HELLO-KISHTWAR Game changer in digital decentralised Governance

Devansh Yadav
Kishtwar, district is the largest and remotest district of Jammu & Kashmir. Spread over an area of 7700 sq km, its half in terms of area of the entire Kashmir valley. Cut across by Chenab River and Greater Himalayas, it’s also the most difficult terrain district in the UT. Geographical handicaps have lead to development challenges and infrastructure gaps. A lot has been done in recent years to reverse that through NH-244 highway, extensive Telecommunications network and expansion of other infrastructure assets. However, due to sparse habitations grievance redressal has remained a challenge in the district.
As per a preliminary study done of citizens visiting DC/SSP office and other important establishments in the district headquarters, it takes up to Rs 2000-3000 for travel and paperwork and 8-10 hours of travel time for citizens to come from remote areas and lodge their complaints in district offices. Delay in redressal leads to multiple visits, causing time and cost escalations, thus bringing hardships to the poor and needy. To address this problem- Hello-Kishtwar was started in the district by the administration in April, 2023. Since its launch the facility has received overwhelming response from the public and can serve as a model for grievance redressal in remote areas.
Hello-Kishtwar is a call based grievance redressal system which caters to the poor and marginalised in remote areas of the district. Through a phone call one can talk directly to DC, SSP, ADDC, CEO and other top officers of the district and convey their grievances in detail. This service is provided on every Tuesday and Thursday- 11 am to 12 pm for receiving citizen complaints. After every call, Citizen receives a SMS containing grievance ID. Using this grievance ID, caller can track action taken report on his/her grievances. It’s a simple yet effective way to help the poor and non-tech savvy citizenry to talk directly with officers and convey their problems. One to one conversation also addresses many grievances instantly, while rest are acted upon subsequently.
Since, the launch of Hello-Kishtwar in the district 4000+ calls have been received and thousands of grievances have been addressed. It has ended huge lines in District Secretariat to meet officers and saved time and money of common citizenry. Without need of any digital interface and0 smart phone to lodge the grievance, Hello-Kishtwar takes complaints by just a call from a basic phone. Thus allowing the poorest and marginalised to raise their issues at the district level. Combined with massive expansion of online services, it has become an effective way of maximum governance with minimum Government. Even in recently concluded ‘Brashtachar mukt J&K week’ this facility came in handy to receive complaints of corruption in various departments.
A dashboard and use of integrated voice response system (IVRS) has ensured use of technology for conveying grievances to concerned departments and time bound redressal. While Hello-Kishtwar has received incredible response, a lot more effort is needed in time bound redressal of all complaints received. During block Diwas programs in the district the impact of Hello Kishtwar is clearly seen with majority grievances already recorded and resolved or in process of being resolved. Many pressing issues like teacher absenteeism, lack of medical amenities, road and infrastructure disputes, rural development work delays etc. get conveyed to head of the department through Hello-Kishtwar and are resolved promptly.
Hello-Kishtwar has also become an effective tool for monitoring various initiatives and schemes. For example- under ‘Back2School’ initiative of the administration and education department 1400 students who had never been to school were admitted back in Government schools. 95 percent of these students were from ST communities. To take a regular follow up from these schools, Hello-Kishtwar is being used to talk directly to children, teachers and parents in these schools. Going forward, Hello-Kishtwar serves a simple yet effective model to bring administration close to people and reduce the cost of grievance redressal.
(The author is Deputy Commissioner, Kishtwar)