Interview with Raghunatha Reddy Village-Level Entrepreneur, Koilkuntla Village, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh in Kurnool
Duration: 00:38:23; Aspect Ratio: 1.778:1; Hue: 180.640; Saturation: 0.033; Lightness: 0.276; Volume: 0.307; Cuts per Minute: 4.898; Words per Minute: 97.124
Over the past three years we have conducted numerous field visits in seven Indian states.These visits include numerous video-conversations, some short and others very long, with a diverse number of those who were involved with this entire process of participating in the emergence of a digital ecosystem of governance. These are interviews with people being enrolled into the Aadhaar programme, with district-level Panchayat and other officials, with numerous State government bureaucrats, with private enrollment representatives, representatives of various governmental services, with operators and other members of this digital workforce. Conversations are often long, spontaneous and deliberately unstructured: and the focus is mainly on a vérité style using amateur video.
Some key issues that we shortlisted for detailed inquiry were issues of migrants, both domestic and across international borders, homelessness in cities, and the financially excluded. Each of these areas was discussed in considerable detail at major public consultations held in Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bangalore, in partnership with the CSDS, the Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group, and the Urban Research and Policy Programme Initiative of the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore. All videos of all presentations made at these events are also available here.
CSCS also has an extensive text archives of material on the field as a whole, available on http://eprints.cscsarchives.org
The Identity project emerged as a result of our dissatisfaction at the nature of the debate that was emerging on the area of digital governance in India.
INTERVIEWER: Your name sir?
Speaker: Raghunatha Reddy
INTERVIEWER: Is this your own village?
INTERVIEWER: Were you born and brought up here.
Speaker: Yes sir.
INTERVIEWER: Can you please talk about your educational background?
Speaker: I have done my M.Com.
INTERVIEWER: Before you ran an e-seva kendra you ran a xerox (photocopying) shop?
Speaker: Yes sir, xerox shop.
INTERVIEWER: When did you start that?
Speaker: About 15 years ago.
INTERVIEWER: Why did you start that?
Speaker: I did not get a job. So then I started this xerox shop.
INTERVIEWER: What did you do after that?
Speaker: I extended my services to an STD booth. Then I read about this government scheme that 10 STD booths were being made into knowledge centres. So I applied and got lucky.
INTERVIEWER: How many e-seva kendras does this town have?
Speaker: Just one
INTERVIEWER: So it came to you. Did they interview you?
Speaker: Yes, the Collector (District Collector) interviewed me.
INTERVIEWER: Do you think they selected you based on your educational background?
Speaker: It’s not based on educational background. Their main criterion was you had to have a STD booth. There were two applications from this town. There was a person working in the MROs (Mandal Revenue Office) office, his son had applied. There was a link between the MRO and the Collector's office. I didn’t know about this and got to know from an attender that the applications are going to come up at a meeting. He advised me to attend. I went to that meeting and the other applicant was there and had already made a DD (Demand Draft/Banker's Cheque) since he already knew. I did not know about the DD and thought it was unnecessary and I decided to go sit in on the meeting anyway.
Speaker 2: In that meeting there was a JE (Junior Engineer) from the telecom department who knew us. So based on his recommendation we got the dealership. We were sure that we would not have made it. That’s how we got it.
INTERVIEWER: Which year did you get it?
Speaker: I have been running it since 2003. In the beginning I had a lot of problems, especially issues with technology.
INTERVIEWER: So you have a xerox shop and a PCO (Public Telephone). When did you get internet?
Speaker: I had already bought a system to do job work. There is something called water sheds. I had a friend who worked with the water shed department. He made a deal with me saying that if I can buy a computer he will give me an order to print 50 books.
INTERVIEWER: What did you have to do?
Speaker: I had to type the pages, print and spiral bind them. I had absolutely no knowledge of computers until then. I just knew typing. I had a friend in Cudaddpah. I told him about the work that I had got. He then helped me buy a computer for Rs.30, 000 and installed Telugu software in it. It took me two days to get used to using an English keyboard to type Telugu letters. So I started practicing by typing one page a day and slowly got used to it.
INTERVIEWER: So you bought a system, when did you get internet?
Speaker: I did not get internet the same year that I bought the computer. It came almost three years later.
INTERVIEWER: When did you buy the system?
Speaker: I bought the system in 2000.
INTERVIEWER: You bought the computer in 2000. When did you get the internet?
Speaker: I am guessing its 2003 or 2004. There was no infrastructure for internet at all. There were no internet centres.
