Please briefly describe the initiative, what issue or challenge it aims to address and specify its objectives (300 words maximum)
SaboojSathi (The Green Companion) is a flagship programme of Govt of West Bengal, India through which bi-cycles are distributed amongst the Students of Govt run and Govt aided Schools!
The State Government's commitment has resulted in establishing primary and upper primary schools within walking distance. The achievement, however, added the urgency to enable all students graduating from upper primary level (8th Standard) to be in the high schools, and eradicate the barriers of accessing the high schools. Often, students, particularly from economically and socially disadvantaged background, had to drop out from high schools owing to physical accessibility. The problem had critical bearing on the girls and often resulted in irregular attendance, drop out and early marriage.
In order to enhance the students’ access to schools, the Government of West Bengal announced a flagship scheme titled "Sabooj Sathi" (means, the Green Companion) in 2015-16. It entailed in it provision of bi-cycles to all students of Class IX to XII enrolled in Government Schools. The scheme was also expected to increase retention in high schools, encourage students for higher studies, inculcate sense of confidence among the girl students and promote environment-friendly and healthy means of transportation – all aligned with the four Sustainable Goals of agenda 230- SDG3: Good Health & Well-being, SDG4: Quality Education, SDG5: Gender Equality and SDG13: Climate actions.
Sabooj Sathi Online 4.0 (www.wbsaboojsathi.gov.in) is the e-Governance mechanism which ensures end-to-end ICT enabled management of entire processes involved in implementation.
The scheme has had a huge societal impact by enhancing general mobility of the population and that of the girls in particular. Enrolment in high school witnessed an increase by 12% immediately and by 6% on an average in the subsequent years. These bi-cycles are also being used for various domestic and social purposes.
Please explain how the initiative is linked to the selected category (100 words maximum)
Driven by a moral commitment of holistic development, which adds primacy to provide all children equal opportunity of education, the Sabooj Sathi programme is the first of its kind in the country as well as in the south Asian region to bring all high school-going students into the fold of the programme. The scheme aims to cover the universal set of students who are on the threshold of high school education irrespective of caste, creed, religion and social & economic status.
a. Please specify which SDGs and target(s) the initiative supports and describe concretely how the initiative has contributed to their implementation (200 words maximum)
Energised by the state Government's commitment, endeavour, and realization of the same in establishing primary schools in all neighbourhoods large number of students are now graduating to the higher levels (standard IX onwards). Despite the rise in number in the high schools, the quality of learning at that level was found to be confounded by certain problems, especially the difficulty of access - high schools were not always accessible on foot owing to distance. The scheme aimed at increasing access to high school education by providing mobility support free of cost. All students who were on the threshold of high school education were brought under the fold of the scheme to provide equal opportunity in line with the SDG-4–(quality education and the targets like free equitable quality primary and secondary education), SDG-5 (equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education including university and eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education). Bi-cycle being a healthy and green mode of transport, SDG-3 (Good health) and SDG-13 (Climate action) are promoted through this scheme.
b. Please describe what makes the initiative sustainable in social, economic and environmental terms (100 words maximum)
The Government of West Bengal has taken up the scheme for increasing access to high school education and decided to bring all the target group students under the fold of the scheme. The scheme has been continuing since 2015-16 and the State Government has provided resources like person-power, fund, IT infrastructure for implementation. More than 10 million boys and girls are now using these healthy means of transportation triggering promotion of green vehicle. Impact study has indicated huge societal impact and overwhelming acceptability by all stakeholders. Being a flagship programme of State Government which is committed; this is highly sustainable.
a. Please explain how the initiative has addressed a significant shortfall in governance, public administration or public service within the context of a given country or region. (200 words maximum)
After creating universal access to primary education, the whole country (India) is now facing the challenge of universal access to high school education which is critical to enhance Country’s competitiveness in the rapidly globalizing world. While 95% children of school going age are attending primary school; nearly half of them complete secondary and higher secondary level. Public funding is limited since other major issues are to be addressed simultaneously for rapid economic growth. It is hence impossible to create additional infrastructure in desired pace to provide access to increasing number of aspirants. The State Government’s decision to provide each of the high school students with a bicycle was to address the issue of meeting the challenge of inaccessibility.
