Will The Citizens’ Right to Grievance Redress Bill 2011, Redefine Administration? By Fr. Anand Muttungal
12 Nov 2011
The Union Government of India has presented the Citizens’ Right to Grievance Redress Bill 2011 as a historic bill to redefine the administration. It has to be seen with the demand of the Anna Hazare and his team members asking the Government to bring out a Jan Lokpal Bill with Citizen’s Charter. This is similar to that of the proposed Citizen’s Charter by the anti-corruption activists. Madhya Pradesh is the first State in India to enact a “Public Service Guarantee Act 2010” which guaranteed citizens’ right to get their services in time. Following the suit a few more states did the same. A question that might be asked by all is how much change this bill has brought to the people of these states? Yes in truth it has not added much change to the problems faced by peoples.
The credit of Citizens’ Charter goes to the then British Prime Minister John Major. He introduced it on 22 July 1991with an aim to make administration accountable to public, transparency in administration and above all adopting a stakeholder approach to public services. It helped to give a defined standard in Public Services. In the same manner the proposed ‘Citizens Right to Grievance Redress Bill 2011’ has same aims and objectives. The Bill is aiming to ‘improve the efficient delivery of Government service to the public by reducing bureaucratic red tape, preventing graft and corruption, and providing penalties thereof’. In other sense it provides that all offices and agencies are enjoined to undertake on a continuing basis programmes to promote customer satisfaction and improve service delivery, and other similar activities for officers and employees of frontline services.
The Bill guarantees that every department will have a help desk or customer care centre, complaints can be lodged through SMS or phone calls and can receive receipts in 24 hours. If the problems are not addressed in 15 working days then it will go the Head Of the Department who has to clear it within 30 days. It also promises that if a person still has complaint then can go to State or Central Commission for appeal. The Bill promises a multi-layer grievance redressal authority, it envisions a time bound services and the law will apply to all State and Central Government Services. It seems like a dream come true, but will it work well with the present system?
The present system of administration the officer comes to office in the morning but he / she does not reach office due to other official engagements else where. It is a usual seen in many of the offices people wait for hours to meet the officials. Any time we ask them about the officer the staff would tell the officer has just now gone for a meeting. It is a ready made answer. If we want the officials to be accountable then there has to be a affixed time that they have to sit in the office to deal with files. It is real problem of the people to find the Collector, Sub Divisional Magistrate, Revenue Inspector, Patwari, Station Head Officers in Police Stations etc. The front line officials are busy with many odd jobs like arranging programmes of Chief Ministers, Ministers, political leaders, election duty, security duty and busy with numberless meetings. Under this circumstances who should be punished?
Another danger of this Bill could be rejecting files with smaller mistakes to avoid punishment. So Government will have to make provisions to avoid such problems or else it will create a lot of problems for the people. If the Government is serious about improving the services and controlling corruption then there has to be an administrative reform in the lower level of administration along with higher levels. We need a time bound service but for this we need a time bound presence of the officials in the offices. Let us hope that the Government will redefine the concept of services in the public sector.