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Key Principles of Right To Public Service Delivery Legislations

3 Jul

In my last post titled  “Time-bound delivery of Public Services now a reality?!“, I lamented on the need and the importance of the right to public service delivery legislation. In this post I shall be discussing some of the main principles of the acts. While, all the acts differ, the essence of their rules remain the same – providing the public with time bound delivery of specific services of particular departments as mentioned in the rules and notifications which are made after the bill has been passed. This bill penalizes the service provider for failing in his duty according to the rules made with the aim of achieving efficient and effective delivery of the public service to the citizens at large.

Key Principle of the Legislations:

1.      Departments and Services Covered

The number of departments to be covered under this act along with services provided by them is released through notifications. These notifications are revised from time to time and the list is updated accordingly. The list includes some of the services including issuing ration cards, water connections, death certificates, driving licences, electricity connections, mark sheets, attestations and so on. The departments covered include Human Resource Development, Revenue Department, Department of Police, Transport Department, Labour Department and General Administration Department. The services offered are dependent on a number of factors including the demand from the citizens, willingness of the departments or even their current efficiency.

2.      Time Period

The time period is stipulated according to each service offered and differs from state to state. This depends on varied reasons like the simplicity of the service provided, the volume of the applications etc. The time period is measured from the time that an application is submitted to the officer-in-charge (designated officer) or an official responsible/authorized on the officer’s behalf and acknowledged through a receipt. In case the application is rejected, written reasons are to be recorded by the officer and the citizen is to be intimated. For instance, in Jammu and Kashmir, the inclusion of a new born child’s name is to take a maximum of 7 days after the submission of the birth certification. In Rajasthan, the health department is to issue the amount due to the woman under the Janani Shishu Suraksha Yojana (JSSY) immediately after delivery. In Punjab, the Housing and Urban Development Department is stipulated to sanction Building Plans/Revised Building Plans of a residential place within 30 days and of a commercial space within 60 days.

3.      Nodal Departments

The nodal departments are those which are assigned by each government to be incharge of implementing the Right to Public Service Legislation. The nodal departments differ in each state. Some of them include General Administration Department, Administrative Reforms Department, Department of Home, Department of Information Technology or even the Department of Revenue.

4.      Appeals

Every state legislation on public service delivery has its own rules on the number of appeals available to its citizens under the right to services legislation. For instance, in Madhya Pradesh if the application is rejected by the officer-in-charge, the applicant can file an appeal with the First Appellant Officer (FAO) within 30 days of the date of rejection or on expiry of the prescribed time limit. If the FAO rejects the application again, the applicant can appeal for the second time to the Second Appellant Authority (SAT) within 60 days of rejection by the FAO. Similarly, Bihar, UP and Rajasthan also give the applicants an option of two sets of appeal.  On the other hand, the legislation also gives an option to an aggrieved designated officer as well as the FAO to file for a revision before the nominated officer. While, J&K also has an option of two sets of appeal although an aggrieved officer may file a revision before a special tribunal to be set up. Punjab and Uttarakhand provide for three rounds of appeal with the third and final round of appeal to be addressed to the special commission set up under this act.

5.      Penalty

Every government officer who fails to provide the service within the stipulated time period is liable to a certain amount of penalty.  In most of the states (MP, UK, Delhi, J&K, Bihar, Rajasthan, Punjab, Jharkhand, Kerala and Orissa) the penalty is of Rs. 250 per day with the total amount not exceeding Rs. 5000. In Delhi, the penalty is of Rs. 10 per day not exceeding Rs. 200 while in Karnataka it is Rs. 20 per day not exceeding Rs. 500. In Himachal, the penalty can range anywhere between Rs. 1000 to Rs. 5000.