Secondly, owing to prevailing geo-social divisions, opportunities are also distributed unevenly. The poor and disadvantaged multitude, most of whom live in the hinterlands has limited opportunity of achieving competitive educational quality. In other words they are pitched in an uneven competition with the traditionally privileged, who have all the facilities of good upbringing. The bicycle at the disposal has been exerting a neutralizing effect on this unevenness by allowing the disadvantaged students relatively easy access to the facilities required for the competition.
b. Please describe how your initiative addresses gender inequality in the country context. (100 words maximum)
While primary and upper primary schools are within comfortable walking distance, High schools are not always in the vicinity. The students, particularly from economically and socially disadvantaged background, many a times had to drop out from high Schools owing to the distance. The issue of accessibility has critical bearing on the girls who are often seen dropping out. The scheme aims at increasing access by bringing the entire target group students, both boys and girls under its fold.
c. Please describe who the target group(s) were, and explain how the initiative improved outcomes for these target groups. (200 words maximum)
All students studying in class IX to XII in Govt. schools were brought under the purview of the initiative. Since 2015-16, more than 10 million students were provided bi-cycles as mobility support. Students are now getting bi-cycles as soon as they are admitted in class IX. An impact study indicates 12% increase in enrolment followed by another 6% on an average in the subsequent years of implementation. Girl students appearing in Board exams are more in no. The scheme has increased general mobility of the rural population, particularly the Girl students. The bi-cycles are being used for various social and domestic purposes also, as the study indicates. Responses taken from various stakeholders indicates better retention, regular attendance in school particularly for the girls, increase in effective study time, reduced expenditure in communication which in turn being used for buying food or books.
a. Please describe how the initiative was implemented including key developments and steps, monitoring and evaluation activities, and the chronology. (300 words)
• Implementation of this scheme demanded participation of officials and functionaries from various Government Departments. Synergy was established through sensitization, capacity building, defining roles and responsibilities and clear communication. To minimize operational cost, only existing Government infrastructure and Human resources were utilized. Dedicated administrative framework was designed, processes standardized and e-Governance mechanism was developed. Backward Classes Welfare Department was designated as Nodal Department & WB SC,ST & OBC Development & Finance Corporation as the Implementing Agency.
• State Government Constituted a Steering Committee with Principal Secretaries of various Departments connected with the initiative.
• State Project Management Unit was set up.
• Category and specifications of bi-cycles (34) as per Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS) in consultation with “R & D Centre for testing of bi-cycles”, a joint initiative of Govt. of Punjab and UNDP were finalized. Distinct colour code for the bi-cycles, affixing Taggant label with code for District, year of manufacture was prescribed for security and tracking purposes.
• Procurement was made through transparent electronic tendering process, evaluation through two-bid systems, a) Technical b) Financial.
• Existing pool of Government officials at Block, Municipality and District level were aligned. Teachers, Inspector of Schools were sensitized. BDOs and SDOs identified 2,500 large Government infrastructures for taking delivery and assembling. Schools were tagged with these points for sending fitted bi-cycles conveniently. Work was carried out through an SOP communicated via e-mail and Video Conferencing.
• Sabooj Sathi Online (current version 4.0), the comprehensive e-Governance platform of the scheme provided a single unified virtual workspace for all stakeholders which provided end to end ICT enabled solution of entire process starting from recording particulars of eligible students of 8,828 schools, validation of particulars of students, logistics, uploading records of distribution by schools and monitoring at decentralised levels.
b. Please clearly explain the obstacles encountered and how they were overcome. (100 words)
The magnitude and the scale of this programme were unprecedented in the country even in this region of the globe. Replicable model was non-existent. Major challenges were procurement in huge quantities, creating database of eligible students, management of massive supply chain, handing over bi-cycles to students from premises of 8828 Govt. Schools spread across length and breadth of the State, effective project management, monitoring progress and above all ensuring transparency in the process of implementation. All these were addressed through www.wbsaboojsathi.gov.in , the e-Gov mechanism and structured SOP based work flow.
a. Please explain in what ways the initiative is innovative in the context of your country or region. (100 words maximum)
The state Government went against the popular global current of selective (popularly called “targeted”) facilitation, and decided to make the programme universal on two counts viz. (a) the intrinsic priority of non-discrimination in education, and (b) experiences of public programme delivery, both at home and away. Robust e-Governance mechanism for implementation ensured accuracy; time bound delivery, transparency, reduced project management cost and effective implementation. One major strength of the programme is the gradually evolved social mechanism of public coordination involving the students, parents, teachers, government officials, and the local leaders of various spheres.
