By: Shashi Prakash Goyal & Avinash Kumar
Lucknow: Aspiring for growth is imperative for any nation, not only for its survival, but also to fulfill the creative and aspirational instincts of its population. India, holding 18% of the world population and specifically Uttar Pradesh being the 5th largest country of the world, in terms of not only numbers, but of aspirational minds also, has to ensure economic advancement through intensive and diversified productive activities under the plethora of opportunities thrown open in the last decade including the ‘Make In India’ campaign. The state needs to upgrade its structural machinery through technological interventions for the last mile delivery of its products and services.
This strategy has to be wrapped up in a marketable packaging of “Ease of Doing Business” in order to attract private capital without which the strategy will never achieve the desired results. India has been showing a constant upward trend in World Bank’s “Doing Business” rankings and now stands at 77th position in the world out of 190 countries, but this upward trend was made possible because of standardized, competitive and phased implementation of the “Business Reform Action Plan” guidelines issued yearly by the Department of Industrial Promotion and Policy (DIPP), Government of India since 2015.
Uttar Pradesh, which started with 10th rank in 2015, slipped to the 14th place in 2016 and has now again moved two ranks up, to the 12th place in the 2017-18 Ease of Doing Business rankings released by the DIPP. This upward trend however can only be sustained by reducing “Time to Market” for any business activity and that can only be ensured by a seamless, scalable, process re-engineered and technologically advanced Online Single Window Government Clearance/ Licensing System that is free from the (in) famous delays, red tapism and other grass root level bureaucratic inconsistencies.
Need for an Online Single Window System
An ideal Online Single Window System is simply defined as “An online facility by which any possible investor or entrepreneur who wants to setup a manufacturing or a service unit can apply for all kinds of government clearances/licenses/ NOC’s and can also receive these digitally signed documents in a definite guaranteed time in its account”.
To understand the need for such a system, one will have to understand the deep inconsistencies and inefficiencies that exist in the current licensing mechanism of any government department. Just to highlight the problem, an entrepreneur has to take clearances from minimum 7 to 8 departments viz Revenue, Stamps and Registration, Labour, Fire, Local Bodies, Environment, Electricity, Public Works, Housing or Urban Development before the unit could actually start.
The time for application and follow-up with each department requires running from pillar to post and sometimes obliging such authorities with corrupt practices before one could actually get these clearances. This entire non productive chain is not only a lost opportunity in terms of time, effort and additional sunk cost for the entrepreneur, but it is more detrimental for the state because with each such experience the entrepreneurial community loses trust in the government leading to a flight of capital elsewhere.
This vicious cycle leads to a loss in the employment generation possibilities for the lakhs of young people joining the labour force every year, leading to a widespread indifference, if not discontent, towards the government; the quantum of government jobs being minimal vis-a-vis the demand. Apart from the above problems, the departments in a state like UP, with such a vast geographical area and population are already,
(a) having acute manpower shortages; and
(b) are also continuously performing the dual tasks of a welfare state and service provider, welfare being a preferred activity. The resource allocation for service providing tasks of the departments generally takes a back seat and hence it never becomes an immediate agenda. Structural reform for streamlining the existing chain using the traditional methodology has huge cost implications for the government, as it will require the hiring of new staff and setting up new infrastructure, which a huge state like UP with huge load of BPL population cannot possibly afford.
Thus, a low cost, process re-engineered and technologically advanced system for service delivery is the need of the hour for UP as it can provide the desired output by scaling up the capability of the existing manpower without actually increasing their numbers. This technologically supported system is central to the entire thrust for ‘Ease of Doing Business’ in the state because it weaves together all the Business Reform Action Plan guidelines in one system, thus increasing the efficacy of delivery of services, even with limited manpower resources.
The challenges of implementing such a system in a state like UP were immense viz vested interests of line departments, as it was bound to increase accountability at every level, and administrative complacency of taking on additional work of re-engineering the entire process cycle. In addition, push back from authorities against decentralizing of administrative decision making hierarchy and empowering the lower departmental machinery, lack of professionalism in work and necessary technical knowhow etc. were major bottlenecks in this endeavor.
