Kerala’s Eraviperoor gram panchayat is like the school over-achiever: in practically every sphere of public administration, the panchayat has outdone not just other panchayats, but also large cities. All it took, was four years and a rare cooperation between officials.
Located in south Kerala’s lush green district of Pathanamthitta, Eraviperoor Panchayat has made red tape a distant memory.
For starters, no one has to wait in queues for a birth or death certificate. Eraviperoor Panchayat president N Rajeev told The News Minute that they had begun the process around four years ago, long before the trumpet on smart cities was being blown.
“All office records, information and transactions have been digitized. Because of this, the panchayat was able to launch its one-minute certificate scheme. All certificates – birth, death, marriage certificates are registered and issued within minutes.”
This is only a slight exaggeration. For over a year now, the panchayat has been issuing certificates on the very day that people apply for them. Unlike neighbouring Karnataka, Kerala does not have a law on time-bound delivery of services.
On September 30, Eraviperoor became the first gram panchayat in the country to provide free Wi-Fi to the general public. Villagers can access free Wi-Fi facility within a one-kilometre radius of five different Panchayat institutions.
Besides this, the panchayat has touch screen kiosks for the public to locate their files in ultra-modern Panchayat record rooms.
Modern record room
“There are no capsules for development. The panchayat has given priority to e-governance at the grassroots level. Governance was citizen-centric in that direct conversations and discussions were held between public and panchayat,” Rajeev said. He added that the discussions resulted in cost effective, result-oriented developmental projects.
Eighteen months after it began a project to rejuvenate the Varatter river, a tributary of the Pampa which had dried up, the panchayat achieved its goal in 2013.
Another record that the panchayat holds is that it is the only panchayat in the state to get ISO-9001 certification for its Primary Health Centre (PHC) in Othera. It has also won the state government’s Health Award and Pain and Palliative Care Award for 2014-15. It received many other awards the following year as well.
In 2013, Eraviperoor was chosen as the recipient of the award for biodiversity conservation instituted by the State Biodiversity Board and the Sanitation Award of the State Sanitation Mission. The same year, the state Horticulture Department selected the village as a model hi-tech green village on account of banana plantations by 42 women groups who cooperated with each other to earn profits not just for themselves, but also for the village.
Bio gas plants, plastic shredding units, sanitation parks, rainwater harvest pits, yoga classes, Eraviperoor has it all.
Plastic shredding unit
Shredded plastic mixed with tar in road works
In Rajeev’s opinion, all this was possible because the panchayat managed to completely utilize the funds sanctioned by the government, helping it to get more funds. “We were successfully able to converge funds from different departments also.”
Rajeev also said the village’s achievements would have been impossible without the cooperation between the opposition and ruling members. “We had a good team of officials from different departments, less political issues and a hardworking public,” he said.
However when the present ruling front’s term ends this month, the team still has several goals ahead if voted back to power.
“Our 5-year term ends here, we did our best and we have plans to execute the second phase of all these developments if we get another chance,” Rajeev said.
Eraviperoor is the first gram panchayat in India to receive the national award. This is also the first public administration award received by any institution or individual from Kerala. However, while this award was for the year 2013-14, it arrived only in April 2015.