b. Please describe, if relevant, how the initiative drew inspiration from successful initiatives in other regions, countries and localities. (100 words maximum)
No comparable reference is available from any other initiatives in the country or Region; this is altogether innovated from a pilot in the remotest part of the State with selected target group.
c. If emerging and frontier technologies were used, please state how those were integrated into the initiative and/or how the initiative embraced digital government. (100 words maximum)
Sabooj Sathi Online 4.0 (https://wbsaboojsathi.gov.in) provides a virtual work space for all stakeholders. Online facilities -
a) Creation of Students’ records, validation
b) Resource directory of 8828 Govt schools
c) Generation of gender-wise bi-cycle requirement
d) Creation of Delivery Points & School Tagging
e) Consignment Tracking
f) Challan Management
g) School wise generation and uploading of distribution record
h) End-to-end Supply Chain Management
i) Multi-level monitoring
j) Grievance redressal
• E-procurement platform
• Sabooj Sathi Online 4.0 hosted in National Cloud platform for dynamic resources allocation
• AI enabled de-duplication algorithm
• Mobile app.
a. Has the initiative been transferred and/or adapted to other contexts (e.g. other cities, countries or regions) to your organization’s knowledge? If yes, please explain where and how. (200 words maximum)
This initiative is being replicated in other States of India like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Gujrat, Rajasthan, Madhyapradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan within the Country.
b. If not yet transferred/adapted to other contexts, please describe the potential for transferability. (200 words maximum)
This initiative can be easily adopted by other State Governments in the Country even other Countries in the Region with customization of Master directories. The application software is generic in nature and highly scalable. In the e-governance mechanism all national master directories were used. The system was developed using open source technology. Cloud based server hosting environment ensures resources availability dynamically as per user requirement.
Both the Union and State Governments in the Country are implementing various schemes of individual benefits in different sectors. In all such schemes direct benefit transfer is impressed upon so that the target group can derive maximum benefit out of the schemes. In all such cases this could be a replicable model since it ensures accuracy; transparency, cost minimization which are essential components of good governance.
a. What specific resources (i.e. financial, human or others) were used to implement the initiative? (100 words maximum)
Services of existing pool of Government officials at different levels were utilized. No additional staff recruited or hired.
State Project Management Unit (SPMU) : 3
District level: 23 Nodal officers @ one per District
Sub-Division level: 67 designated officials @ one per Sub-Divdivision
Block level: 332 @ one per Block
School Teachers: 8,828 @ one per School
School Inspectors: 750 @ one per circle
Budgetary allocation: INR 33.24 bn.
IT Resources: Existing IT infrastructure
b. Please explain what makes the initiative sustainable over time, in financial and institutional terms. (100 words maximum)
The e-Gov mechanism was developed by National Informatics Centre (NIC), the IT major of the Union Government and closely associated with the State Governments. IT backbone of the Govt. was used and the ICT platform was managed through various teams of NIC. The software development team, Cloud team, Operation Support team worked in tandem to provide seamless services. It has used the existing Cloud Platform in “Platform as a Service” mode. The entire operation was carried out using existing Govt. resources in terms of manpower, machine and infrastructure. The e-Gov mechanism is highly sustainable having dependency only on Government resources.
a. Was the initiative formally evaluated either internally or externally?
b. Please describe how it was evaluated and by whom? (100 words maximum)
Pratichi (India) Trust, an organisation founded by Nobel Laureate Prof. Amartya Sen, was assigned to evaluate the scheme. Indicators used for the evaluation were: (a) Degree of realization of the benefits (whether and to which extent the bicycles reached the designated beneficiaries), (b) the degree of smoothness of implementation (easiness of the delivery mechanism), (c) the process of implementation, (d) level of coordination between various departments and other agencies involved in the implementation, (e) level of transparency (scope of public scrutiny), and (f) sustainability of the programme.
c. Please describe the indicators and tools used (100 words maximum)
The main indicators used for the evaluation were: (a) Degree of realization of the benefits (whether and to which extent the bicycles reached the designated beneficiaries), (b) the degree of smoothness of implementation (easiness of the delivery mechanism), (c) the process of implementation, (d) level of coordination between various departments and other agencies involved in the implementation, (e) level of transparency (scope of public scrutiny), and (f) sustainability of the programme. Tools used were, personal interview with students, parents, teachers, and officials; group discussion with (i) students, (ii) villagers; and analysis of secondary data.
