Perseverance pays. And so this wonder story of the steady transformation of a government organisation must be told. Not only because it is in sync with the Digital India vision, but also because it intends to bring about a positive change in the lives of the most special Divyangs (Persons with Disabilities) through an Information Technology-enabled route.
Recently it came into the limelight for its re-invented and transformed operations by means of web-solutions which has not only made the operations paperless but has turned out to be the saviour of time, manpower and man-hour as a virtual office.
Digital initiatives taken by the National Trust (www.thenationaltrust.gov.in), the country’s premier institution for the welfare of persons with autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation and multiple disabilities, have brought this little-known organisation into focus.
Winds of digital transformation and IT-driven ease for Divyangs started blowing at the National Trust when well known social worker Poonam Natarajan, a pioneer of services for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, became the organisation’s Chairperson in January 2006.
In August 2007, Natarajan was joined by 1987 batch Bihar cadre IAS officer Atul Prasad as Joint Secretary and Chief Executive Officer (JS&CEO) of the National Trust. The Natarajan-Prasad duo ushered in what is today known as the organisation’s “golden period”. Prasad returned to Bihar in August 2012 after completing five years of central deputation at National Trust. Natarajan, however, continued as Chairperson until October 2014, serving the Trust for more than eight years. With Natarajan in the chair, the National Trust bagged the Times of India Social Impact Award in 2012.
The organisation’s present JS&CEO C.K. Khaitan, a 1987 batch IAS officer, who assumed office in January 2015, has carried forward the legacy of good work left behind by the Natarajan-Prasad duo and given it a further digital push. Digital initiatives undertaken by the National Trust over the years have surely given a tough time to most other central government organisations and departments that are striving to catch up.
The Trust has been providing 360-degree solutions in the field of governance and administration, and all by means of digital platforms well covered by its website. The organisation’s portal provides complete solutions to all stakeholders so much so that they barely need to visit the headquarters for any work, be it the registration of NGOs or procuring funds to run the schemes.
Through its well-incorporated digital platform, the organisation runs 10 schemes, seven of which were started during the Trust’s “golden period” while the other three began earlier. These include: ‘Disha’ (Early Intervention and School Readiness for 0-10 yrs), ‘Vikaas’ (Day Care scheme for 10+ years), ‘Samarth’ (Respite Care Residential Care), ‘Gharaunda’ (Lifelong Group Home for Adults), ‘Niramaya’ (Health Insurance), ‘Gyan Prabha’ (Educational Support), ‘Sahyogi’ (Care Associate Training), ‘Prerna’ (Marketing Assistance), ‘Sambhav’ (Aids and Assistive Devices Demonstration) and ‘Badhte Kadam’ (Community Awareness and Innovative Projects).
The ‘Prerna’ scheme was earlier known as ‘ARUNIM’ (Association for Rehabilitation under National Trust Initiative of Marketing). ARUNIM had bagged the “most innovative project” award of the prestigious Zero Project in 2012 through a global competition. The honour was presented to ARUNIM’s Managing Director Thilakam Rajendran in Vienna.
The National Trust’s interactive website is transparent and complies with almost all requirements under the RTI Act as well as the CAG’s norms. Details of file noting, fund disbursal and funding pattern are open for public view. The initiative started during the “golden period”, saves manpower and man-hour at each level of execution and implementation, and also ensures zero paperwork.
The Trust launched an online Scheme Management System (SMS) and tied up with Axis Bank for online financial transactions, creating a payment gateway. The ICT activities were, obviously, in conformity with the Digital India initiative.
The Trust runs 63 Disha projects, 27 Gharaunda projects, 66 Vikas projects, 30 Samarth projects, 60 Badhte Kadam approvals and 15 Sahyogi projects. Five Gyan Prabha and two Prerna projects have also been sanctioned. The bulk of beneficiaries covered under these schemes is from BPL background. While the budgetary support for the Trust has seen a five-fold increase since its statutory inception in 1999, the number of beneficiaries is slated to cross the hundred thousand mark.
The Trust has been using digital resources and ICTs to empower Persons with Disabilities through the formulation of policy, advocacy, cooperation and partnership-based solutions. It also utilises i-cloud services provided by the National Informatics Centre (NIC).
The entire process of sanction of schemes, release of funds, submission of proposals and processing is digital. The system has ensured the end of bureaucratic hurdles and enhanced the ease of Persons with Disabilities. The organisation works through a system of user IDs and passwords that can be self-generated on its website.
The Trust implements its schemes through Registered Organisations (ROs) whose number has gone up to 597. To revamp the schemes, it has also conducted regional workshops in Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Guwahati.
The Trust has started the Care Associates training programme under the ‘Sahyogi’ scheme to empower persons with disabilities. It will create the required skilled workforce with the objective of training 1000 persons this year. Under the ‘Gyan Prabha’ scheme, it provides assistance to Persons with Disabilities to pursue higher education or skill development courses, including graduate/postgraduate studies and professional/vocational courses, leading to employment or self-employment.
The Trust’s website is user-friendly and screen reader friendly. The content has been structured with proper tagging and all items are appropriately aligned on the pages and layouts are consistent on all related pages.
*The writer has been taking a side-look at civil services and governance for long