INTERVIEWER: So the e-seva kendra came before you got internet.
Speaker: No, it came later. Sometime in 2004. We just had dial-up connections and not broadband. E-seva would not work on a dial-up connection. It works only on a broadband connection.
INTERVIEWER: Why did you get a dial-up connection?
Speaker: For things like class 10 results and job works.
INTERVIEWER: Did you have a printer as well?
INTERVIEWER: So you bought a computer, printer and internet to do job work. Then you got the e-seva membership. What are the services that you offered though the e-seva?
Speaker: The first service that was offered through e-seva was the MRO Office certificates. After the VRO has signed the certificates we get the MRO Certificate. We used to charge them Rs.10 per certificate as fee. Then we got electricity bills we got because Ajai Jain was the Collector. He was very helpful. They asked for a self-guarantee of 1 lakh for every candidate. Then all of us went to him saying that we cannot afford to pay the amount. So he personally stood as guarantee for us and we started the service.
INTERVIEWER: The e-seva gave out MRO office printouts.
Speaker: Only Karnool district had this facility.
INTERVIEWER: Next you could pay current bills.
Speaker: Yes, then the AP Online people sponsored us and made us a part of their setup. They gave us an online system. Till then it was an offline system. When we started, if we accepted bills, we had to take the printouts of the bills to the ERO offices. We had to deposit the money collected in the bank within 10 days.
INTERVIEWER: Did you pay any deposit when you got the e-seva kendra?
Speaker: There was no deposit. We got it only on the Collector’s guarantee.
INTERVIEWER: Not for the electricity bill service. For the other services?
Speaker: We in fact got a loan. In sicoot gave a 1 lakh with Rs.50,000 as subsidy. A single person with Rs.7500 certificate got a loan from Andhra Bank.
INTERVIEWER: Why did they get you a loan?
Speaker: To buy the system.
INTERVIEWER: So you did not have the internet. What did you do with an offline system?
Speaker: We used to accept electricity bills. They had installed the software.
INTERVIEWER: The how did you do the MRO certificates?
Speaker: For those there was software for the MRO certificates from the Tasildars office. This is special to Karnool district.
Speaker: These are some MRO certificates that our kendra issues. If we take a print out of this the MRO signs it.
INTERVIEWER: If they bring it in a written format, you type it on the format and print it out?
Speaker: This is the MRO certificate format called EVC.
Speaker: We use the 10th STD school certificate as verification for the date of birth and the transfer certificate (TC) as caste proof.
Speaker: This is then taken to the MRO office where they sign it and put the seal.
Speaker: This is a register of all the caste certificates issued by us to date.
Speaker: It’s a permanent certificate.
INTERVIEWER: So they give lifelong caste certificates.
Speaker: Yes, it is lifelong.
INTERVIEWER: If it has the MRO's signature then is it lifelong?
INTERVIEWER: Why do you retain a copy of this?
Speaker: These are not copies. These persons are yet to come and take them.
INTERVIEWER: Do you go to MRO to get the seal?
Speaker: Yes, I have to go.
INTERVIEWER: How much do you charge for this certificate?
INTERVIEWER: Has the government authorised it or is it an amount that you charge?
Speaker: No, the government has set the rates. We started with Rs.30. Now it is Rs.50 since all the rates have inceased.
INTERVIEWER: How many certificates a day do you produce?
Speaker: In season, I make close to 300-400 in a month alone.
INTERVIEWER: Is it less work to make a temporary (caste) certificate?
Speaker: No, the candidate produces a certificate and we just have to get it stamped. It is valid for six months.
INTERVIEWER: Do you have to pay a bribe?
Speaker: Till now I have tried not to pay any.
INTERVIEWER: What are the charges for a temporary certificate?
INTERVIEWER: So you make about 300 of these in a month?
Speaker: Yes, in season.
Speaker 2: It’s usually busy around the time that new academic year start for schools and colleges.
INTERVIEWER: What about permanent certificates? How many of those do you get in a year?
Speaker: About 300 from March-March.
INTERVIEWER: How many electrical bills do you handle?
Speaker: Monthly we accept bills for around Rs.2800.
INTERVIEWER: What are your charges for processing electricity bills?
Speaker: Rs.1.10 per bill.
INTERVIEWER: Do you have to print an electricity bill like a receipt?
Speaker: Yes, they have provided the stationary (bills).
INTERVIEWER: Does the stationary come from them? So just the ink is yours.
Speaker 2: Yes the ink and internet costs.
Speaker: This is the format of all the receipts that the kendra issues.
