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Monday, Oct 14, 2019

WhatsApp puts Bengal government on fast track

Employees are forming groups through which circulars, instructions and information are being exchanged.

kolkata Updated: Oct 14, 2016 10:55 IST
Joydeep Thakur
Joydeep Thakur
Hindustan Times
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wants immediate action on almost everything and the WhatsApp groups suit her style of functioning perfectly.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wants immediate action on almost everything and the WhatsApp groups suit her style of functioning perfectly.(HT Photo)

The social media goddess has delivered a blow to the red-tape asura in Bengal.

WhatsApp has emerged as a new tool of governance with state government employees forming WhatsApp groups to issue and receive instructions and exchange information related to planning and day-to-day administrative work.

Reads: WhatsApp groups can now have up to 256 members

Directives, circulars and notices are being sent to ground-level staff right from meeting rooms through these groups. Orders that took hours, and sometimes days, to reach the employees concerned are now landing up in seconds, putting the entire administrative process into top gear.

“Passing information to different levels of the administration through WhatsApp groups has become very popular in many departments. This is especially helpful for the police, PWD, and municipalities, which have regular public interaction. It is also helping in inspection. Photographs are being taken and uploaded instantly, saving a lot of time,” a top state government bureaucrat said.

Officials at every level of the administration are members of one or more groups, which work in the form of concentric circles with the innermost groups comprising the top-level bureaucrats and the outermost ring comprising ground-level staff.

Former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee (in the middle) used the slogan ‘Do It Now’ but lost the electoral battle before the use of WhatsApp became popular. (HT Photo)

In the districts, top-level groups usually comprise the district magistrate, additional district magistrate, subdivisional officer and other nodal officers of various departments and programmes — like minority affairs, MGNREGA, Nirmal Bangla, among others. SDOs and BDOs have their own groups that go up to the joint block development officer level. The BDO group comprises members of the panchayats.

“As soon as the government comes up with an order or needs to send some information to the lower-level, the DM uploads the message in his group with a snap of the government circular. The SDOs and BDOs — part of that group — simply forward the messages to their respective groups and it trickles down to the lowest-level. Work starts almost immediately,” an SDO of Nadia said.

Read: Don’t use WhatsApp to ask for leave or send office work, companies tell staff

With the Mamata Banerjee government stressing on providing service to the people in a time-bound and result-oriented manner, this WhatsApp-based system has come in handy and has not only reduced the time-lag but also minimized the gap between top and ground-level officials. It is also very effective for short-notice operations — like evacuation of people before floods.

“An officer may not be at his or her office all the time to check mail but almost every one of them has a smart phone and WhatsApp to check things out at any time,” another official said.

Also, if a ground-level official needs to pass information about an awareness campaign or an event in a village to the seniors, one may just click photos and post them in the group that reaches the top-level officers within seconds.

“Village-level entrepreneurs, who are basically ground-level data entry operators, have been provided smart phones and 3G SIMs. Their job is to upload data and pictures from the ground-level so that these can reach senior officials within seconds,” a joint BDO of South 24-Parganas said.

First Published: Oct 14, 2016 10:55 IST

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