From the 150 call centre employees collating information to the 300 mobile sahayaks making house visits, The Indian Express tracks the ambitious project.
Two weeks since its launch, the Delhi government’s doorstep delivery of services scheme has received over 20,000 requests. From the 150 call centre employees collating information to the 300 mobile sahayaks making house visits, The Indian Express tracks the ambitious project.
Back in the summer of 2000, when Rohini resident Manish Kumar had to get a caste certificate made for his son, he headed to the nearest sub-divisional magistrate’s office. One visit led to another, and then some more. Eighteen years later, as the caste certificate of his granddaughter was getting made, Kumar enjoyed his siesta, occasionally tossing and turning. In the same room, his son Amit neatly laid out a sheaf of documents on a wooden table, covered with a floral-printed sheet.
Sitting across the table was a young man wearing a t-shirt, embossed with logos of the Delhi government and VFS Global. The man, Nikhil Kumar Ved (28), scrutinised the documents and photographed them on his tablet. By the time Kumar’s granddaughter barged in, shaking her nana out of his slumber, Nikhil had finished uploading the documents on the Delhi government’s e-district portal. Amit paid him Rs 50 and instantly received a confirmation message on his mobile. His daughter Tanya Kashyap’s certificate is expected to be delivered within a month.
Nikhil, one of the 300 all-male foot soldiers of the ambitious scheme under which people can dial 1076 and submit an application to get home delivery of 40 public services — including caste, income, marriage registration and mutation certificates, and driving licence — set off for his next assignment on his two-wheeler.
Idea and execution
“You must have seen that ad featuring Amitabh Bachchan, where he talks about the bank coming to our homes instead of the other way round?” Gopal Mohan, advisor to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, asked. Mohan, considered the “brain” behind the scheme according to AAP, said doorstep delivery of services has the potential to radically alter the prevailing governance paradigm.
“Despite 35 of the 40 services being online, up to 25 lakh people used to visit government offices annually for the same. Each transaction took around four visits. Cyber cafes were also minting money as people flocked to them for filling forms and uploading documents. And it goes without saying that touts flourished. The CM wanted to shake up the system. I was his anti-corruption advisor then,” he said.
The day Mohan floated the idea of doorstep delivery, Kejriwal called a meeting within three hours to draw a road map for its execution. Subsequently, the Department of Administrative Reforms undertook a survey trying to ascertain the public demand for such an initiative. Mohan said that “95% of the responses were positive”.
The Delhi Cabinet cleared the scheme on November 16, 2017, and announced that it will be rolled out within two-three months.
Then came some resistance.
On December 26, 2017, Lt-Governor Anil Baijal’s office issued a statement: “The proposal has implications for safety and security of women and senior citizens, possibility of corruption, bad behaviour, breach of privacy, loss of documents, etc, and adds unnecessary expenditure for the government and the people… the unnecessary road trips taken by the service delivery persons would add to air pollution.”
A month later, though, Baijal approved the scheme. The government estimates that if around 25 lakh deliveries are made annually, it will cost Rs 12 crore, Mohan said.
In July, the Delhi government’s administrative reforms department announced that private firm VFS Global Services — known so far for processing visa applications for 60 governments in around 139 countries — has been roped in for three years to execute the scheme after a bidding process.
Without any global parallel, implementing the concept in a city as large as Delhi was a challenge. That’s where VFS’s Identity Management & Citizen Services (ICS) wing came into the picture. Debkumar Bandopadhyay, head of business, ICS, South Asia (VFS Global), said the company runs facilitation centres in Mumbai and Pune, where people are assisted in availing civic services like birth and death certificates, shop licences, or paying property tax and water bills.
The doorstep scheme goes a step further. “As the service implementation partner, VFS Global is responsible for providing the end-to-end IT solution for the service, and managing the entire manpower of ‘Mobile Sahayaks’ who are delivering this service at the front-end to citizens. The call centre staffing and operations are managed entirely by the Delhi government. The training of the call centre staff (about the process) is managed by VFS Global,” he said.
Mohan said the Noida-based call centre was hired by the Delhi government. VFS, in turn, is utilising the services of another firm, Matrix Processing House, in managing the sahayaks.
Foot soldiers and challenges
It is 7.30 pm and Naveen Noudiyal is on his fifth and last assignment for the day. He was assigned around 15 houses, but had to reschedule many due to various reasons, including non-availability of applicants. In some cases, filling up applications takes more time than expected as not everyone keeps requisite documents ready.
Naveen patiently waits outside an applicant’s house in East of Kailash. The applicant, who did not wish to be identified, ushers in Naveen to his spacious living room. Halfway through the formalities to get a marriage certificate, Naveen wants to know the date of birth of the wife. The woman hesitantly shares the date and looks at her husband. “What? I remember that your birthday is in October,” he says, and the couple break into a laugh. Next, there’s a small hitch. The call centre executive, who attended the applicant’s call, did not tell him that identity proofs of two witnesses are required. Naveen throws a helpless look. Meanwhile, the couple somehow manage two witness proofs, make the payment and schedule their appointment in the registrar’s office.
