When 150 marriages are solemnized in a day within 60 minutes in the same venue, the challenges are not just with the brides and grooms to stick to their own soul mates, but also to the municipal authorities to keep track and issue marriage certificates in a reasonable time frame. As many Keralites located all over the world chooses Guruvayoor Temple for their marriage, delivering their marriage certificates adds to the troubles of a small municipality with less than 10 staff in the section.
On a recent visit to Kerala as part of the World Bank supported Kerala Local Government Service Delivery Project (KLGSDP), I found that in 2010 September, Guruvayoor Municipality solved the problems with marriage certificates, and opened a window of transparency and efficiency in its service delivery to the general public, through an e-governance platform. Meeting us in his current office in the Attingal Municipality, N Vijayakumar, former Municipal Secretary of Guruvayoor, took us through the journey he and a highly committed team made for bringing an e-revolution in the Municipality.
Guruvayoor Temple is a famous Hindu temple located in the town of Guruvayoor in the Thrissur district of Kerala, India. The temple has 5,000 year-old-history. The shrine on an average hosts 150 weddings every day, with the highest of 198 weddings in a single day recorded in 2010. Municipality observed that despite the rise in marriages at the temple, registration was falling, given the troubles of repeated visits required by devotees who came from far and away to solemnize the marriage.
Vijayakumar, fresh with the ideas from the exposure as part of a Kerala Govt. Modernization program, mooted the idea of using the software developed by Information Kerala Mission, for web enabling various services. He started a project for Instant Registration of Marriages from January 2009 to issue certificates in 30 mts. The Council witnessed a sudden jump of 400% in income and then Chairman M Krishnadas, authorized Vijayakumar to proceed with the project for total computerization.
As the first step of computerization, SOOCHIKA, a file tracking software was implemented within the local network. Web enabling the file tracking was introduced with the change in Council. The chairperson Geeta Gopi extended all support to the team for launching the unique web site (www.guruvayoormunicipality.in), that allows log in from anywhere to find the status of the application or complaint they have filed. We verified the feature on line in Vijay Kumar’s office and the case above relates to a license request filed on 5 August 2011 and the status was updated as of a week early!
Other than file tracking and anywhere certificates, the website also offers services like e-filing of applications for licenses and permits; details of social security provisions; property tax details, etc. SULEKHA, software by IKM provides details of projects planned and implemented on an yearly basis. As the way forward, Guruvayoor is planning to introduce an e-payment gateway and GIS mapping of the land for issuing building permissions without site visit. Software could result in considerable time savings for basic services and with on-line file tracking, service levels and transparency of operations have improved. Under the KLGSDP project, many other LSGs are planning to replicate the path shown by Guruvayoor. Vijay Kumar is now creating awareness among the elected representatives in Attingal Municipality. We are sure he will be successful and motivate many more LSGs to bring in such initiatives…