To be implemented within five years, the Digital Vision has the ambitious plan of laying a dedicated optical fibre network across Jammu and Kashmir to offer 24 x 7 connectivity to an enhanced State Data Centre at the Civil Secretariat Jammu. Creating a digital Family ID is part of the vision, reports Yawar Hussain
In twenty-first-century Kashmir, the digital divide hardly matters. Even if people are on the wrong side of the divide, fast-forward digitalisation ensures inclusiveness. Under Jammu and Kashmir Digital Vision, the federally ruled Jammu and Kashmir plans to identify and collect the basic data of all 25 lakh families and assign them a unique alpha-numeric code.
The political class, marginalised post-2019, has questioned the government’s intentions on the big data collection with some terming the family codes as prisoner numbers. Many see it as the beginning of the controversial NRC (National Register of Citizens) exercise which had triggered an outcry in parts of the country before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world.
Lt Governor Manoj Sinha, however, said that the family data collection is meant for the betterment of welfare schemes and would be done after “consent” from each member. The data, as per the Vision document, would be collected in 2023.
The Family ID
The Vision was unveiled in the Katra in November at a function attended by Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar whose government was the first to bring in the Parivar Pehchaan Patra (PPP) in 2020. When the PPP became controversial, it was made mandatory for government officials and those seeking benefits from government schemes.
The Jammu and Kashmir government proposes to create an authentic, verified and reliable family database. Jammu and Kashmir had 20,15,088 households in 2011 when the last census took place. By now, the number might have crossed 25 lakh.
“The database would identify each and every family in Jammu and Kashmir and would collect the basic data of the family, provided with the consent of the family, in a digital format,” the Document reads. “All the applicable laws and regulations in respect of data protection shall be complied with in the management of the data.”
On the basis of this, each family will get a unique alphanumeric code, JK Family ID. “The data available in the Family database would be used to determine eligibility through the automatic selection of beneficiaries for receiving social benefits. The vision is that, once the database of families is created, families or individuals need not apply to receive benefits under each individual scheme.”
The family id-card would contain details of all members of the family, including their names, ages, qualifications, employment status, marital status etc.
The card will be linked with the Aadhaar and bank account number of the head of the family. It will be a single identifier for every family and individual in Jammu and Kashmir that will instantly confirm their eligibility for government welfare schemes and facilitate direct transfer of benefits to their bank accounts with minimum human interference, an official privy to the development said.
The official said that even though the participation in the programme is consensual but the families without the family-id are likely to face difficulties in availing benefits like subsidised rations, free medical treatment, old age/ widow pensions, help to victims of militancy, scholarships, and family pensions in case of death of the sole earning member of a family.
Under the Digital Core, for which family data would be acquired, the government plans to set up a federated digital ID ecosystem along with directories and registries containing master data.
“A Federated Architecture Model shall be adopted, whereby, only the core and common building blocks are established centrally, and the departments shall have the degrees of freedom to leverage the same while retaining the e-Governance projects they have already implemented,” the vision document reads.
The digital mission has laid emphasis on data which it says is the core asset on which digital transformation is to be founded.
“It is essential, therefore, that data is created, stored, secured, used, updated, shared and managed following the applicable standards and adopting the best practices. This intent shall be observed uniformly and rigorously by all the departments and service providers of the Government,” the document adds.
To achieve, what the government terms “efficient” and “effective” treatment of data as an asset, across the government departments, the vision document has proposed a Data Governance Framework and Data Management Policy.
Data Governance Framework
The proposed data governance will plan, oversee, and control the management of data and the use of data and data-related sources. The objectives of a Data Governance Framework are to minimise risks of data loss or data breach, implement compliance requirements, increase the value of data, reduce costs, and above all, facilitate the delivery of efficient, real-time services to the stakeholders.
“Data Governance Framework involves identification of high-value datasets of the departments, defines roles for its creation, maintenance, sharing and securing for ensuring that data is managed systematically,” the document states.
It also proposes for creation of posts of Chief Data Officer, Data Management Officer, Data Stewards, Data Protection Officer and data administrators for implementing this framework.
Data Management Policy
The policy would define technical methods including data modelling, interoperability, master data, data quality and the principles and processes for data sharing.
Besides, the government will come up with a Jammu and Kashmir Information Security Policy for “the protection of information and information systems from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction.”
To thwart risks and protect sensitive and critical data, it said the Jammu and Kashmir Government plans to work on an information security policy and also envisages formulation of an appropriate cyber security framework.
The controversy erupted around these proposals with Peoples Democratic Party President and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti terming the move as a step towards further “surveillance” on the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
“Creating a unique family ID’ for J&K residents is emblematic of the widening trust deficit esp. (especially) post-2019. Kashmiris are viewed with deep suspicion & this is another surveillance tactic to tighten the iron grip on their lives,” Mehbooba tweeted.
Her predecessor and Vice President of Jammu and Kashmir National Conference also questioned the move, insisting the government is reducing people and families to numbers like inmates of a jail.
“The JK administration is passing strange orders; today they [administration] say a new identification number will be introduced. Each family will get a unique number, for what,” Abdullah told a gathering down south Kashmir. He said Kashmiris are being asked to provide Aadhar numbers, then orders were passed for PAN numbers, and voter IDs, and now the residents are being asked for household numbers. “This happens nowhere in India.”
Mocking at the idea, Omar said people are known by their names, like Syeds, Wanis, and Abdullahs while in Kashmir, people will be known by numbers. “He is 15, he is 17, he is 18, I am 20. Now we will not be identified by our names but by numbers,” the NC vice president said. “We will have to be present in the government department and introduce ourselves by our unique numbers. Asalamulaikum Jenab, mein 21, hun”.
