Category: My Blog

    An app for Volunteers ( VOLNDEAR)

    When I encounter problems that we in Government face, most of the time I also instantly get ideas to get around those problems. Most of the 150 plus innovations I have done, are solutions to mundane problems in Government. So when the Chennai floods happened in 2015, I was seeing the disconnect between volunteers and institutions who needed the services of those volunteers. Thus arose an idea in my mind that there should be an app connecting volunteers and institutions who need their services…..and hence the app Volndear! It can be downloaded on android Google Phones and Apple iPhone. There are any number of apps in the volunteering space, but none in the way Volndear has been designed.

    This App was conceived by me and developed by a company called Zigma, inspired by the tremendous enthusiasm and comittment of young boys and girls who volunteered to help people caught in the floods at Chennai in December 2015. This app has also been created out of concern that the tremendous energies of these volunteers are invariably not put to the best use in many cases because of the inability of government and NGOs to use their skills sets appropriately.

    This app is dedicated to all volunteers across the world who give their heart out, especially during emergencies. This app can be used by any individual, Government agency or the Non Governmental sector in tapping the potential of volunteers in doing good to humanity, both during normal times and especially during calamities.

    Four types of people across the world can register on this app: 1. any citizen, 2. any government agency, 3. any NGO or 4. any volunteer. This pretty much covers the whole of humanity. This will connect event creators to the volunteers with the appropriate skill set necessary for the success of the event, through in-app notifications to the volunteer.

    The app has been standardised to ensure that the correct and full details of the person/agency creating an event and that of the volunteer is captured, lest this app be used for unlawful activities. We are working to ensure that the moment an event is created, the local police station will receive information about the event.

    Please download the app and give me critical feedback. This can be treated as the beta version.

    My heartfelt thanks to Sathyanarayanan Ganesan, who suggested Zigma Techmologies as willing to take up this idea and develop it as a CSR activity. Their CEO Mr.Raja is an amazing person. The development team led by Venkatesh Ramachandran has done a great job of developing the app. There are still numerous issues. If you can download the app and tell me the issues you are facing, it will help us rectify the defects and make it a useful app. I am requesting you to be volunteers for testing the app!

    Happy volunteering!

    Preventing bank scams…

    Dear friends, a simplistic solution to prevent any kind of scams in banks and Government!
    All banking related scams can be stopped in one go! A simple piece of software can link core banking software of all banks to one database to be monitored by RBI…. all transactions should be authenticated by every bank official by Aadhaar fingerprint authentication…. a business intelligence system layer overlaid on this software can throw up data, if limit alerts (limits of lending or issuing LOCs etc.) per bank official is inbuilt. There should not be any transaction in any bank that should not be trackable……lock chain technology will be useful here… use of big data analytics can throw up bigger alerts, before somebody can get away with fooling the system…. of course, we may need a supercomputer server to serve this particular requirement……
    I believe that only IT and good leadership can provide scam free administration…. the IIT (Integrity, Innovation, Technology) of transformational leadership can change our country…. and at all levels we can see it is difficult to get leaders with the above three qualities in one person…. Poompuhar is probably one of the best examples where every aspect of governance is online….it is difficult to beat this system, unless the
    top brass collaborates and conspire…. perhaps it is time Government adopted block chain technology for all transactions in Government as the backbone technology…

