In the past four months when the entire country was in various stages of the coronavirus-induced lockdown, the Railways has digitised over 12 lakh documents like letters, bills, office orders, project drawings and more than four lakh files, scrapping their manual handling and reducing not just physical contact between officials but also operational costs.
The use of Railways' e-office has grown manifold since the pandemic hit the country -- the number of e-receipts increased from 4.5 lakhs during March 2019 to March this year, to 16.5 lakhs in April-July this year; the number of e-files increased from 1.3 lakhs to 5.4 lakh during the same periods respectively.
The e-office platform provided by RailTel is a cloud enabled software developed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) and aims to provide reliable, efficient, and effective ways of handling office files and documents.
“Due to availability of e-office, majority of file work in Railways can continue smoothly without physical presence in offices which is a boon in a time of crisis like this," RailTel CMD, Puneet Chawla told PTI.
He said it was a big challenge for the team to complete the work during the lockdown phase as resource movement was restricted.
"We couldn’t visit the division offices and the implementation work needed to be done remotely and it was very time consuming as well. The crucial part of implementation is the training of officials to handle the platform," Chawla said.
The official said since physical presence of RailTel officials and Railway users was not possible, the entire training was also done remotely using video conferencing and on call support. Training videos were prepared so that users could watch them again and again to get a grip on the e-office usage procedure.
As of July 31, there are 1,04,3,32 users in 106 units of Indian Railways of the e-office platform. There are 16,55,748 e-receipts and 5,47,681 files which have been created, according to RailTel data.
The work of the remaining 60 workshops has been sanctioned.
RailTel also provided Virtual Private Network connections to around 9,500 railway officials for enabling them to process the file works remotely.
The system, officials said, promises absolute transparency as anything once written on the file cannot be changed or undone and there is also a monitoring mechanism to check where the files are held up, thus accounting for delays.
“Even the big drawings including project drawings are being prepared and being sent for approval to the various departments on the e-platform. This e-drawing approval system has ensured quick approvals of drawings and transparency resulting in faster project implementation,” Chawla said.
The Railways’ push to promote contactless communication between its officials has geared momentum through the COVID-19 pandemic, primarily with two things in mind -- to reduce the spread of the disease and also to cut costs.
In circulars issued through these months, officials have been asked to rely on video-conferencing for meetings, emails for communication and special applications for procurements and tendering.
On Sunday, in a first, the Railways held a virtual retirement function for 2,320 superannuating officials connecting all Zones/Divisions/Production Units which was attended by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal.