IT-based govt outsourced projects in limbo due to Kashmir Unrest

Ambitious government IT projects such as digitization of the state departments and Aadhar enrollment outsourced to local Information Technology (IT) companies are in a limbo as operations of these firms have been adversely hit by the continuous unrest in Kashmir, IT experts and the firm owners say.
While Aadhar based work is commissioned to IT companies by the centre, digitization work is largely handed over to these companies by the state government.

Several IT players say these projects were being handled by them till July 8 when Hizb commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter but ever since came work has come to a halt due to the unrest. According to Jahangir Raina, president of Information and Communications Technology Association of J&K (ICTA), a conglomerate of 45 IT companies, only three Aadhar operators in each district in Kashmir at present are doing the enrollment and updation work.
“This is a sharp decline compared to presence of 600 Aadhar operators who were involved in the project in Kashmir prior to the unrest,” Raina said. He said bulk of the Aadhar operators have been rendered jobless even as this project being executed under the aegis of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is yet to complete the work in Kashmir.
“Aadhaar seeding was to be conducted post Aadhaar enrollments in the departments of Social Welfare, Rural Development, CAPD, Finance, and many other departmental beneficiaries/members. All this work has remained on hold,” Raina added.

According to Raina, dozen odd other projects that were either in the process of being outsourced by government to IT sector or had already been awarded to IT companies have for the time being been put on the back burner.
“Digitisation work at Jammu Development Authority halted mid way while proposed digitization at Srinagar Development Authority did not proceed further. These projects were being undertaken by local technology firms. The e-Public Distribution System in CAPD Department has also been negatively impacted. Medium Small and Micro Enterprise online registration, e-Auction system for saffron auctioning projects never took off due to the situation,” Raina added.
Another ambitious project that has bore the brunt is the Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) used for monitoring mid-day meal scheme. The system was scheduled for a May 2016 roll out by the state education department but “is in limbo now”, said Mehraj Gulzar, past president of ICTA and an IT company owner.
“The IVRS was designed to cover 20,000 schools across JK and would have created a lot of employment opportunities as call center executives etc. Under this system, head of an institute was assigned to provide feedback on progress of mid-day meal scheme but unfortunately the system never kick-started as e-tendering for the project did not happen,” Gulzar said.
According to owners of IT firms, the proposed joint venture of the state government with private companies as announced in the state budget this year has also not been able to materialize.
“The budget announced by the finance minister this year allocated funds to create a joint venture company with private IT companies of the state. This would have given a major boost to the implementation of e-governance projects in the state. No progress has been made on this front due to unrest. Group discussions with the local IT companies that would become the basis for contours of this proposed JV did not materialise which has put the project on a backburner,” said one of the IT players.

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