    Preventing exam leaks…

    Friends, My e-solution for preventing exam paper leaks….
    Let’s assume that in each subject, and in each topic, there are hundreds of questions available as question bank in a software database developed for this purpose and kept at the office of the CBSE Commissioner.
    Let’s assume that the algorithm allows millions of combinations of question papers that can be set with just one click of the mouse..
    Let’s assume that the algorithm developed is highly sophisticated so as to generate question papers that reflect the appropriate weightage to be given to each topic in a question paper.
    Let’s assume that the server capacity at the CBSE Commissioner’s office is very high
    Let’s assume that the database of every CBSE school and every student taking the exam across the length and breadth of the country is already pre-fed into that software, with the Aadhaar number as the single source of ID.
    Let’s assume that there is electricity and reasonably good internet connectivity in all CBSE schools with redundant connectivity for both electricity and internet connectivity.
    Let’s assume that all these schools have installed high speed xerox machines
    If all the above assumptions hold true, then it’s only a question of the Commissioner of CBSE clicking the mouse once on her computer at a set time after countdown, such that the computer selects questions in each subject and topic randomly (such kind of randomisation is done for selecting election personnel routinely by the ECI) and the moment she clicks “submit”, the question paper is generated as pdf student wise and automatically sent by mail to all CBSE schools all over the country. The mailing system should be an encrypted one, to be possible to be opened only using PKI. Or even better, if smartboards are installed in these exam halls, the question papers can appear there.
    There should be an Analytics software that will generate instant data to the CBSE commissioner and team, whether the question papers have reached the designated schools. Satellite space has to be earmarked for this. There should be a dedicated call centre at the CBSE Commissioners office to answer any doubt that may arise.
    The schools can then printout the question papers and start the exam. All this may take at the most 30 mts, assuming that all the assumptions hold true. Very little lead time should be given.
    This can truly eliminate any kind of paperleak, even if there are smart alecs who can hack into the database. But they will get millions of questions; but not the question paper for the day which can be generated only by one click, and the algorithm does the rest!
    The argument against this would be:
    1. The costs involved in creating the infra. My answer would be it will be just the cost for upgradation. Every school is sitting on huge computer infra already.
    2. What if connectivity fails: my answer is keep 2 or 3 redundant lines for electricity and internet.
    These are the only arguments against that come to my mind. We can create a similar system school wise and start doing it from each school. Once the confidence is generated, we can move to the CBSE commissioner level.


    When I was a House Surgeon at Trivandrum Medical College, I had just gone out for a cup of tea at about 2.00 am, and was returning when I heard a commotion, and I was seeing a man inside the first floor ward…being chased by a crowd shouting “thief” …. he had apparently flicked ₹5.00 from a woman bystander….. I saw him jumping from the 1st floor window to the ground…. and another crowd surrounded him… and started beating and kicking the hapless guy…..these were people who had no idea why they were beating up the guy… they had not seen this “thief” steal…. but because somebody shouted “thief” everybody joined in the “fun”… I saw some guys trying to put a foot or two to kick him, because they couldn’t reach him! This is how a mob works! All their humanity turns to beastiity in a fleeting second…

    It is another story about how I ran into the crowd wearing my Doctors white coat and shouting at the crowd to disengage and finally succeeded in saving the poor guy from the mob…. the poor man was in severe pain…. almost in shock…. the police was summoned and we took him to the casualty…. only to find that he had suffered a hip bone fracture during the his jump from the 1st floor….all the beating and kicking… were like adding injury to severe injury….

    The poor health condition of Madhu, the young man from Wynad who was killed by a similar mob, would not have helped him in withstanding those assaults…..Even if we catch a terrorist, I think we should simply hand him over to the police to face legal action; we can’t be Judge, jury and executioner…when we caught a boy who had gone into the home of a senior IAS officer at the Omanthoorar Government Estate, we simply handed him over to police….. similarly, recently when a poor guy walked into my house, and locked himself up in one of the rooms, we simply called the police and handed him over…… no violence whatsoever was used….the Policemen also behaved in a dignified manner…

    …..which begs the question….. do we have the right to physically or mentally hurt our fellow human beings? The road rages, the assault on young couples hanging out, are signs of a society slowly turning inhumane…..I for one feel that we should not hurt anybody by word, deed, look or thought…..we need not not judge anybody……let the judges do that! While we all are aghast and outraged at what happened to Madhu, let’s do an introspection as to how we react to such incidents….we need to practise non-violence….. Of course, then how do we react if we are the victims of assault ourselves?…. we should definitely react… only that much physical force as what will allow us to extricate us from that situation….but we don’t have the right to take anybody’s life…all are our own people…. people with certain circumstances….certain ideologies…. but our own very fellow human beings…

    Onam Decoration-Story

    Friends, a compelling story of how I get those flowers for pookalam….

