Sabooj Sathi (Green Companion) -Wheels of Change
This innovation has won an award, as described in the case study text. Call for Innovations
This case was submitted as part of the Call for Innovations, an annual partnership initiative between OPSI and the UAE Mohammed Bin Rashid Center for Government Innovation (MBRCGI) Strong Evidence
Government of West Bengal provided 7.0 million bicycles to students of class IX to XII standard in Government run and aided schools as mobility support under “Sabooj Sathi” scheme – a pioneering initiative towards universal access to higher education.
Though universal coverage under primary education was ensured through several interventions, India is still facing the challenge of universal access to high school education. While Primary schools are available in almost every village or within walking distance, high schools are far from the habitations, particularly in rural areas. In rain season, adverse climate coupled with varying road conditions, accessibility becomes difficult in remote rural areas.
Students particularly the girls were found dropping out from schools at the threshold of high school education due to this critical factor. There might be several other social causes, but accessibility was found to be the most critical issue to be addressed to achieve the goal of universal coverage under high school education.
State Government tried a simple intervention providing bi-cycle as a mobility support to girl students of a particular segment in the remotest region where accessibility is critical due to difficult terrain and vast forest areas. Within two years of the experiment it nearly ensured 100% retention. Therefore, State Government decided to replicate the project both for Boys and Girls across the State.
The initiative to increase access to high school education began in the financial year 2015-16 with the commitment to provide bi-cycles as mobility support to all the 4.00 million Boys and Girls of class IX to XII standard in Government run and aided schools and Madrasahs in 18 months. The policy of universal coverage is based on the principles of equity and creating equal opportunities for all, irrespective of class, caste, creed, religion and socio - economic status.
The Honorable Chief Minister of West Bengal christened the scheme as “Sabooj Sathi” and released the insignia and declared “these would be the green companions of the students who are destined to achieve remarkable feats in future”.
Apart from its primary objective of increasing accessibility, Sabooj Sathi is expected to meet additional objectives like:
- Increasing retention in high schools, encouraging students to take up higher studies,
- Inculcating confidence especially among the girl students by promoting mobility and promoting environment-friendly and healthy means of transportation.
These objectives are in conformity with four Sustainable Goals of agenda 2030; United Nations which are: SDG3 of Good Health & Well-being, SDG4: Quality Education, SDG5: Gender Equality and SDG13: Climate actions.
Initially Implementation of the scheme implied delivery of 2.50 million bi-cycles in 12,235 Govt. run school locations across length and breadth of the State within a time frame of six months followed by another 1.5 million in next academic year. This unprecedented scale of operation had multifarious challenges like developing a blueprint of operations, Mapping of Schools, Delivery Points, Bi-cycle Fitting areas, aligning implementation machinery, arranging resources, putting in place proper monitoring framework and resolving huge supply chain issues. These apart, accuracy, transparency at every stage of implementation and minimizing operational expenses were other issues of concern.
Implementation was planned through existing human resources available with different Departments of the State Government who were sensitized, trained and digitally empowered to play their defined job-roles. ICT based communication accelerated implementation process. Sabooj Sathi Online (www.wbsaboojsathi.gov.in), the e-Governance mechanism was developed in house. It provides a single window ICT based solution for management of entire processes like capturing students’ record, finalizing bi-cycle requirements (delivery point wise), supply chain from factory to distribution point, updating distribution records online. Particulars of distribution were made available in the public domain. The web site recorded phenomenal 2.1 billion hits during the initial phase.
Some innovative approaches in implementation like adopting e-Tender, defining a unique colour code for bi-cycles, recording unique frame no. of each of the bi-cycles for identification, attaching special reflectors as per riders’ safety norms and standards are mention worthy.
Hon’ble Chief Minister flagged off bi-cycle distribution on 29th October 2015. During 2015-16 to 2017-18, around 7 million students were benefitted. State Government is continuing the scheme. Students are assured mobility support immediately after they are admitted in class IX.
A follow-up study by “Pratichi (India) Trust”, an organisation founded by Nobel Laureate Dr. Amartya Sen, revealed “Apart from its immediate goal of ensuring accessibility to high schools the programme has had a huge societal impact by enhancing the general mobility of the population and that of the girls in particular. The bicycles distributed among the students are not only used for schooling but also for several other Domestic and Social utilities. The bicycle, indeed, is breaking many boundaries.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The decision to provide each of the high school students with a bicycle was for meeting the challenge of inaccessibility. The Government went against the popular global current of selective facilitation, and decided to make the programme universal, for two reasons; (a) the intrinsic priority of non-discrimination in education, and (b) experiences of public programme delivery, both at home and away. It is seen that programmes for select, “needy”, group of population, have often met with limited success, if not failed entirely. The reason is simple: the implementation of schemes for selected population often lacks social watch dogging. On the other hand, when universalized, the section that may not be that needy but is empowered with information, voice, and social connections, plays an inspectorial role in the implementation of the programme.