d. What were the main findings of the evaluation (e.g. adequacy of resources mobilized for the initiative, quality of implementation and challenges faced, main outcomes, sustainability of the initiative, impacts) and how this information is being used to inform the initiative’s implementation. (200 words maximum)
The program is based on the principles of equity – creating equal opportunities for all students. Difficulty in accessing the schools used to force many students, particularly from poor and disadvantaged background, and girls, to drop out at the threshold of high school education. The programme has, to a great extent, been able to meet the challenge of inaccessibility. The higher success of the scheme seems to have drawn from the policy of universalization, which expanded the scope social watch dogging by creating scope for using the voices of the powerful minority of the society, who are not-so-needy but can influence public programmes and social dynamics.
The delivery was made robust by invoking a technologically forward-looking mechanism. The whole process of identification of suppliers to the delivery of bicycles to the students has been made on line, which ensures transparency of the scheme.
The scheme has had a huge societal impact by enhancing the general mobility of the population and of the girls in particular. The bicycles distributed are also used for several other purposes than just going to school.
Please describe how the initiative is inscribed in the relevant institutional landscape (for example, how it was situated with respect to relevant government agencies, and how the institutional relationships with those have been operating). (200 words maximum)
Backward Classes Welfare Department was assigned the task of implementation and designated as Nodal Department by the Government of West Bengal. West Bengal Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes Development & Finance Corporation, under the administrative control of the Department was declared implementing Agency.
Government of West Bengal Constituted a Steering Committee with senior Government officials from Departments related to Social Sector. A Project Management Unit was set up by the Implementing Agency. District Nodal Officers were appointed. It was planned to utilize services of existing pool of Government Officials and Staffs of various Departments at different levels. No operation was outsourced or paid for. Though large no. of such human resources was deployed they provided service from their own workplace which was already equipped with sufficient ICT based resources. Communication from respective Departmental heads ensured synergy among District & Sub-District level officials. After initial sensitization, State Project Management Unit harnessed all the implementing bodies through ICT based communication network. Specific job roles were defined for officials and staff at different level of Administration. User manuals available through the portal ensured flawless operation by implementers at decentralized level. Help desk provided dedicated support to all stakeholders.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development puts emphasis on collaboration, engagement, partnerships, and inclusion. Please describe which stakeholders were engaged in designing, implementing and evaluating the initiative and how this engagement took place. (200 words maximum)
In the designing phase, group of senior level officials from Social Sector Departments of the Government of West Bengal drew up a general guideline in consideration with the time frame, scale of operations, resources requirement etc. Availability of resources like manpower, IT infrastructure, existing database of students’ were explored with relevant Departments. National Informatics Centre (NIC), the IT major in the Government sector was associated for development of application software for management of the implementation processes. Agile Development method was adopted since the actual work had to be started immediately. Finally, one ICT enabled end to end solution for entire work flow emerged which ensured accuracy, transparency and time bound implementation. After coverage of around 4.0 million students, evaluation was taken up through Pratichi (India) Trust, an organisation founded by Nobel Laureate Prof. Amartya Sen in the year 2017. First evaluation report indicated initiation of desired change and the State Government after witnessing overwhelming response decided to continue. As of now more than 10 million students have been provided transportation support. This is a unique scheme in which students, their parents, govt. officials, social activists, political functionaries and citizen at large participated in the implementation process.
Please describe the key lessons learned, and how your organization plans to improve the initiative. (200 words maximum)
Implementation model involved stakeholders like government officials, teachers, students and their parents at large. Involvement rather inclusion ensured transparency, accrual of benefit to the entire targeted student population. Proactive disclosure at every stage of implementation established greater faith in Governance. Stakeholders can interact, students can view status; citizen get to know whether benefits actually accrued to the target group.
Roll out plan: E Governance has been considered as the most dynamic component in the project planning. ‘Agile Development’ methodology followed for faster development of ICT based solution.
Inclusion: The stakeholders, users were taken into confidence & empowered to participate in crucial decisions and implementation. It developed sense of ownership among them.
Sustainability: One key learning of the project is reliance on available Government resources. The entire ICT platform was managed through various teams of NIC, the e Governance major.
Social Audit: The scheme has been designed keeping in mind ‘Social Audit’ as a key & core component. Details of each recipient student have been kept in the Sabooj Sathi Portal for public viewing and social audit.