HYDERABAD: The staff at Mee-Seva franchisees in the State are facing the wrath of their customers for, what appears to be, no fault of theirs. Scores of people line up at these centres every day to apply for various certificates. But they have to wait for several weeks before they reach them. Mee-Seva staff say this is because the government takes its own sweet time to issue the documents.
There are around 4,500 Mee-Seva centres in the State. They offer to customers nearly 600 district services related to 50 State government department. The staffers want the government to implement service level agreements in letter and spirit. They want it to clear, or reject, the citizens’ applications within 15 days.
These issues are more relevant than ever after the recent incident wherein a Mee-Seva operator was manhandled by a mob of citizens complaining about the delay in issuance of certificates. The franchise operators have raised other objections as well. They object to the Goods & Services Tax (GST) being borne by them instead of their customers. Besides, the commissions they are allowed to charge from the customers too have not been revised in ages. The operators have announced that they would stop services from August if the government does not solve their problems.
The Telangana Mee-Seva Joint Action Committee (TMJAC) complains that in spite of a court order to the contrary, some government departments such as Revenue and Stamps and Registration insist on applicants submitting original documents. Electronic Service Delivery and Special Commissioner (E-governance) GT Venkateswara Rao said, “The demands of Mee-Seva operators have already been referred to the government. We have written to the Chief Commissioner of Land Administration (CCLA), asking him to issue certificates on time. We expect a response from them soon.” He added the operators’ issue with GST would be resolved soon.
B Kiran Kumar, a person with a disability and a Mee-Seva operator in Hyderabad said, “A customer had come to us for a birth certificate from the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC). We processed the application within the stipulated time but the certificate was never issued. GHMC did not issue it either. The customer came back a few days later and picked up an argument with us. He manhandled our staff and threatened to lodge a case against us. What can we do if GHMC does not issue the certificate?”
Meanwhile, speaking to Express, Telangana Mee-Seva Joint Action Committee (TMJAC) president Baira Shankar slammed the government for not increasing their commission amounts. “(Former minister and TRS working president) KT Rama Rao had promised us that all Mee-Seva centres would get free fibre internet connections free of cost. This is yet to happen,” he said.
Shankar complained that Aadhaar services were also discontinued by the Unique Identification Development Authority of India (UIDAI) recently. He was referring to the UIDAI’s orders which allow Aadhaar services to be offered only on government-owned premises.
“We operators already are facing so much trouble. We have brought them to the notice of the government, but it has not done anything yet. If this attitude continues, we will have to shut shop from August,” Shankar said.
Employees of Mee-Seva centres in erstwhile Medak district want perks and benefits similar to those of State government employees. They claimed this was done in the early days of the Mee-Seva concept. They also want the commissions payable to them to be hiked. K Madhukar Reddy, an operator in the town, said, “I have to pay salaries of two computers operators and a manager. I also have to pay for the electricity bill and rent for my shop. The people make use of our services and the government makes money off it. The government should charge less and let our commissions increase. This would benefit me and my employees.” Reddy gave examples: “For instance, if we take `43 from a customer, we keep only `13. The remaining goes to the government. If we were allowed to keep `23, our lives would be so much better.” Other operators wanted to be able to offer Aadhaar services at their centres once again.
There are nearly 270 Mee-Seva centres in Nizamabad district and another 99 in Kamareddy district. Most of them were set up in 2012, in undivided Andhra Pradesh. The initial days were happy, but with stagnant commissions, things are not so great for operators anymore. Ch Satyanarayana, district unit of State Mee-Seva Operators Association (TSMSOA) said, “In urban areas, operators can barely earn more than `5,000. In rural areas, the figure hovers around `3,000. How can we maintain the centres with these amounts?” He said TSMSOA has submitted a memorandum, listing out 20 demands, to the IT Secretary. The body’s vice president K Laxminarayana, meanwhile, said, “It was us who invested money in setting up Mee-Seva centres, but the revenue goes to the government. Yet the government is unwilling to hike the commissions.” He added that the State government has not cleared arrears from before the State bifurcation.
Mee-Seva operators in erstwhile Adilabad district are angry at government departments for delaying the issuance of certificates and other documents. After the launch of Mee-Seva 2.0, each registration has been taking 15 to 20 minutes. Sometimes, the employees at these centres are unable to read thumb-prints of customers. Needless to say, customers often get angry with the delays and take it out on the employees. The new system was put in place four months ago, yet the problems continue to persist. Customers say that the government department concerned send them messages that their documents would be processed and cleared within a week. But this seldom happens. Sometimes, the process is delayed by more than a month. The popular rumour is that if one wants to get any work done at a Mee-Seva centre, he is better off approaching the concerned government department directly. They would inevitably have to grease the palms of officials there and only then would the documents be processed.
Mee-Seva operators in erstwhile Karimnagar district want the government to allow them to charge higher commissions. About a year ago, the commissions were hiked to `25. There has been no revision since. A Mee-Seva operator Dasyapu Raju said, “Whether the job takes us just a few minutes, or several days, the commission we get is the same. We want to be able to charge more.” An operator said, “The whole idea of Mee-Seva centres is to reduce the time it takes for a common citizen to get any government-related work done, What’s the point if they are made to wait for days for a simple application?” Another operator felt that even though Mee-Seva centres earn their revenue from the government, there is no recognition for their employees. The employees also do not have any job or social security. Some operators are requesting the government to provide bank loans to operators while sanctioning them.
Franchise operators in the region are on the verge of shutting shop. There are over 400 Mee-Seva centres in the district. Employees of the centres are angry at the low commissions payable to them. At the same time, they also rue high maintenance charges. V Anjanna, a Mee-Seva operator from Nalgonda, said, “We provide services related to over 40 government departments. But of late, we are struggling to keep the lights on. The commissions remain low and other costs have skyrocketed,” he said. Anjana demanded the State government to provide them with electricity and internet for free. He also wanted the government to stop sanctioning new centres in the district.
(Inputs from P Krishna, K Amruth Rao, B Satyanarayana Reddy, S Raja Reddy, MVK Sastry and Naveen Kumar Tallam)