No more scrambling from one place to another to pay telephone, water and electricity bills or even to buy stamp papers and file RTI pleas, thanks to the Chandigarh administration's 'e-Sampark' centres that provide all these facilities and more under one roof.
With an overall business of Rs 7.59 billion (Rs759 crore) in 2008-09, these centres of the Chandigarh administration have not only become a revenue grosser but have made life simpler for residents.
Launched in 2004 under the information technology enabled services (ITES), the centres have already become such a hit that the 114-square-km city has 12 of them, including three in rural areas of the union territory. They have, so far, done business worth Rs 18.74 billion (Rs 1,874 crore) in just five years (till March 2009) after their launch.
"These centres are a big help. They are all air-conditioned and our life has become really stress-free by the introduction of this concept. Moreover, the work there is very fast as I have rarely seen any queues there," Puneet Bhalla, a young city-based entrepreneur, told IANS.
This fiscal's revenue at the e-Sampark centres is a record of sorts. Chandigarh's Finance Secretary Sanjay Kumar told IANS: "In 2008-09, revenue collection at the e-Sampark centres rose by more than 90 per cent. It was Rs 759 crore (Rs 7.59 billion), while in 2007-08 it was Rs 403 crore (Rs4.03 billion)."
"In the month of April 2009, a new record was set as revenue collection for this month was Rs83 crore (Rs830 million) - the highest in any single month so far. In April last year, it was only Rs30 crore (Rs 300 million)."
People can avail themselves of various services like submission of the value added tax (VAT), sales tax, telephone bills, mobile phone bills, passport forms, electricity bills and bus pass forms at these e-Sampark centres.
These centres, open from 8 am till 8 pm six days a week (barring Sundays), are well-connected with the computers (LAN-local area network and WAN-wide area network) and use modern techniques to make work hassle-free. The number of transactions at these centres has touched the 200,000-mark per month, according to official records.
Anil Sharma, a bank executive, said: "Earlier we were forced to take holiday from our office to submit various bills but now things have become much easier. We appeal to the administration to open one such centre in every sector."
Jasbir Singh, a young software developer who works with a leading MNC here, said, "Our e-Sampark centres can act as models for other states to open similar centres in their territories. I think this is a firm step of the administration towards becoming the first 100 per cent IT-enabled city in the country."
Sanjay Kumar said that the administration was now planning to expand the domain of these centres by including more services. "Initially, these centres were providing 11 services pertaining to seven departments. We have plans to offer 20 services. We would also increase the number of counters at each e-Sampark centre to 40 from 12 at present," he said.
The e-Sampark project fetched Chandigarh the Golden Icon Award last year.
Manjit Brar of Chandigarh's IT department, said, "Collection of VAT, introduced at e-Sampark centres last year, has been widely hailed by tradeRs It is more convenient and saves a lot of time."
"Selected private services were added to make the e-Sampark project self-sustainable. More such services are proposed to be included in the list in the coming days," he added.
Enthused with this success, the administration is planning to open five more e-Sampark centres in different sectors shortly. It has also identified 17 sites to cater to Chandigarh's rural areas and involve village residents in the e-governance project.