“Is this what is being planned by the authorities, is this how you are trying to remove our existence, we thought you were only after our flag and special status,” he said. “Now, it is proved that you are trying to remove our identification too.”
“The administration has its priorities messed up,” CPIM leader and Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration Spokesperson M Y Tarigami said. “Instead of focusing on the delivery of existing schemes and helping people through this difficult time, they are creating more work for themselves and more difficulties for people.”
Allaying the apprehensions, LG Sinha said that the process would be voluntary and consensual. “There are many people who seek pensions from the government. They wouldn’t need to keep applying after this, we will have the data and we will reach the beneficiary,” he said.
Prerna Puri, Commissioner Secretary Information Technology Department, said the objective of the database was that families or individuals would not have to apply to receive benefits under each individual scheme.
State Data Centre
The State Data Centre, built inside the civil secretariat Jammu and inaugurated early 2022, would be expanded in size and capacity. It would work as the single source of computing infrastructure for all departments.
“Government cloud environment would be established in the existing SDC to host all Government applications and data securely and cost-effectively.” No department can have a parallel data centre, server, storage or any security apparatus.
The Digital Vision is supposed to be realised in the next five years. The government would set up a Digital J&K Authority which would be either a statutory body under the Public Services Guarantee Act 2011 or an administrative body.
This Authority would coordinate the activities of various departments and agencies associated with digital Jammu and Kashmir along with issuing directions and guidelines to all departments on matters relating to architecture, standards and frameworks required to implement various initiatives under the Digital Jammu and Kashmir programme.
The Authority would be autonomous and established under the legislation or administratively with a thin organisation consisting of posts of CEO, CTO, Experts in Enterprise Architecture, Design Thinking, Data Protection, Information Security, Agile Methodologies, PPP Models, Capacity Building and Finance.
The Digital Vision programme consists of 22 specific initiatives and interventions, which are proposed to be realised in three phases, namely 1-year, 3-year, and 5-year.
Also, all the major citizen-facing departments will have Empowered Committees headed by the Principal Secretary concerned with implementing the digital transformation projects of the department.
For better data sharing, the government has also proposed to extend J&K State Wide Area Network (SWAN) horizontally at District, Tehsil and Block headquarters with more Point of Presence (PoP) portals to be established in Revenue, Police, Urban Local Bodies, Registration, Agriculture, Industry, Health, and Education departments.
SWAN is one of the core infrastructure components under which a dedicated Closed User Group (CUG) network is created which provides a secured and high-speed connectivity for government functioning and connecting State Headquarters with districts, and blocks. The SWAN, like the core data component, would be strengthened in the first year of the digital vision project.
For strengthening SWAN, the government would establish a Secretariat LAN (Local Area Network) at Jammu and Srinagar along with establishing district LAN networks at district headquarters and making the government intranet seamless in all offices.
The government, for the success of the mission, would lay out the Bharat Netm – optical fibre network – across districts, tehsils and Panchayats.
Also, a JK Portal will be designed, developed and established as a one-stop-shop for accessing all the digital services by the citizens and businesses.
To accelerate the mission inside the administration, an inter-departmental committee would be formed for Government Process Re-engineering (GPR). As per the vision document, the committee will review the relevance, preciseness, minimality, user-friendliness and regulatory compliance of every existing form – paper-based and electronic.
“Re-engineered forms would be published in a progressive manner. Common information would be standardised and would be made uniform across all the forms. Correlated activities would be integrated to reduce the tedium of filling multiple forms, though such activities may relate to different departments. Attachments that seek documentary proof would be eliminated or their number minimised,” the document reveals. “Automated online validation would be made the preferred choice to authenticate any information collected in the form, in lieu of submission of attachments or scanned copies of physical papers. A similar approach of Elimination, Simplification, Integration, and Automation would be adopted in respect of all the related workflows and processes.”
To accelerate the programme, the vision document proposes the creation of Digital Missions in all sectors including Education, Agriculture, Rural Development, Welfare, Public Safety, and Performance Management. “Each Mission would be responsible to develop the digital ecosystem in its sector, comprising all the related departments,” the document reads. All these Missions will be led by respective secretaries with a team of experts.
Emerging Technologies Wing
Under the Mission, an emerging technologies wing will be established in the J&K Information Technology Department. It will be dedicated to exploring, promoting, and adopting emerging technologies like Big Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Distributed Ledger Technology (Blockchain) for establishing a wide range of services in the public sector. The wing shall be lean, consisting of experts in the new technologies. The academic institutions will be encouraged to work “proactively” in the application of these technologies to make a difference to the citizens in their interface with government agencies.
To enhance the “quality” of citizen engagement for better governance and service delivery, chatbot services will be provided in prioritised departments initially.
Not The First
Jammu and Kashmir is not the first to have a Haryana-style PPP. Punjab introduced it in 2021 for the direct transfer of benefits to families who are eligible for various social service government schemes. Only in November 2022, the Uttar Pradesh government decided to launch a UP Parivar Kalyan Card for similar purposes.
Rajasthan’s Congress government has introduced Jan Aadhaar which “aims to be the single identifier of a family and also an individual”, and “the sole vehicle on which delivery of all kinds of cash as well non-cash benefits and services are riding and reaching to the door-step of the residents”.
Meanwhile, all the residential and commercial properties falling in the Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) limits are being geo-tagged and a unique digital door number (DDN) would be assigned to each property.
The Jammu Smart City Limited (JSCL), in coordination with JMC, is working on the project – Geographical Information System (GIS), which also includes mapping of all the natural and man-made assets such as streams, rivers, elevations, drainage networks, road networks and utility poles onto the digital ward map of Jammu.
“A QR code-based digital door number (smart address) would be allotted and subsequently, a DDN plate fixed outside each property.”