to make the e-governance platform more interactive by incorporating retail banking and agriculture advisory services through a network of kiosks till the gram panchayat level.

The state IT and rural development departments are in talks with three banks — United Bank of India, State Bank of India and ICICI — to provide retail banking services through the state e-governance network. The proposed basket of services is yet to be finalised, state IT secretary Siddharth said.

The kiosks would be run by independent service providers like self help groups (SHGs). Connectivity and infrastructure support would be enabled by the government. The need of the hour is to provide interactive services for the end-user, Mr Siddharth said.

He said the e-governance platform would also provide advisory services to farmers. “The platform now only provides data. We are talking to several agriculture universities to link up with the e-governance platform. Farmers will then be able to get advice on crop diseases and other issues directly from the universities,” he said.

The government is also finalising plans to build a state data centre which would serve as a central IT warehouse for all government data. The project has received state cabinet clearance and finer modalities are being worked out, Mr Siddharth said.

“The state data centre may be located at the Administrative Training Institute (ATI) premises in Salt Lake,” he said.

The ATI is the state nodal organisation for design and implementation of e-governance projects.

The state is close to appointing an e-governance consultant through a tendering process. The consultants prime role would be implementing the e-governance network for departments like health, women & child development, panchayat & rural development, employment exchanges, school education, and police services, he added.

(UNI)

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‘Poor’ Orissa is No 1 when it comes to using IT to map rural job scheme

Posted by egovernance on October 15, 2006

‘Poor’ Orissa is No 1 when it comes to using IT to map rural job scheme

Ravish Tiwari

http://www.indianexpress.com/iep/sunday/story/14725.html

Posted online: Sunday, October 15, 2006 at 0000 hrs 

Combining creativity and reform, Orissa the only state with daily, real-time online data of job scheme; others trying to catch up

NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 14:Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka might claim themselves as IT leaders in the country but when it comes to using IT for monitoring the UPA government’s flagship National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREG), it’s Orissa that’s the undisputed leader. So much so that almost all its 3,672 Panchayats in 19 districts under the scheme update data online on a daily basis under a Monitoring and Information System (MIS).

So you can log on and find out that as of today:

In Barkani Panchayat in Balangir in Bolangir district, three rural connectivity works were approved connecting three adjoining villages.

You can study the muster roll for the village which gives the names, caste, village and wages paid to each of the persons who have worked on this project. For example, Brajamohan, a Scheduled Caste unskilled labourer from Ainlachuan village, worked on a water conservation project and earned Rs 315 for six days of work.

In Borguda village in Kalahandi district, the renovation of Chintaman Sagar water tank, spread over 5 hectares, will be completed under NREG.

Such detailed, real-time data is available only from Orissa and nowhere else in the country.

This despite the fact that Orissa has issued job cards to only 80 percent of those who have registered themselves for the scheme as against Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat which have issue job cards to 100 per cent of the applicants. But when it comes to day-to-day monitoring, Orissa is the clear leader.

This is thanks to NREGAsoft, a software for monitoring the scheme’s implementation, developed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC).

This software, which won the Microsoft Award for e-Governance 2006, is to be used by all states but as of now, is being used in only 14 states under the scheme in 112 districts of the 200 districts covered. It’s only Orissa, however, that is using the software for all its Panchayats in all the districts under the scheme. “Orissa is way ahead in implementing all the modules of the software. All the other states are now trying to catch up but they will take time,” said Madhuri Sharma, the technical director at NIC who headed the team which developed NREGAsoft.

Ironically, the reason behind this is a delay in conducting the survey of BPL (below poverty line) households due to a case filed in Supreme Court in 2002-03. Since the matter was sub judice, the then Secretary, state Panchayati Raj and IT, S N Tripathi took this as an opportunity and conducted a survey of all Orissa households and enlisted the data in web-enabled format in hard discs. This was pushed further by Orissa Chief Secretary Subhash Pani who asked Tripathi, who was now state Secretary for Rural Development and IT, to use NREG as an opportunity to automate all rural development-related processes.

Thus Orissa developed templates not only for labour registration details but also for details of work undertaken and financial progress. In fact, these templates were later used by the NIC in further developing their NREGAsoft software.

That’s not all. Orissa also creatively used the already available block-level network established by the Indian Space Research Organisation during the early ‘90s. The Panchayati Raj department had only to supply computers to plug into this. The state also brought in staff reform by abolishing 1486 redundant posts in its Panchayati Raj set-up and replaced them with 325 computer professionals. This eased the transition to e-governance.

