A government’s image depends to a large extent on how quickly it redresses public grievances. The Citizen’s Charter and Grievances Bill 2011, introduced by the UPA government in the 15th Lok Sabha last December, has lapsed. It was a measure of the government’s inefficiency that it waited for so long and, finally, couldn’t get it passed by Parliament. The Narendra Modi government seems to have drawn an appropriate lesson from its predecessor’s failure. Instead of waiting for the enactment of the Bill, it has set in motion an alternative mechanism. The Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG), the nodal agency under the Prime Minister’s Office, has held brainstorming sessions with all ministries for time-bound resolution of complaints.
In his first meeting with the PMO officials, Modi had impressed upon them the need to resolve people’s grievances on a fast-track basis using technology. At present, details of complaints relating to 107 departments are available on the centralised public grievance redress and monitoring system. Some of these complaints have been pending for over a year. The government should reintroduce the lapsed Bill with necessary modifications to provide a legal and institutional framework to the system.
The Right to Information Act has been one of the most powerful laws enacted in India. Its main strength is that the citizen seeking information has to be provided with the required information within a stipulated time. And if the official concerned is unable to provide it, it would be deemed as his failure for which he would be held accountable. It should be possible for the government to give a directive to all the government officials that public grievances should be redressed within one month. The DARPG should be able to audit the performance of officials. The officials, whatever be their status, should realise that they are there only to serve the needs of the people.