State

Number of Services

Number of departments covered

Penalty for not providing service

Nodal Department

Madhya Pradesh

52

16

Rs. 250 per day, max Rs. 5000

Department of Public Service Management

Uttar Pradesh

13

4

Rs. 250 per day, max Rs. 5000

Department of Revenue

Delhi

96

22

Rs 10 per day, max Rs. 200

Department of Information Technology

Jammu and Kashmir

45

6

Rs. 250 per day, max Rs. 5000

General Administration Department

Bihar

50

10

Rs. 250 per day, max Rs. 5000

General Administration Department

Rajasthan

108

15

Rs. 250 per day, max Rs. 5000

Administrative Reforms Department

Uttarakhand

63

10

Rs. 250 per day, max Rs. 5000

General Administration Department

Himachal Pradesh

 

12

Min Rs. 1000, max Rs. 5000

Department of Home

Punjab

69

11

Rs. 250 per day, max Rs. 5000

Department of Governance Reforms

Jharkhand

54

20

Rs. 250 per day, max Rs. 5000

 

Chattisgarh

139

20

Rs. 100 per day, max Rs. 1000

 

Assam

55

14

Rs. 50 per day, max Rs. 2000

Administrative Reforms and Training Department

Karnataka

334

45

Rs. 20 per day, max Rs. 500

Department of Personal and Administrative Reforms

Kerala

   

Rs. 250 per day, max Rs. 5000

Personal and Administrative Reforms Department

Orissa

56

10

Rs. 250 per day, max Rs. 5000

General Administrations Department

Gujarat

       

Goa

   

Rs 50 per day or Rs. 2500 whichever is less

 

* Information on the services and departments to come under the act is published as notifications. The gaps in the table above are due to lack of sufficient information. They will be updated as and when the information can be accessed. As for Goa and Gujarat both the bills are new and hence the implementation is still in the planning stage.

In my final blog post I will be analysing the working of some of these acts. Some of the questions that arise and that I will be looking into will be relating –

  1. Is penalizing officers the best way of achieving efficiency in delivering public services?
  2. Do these acts simplify the procedures for an applicant? Is there still scope for corruption within these acts?
  3. The success, if any, of the acts in providing better services to the public.

 

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Time-bound delivery of Public Services now a reality?!

21 Jun

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

 

Title of the Bill Date of passing
The Madhya Pradesh Lok Sewaon Ke Pradan Ki Guarantee  Adhiniyam, 2010 August 18, 2010
The Uttar Pradesh Janhit Guarantee Adhyadesh, 2011 January 13, 2011
The Delhi (Right of Citizen to Time Bound Delivery of Services) Act, 2011 April 28, 2011
The Jammu and Kashmir Public Services Guarantee Act, 2011 April 13, 2011
The Bihar Right to Public Services Act, 2011 August 15, 2011
The Rajasthan Guaranteed Delivery of Public Services Act, 2011 September 21, 2011
The Uttarakhand Right to Service Act, 2011 October 4, 2011
The Himachal Pradesh Public Services Guarantee Act, 2011 October 17, 2011
The Punjab Right to Service Act, 2011 October 20, 2011
The Jharkhand Right to Service Act, 2011 November 15, 2011
The Chattisgarh Lok Seva Guarantee Act, 2011 December 12, 2011
The Assam Right to Public Services Act, 2012 March 29, 2012
The Karnataka (Right Of Citizens to Time Bound Delivery Of Services) Bill, 2011 April 2, 2012
The Kerala Right to Service Bill, 2012 July 27, 2012
The Odisha Right to Public Services Act, 2012 September 6, 2012
The Gujarat (Right of Citizens to Public Services) Bill, 2013* April 1, 2013
The Goa (Right of Citizens to Time-Bound. Delivery of Public Services) Bill, 2013 May 2, 2013

* 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.

Are we water-secure or water-starved? – National Water Policy

5 Jun

By Esha Singh Alagh

 

Recent news reports suggest that Cherrapunji, once the wettest place on earth is now water starved in the summer season. While the population of India constitutes around 17% of the entire world’s population, its water resources comprise of only 4% of world’s renewable water resources.

Accepting the importance of protecting our water resources as well as regulating it, Ministry of Water Resources came up with a draft National Water Policy (NWP) in January 2012 and after many external deliberations and consultations published a revised draft in June 2012. Under the Indian Constitution, water comes under the State List (Item 17 in List II of the Seventh Schedule or the State List). There has been an increasing debate about studying water in a holistic manner with a national perspective in mind. The Ministry has stressed that the water policy consists of overarching principles of water which will be framed in close collaborations with its state counterparts.

