Members and activists of National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI, http://righttoinformation.info/) met at the Indian Social Institute (http://www.isidelhi.org.in/) on 3 February, 2012 so as to discuss and review the outcomes of the grievance redressal camps that were organized on the 15th and 16th of December, 2011. The two days camps were held last year by NCPRI along with Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS, http://www.snsindia.org/), JOSH, Pardarshita (http://pardarshita.blogspot.in/) and National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) in Malviya Nagar, Trilokpuri, Nandnagri and Takiyan Kalekhan for registering and assessing various types of public grievances against govt. departments. The objective behind holding the camps was to discuss and strengthen the proposed National Grievance Redress Bill (for more details, please check the links given below).
The NCPRI meet at ISI witnessed the presence of Nikhil Dey, Anjali Bhardwaj, Lokesh Batra, Shekhar Singh, Kamal, Thomas, Shankar Singh, Rakshita and Bhanwar Meghwanshi among others. There were activists from JOSH, MKSS, NCPRI, Satark Nagrik Sanghathan and Right to Food Campaign.
At the onset, Anjali Bhardwaj informed that grievances may not originate solely due to corruption. Grievance redressal needs a separate decentralized system. Nikhil Dey said that the Whistleblower Protection Bill has moved from the Lok Sabha to Rajya Sabha. The review session held at the ISI on the 2 days camp at various parts of Delhi helped in understating the nature of grievances people have against inaction and inefficiency of various govt. departments.
The representative from NFIW informed that nearly 500 complaints were registered by it during the grievance redress camp. The representative from Pardarshita at the ISI meet told that during its camp held at Nandnagri, 80 complaints in various govt. departments were formally lodged and most got receipts. JOSH representative informed that 928 complaints were lodged by it during the camp. Due to public pressure, councilors have started working. In total, nearly 2000 complaints were registered at the 2 days camps.
Most of the complaints registered in the 2 days camp were against the Food and Civil Supplies Department, MCD, Delhi Jal Board (DJB), Education department, Social Welfare Department, Delhi Administration, Health Department, Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB).
The two days camp in various parts of Delhi revealed that slum dwellers, the poor and the general public face a whole gamut of problems, which are listed below:
• Slum dwellers are mainly affected by poor or lack of service delivery. They are not issued identity cards. Slums inhabited by illegal Bangladeshi migrants are neglected by public authorities.
• There exists lack of coordination between the MLAs and the Councilors. Pass the buck phenomena is quite common.
• When people along with the activists went to various departments for formally lodging complaints, proper receipts were not given.
• There are instances when complainants do not know whom to approach for grievance redressal.
• Ration cards related grievances have been termed as policy related matter by the officials during the recently held camps.
• At many places, ration dealers said they are helpless. They also threatened to move their shop from their present location when complaints were filed against them.
• Many of the activists informed that they faced great difficulty in filing complaints.
• There exists dearth of information on rights and obligations within various departments.
• There is no mechanism for grievance redressal in many govt. departments.
• Most of the officials serving in govt. departments are not accountable. In many cases use of RTI has been more effective.
• Written responses are seldom received by the complainants.
• Safai karamcharis are employed on contractual basis and they can’t be blamed entirely for non-delivery of services.
• In the case of Right to Education legislation, job charts and obligations are not clear.
A large no. of suggestions came for improving the Grievance Redress and Whistleblower Protection Bills, which are as follows:
• Job chart is not provided in most departments. Information about people’s rights needs to be disseminated. People are dissuaded when they go for complaining.
• There must be explicit inclusion of Section 4 of the RTI Act as part of the Citizen’s Charter and Statement of Obligations of the public authority. Non compliance with Section 4, is in itself a violation of the RTI Act, and thus a legitimate complaint as per the Grievance Redress Bill.
• The Citizen’s Charter and statement of obligations must be revised from time to time.
• Monitoring mechanisms within departments are not working properly.
• Help/ assistance is needed for facilitation during grievance redress.
• There must be a mechanism for sustaining of a public service. Penalties must be imposed on non-working departments.
• Private bodies must be included under the Grievance Redress Bill and Whistleblower Protection law.
• A distinction should be made between policy related issues due to which grievances are not redressed and genuine inefficiency and inaction related matters.
• Grievance Redress Bill should have a provision so that SCs/ STs are not discriminated and false complaints are not made against officials from such social background.
• Protection should not only be provided to govt. employees (whistleblowers) but also outsiders. Protection should also include police protection.
• Independent district level appellate mechanism to ensure speedy disposal of appeals against the orders of the Grievance Redress Officer
• Compensation for entitlements delayed/denied as a reparative measure and to encourage people to file complaints to promote systemic accountability
• Unlike the RTI Act, associations and organizations should have the right to file complaints under the Grievance Redress Bill.
Issues to be resolved/discussed (w.r.t. Grievance Redress Bill) as discussed on 3 February, 2012 (based on NCPRI’s communication):
1. How will this legislation be implemented by each sector? Will this legislation be overarching, or will each sector prepare its own mechanism?
2. Reconciling responsibilities with departments as per job chart and statement of obligations. There will be a clash between documents, as the responsibilities listed under the statement of obligations will not be listed in the job chart (for the interim). A hierarchy of documents can be drawn, or else some measures can be taken to reconcile the two.
3. Transfer from one GRO to another – there must be some mechanism, where there is either a nodal GRO to direct the complainant to the correct department. Else there must be some safeguard, to prevent the complaint going from one GRO to another unresolved.
4. Urgent vs. Normal timeframe – there is no clarity on who can decide whether a complaint is urgent or not. Further, some opening should be left to individual sectors to decide the time frame in which to resolve complaints, as they would be better informed as to what constitutes a real emergency in their sector.
5. The 30 days in which the complaint has to be resolved must be counted from the day it is submitted to the public authority and not from the day it reaches the GRO.
6. The statement of obligations is a crucial document –can commissions give advice on what is to be included? This must be disclosed to the public and revised regularly. Will it clarify the work, the time frame, and also the action taken if this is not delivered? Sectoral inputs in the preparation of this document will be crucial.
Widespread Endorsement of NCPRI Grievance Redress Bill by Political Parties and Citizen Groups, Righttoinformation.info, 18 December, 2011,
The Right of Citizens for time bound delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances bill, 2011
NCPRI on the Citizen’s Right to Grievance Redress Bill, http://www.talkative-shambhu.blogspot.in/2011/11/ncpri-on-citizens-right-to-grievance.html
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
No one bill will do, The Indian Express, 23 January, 2012,