Why have defunct government websites? Close them down if you do not want transparency

Why spend money on the defunct government websites? And why talk about transparency and e-governance when the same is not priority of a government which had come into power promising to root-out corruption and ensure accountability of highest order.  And why should it not be mentioned that the word accountability was first introduced by PDP in Jammu and Kashmir when constituted State Accountability Commission (SAC) to fight graft. But when the commission started functioning, it was targetted the moment it laid hands on the corrupt political elite of the state.

The politicians rose about party politics, joined hands, amended the act and turned the commission into another post retirement rehabilitation centre. Leaving aside the sordid tale of SAC, one is forced to ask the PDP-BJP government about claims of transparency and accountability. Why is the system reluctant to change? The government websites are rotten lot and have no significant information available. You cannot rely on the government websites for information.

Those engaged to keep the websites functional are either ignorant or have gone on leave after having joined the services. Take the case of State Vigilance Organisation (SVO). The website is an old and worn out one. Pathetic look coupled with obsolete information makes you question the logic behind having a website when it is seemingly no one’s concern. Content on the website was last updated in August 2014. After August 2014, the departmental heads are on the social networking sites but have no clue about their own departmental website.

In the era of e-governance when a handout or an order can be easily put on the official website, organisation prefers sending e-mails. The links do not work. If this is how the website which is first step towards e-governance of State Vigilance Organization (SVO) looks like, then how can one expect other government departments whose watchdog this organisation is, to take battle cry for e-governance and transparency seriously. Beyond official handouts, there is nothing significant on the website of the SVO as if to suggest that the job of SVO is merely letting people know who has caught and who has been challaned in the court of law.

Website of Jammu and Kashmir Police is dynamic but there is still scope for making it more effective and user friendly. The one with Crime Branch is good but contains nothing beyond the routine registration of cases and their present status, which most of the times is not what the website tells you. The website of General Administration Department (GAD) is in old format and has not seen change since the days of Khursheed Ganai, who has retired long ago and is these days heading the State Information Commission (SIC).

Orders are posted, according to the whims and fancies of those heading the GAD and not in the order in which they are issued. The ones which could be questioned are shared only when someone files an RTI or when some legislator seeks information through a cut motion. GAD too maintains complete silence over various important reports of the commissions and panels which were constituted by the government in the past. Ordinarily, in the era of RTI, the reports should have been made available on the website of the GAD.

But none in Jammu and Kashmir wants transparency to be the hallmark of governance. Even the ones who once used to preach transparency, honesty and integrity have changed colours and their departments are prime example of hiding even the information which should be ordinarily available on the website of the department headed by them. Not even one website in Jammu and Kashmir is complete with information that became mandatory on the very day when the Right to Information Act was implemented in the state and SIC was constituted.

A look at the website of the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti makes one question what fun is talking about E-Governance if this is how serious the office of Chief Minister is. In an era where all the world leaders including the discredited ones have their own websites, what prevents the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir to have one www.mehboobamufti.com for conversing with people who fail to make her listen to them. The website of Chief Minister’s Monitoring Cell is long dead. No one knows the fate of the projects which were being monitored through this website.

Similar is the case with all other departments. Even the website of State Information Commission (SIC) does not impress an individual. Time has come for the Jammu and Kashmir government to take effective steps towards bringing more transparency by emphasizing use of technology. The websites should not merely be show pieces but effective modes of communication. Let us not hesitate in being little more honest and straightforward in our administrative affairs. Let is not stop being secretive and let us not hesitate to put all the reports and recommendations in public. Let us stop being too sensitive. Let us stop being too shy about ourselves.

Let us allow people to know what the predecessors have done by putting everything over web? Let the people decide. The state government should immediately set-up a task force and assign it the task of making e-governance effective if it is serious about removing corruption from every sphere of public life in Jammu and Kashmir. The sooner it does, the better it would be.

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