Charters for better service
is a resident of Hyderabad. Some years ago he needed a no
objection certificate from MCH to sell his house, and for
that he had to clear all property tax dues. He approached
MCH to know how much he owed in taxes. He was not seeking
a favour. He wanted to pay taxes. And yet, even for this information
he was made to run from pillar to post. After 9 months and
36 visits he got the answer. But only after he shelled out
as a bribe an amount equal to half the tax due!
is not an isolated case. Any citizen who approaches any government
agency today for any service, faces hostility, humiliation,
harassment, delay, inefficiency, corruption, apathy and indignity.
The only positive feature is even the high and mighty is sometimes
forced to endure the same misery. A former Cabinet Secretary
recounted travails of a Foreign Secretary in getting electricity
connection to the IFS officers' colony.
combined might of the Cabinet Secretary, the then Lieutenant
Governor of Delhi and all the IFS officers could not ensure
service, and each household ended paying a bribe of Rs 1000!
citizen is the focal point of all governance in a democracy.
We elect a government to serve our collective needs and to
provide us common services. The citizen is the true and ultimate
sovereign, and the measure of a government's functioning is
a citizen's satisfaction. A government accountable to the
citizens who are its true masters, and public servants responsive
to the needs of the taxpayers who are their paymasters are
the essential elements of a democracy.
our experience is far from this idyllic vision. Happily, there
are simple, practical, effective remedies. In Britain, John
Major introduced the concept of Citizen's Charters. The official
responsible for a service is identified, the procedure to
be followed by the citizen to obtain the service is defined,
performance standards including time frame are prescribed,
and monetary compensation for noncompliance is provided.
1998, Lok Satta movement released a People's Charter listing
details of over 40 commonly availed services, and built pressure
on the State government. As a result, an excellent Citizen's
Charter has been released recently in respect of four services,
applicable to all Municipalities in the State. For the first
time in India, a compensation of Rs 50 is now payable to the
citizen for every day's delay in these services. Over 50 municipalities
in Andhra Pradesh are implementing this and in 97% cases services
are delivered on time. About 200 citizens received compensation
MCH has not implemented this government directive so far.
We need to enforce this in MCH, and extend such Charters to
a variety of other civic services and amenities. This should
be made a major citizens' issue in the MCH polls, and we should
force parties to respond. And once such an instrument is available,
we should consistently demand and get quality service. Only
then will local government be effective and corruption-free.