Using ICT based solutions for robust delivery mechanism is another element of innovation in such in-kind distribution programme.
What is the current status of your innovation?
‘Sabooj Sathi’ is in the third year of implementation. Nearly 7.00 million students of Government run and aided schools were provided mobility support meanwhile. Mobility support is now being offered to all students as soon as they are admitted in class IX.
A quick study conducted by Pratichi (India) Trust revealed that Enrolment in high school education has witnessed a steady growth of around 12%. Girl examinees in the Board Exam are around 10% more than the boys indicating considerable decrease in dropout among girl students. Some startling responses given by the girl students :
a) With the mobility support our attendance in school is now regular.
b) We are saving transportation cost and can buy food.
c) We are getting more time for study since journey time has been reduced.
d) Parents are no longer dependent on brothers for outdoor work
e) Our bi-cycles are being used for many other activities related to livelihood of the family
f) Our mobility has considerably been increased.
Collaborations & Partnerships
This is a State Government scheme entirely operated by Government machinery. State Government Departments collaborated at different levels for various operations. National Informatics Centre, under Ministry of Electronics & IT of Union Government, collaborated and developed the e-Governance solution which is the key factor for successful implementation.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Implementation process involved stakeholders like teachers of 12 000 schools, 750 inspectors, Nodal officers at District level, Block Development Officers, students and citizens at large. Users at different levels were sensitized, trained and given specific job roles in the implementation process. Nearly 7.00 million Students, the primary beneficiaries and their parents were performing social audits. The website witnessed phenomenal 2.1 bn hits during initial stage of implementation.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
The project is primarily targeted to increase enrolment and retention in high school by increasing access. During post implementation phase, an increase by 12% in class IX enrolment has been witnessed. Girl examinees in Xth standard Board Exam are around 10% more than the Boys indicating considerable decrease in dropouts.
According to “Pratichi (India) Trust”, an organization founded by Nobel laureate Dr. Amartya Sen, “Apart from its immediate goal of ensuring accessibility to high schools the programme has had a huge societal impact by enhancing the general mobility of the population and that of the girls in particular. The bicycles distributed among the students are not only used for schooling but also for several other Domestic and Social utilities. The bicycle, indeed, is breaking many boundaries”.
Other measurable outcomes include creating a replicable model of robust delivery mechanism which ensured accuracy, transparency and digital inclusion.
Challenges and Failures
The scale of operation of this bi-cycle distribution programme was unprecedented in the country. Major hurdles included Bulk procurement, management of huge supply chain, micro level planning for assembly of disintegrated bi-cycle components and transportation to school locations, creating database of eligible students of 12,000 schools and developing a robust, transparent and sustainable delivery mechanism.
Implementation model involved existing Government resources both infrastructure & IT. Services of Government official and staff were harnessed through sensitization, training and clear communication through Government protocol. Teachers of 12,000 schools, 750 Inspectors, 341 Blocks, 129 Municipalities, 20 Nodal officers at District level and the suppliers were assigned to play defined roles through a single window platform, www.wbsaboojsathi.gov.in, the e-Gov. Mechanism of the scheme which managed all the issues critical for implementation.
Conditions for Success
1. Setting priority for implementation of the flagship scheme
2. State Government’s commitment to maintain steady flow of resources
3. Relying on existing Government machinery and resources for sustainability of implementation model
4. Inclusion of large no stakeholders and users in a participatory process through sensitization, capacity building and role playing which developed sense of ownership among them.
5. Extensive use of ICT tools, SOP based communication and structured flow of information.
6. E-governance mechanism which ensured end to end solution of all relevant issues and provided platform for monitoring at decentralised levels.
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. The stakeholder’s logins were password protected and latest encryption algorithm (md5) has been used for password authentication with an additional security of “dynamic salt".
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.
Present database created out of the scheme is being used for health scheme of a particular segment of students. It has the potential of being used for tracking various aspects in education, health, nutrition and providing other benefits 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. The grassroots level managers interacted through ICT based support system (Voice, Email, and Video Conferencing). The stakeholders were given access to one module at a time for ease of work.
- Inclusion: The stakeholders, users were taken into confidence & empowered to take part 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 beneficiary including the frame number of the bi-cycle have been kept in the Sabooj Sathi Portal for public viewing which is unprecedented and can track each and every bicycle.
SaboojSathi Online was selected for “Order of Merit Award” by SKOCH Smart Governance Award 2017. The initiative has been conferred “Award of Appreciation” by CSI Nihilent e-Gov Award, 2017. It also won National e-Governance Award (silver)for innovative use of ICT by Central/ State Government PSU.