In order to counter the above challenges, a working group headed by Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister and having members from all concerned line department was constituted (December,2017) at the CM Office, and it was tasked with the responsibility of delivering the system before the UP Investor’s Summit 2018 (20th -21st February, 2018), roughly about 2 months away.
The expert team analyzed the BRAP guidelines and came up with an innovative principal methodology of “Why you are doing, What you are doing” for validating the existing processes of departments and came out with the standardized service process guidelines for all after culling out redundant steps in order to simplify the process flows across all departments.
The outcome, a 4 step standard process designed from the perspective of the user “Fill ->Submit->Pay for Service->Receive NOC” was finally agreed upon. A features list was prepared according to BRAP guidelines and these were codified and mapped to the departmental services. All identified services of departments were then taken online based on the principle of the 4 step standard process.
The BRAP guidelines of 2017 underline 30 action points for a Single Window Agency and out of which 26 action points relate to Online Single Window System and 4 points relate to a major reform of establishing a dedicated Single Window Agency as the sole point of contact for setting up a business. ‘Nivesh Mitra’, the Online Single Window System of Uttar Pradesh has been designed after performing a thorough stakeholder feedback in order to evolve a complete packaged solution for the industries and most importantly, the Micro, Small & Medium enterprises,and hence it supports all the 26 features as listed in the BRAP guidelines. Its main features are: –
‘Nivesh Mitra’ currently encapsulates 118 services of 20 departments including the most important services of the Pollution Control Board, Electrical Safety, Fire Safety, Land Allotment, Land Use Change, Labour Department clearances.
How do you make it work on the ground?
To implement such a policy with far reaching reforms in the state, it was very important that the vision penetrates to the last man responsible for providing government services. A multi fold strategy was devised for making the system acceptable at the lower levels. Udyog Bandhu (a state level body having a mandate for industrial promotion) was made the nodal agency for coordination with the line departments.
‘Nivesh Mitra’ was firstly backed with a detailed Government Order that legalized the standard process, timelines and fixed accountabilities of the departments. Secondly, a detailed training program was launched in order to train the field staff of all departments and for resolving any of their queries related to the new process and also to sensitize them about the monitoring mechanisms designed to check malpractices in the system.
Thirdly, industrial organizations and their members were given demonstrations and trainings at the district level Udyog Bandhu meetings. Fourthly, a helpline number was launched which was manned by a trained dedicated team for providing support to the industrial grievances and to provide assistance in case any investor is facing any difficulty. Fifthly, all grievances are monitored on a daily basis and quick response along with resolution to the problem is provided to all applicants. These grievances also act as a feedback mechanism and are later analyzed for system enhancements.
Since its launch by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India ‘Nivesh Mitra’ has granted more than 50,000 NOC’s/Licenses within approved timelines to about 49,000 registered entrepreneurs who had applied and only 0.02% applications are pending beyond the allowed time limit. However,even though Uttar Pradesh’s ‘Nivesh Mitra’ has been rated among the Top 5 Online Single Window Systems in the country by the Department of Industrial Promotion and Policy in its Ease of Doing Business Rankings 2017-18.
Change is a continuous process and like all systems even ‘Nivesh Mitra’ is evolving each day to provide better and seamless facilities to the entrepreneurs. One major reform in pipeline is to create a Single Window Agency backed by an Act, which will have the power to grant a single certificate instead of multiple departmental NOC, required for starting any business.
Also, a sectoral analysis is currently under process to identify services, which are yet to be made online for example: getting industrial land exemptions from the Ceiling Act and many more. In spite of the fact that investment in manufacturing and service sector is dependent on many other factors, a Single Window System will prove to be a major decision making parameter for any investor in times to come.
(Shashi Prakash Goyal is currently posted as Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Uttar
Pradesh and Avinash Kumar is currently posted as Special Secretary to Chief Minister Uttar
Pradesh.The authors of this article are I.A.S officers and the views expressed are entirely