Current Status

As of December 2012, the revised draft of the National Water Policy has been adopted by the National Water Resource Council which is governed under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Union Water Minister, Harish Rawat has assured the states that the water framework law[i] will be drafted only after close discussions with the stakeholders to ensure that the powers of the state are not curtailed.

Outline of the NWP

The Draft National Water Policy suggests that water be treated as a common community resource held by the state under public trust doctrine. Another basic principle it stresses on is that water be treated as economic good after certain pre-emptive needs for safe drinking water, sanitation and high priority allocations for domestic needs such as agriculture, ecology and needs of animals are met. Other than these the NWP lists down various aspects relating to Integrated Water Management, steps for Clime Change Adaptation, Water Pricing, Demand Management, Water Infrastructure, Institutional Mechanisms and Groundwater Management.

Merits and de-merits

(a)   Does it account for climate change: The NWP has incorporated many forward thinking principles relating to climate change.

(b)  It moves from supply-based management to demand based management: It has also concentrated on demand management more than the commonly discussed supply management.

(c)   Dam safety: With the construction of large dams across the country, NWP recommends a legally empowered dam safety service.

(d)  Inter-state water disputes: It takes a step further to propose setting up of permanent water disputes tribunal at the Centre and make implementation of projects including clearances time bound.

Is water a community-resource for everyone, or an economic good which everyone should pay equally for?

The earlier draft of the NWP had proposed that various dimensions of water use are to be considered as an economic good including “basic livelihood support to the poor and ensuring national food security” and suggested a water-pricing module for “maximizing value from water”.

This would affect the poor the most especially farmers who might be forced to pay for water similar to say commercial projects like withdrawing water for a cricket field. It could also lead to preferential treatment as commercial projects are more profitable than cultivation. It has since been revised to adopting differential pricing for high priority uses “to achieve food security and to support livelihoods of the poor” reiterating the significant nature of these usages.

This revised approach to the NWP has placed emphasis on water as a community resource and has simultaneously stressed on treating it as an economic good. This dichotomy will have to be addressed very carefully and in detail in the draft Framework Law to ensure that there are no biases in terms of access economically and otherwise.

Depleting groundwater resources

The NWP also lists out the importance of groundwater. Groundwater is generally treated as private/individual property and there are no rules regulating the amount of water which can be withdrawn ignoring the question of sustainable use. The revised NWP suggests “groundwater levels in over exploited areas need to be arrested by introducing improved technologies of water use, incentivizing efficient water use and encouraging community based management of aquifers”. While it does not mandate community based management of groundwater but rather ‘encourages’ it, this might lead to questions over ownership in the future which will have to be addressed. It might also affect agricultural usage of groundwater which is extremely high in India.

Conclusion

The revised National Water Policy has accepted many recommendations from stakeholders and accepted them in its draft but as expressed above there are a couple of issues which might need more deliberation and clarification. While the policy is a forward thinking document, the apprehensions of the state could potentially delay its implementation.

Sources:

  1. “Draft National Water Policy (2012) as recommended by the National Water Board in its 14th meeting held on June 7, 2012.” Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India. http://www.mowr.gov.in/writereaddata/linkimages/DraftNWP2012_English9353289094.pdf
  2. Balani, Sakshi. “Report Summary: Draft National Water Policy”. PRS Legislative Research. 24 August 2012. http://www.prsindia.org/parliamenttrack/report-summaries/summary-on-draft-national-water-policy-2012-2431/
  3. Ramesh, S. “Revising the Draft National Policy.” Infochange Water Resources. September 2012. http://www.infochangeindia.org/water-resources/analysis/revising-the-draft-national-water-policy.html
  4. “Not The Farmers, Not The Environment: Draft National Policy 2012 Seems to Help Only Vested Interests.” Press release by SANDRP. http://www.indiawaterportal.org/post/23168
  5. “National Water Resources Council Adopts National Water Policy (2012).” Press Release, Ministry of Water Resources, India. 28 December 2012. http://pib.nic.in/newsite/erelease.aspx?relid=91240
  6. Dharmadhikary, Shripad. “Better, but needs more work.” India Together. 25 July 2012. http://www.indiatogether.org/2012/jul/env-nwp.htm

[i] “Framework law is an umbrella statement of general principles governing the exercise of legislative and/or executive (or devolved) powers by the Centre, the States and the local governing bodies.

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