Oct 19, 2014

Ease of doing business - Ease of filling forms

I got a mail from the NSDL about the national insurance repository, using which, I can hold all my insurances in the demat form, rather than having it in paper form. The initiative sounded attractive enough for me to explore. When I visited the page, the sheer volume of work that the required forms generated, including proofs etc, put me off and I postponed it for some other day. I had the option of continuing with the existing way of managing insurances, but it is not so when it comes to thousands of other forms that businesses and citizens cope with. 

The doing business report for 2014, released few months ago, has generated a lot of heartburn and movement at the Govt. India was placed at 134th position out of 189 economies, down 3 ranks from last year. The split up of ranks under various heads is as below: 
World bank Doing business report - 2014 - India

Some govt. departments went into denial mode. Mainly the commerce ministry which contented the rank under the head 'trading across borders' and declared it wrong. India was placed at 132nd position. The ministry officials went on overdrive to collect their own data to contend the ranking. 
After some time, the govt came up with an overall two pronged strategy to improve ranks, with the help of states. The link here talks more about it. 

It is good to note that there are efforts in the right direction. However, there is one initiative that needs to be undertaken. And that is to simplify the forms. 
In the above case of demat insurance, the NSDL asks three proofs with the so called simplified form. A date of birth document, a KYC document and an address proof. Why can't we go with self declaration in such cases. I can't think of situation where someone tries to fudge their details or give wrong ones. This is just a repository of insurances and there can't be multiple claims on a single unique PAN number. And if someone is out of cheat for whatever reasons, all the above documents can be fudged easily. In short, the system is not fool proof, yet, harasses genuine applicants. 

I must add here, I had picked up the above example on random, the mail came yesterday. One can see any govt. form for that matter. Typically it would involve supplying proofs for everything you mention, right from your birth date, to your residence and so on. And attesting signatures on each of them. And a standard declaration that everything you have declared is correct and you are liable if something is wrong. And such. 

One broad initiative to simplify such nonsense would go a long way. I like the income tax saral form for that matter. Most of the tax paid details are linked to the PAN already, and one just has to fill up the income details. As far as ordinary salaried taxpayer goes, it is quite simple, except for the last part in which one has to take a paper printout, sign it and post it, again with the standard declaration, that I, the wife/son of so and so, solemnly declare (solemnly? seriously?) that all the above is right and such. 

Entire machinery of the state is full of such forms. Hundreds and thousands of them, asking for proofs, and creating new files, that take up space, and make the system inefficient. What gets my goat is that many so called online forms, ask me to fill it online, take a print, sign it, attach all the proofs, with the photo, and send it to the department by post or hand it on the reception counter of the office.

I am all support for linking everything related to a person through a unique ID such as aadhar, similar to the social security number system in US, and make all the forms begin by quoting this number, making most of the current queries on the forms redundant. 

I hope we launch a drive to ease the process of filling forms. "Saral forms abhiyan" anyone?