INTERVIEWER: What are your monthly internet costs?
Speaker: The AP Online has given us a special offer. It’s Rs.495 for 4GB.
INTERVIEWER: How is the bandwidth?
Speaker: It's normal. It fast sometimes and slow otherwise.
INTERVIEWER: Do you offer internet services as well?
Speaker: No sir.
INTERVIEWER: So you use it only for your services.
INTERVIEWER: Do you have any plans of opening a cyber cafe?
INTERVIEWER: Do you own this place?
Speaker: No sir, it’s rented.
INTERVIEWER: How much rent do you pay?
Speaker: Rs.3500 a month.
INTERVIEWER: What are your earnings from e-seva services and other services that you offer?
Speaker: E-seva is separate from what I normally do. I have rented a separate space for that.
INTERVIEWER: You don't do it from here?
Speaker: No, not from here. I have a small room close by. I do it from there every morning. Caste certificates etc. I do from here.
INTERVIEWER: Then what about your electricity bills. Why aren't you doing from here?
Speaker: Sometimes there is a big rush to pay the bills. So when that happens we cannot run the photocopying services etc.
INTERVIEWER: Do you have any other employees?
Speaker: No sir, we do everything ourselves.
Speaker2: I do the photocopying and he does the electricity bills, LIC payments (Insurance) and these days we also accept tax payments.
INTERVIEWER: Did you pay any deposit?
Speaker: For electricity bills we pay an amount in advance. We can accept that many bills.
Speaker 2: Suppose we pay Rs.1 lakh in advance. We can accept bills totalling Rs.1 lakh. It’s the same for LIC payments as well.
INTERVIEWER: Do you have LIC services as well.
Speaker: Yes sir. It comes under the e-payment services.
INTERVIEWER: So how does it work? You pay 1lakh in advance and...
Speaker 2: So we pay a lakh in advance and we can accept bills totalling that amount. If it’s a big payment we go and deposit it immediately in the bank.
Speaker: It’s like a pre-paid system. The amount people pay keeps getting deducted from the amount that we have paid. Then when that amount gets over I have to go deposit more money in the bank.
INTERVIEWER: So first you deposit the money.
Speaker: Yes, first I go and deposit the money into an AP Online bank account. That amount then reflects on my online account. So now I have Rs.34, 000. So I can accept bills totalling this amount.
INTERVIEWER: What if you exceed that amount.
Speaker: The system does not accept it.
INTERVIEWER: Oh so you cannot receive the money directly. So you can even make an advance payment of Rs.10 lakh.
Speaker: I can put as much money as I like.
INTERVIEWER: How does the money get deducted?
Speaker: As soon as I issue a bill. The bill amount gets deducted from the balance amount in my account.
INTERVIEWER: So now you have a Rs.35, 000 balance. What if you were to take Rs.37, 000?
Speaker: I cannot do that.
INTERVIEWER: Can you print a receipt for Rs.37, 000 and then repay the balance.
Speaker: No, the system does issue a receipt in such a case. There is a message ' Balance not available' that appears on the system.
INTERVIEWER: In how many days do you collect Rs.1 lakh.
Speaker: For LIC bills sometimes I collect Rs.1 lakh in a day.
INTERVIEWER: Including everything. Do you collect Rs.1 lakh everyday?
Speaker: No sir. Only in the month of March I collect more than a lakh a day in LIC bills.
INTERVIEWER: You take the cash and then deposit that into the bank?
Speaker: Yes sir.
INTERVIEWER: What is the commission you get for LIC transactions?
INTERVIEWER: Is it a percentage of the bill amount.
Speaker: It is not related to the bill amount. It’s Rs.3.25 per receipt I issue.
INTERVIEWER: What is your monthly income from your e-seva kendra?
Speaker: About Rs.5000.
INTERVIEWER: What about from the rest of your business like photocopying etc.
Speaker: It depends. Sometimes it is Rs. 10,000. Now we have problems with power cuts so the business is down.
INTERVIEWER: How many hours are you able to function with these power outages?
Speaker: We have to work till 10.30 at night since there is power.
INTERVIEWER: Do you have an inverter (battery backup)?
Speaker: No, just the computer has.
INTERVIEWER: How long does that last?
Speaker: For about 2 hours.
INTERVIEWER: How many hours of daily power cut do you have these days.
Speaker: 8 hours daily.
INTERVIEWER: So that means that in that 8 hours you have backup for about 2 hours.
INTERVIEWER: So what are the certificates that you give.
Speaker: Caste, nativity, income certificates.