At the other end of the city, in Rohini, Nikhil reaches applicant Deepika Garg’s house. She had applied to get her address in her vehicle registration certificate corrected. On reaching, Nikhil realises that the call centre executive had not shared an application number, required for this purpose, with Garg. Nikhil rings up the call centre and tries explaining it to the operator, but the call is abruptly disconnected from the other end. He apologises to the applicant and “discards” the service request, urging her to apply again.
Among the few recurring issues that a ground check of the scheme threw up, incomplete information sharing by call centre executives was a prominent one. The CM’s advisor said that based on feedback, they have decided to start an SMS service through which applicants will receive a message with a list of original documents that need to be made available to the sahayaks.
The sahayaks start their work shift at 8 am every day, which stretches till 10 pm. Distributed into multiple groups managed by supervisors, they are allotted areas based on pin codes. They underwent a two-day training on soft skills in handling customer service, operating tablets, navigating government websites and managing payments, Bandopadhyay said.
“Hiring criteria for mobile sahayaks is minimum Class XII pass and knowledge and familiarity with operating a computer. They must hold a valid driver’s (2-wheeler) licence, vehicle insurance and valid RC book. On hiring, all sahayaks undergo a thorough background and police verification process. Mobile sahayaks get one weekly off,” he added.
While Nikhil, who has earlier worked with a BPO, completed his graduation from Delhi University’s School of Open Learning, Naveen did his schooling from Kendriya Vidyalaya, Andrews Ganj. The two aren’t satisfied with the salary they take home, which is around Rs 16,000 per month, but are excited about their jobs.
“Currently, challenges include crashing of government sites. Their capacity needs to be increased as demand has grown manifold. Also, the tablets have the SIM card of only one service provider. SIMs of multiple companies will ensure seamless connectivity as the coverage areas of all companies are not uniform,” Nikhil said.
Nearly every applicant wants to know if they can get their Aadhaar card, PAN, or passport made through a similar procedure, and sahayaks frequently explain how those services come under the Centre and not the Delhi government.
Privacy and security
On concerns that the scheme amounts to privatising government services, Mohan said: “The government has large procedural issues. It does not have the capacity to execute this, which would involve creation of thousands of new posts. There is an acute lack of resources and that is why a reputed and experienced company was roped in.”
VFS’s Bandopadhyay said they are running the service as per the government’s “stringent requirements” and under its direct supervision and control. “In general, as an organisation, we firmly believe in the huge benefit of the Public-Private-Partnership model in ensuring the highest level of public services in the most efficient and secure manner,” he said.
Mohan said the service-level agreement entered into with VFS is aimed at fixing accountability at every level and there are a set of performance indicators that the company has to meet. There are provisions of fines in cases of delays or lapses, he said.
On the part of VFS, apart from background checks and a police verification process for sahayaks, there are multiple layers of checks to prevent misuse of such a large amount of data, including documents and pictures, being gathered by the sahayaks on their tablets from people.
“Once the sahayaks log in through the doorstep app, they and their tablets are tracked and monitored at the back-office level. Even battery and signal status of the tabs can be checked remotely. Each service is ‘time mapped’. Any deviation from the standard turnaround time will trigger a notification at the supervisor level. The sahayaks have no direct contact with the applicants till they arrive at their choice of service delivery location. Also, all requests and documents are routed through supervisors only. The telephone numbers are masked,” Bandopadhyay said.
Nikhil said the documents collected cannot be shared as services and features like WhatsApp, SHAREit and Bluetooth are disabled. Also, only selected government portals can be accessed through them, and once the documents are uploaded, they get blurred in the device and later get automatically deleted. The tablets do not have memory cards.
Around 10 pm, Naveen parks his scooty outside Nehru Place Metro station. He goes through the app one last time, before logging out for the day. Asked if he finds the work hours a little too punishing, Naveen nods, before proudly adding, “Maine apne area mein sabse zyada cases kiye hai (I am handling the most number of cases in my area).” He hopes to get promoted to the post of a supervisor one day.
Here’s how Delhi govt’s doorstep delivery scheme works
1. A person dials 1076, the call centre, to avail services
2. Call centre executive notes down basic details of the person
3. Call centre informs the person about the documents required and the payment to be made for the service
4. Call centre executive books an appointment as per the person’s convenience
5. Mobile sahayak reaches the doorstep of the person
6. Mobile sahayak confirms the service request and enters the details of the citizen in the portal. He also uploads documents on the portal
7. Payment for the service made by the citizen to the mobile sahayak
8. Person gets a confirmation SMS with details of the service
9. The submitted application is forwarded to the department concerned. Govt department takes a decision
10. On service completion, certificate or the physical document is delivered to the doorstep of the citizen by the mobile sahayak