Virus Lockdown Forces Indian Policy Makers to Embrace Technology

Virus Lockdown Forces Indian Policy Makers to Embrace Technology

Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg

India’s coronavirus response has unwittingly done away with the endless paperwork that has come to define bureaucracy, as electronic files replace physical records and technology makes in-person meetings redundant.

The Finance Ministry is practicing the government’s 21-day social distancing order to prevent the spread of coronavirus by moving all communication online, while keeping minimum staff on roster to attend to critical work on all days, including weekends, people with knowledge of the matter said, asking not to be identified as the information is not public.

A Finance Ministry spokesman couldn’t be immediately reached for a comment.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman held a teleconference with bankers on Saturday to discuss their operations and ensure adequate availability of credit in Asia’s third-largest economy. The central bank has deployed 150 officials along with information technology facilitators in a quarantined facility as a part of its business continuity plan, Governor Shaktikanta Das said last week.

In-person meetings are being discouraged. Top officials of the Finance Ministry met with their central bank counterparts remotely to decide on borrowing, and most decisions are being taken through video conferences or over the phone, the people said.

Curfew passes have been arranged for staff critical for daily operations, while those staying at home are being offered technical support to ensure timely submission of work. Other work, not urgent in nature, is being put off until the situation eases, they said.

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