INTERVIEWER: What about the bills?
Speaker: Electricity and LIC bills. Now we also accept road taxes. SBI Life payments. Then ICICI bank too.
INTERVIEWER: ICICI Lombard Life Insurance?
Speaker: Yes sir.
INTERVIEWER: So there are no services that you have started by yourself.
Speaker: Yes sir. I just offer the services that are offered as part of the AP Online service.
Speaker: We also take postal deposits.
INTERVIEWER: Is that allowed. What is the commission for that?
Speaker: Yes sir. It’s Rs.1 per receipt. We get the most commission for LIC payments. Before we used to get Rs.5 and then they reduced it.
Speaker 2: We can also do all kinds of recharge (for pre-paid phones).
INTERVIEWER: What is your commission for recharging?
Speaker: It’s Rs.2.75 across all operators.
INTERVIEWER: Is that a part of the e-seva service or is that something you offer outside of it?
Speaker: No sir. That is a part of the service.
INTERVIEWER: What all companies do you offer?
Speaker: All the companies. There is also Dish TV. Aircel, Airtel, Docomo. Idea. Etc.
INTERVIEWER: For example if you were to enter a mobile number into the system. Does it show all the details?
Speaker: No not for telephone numbers.
INTERVIEWER: What about for LIC payments?
Speaker: For that it shows just the details necessary for the payment.
INTERVIEWER: Does it show the details like when the policy was started, name etc?
Speaker: It shows the policy name. It shows the due date of the next payment.
Speaker: If you put in the service number. All the details appear.
INTERVIEWER: Does it show the name and house address?
Speaker: It shows the name and other details that are there on their database.
INTERVIEWER: Is it a uniform service number for all services or it is specific to each service.
Speaker: It’s different for every service. This is for electricity. This is the ERO code and the rest of it is the village code. The last for digits are the customers numbers.
INTERVIEWER: So the address does not show.
Speaker: Yes, the address does not show. Just the name. The latest connections show the address as well.
INTERVIEWER: There is no one unique number for all services.
INTERVIEWER: Can anyone with an LIC policy anywhere in India pay with you?
INTERVIEWER: Can you pay by cheque?
Speaker: No sir, only cash.
Speaker: This is my policy details.
INTERVIEWER: Your address does not appear?
Speaker: It just shows the name, policy amount and the premium amount and the due date. Now if I say pay. The amount got deducted from my total amount.
INTERVIEWER: He just paid his LIC permium. Now can you print the receipt?
INTERVIEWER: Will you payment data remain on the system.
Speaker: The data is usually there for a month.
INTERVIEWER: Can you save that data on your computer?
Speaker: No sir.
INTERVIEWER: Do they give you unlimited number of these sheets.
Speaker: No, the quantity is based on the services we offer.
INTERVIEWER: Do they give any extra. If you might have to give extra copies of bills?
Speaker: They give us enough sheets for an average month along with an extra 5% for wastage.
INTERVIEWER: Do you know about the Adhaar card?
Speaker: No sir, we haven't got it as yet.
INTERVIEWER: What do you know about it?
Speaker: I know that it is dependent on a central database and that they give one card for all family members. This is how much I know from what I hear.
INTERVIEWER: Did you have any other business before this?
Speaker: This is my first business.
Speaker 2: He started it because I was unable to find a job.
INTERVIEWER: You have learnt everything madam.
Speaker 2: Except for the computer related work I do everything.
INTERVIEWER: How many e-seva kendras are there in this mandalam?
Speaker: Just one for each mandal.
INTERVIEWER: So it’s not one per town or village?
Speaker: No it’s just one per mandal. Since this is a backward area there is only one. It is actually difficult to run even one centre. In some areas the people from the electricity department are telling people not to pay at the e-seva kendras. The electricity department is outsourcing bill collection to agencies. There is a clause for people who run these agencies that only if they manage 90% collections in their regions, they will get paid Rs.2 as commission per bill paid. So sometimes they don't reach their targets and are now campaigning to get everyone to pay at their centres. That’s affecting us. We get only Rs.1 commission and they get Rs.2.
INTERVIEWER: What about land records?
Speaker: Land records services are yet to be started. But they might start that soon. They are starting a pilot project in Chitoor and Krishna districts. They are offering around 36 different services under what they are calling revenue services. They plan to start it in other districts based on the success of the pilot projects.
INTERVIEWER: Anything related to e-commernce?
INTERVIEWER: Have they started any e-commerce centres?
Speaker: No sir.
