The press meet concerning National Campaign for People’s Right to Information’s (NCPRI) stance on Grievance Redress Bill was held at India Women Press Corps, New Delhi on 16 November, 2011. Aruna Roy (MKSS/ NAC member) told reporters assembled that the objective of grievance redress is to assure that governance functions for the poorest of poor. Grievance redressal provides immediate relief to victims. She gave the example of a social audit conducted recently in Rajsamand district of Rajasthan where people expressed their grievances against electricity service providers. Although the Government has placed its Grievance Redress Bill in the public domain, the Bill is silent on provision of people’s facilitation centre with single window clearance as was demanded by NCPRI. The NCPRI asked for a separate and independent appellate authority at the district level, which the Government has partially accepted. However, Government’s draft Bill is quiet on compensation to be made on complaints by the appellate authority. NCPRI demanded that the appointment at the district level appellate authority should be on the basis of tenure (5 years).
Anjali Bharadwaj (NCPRI/ Satark Nagrik Sangathan) welcomed the Government’s decision in bringing out the draft legislation on grievance redress. She said that grievance and corruption related matters should be treated separately. For grievance redress, there needs to be separate, independent agencies and the system is required to be decentralized. Grievances mostly originate from the marginalized sections of the society. She informed that NCPRI asked for people’s facilitation (support) centres that are meant to be independent. The Government’s draft Bill, however, missed out this recommendation. In case the Grievance Redress Officer does not dispose off grievances within the time limit of 15 days, such cases will be automatically escalated to the Heads of Department (HoD) at the District level of the concerned authority. If the HoD fails to provide an Action Taken Report (ATR) within the additional 15 days timeframe, s/he along with the GRO and the concerned public officials against whom the original complaint filed, could be penalized by the District Grievance Redress Authority (DGRA) for failure to carry out responsibilities. In the present Bill drafted by the Government, the provision on compensation to be paid to aggrieved party by a public authority for deficiency in services is lacking, Anjali informed. The Citizens’ Charter has to be renamed as ‘Citizens’ Charter and Statement of Obligations’ and it needs to be seen in a non-descriptive manner. The Citizens’ Charter has to be inclusive and the qualitative and quantitative standards to be maintained should be mentioned.
Nikhil Dey (MKSS/ NCPRI) mentioned that the draft Grievance Redress Bill should be seen as complementary to the Lokpal Bill. The present Bill is intended to provide immediate relief to the aggrieved party. However, the Government should make a difference between grievances which are urgent and grievances which are routine so that essential service related grievances (emergency) are addressed within 48 hours, Nikhil urged. He asked for rationalizing all institutional platforms related to grievance redress, independent of departments. He suggested that Bharat Nirman Rajiv Gandhi Seva Kendra at the block levels can be utilized as facilitation centres. Like the Right to Information (2005) Act, the draft Grievance Redress Bill by the NCPRI did not want to create new structures. The RTI Act enacted earlier only created the structure of Information Commissioners at the state and central level. NCPRI’s draft Bill envisioned that the compensation would be paid by the deemed responsible agency. The Government’s draft Grievance Redress Bill has no provision for compensation. NCPRI recommended that appeals cannot be done in case of compensation that involves a sum of maximum Rs. 10000. Nikhil suggested that provisions of Section 4(1)b of the RTI Act should be codified and become mandatory as part of the Citizens’ Charter. The NCPRI has recommended an independent grievance redress appellate authority at the district level so as to avoid a “conflict of interest” when appeals against the orders of a Grievance Redress Officer within a public authority/department fall within the ambit of head of the department. If government servants are penalized in case of grievance redress, then it should be included in their service records. The Government’s draft Bill proposes a state level appellate authority and Central level appellate authority. However, the NCPRI’s redress system is more decentralized as it focuses at the district level, Nikhil added.
Shekhar Singh (NCPRI) said that the Government has selectively picked up some of the points recommended by the NCPRI. Grievances fall within the domain of actionable wrong and come in the concurrent list of both Centre and states. A part of the compensation should be financed by the penalty imposed on erring Government servants. Support centres would be created at the block level in rural areas and at the ward level in urban areas, as per provisions of NCPRI’s draft Bill. Shekhar asked for a vibrant public movement so as to press the demands for a just Public Grievance Redress legislation.
Overview of the Draft Public Grievance Redress Bill 2011 (Govt. version),
Draft “Citizens Right to Grievance Redress Bill, 2011” (Govt. version)
Background Documents- NCPRI’s approach towards a series of anti corruption and grievance redress measures
Delayed entitlements should be compensated with cash: NCPRI by Gargi Parsai, The Hindu, 17 November, 2011,
Aruna Roy-led body faults govt's grievance bill, The Times of India, 17 November, 2011, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/NCPRI-faults-govts-grievance-redressal-bill/articleshow/10761722.cms
Aruna Roy demands critical changes in grievance redress bill, DNA, 17 November, 2011, http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_aruna-roy-demands-critical-changes-in-grievance-redress-bill_1613641
A right approach to rights by Jairam Ramesh, The Hindustan Times, 13 November, 2011, http://www.hindustantimes.com/News-Feed/ColumnsOthers/A-right-approach-to-rights/Article1-768736.aspx
Grievance redress bill draft lacking on several fronts: NCPRI to govt by Brajesh Kumar, Governance Now, 16 November, 2011,
After Lokpal, trouble for Public Grievances Bill by Anchal Vohra, NDTV, 13 November, 2011, http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/grievances-bill-ncpri-vs-govt-149316?pfrom=home-india
Will government pass a strong Public Grievances Bill? 13 November, 2011, http://news.oneindia.in/2011/11/13/will-govt-pass-a-strong-public-grievances-bill.html