    For the past many years, I have been doing the entire job of doing the pookalam singlehandedly, once the flowers reach home. But age is slowly catching up and this time I required the help of 2 assistants. It took us 6-7 hours to complete the job! My heartfelt thanks to my 2 assistants.

    But I want to tell you a compelling story; the story of how I get those flowers. This has been captured by the Malayalam newspaper Mathrubhoomi very very beautifully in today’s Chennai edition. Here is the link. (,-2017#issue/2/1). This is for the benefit of those who don’t read Malayalam

    I succeeded Mr.Mangat Ram Sharma IAS, as the District Collector of Krishnagiri in June 2006. As is the ‘dictum’ the ‘system’, meaning your PA, your officers etc will not say anything good or bad about your predecessor, till they kind of deduce from your behavior or words as to how you are disposed to your predecessor. They will then act accordingly. I am sure this is the experience of many a leader.

    So, the ’system” didn’t tell me anything about the many ‘goods’ that my predecessor had done. But I was seeing a lot of English speaking young farmers who came to my first Monday Grievance Day meeting in large numbers, and were saying what my predecessor had done for them and how it was now stuck. I could easily have ignored the petitions and the pleas of the youngsters, saying whatever my predecessor had done was bad, and only I could do any good, as is the wont in our Indian bureaucracy. But I called these boys separately for a meeting, and then realized that Mr.Mangat Ram Sharma IAS had indeed done a great thing with these boys. He had made three clusters of rose cultivating farmers in Kelamanagalam, Thally and Hosur, had got subsidy sanctioned from the “Small Farmers Agricultural Consortium”, Government of India, had tied up with the nationalized banks for loans for 1008 farmers who were desirous of putting up greenhouses for rose cultivation, including micro irrigation. So, then what was the problem? The problem was that not one rupee had been disbursed by banks as loan to any of the farmers against the subsidy sanctioned!

    Naturally I was aghast to say the least! I went after the bankers and the rest is history! Today most of the farmers are income tax payers! Since 2008, come an Onam, they will be the first to herald Onam to our mind, they make it a point to my home in Chennai in a lorry full of flowers worth lakhs of rupees, against my plea that I require flowers worth only Rs.1000/- which in any case I would be purchasing from the Koyembedu market as I have always done since I landed at Chennai…the pookalam that I laid yesterday was from the flowers that Paramesh Reddy and team brought from Krishnagiri. I am so proud to say this.

    As Commissioner of Horticulture & Plantation Crops, I managed to get sanction for 2 centres of excellence, one for vegetables at Reddiyarchthram in Dindigul and one for floriculture at Thally, under the INDO-Israel project at a cost of ₹16.00 crores each. So when I went in 2012 to Thally along with the Israeli Counsellor Mr.Uri Rubinstein, I was astonished to see the farmers flowering and blooming….my hats off to Mr.Mangat Ram Sharma IAS for envisioning the project!

    Poompuhar to help artisans find access to larger market

    Poompuhar is planning to rope in graduates from NIFT and artisans to come up with new designs for making idols. It is also planning a design at its office here soon, a top official of the department said.

    The corporation is in talks with four more airports — Tirupati, Tiruchi, Madurai and Coimbatore — for designing their premises on the lines of the Chennai airport, Santhosh Babu, Chairman and Managing Director, Poompuhar, told The Hindu.

    “Most artisans make idols based on Agama Shastra and what has been passed on to them from earlier generations. They might make only very minor deviations. We hope to bring in new design ideas and expand the scope of work and the kind of market artisans can access,” he said.

    Poompuhar is also toying with the idea of 3D printing of miniature models of idols. “Normally, it would take about 10 to 100 hours to make one wax mould manually, based on which the final bronze product is made. With 3D printing, we hope to reduce the time of making small idols on a large scale. We are very clear that we do not want to toy with or change the process of idol-making, especially large ones. But for small, miniature models, there is a huge market that can be tapped,” he said.

