PHOTO: Reuters

Bureaucracy to keep using video link despite lockdown ease in Punjab

Chief secretary can contact all commissioners, DCs and secretaries through e-government system

LAHORE: As the government has extended the lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus till May 31, the bureaucracy in Punjab will be run through video link.

The decision to open government offices would come after May 31. Instructions are being given to the administration and police officials in the province through video link during the extended lockdown. The performance of the officers is also being monitored through video link.

In the lockdown enforced to curb coronavirus in the country, the Punjab government is making full use of the e-government system of former president Pervez Musharraf’s era.

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The civil and police bureaucracy of the province, as well as the chief minister of Punjab, are currently handling government affairs through video link conferences.

The e-government system was introduced for the bureaucracy and police at the provincial, divisional and district levels during Musharraf's rule. The purpose was to contact and provide guidance to bureaucracy in case of an emergency through video link.

For this, the system network administrators (SNA) at the provincial, division and district levels have been assigned a staff of three to five persons. Under the system, the chief secretary of the province can contact all the divisional commissioners, district deputy commissioners and provincial secretaries at the same time, while the IG can also contact the regional and district police officers.

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In the current situation, Chief Secretary Jawad Rafique Malik and IG Shoaib Dastagir have been in touch with the officers through the video link system amid he lockdown separately as well as together to issue guidelines to them.

Moreover, field officers are being briefed on government policies. In this regard, Chief Secretary Malik said that the performance of Punjab bureaucracy has not been affected due to the lockdown. All instructions are being implemented through the video link.

“The IT staff is working in groups of two to three to run this system at the provincial, division and district levels in the province,” he said. “The staff is keeping us all in touch with the secretaries of the provincial departments, divisional commissioners and deputy commissioners under one roof through the video link system,” he added.

The chief secretary maintained that they are aware of the coronavirus and lockdown situation and information is being collected daily from the departments working on the front line due to the lockdown, while instructions are being issued to them simultaneously. He added that all the departments have appointed their own focal persons for better operation of the video link system whose data has been given to the Punjab Information Technology Board. “All video conference data is secure and efficient and every department has its own IT account through which it participates in video link conferences,” said Malik.

On the other hand, IG Dr Dastagir said that he is also in touch with the DPOs and RPOs through the video link and reviewed the situation in the lockdown through all officers. “Police officers are reporting all matters from the field through video link, and the system is also being used for RPOs and DPOs conferences,” he said.

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Chairman Punjab Information Technology Board Azfar Manzoor said that due to lockdown, the government machinery has been connected to information technology. “The video link system for government affairs in the province is secure,” he highlighted.

Under mounting pressure of the business and trade community, Punjab government has decided to further ease the lockdown ahead of Eidul Fitr, but with strict implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) devised to maintain social distancing to avoid further spread of the coronavirus disease. The decision was taken in view of the hardship faced by the daily wage earners and shopkeepers. However, the period of lockdown imposed as a precautionary measure to protect citizens from the pandemic has been extended till the end of the current month.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 11th, 2020.


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