INTERVIEWER: Some private companies have started them.
Speaker: Not here sir, since it is a rural region.
INTERVIEWER: Are there any other places that use technology like e-seva kendras and offer similar services? E.g. Banks are giving ATM cards.
Speaker: Nothing that I can think of. There are two internet centres here.
INTERVIEWER: Are they doing good business.
Speaker: I don't think so. They charge Rs.50 per hour.
INTERVIEWER: So internet usage is less?
Speaker: Yes sir.
INTERVIEWER: Do people use internet on their cell phones?
Speaker: It's very less on cell phones. They mostly use it in cities. Moreover the services providers like BSNL are not that good. We have Airtel but have problems with that too. Vodaphone is ok. I have bought their data card (internet dongle).
INTERVIEWER: Do you use anything else on the internet apart from work?
Speaker: No, I just use it to check emails. I also send details relating to online exams.
INTERVIEWER: What details?
Speaker: Like banking exams. The candidates have to send the information online. The banks have online formats and the candidate would have purchased a DD (Demand Draft/Banker's Cheque). So I enter the details and print it out.
INTERVIEWER: How much do you charge?
Speaker: About Rs.25-30 based on the customers.
INTERVIEWER: Do you use the internet for entertainment. Like do you visit news websites?
Speaker: No, I just check mails. My internet limit is only 4 GB. Out of which I use up 3GB for the AP Online services. So I do other work with the remaining 1GB.
INTERVIEWER: What mails? Just personal?
Speaker: Both personal and AP Online too sends emails. There are other announcements as well. Sometimes if there are server problems they send us emails.
INTERVIEWER: What is your caste?
INTERVIEWER: Do you send emails to your customers?
Speaker: No sir.
INTERVIEWER: Do you write emails on behalf of customers? Like if they have to write to someone about an exam?
Speaker: No sir.
INTERVIEWER: Do you send any emails that are related to e-seva services?
Speaker: There is a ration card service that has been introduced recently. If the names on the ration cards are wrong then they can be corrected. If they need any additional information I inform them though sms.
INTERVIEWER: So do you receive the new ration card?
Speaker: Yes sir. We receive a new ration card that has the chief secretary’s signature.
INTERVIEWER: So you give them a print out of it.
INTERVIEWER: How do you charge for this service?
Speaker: The total charges are about Rs.28 when I apply and Rs.32 when the card in printed. So I get about Rs.8. So I inform them by phone. I submitted this application in December last year and the new ration card came in September this year.
INTERVIEWER: Are you in touch with other e-seva kendras?
Speaker: Yes. Usually though a district wide union. There is a new service that I about to start called meeseva-services. Though his they want to provide revenue services. For that they have stipulated that a shop needs to be of a certain size. So our union has told the officials that you give us the services first. If it runs well is profitable then we are willing to expand.
INTERVIEWER: Did you do laminate rations cards?
INTERVIEWER: Even after lamination you get only Rs.8?
INTERVIEWER: How many children do you have?
Speaker: Two sons.
INTERVIEWER: What are they studying?
Speaker: The elder son is in this third year engineering. The second son has finished his 12th grade (Inter) and now taking long term coaching for his CA.
INTERVIEWER: Which city is he in?
Speaker: Guntur. The elder son is studying in a town called Gudur, near Nellore.
INTERVIEWER: Do they use computers?
Speaker: Yes sir. In fact they can do all the things that we do here like billing etc.
INTERVIEWER: What is your son’s subject in B.Tech?
Speaker: EEE i.e. Electrical and Electronic. The AP Online people made us an offer, saying that if any of your sons finishes engineering we will give them a job. This was a year ago.
INTERVIEWER: Will that offer still stand by the time he graduates?
Speaker: No, I am not sure.
INTERVIEWER: Do you communicate through email with the rest of your union members?
Speaker: Yes, we have a separate mailing list.
Speaker 2: They also communicate via the phone. They inform each other about latest developments.
INTERVIEWER: Why haven't you learnt how to use a computer?
Spaker 2: I am not educated. So I don't know English.
INTERVIEWER: So all your association members have Gmail accounts?
Speaker: There is a common email. There was a state wide network and that had some issues. Now we have district wise passwords. Because most problems happen within particular districts.
INTERVIEWER: Why are you using Gmail?
Speaker: So the whole district has a single email.
INTERVIEWER: What is your designation in an e-seva kendra?
Speaker: I am a member.
INTERVIEWER: So all the members in the district have the same email and share the password.
Speaker: Yes sir, that's right.