    Mr. Babu said with 3D printing, artisans can get Intellectual Property rights for their creations. “We will teach them to use software and design idols. The artisans can get IP rights for these. But the modalities will have to be worked out as getting IP rights is expensive”.

    Mr. Babu added that 3D printing would enable mass production of miniatures. “Anyone can buy such small-sized models, for example, at the airport when they are leaving after touring the State. We are also in talks with the Egmore Museum to make miniatures of the artefacts there that people can buy. This is a completely untapped market in India,” he added.

    Cluster facilities

    The corporation recently received funding of about Rs. 20 crore from the Centre and the State government to set up cluster facilities where artisans can do their work free of cost. These centres will have all necessary facilities for artisans, he said. About 30 such centres are set to come up across the State.
    In talks with Tirupati, Tiruchi, Madurai and Coimbatore airports for designing their premises

    Our Policemen and Policewomen on Traffic duty

    It is a sad sight to see our policemen and women manning traffic in Chennai city. I understand that there are about 9000 such personnel who in addition to the fact that they stand under the severe heat of the beating sun, also have to inhale all the emissions from all vehicles plying on his/her route….. This is a pathetic state of affairs, where human beings are being put to use and abuse. This work can easily be supplanted by technology, not fully though, but substantially.  Imagine if these 9000 personnel are retrained and put on duties like, L&O, crime detection and investigation, management of traffic remotely etc., how much we would be extending their life spans? And her much more efficient, productive and useful they would be?

    For this to happen there should be sufficient one time investment on traffic infrastructure; I mean,

    1. Where there are footpaths that are not encroached
    2. Where road geometrics are of international standards
    3. Where pollution control norms for vehicles are strictly enforced
    4. Where there are separate lanes for bicycles and other 2 wheelers
    5. Where every junction is installed with automatic traffic signals
    6. When a data center manages all the traffic remotely
    7. When traffic cameras click the picture of the registration numbers of violating vehicles, and immediately generates an SMS to the violator, which means the vehicle database also captures the mobile number of the owner.
    8. Three such violations should result in automatic cancellation of the license of the violator
    9. The licensing software should be so developed as to capture the above requirement
    10. Overtaking is strictly prohibited
    11. Over speeding vehicles are immediately impounded on the basis of video grabs at traffic junctions.
    12. If sufficient space is provided at select spots in the city for sticking posters and propaganda materials, instead of every bit of space along the city roads as is currently.
    13. Arrangement of 2 wheelers, three wheelers etc. on spaces provisioned on roadsides in symmetric fashion.
    14. All the above will be based on a robust IT infrastructure.

    All the above can bring in the much needed road discipline…. for this to happen, the Traffic Police Department, Chennai Corporation, CMRL, IIT/Anna University, NGOs like Chennai City Connect etch have to collaborate and come out with an immediately implementable plan. Of course there is a cost involved, but then we will be incurring more costs if we don’t do it. What I am saying is nothing new…The world over this has been done, except probably in our cities…. Namma Chennai will look more beautiful if we do something just about the traffic alone…and Namma Policemen and women can breathe easy….

    Government offices

    I keep wondering why our government offices, hospitals and everything connected with government should have a shabby look. Files littered on tables, unhelpful staff, corruption and a general feeling of demotivation. Why can’t it look swanky and clean? In fact government spends more money per-capita on upkeep of office than probably the privates sector does. Here, the question is one of leadership. Does the Chief Secretary ever go to his own sections and see for himself under what atmosphere our employees work? Never! In fact our government employees are the best in the world, because they work under trying office atmosphere and circumstances that can test the dignity of any person with some self-esteem!

    My theory and practice has been that if the leadership can pay attention to three things, then we can make governance world-class; Attitude, ambience and technology. The Tamil Nadu Corporation for Development of Women LTD (TNCDW) in year 2000, Chief Ministers Special Cell in 2001, Krishnagiri Collectorate in 2008, ELCOT office in 2009, TNeGA (Tamil Nadu e-Governance Agency) in 2009, Directorate of Horticulture and Plantation Crops in 2012, Directorate of Indian Medicine and Homeopathy in 2013, and Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Development Corporation in 2016, are the best examples of the above three coming together. What we get as a result is world-class administration. Why can’t we introduce the concept of electronic workflow in all government offices from the PMO right upto the VAO office? A large number of ERPs are available in the market today catering to all requirements of government offices. If one officer can do this, why can’t we make it a system than the exception?