This also makes economic sense. Tripathi says that in other states, where implementing and monitoring has been outsourced, it costs about Rs 30 for issuing each job card — in Orissa it costs barely Rs 5.

ravish.tiwari@expressindia.com

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MP State:`Don’t succumbs to political pressure’ / e-governance to improve efficiency.

Posted by egovernance on October 11, 2006

`Don’t succumbs to political pressure’ 

By Our Staff Reporter Bhopal, Oct 9: The Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has directed the police officials not to succumb to any political pressure and ensure quick action as per law, take strict action against organised crime, put a strict curb on outfits like Naxalites and SIMI and to be sensitive and more responsive to the law-abiding citizens especially the tribals. He instructed that prompt action should be taken in cases of crime against the people of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, women and minorities and ensuring the quick relief.

Singh was addressing a meeting of Inspectors General, Deputy Inspectors General and Superintendents of Police at the Mantralaya here today.

The meeting was informed that there has been a considerable fall in the cases of atrocities against of the people of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and women. A 4.21 per cent fall has been recorded in the cases of persecution of women in comparison to the corresponding period during year 2005 while the crime rate in the first eight months of year 2006 has gone down by 4.5 per cent. The incidence of persecution of the people of scheduled castes has been reduced by 4.96 per cent in first eight months of year 2006.

Similarly, the rate of crime against scheduled tribes has been reduced by 8.16 per cent in first eight months of year 2006. The minor crime rate has also fallen by 4.78 per cent during the period under report. The anti-dacoity operation has been very successful. Dreaded dacoit Dayaram Gadaria carrying a reward of Rs five lakh, Sobaran Gadaria carrying a reward of Rs 50,000 and 14 other reward -carrying dacoits including Gulbadan Pandey, Umrao Singh Bundela, Narayan Lodhi, Ramsingh Tomar have been gunned down. A total of 51 dacoits have been eliminated.

The Chief Minister Chouhan said that the police and administration successfully averted untoward situations in the Bhojshala case and later in Chhindwara, Betul and Sagar districts. The India Today survey has placed Madhya Pradesh at third place among states of the country in respect of law and order for which the police of Madhya Pradesh deserves all compliments. He also lauded the police action against dacoits.

The Chief Minister said that prompt and fair action by police without giving in to pressure from any quarter creates fear in criminals leading to fall in crimes. He said that it is due to the police pressure that the Naxalites have failed to expand their activities. However, there is no room for complacency. He stressed the need for constant vigilance and effective measures to prevent outfits like SIMI from conducting their activities. He also emphasised on proper registration and fair investigation of crimes. The criminals should be brought to justice in minimum possible time so that it may serve as a deterrent. He said that community policing and Raksha Samitis should be strengthened.

Chouhan said that constant vigilance and timely action might prevent many incidences. The police should maintain a dialogue with different sections of society. Efficient functioning of Raksha Samitis would be a great help to the police. Greater efforts are needed for this.

The Chief Minister said that the criminals should have the fear of the uniform and the police should feel friendlier with the people. Concerted efforts have to be made to create this ideal situation. He warned that police excesses would not be tolerated in any case. He said that effective measures should be taken to improve the work conditions of the field police staff.

Referring to the problems of the police Chouhan said that necessary steps would be taken to pay house rent to the police personnel, to solve the budget related problems and to remove the shortage of police force.

Minister of State for Home Nagendra Singh lauded the functioning of the police saying that arrests of a large number of dacoits under the anti dacoits drive is a creditable achievement. Singh said that senior police officers should undertake field inspections to boost the morals of the police personnel. He stressed the need for training of police personnel at every level from time to time. The activation of the Police Housing Corporation would help solve their housing problem. He said that the police force is being modernised and all the police stations would be brought under e-governance to improve their efficiency.

Director General of Police Anand Rao Pawar said that it is the prime duty of the police officials to provide security to all the citizens. He said, ” do not touch the good people and do not spare the baddies”. The criminals have to be brought to justice. He said that the law and order situation is satisfactory and under control in the state, however there is need for further improvement. He stressed the need for increasing the posts in police force pointing out that there has been inadequate increase in last ten years whereas the population has increased by 24 per cent. He said that filling of two thousand posts of constable and formation of security brigade would serve the purpose.

Pawar drew the attention to the different problems of the police personnel from constable to inspector rank and informed that housing facility is available to only 40 per cent police personnel. They, perforce, have to rent houses far away from their duty place, which adversely affects their efficiency and morals. The Inspectors General of all the ranges apprised the meeting of the law and order situation in their respective ranges.

The Chief Secretary Rakesh Sahni; Principal Secretary, Home Satya Prakash; Secretaries to the Chief Minister Iqbal Singh Bains and Anurag Jain and senior police officers concerned also attended the meeting.

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