Tired of paying repeated bribes for common public services? Tired of running around in circles to collect government documents? Tired of waiting forever for your file to move? The Right to Public Services Legislation could be the one stop solution for all your woes!
My experiences with government services haven’t been the most pleasant ones. There have been many instances where I’ve heard people complaining about public service delivery mechanisms but I never understood the extent of their misery till I had to face it myself. For instance, the number of bribes I had to pay to get a simple passport made in addition to the extra bucks for tatkal for a speedy delivery was not only taxing financially but also mentally tiring.
1. Bribe number one was to the police to verify my identity,
2. Bribe number two was for the scribe who pushed me ahead in line so that I get my turn faster (I did not belong to the city where the closest passport office was located) and
3. Bribe number three for a special agent as my first application had been denied as they did not believe in the authenticity of my birth certificate because my name was written on the top corner with a pen (was marked during school admission to keep it safe).
This is just one such example. This got me thinking about how it has become a part of our life now. As long as we can pay and get the work done, we go ahead with it. There are people who are harassed because they do not have the means to pay a bribe. Filing a complaint with the courts or the lokayukta for every little bribe that has been asked for or paid till date is not only arduous but also time consuming.
Trying to emphasize on the nature of the issue at hand, Janaagraha, a not for profit institution based in Bangalore came up with a website called IPAIDABRIBE.COM. The website has reports from regular people relating to bribes they have paid, accounts of their tryst with honest policemen and stories from people who fought against it. According to data collected by the website, 23110 reports has been filed from 548 cities in India where people have paid a cumulative bribe of around 186 crores as of 19 June 2013. These are people who 1.) have access to internet, 2.) know about the website and 3.) have taken time out to file a report. Imagine the extent of the unaccounted bribes paid across the country just to get the public services sector to do its job.
India has witnessed an encouraging momentum of people who united against the cause of corruption led by Anna Hazare. While this moment emphasized on an overarching regulating body like the Lokpal in the centre and Lokayuktas in the states, there are other legislations which bring about change which is felt closer home. The crusade on improving public service delivery mechanisms was started in 1997, where in a conference of Chief Ministers of various states and union territories presided by the then Prime Minister, it was decided that both the central and state governments would formulate a citizen’s charter. In 2002, the Government of India under the aegis of Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances set up a comprehensive website. While, this move was good in principle its implementation faced setbacks in terms of lack of will from the lethargic bureaucracy, lack of awareness, constant transfers of concerned officers as well as wrongful understanding of standards or norms relating to the service provided. In 2005, the momentous Right to Information act was passed with the aim to make Indian governance more transparent.
Indian states have come a long way from the non-binding citizen charter to introducing legally binding legislations that guarantee its citizens time bound delivery of select public services. Madhya Pradesh in 2010 under chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was the first state to enact the Madhya Pradesh Lok Sewaon Ke Pradan Ki Guarantee Adhiniyam. The Right to Public services legislation has since been adopted by 16 other states. The bill texts can be found in the table below.
Public Services Legislations in India
* bill text is not available
The Government of India has also come up with the Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011. The bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 20, 2011 and was sent to the Standing Committee which submitted its report on August 28, 2011.
While, the implementation of these acts as well as its impact is yet to be analysed thoroughly, it’s a step in the right direction. Awareness relating to these acts is low among the local populace. Steps need to be taken to promote the use of these acts just as it was done for the Right to Information Act. In my next blog post, I will be discussing the main principles of these acts and examine its implementation in select states.