    When our files move fast at the speed of thought, then we can provide that much more faster services to our citizens without burdening them, by delaying decisions or asking them to come over many times. When our systems are online, we can provide online services to them, and corruption at least at the local level will be a thing of the past. There will come a time when this will be law.

    ERP at Secretariat

    Fire at Mantralaya, Mumbai

    The massive fire and deaths at the Maharashtra Secretariat in June 2012 is a grim reminder to all of us also, as to the under preparedness to deal with such a situation at our Secretariat in Chennai and also in all other Government offices. Incidentally we had our fire drill at our office only a few days earlier.

    One of the major criticisms against Government would be that files have been destroyed, and many reasons will be attributed to that. But there is a way out, if we can adopt an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) solution at all our offices, on a cloud-based model. In fact the IT department in Secretariat Chennai went entirely paperless from November 3rd to December 3rd 2011, till my transfer from the post of Secretary IT. The application we developed along with NIC Delhi christened by us as ASSIST (Automated Software Suite for Integrated Secretariat Transactions) available at is a full fledged ERP for making all aspects of our daily work at Secretariat or for that matter in any Government office completely web based… One can clear files anytime anywhere. Our SDC (State Data Centre) is a state of the art Data Centre and can host the application and all departments can create their own partitions and start working on files online.

    The application is being used in PMO, Cabinet Secretariat, and many other GOI departments. I am pleading with all our decision makers to adopt ASSIST or for that matter any other ERP and deploy the same at our SDC, making the work in Government transparent, fast, efficient, making services available to our Citizens that much faster, and most important, fireproof!

    Is anybody listening?

    Back 2 School (Krishnagiri district) 2006-2008

    It was a huge team effort in bringing back and retaining about 10,000 OOSC (out of school children). But the process was simple. I created a force of volunteers called VVF (Village Volunteer Force) at the rate of one VVF per Village Panchayat with about 20 youths above the age of 18 constituting the VVF (boys and girls who otherwise populate the different manrams and the like). We trained them on three aspects: 1.Child labour and OOSC 2. Sanitation 3. First aid. UNICEF helped hugely with the training.

    If we divide 10,000 OOSC by 337 panchayats, then the problem of OOSC become simple; on an average about 30 OOSC per panchayat, who can be easily identified, cajoled to come back to school etc. by the VVF. The incentive offered was anything under the sun that a Collector can give (under the rules of course!) A house, a loan, employment, crop loan, auto loan, pensions for widows, physically challenged, Government job as noon meal worker or cook etc…. Anything… the only condition being that the child should return and continue to be monitored on a monthly basis by the VVF who would feed the data online into an OOSC children tracking software built inside d website

    The software allows the Collector or SSA to monitor each and every child whose photo and details are initially captured by the VVF.

    In addition we created the Panchayat Level convergence Committee (PLCC) of all Government functionaries at the village level who otherwise never meet! For e.g. if the Village   Health Nurse (VHN) were to meet the VAO periodically, then the question of missing birth certificates wouldn’t ever arise. The PLCC used to be conducted simultaneously in all 337 Village Panchayats on the first Friday of every month for one hour. I would depute 337 observers for overseeing the meeting every month. Minutes (337 pages) would reach me the same day. The PLCC I understand continues to this day…

    We could make it a people’s movement… Even 8 years after coming out of Krishnagiri, I still get on an average 3 to 6 calls from Krishnagiri everyday…. And also visitors… such were the impact. I miss that action and interaction…

    There were numerous other initiatives around this which the website chronicles.

    Actually if this methodology can be adopted and every collector monitored and rated on that basis, OOSC will become a thing of the past! Whenever I showed these live monitoring, everybody said it’s great! But nobody took it up for state level implementation!!!

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    Dr.Santhosh Babu IAS