The first thing all 3000-odd government employees in Mulugu district of Telangana do on reaching their workplace everyday is to take a selfie. No, this is no narcissistic indulgence but mandatory since 1 June to show they are indeed at work.
As part of the exercise to instill discipline among the employees, Mulugu district collector Narayana Reddy got an app developed called the Mulugu Velugu Attendance App.
“During the election period, when we were touring, we found a number of village-level employees were simply not turning up for work,” says Narayana Reddy.
This app developed by a Hyderabad-based company, covers all school teachers, health officers, agriculture and panchayat raj officials and those in charge of NREGS. Class IV employees have been left out because the Collector knew they would not have access to a smartphone. But even in cases, where any employee does not have a smartphone, one smartphone in the office complex is good to capture the selfie and upload it as part of the attendance.
Under the new digital regimen in Mulugu, if your office in time is 9 am and if you arrive at 9:15 am, you are marked as a latecomer. The employee also has to upload a selfie before he/she leaves work for the day and anyone who does it before the out time, is marked as an early leaver. The GPS also tracks the location from where the selfie has been sent so anyone trying to cheat is found out. Every supervisor approves the selfie attendance record of the employees reporting to him.
This app is also used to apply for leave and also for field visits where an official going to another location has to send a selfie taken during his field visit for the district administration to know he actually undertook the trip.
Since the app was launched, the administration has suspended 26 employees, which is the harshest form of punishment that follows an initial oral warning, followed by a memo. But overall, the attendance profile of the employees has shown a dramatic improvement.
But there was a problem this youngest district in Telangana, created only in February 2019, faced. That of connectivity. Mulugu is located 220 km north-east of Hyderabad and many parts of the district have a thick forest cover.
“Initially, this was developed as an online app. Then we realised that 25 per cent of our district faces network connectivity issues. So now we have the option of an offline app as well though cellphone signals are mandatory to connect. So even without data, the selfie can be uploaded,” says Reddy.
The Uttar Pradesh government earlier this month had started the `selfie with students’ mode for teachers in Barabanki district to mark their attendance and said it will deduct the salary of primary school teachers if they did not post their selfies daily. But after an uproar, the order was withdrawn.