West Bengal Citizens' Charter – Time bound Delivery of Services
West Bengal Citizens' Charter – Time bound Delivery of Services
October 19, 2013
Public services are generally considered essential for modern life, and are provided to citizens by a government. Such services normally include education, public transportation, broadcasting and communications, electricity and gas, fire service, healthcare, police service, waste management and water services.
However, for decades now, the quality of public services has been on the wane. Various factors have been responsible, including “complex regulations, complicated forms, lack of information, absence of performance standards, lack of accountability, corruption and incompetence”. Corrupt government officers have held up doing their duties, acquiescing only in lieu of monetary or other bribes. Central and state governments have tried at various times, but with little success, to curb this menace. Government employees are often called government servants, meaning their work is to provide service to the government, and that implies serving the people.
In 2011, Anna Hazare started an anti-corruption campaign, which soon gathered steam all over India. As part of the public demand to end corruption, the central government tabled the Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011, also called Citizens’ Charter, in Parliament on December 20, 2011. However, till date, the bill is stuck in a logjam.
West Bengal Right to Public Services Act
The government of West Bengal brought in a similar bill to ensure proper services to the public by departments of the state government and set up the necessary mechanism for redressal of grievances. It was successfully passed in the Assembly in August of this year. Governor MK Narayanan signed the bill on September 25, making it an act, the West Bengal Right to Public Services Act, 2013. The law is supposed to come into force from November 1.
In a telling reminder to government employees to discharge their duties relating to service to the public on time or face the consequences, Consumer Affairs Minister Sadhan Pandey said, “The days of just coming to office, doing little or no work and collecting the salary are over.”
The basic aim of the Act, as written at the beginning of the text of the Act, “is to provide for the delivery of public services to the people of the State within the stipulated time limit and for matters connected therewith and incidental thereto.”
Public Services without hassles
The chief minister has been particularly strident in getting the Assembly to pass the act. Her Facebook page lays down the credo behind the new Act: “to strengthen and improve public service delivery mechanism and to reduce corruption.” It further says: “If the citizens are not provided specific services within prescribed time period, the designated officer may be penalized ranging from Rs 250 to Rs 1000. Some of the services that have been identified so far are issuing of Driving License, Mutation, Birth Certificate, Ration Card, BPL Card, Electricity Connection, service to the farmers, health services, etc. The list of services will be expanded from time to time.”
The Rollout Plan
To start with, 12 departments of the state government would come under the regulations of the Act. They are land and land reforms, school education, higher education, vocational training, transport, food and supplies, panchayat and rural development, agriculture, minorities development, urban development, health and family welfare, and backward classes.
Each department would have a designated cell to see to the proper implementation of the rules and regulations regarding the services it provides, and to deal with any grievances. All these cells would come under the consumer affairs department. To enable people to look up the rules and regulations as well as to download forms to register complaints, the website www.publicservicesright.in has been set up by the government.
What you need to know
Specific instructions and time limits as to provision of services have already been notified for three departments - food and supplies, minorities development and school education. Provided all documents are in order, below are some of the time limits, beyond which complaints are liable to be accepted:
3-6 months: Loan for students belonging to minority communities Merit-cum-means scholarship Post-matric scholarship Haji Mohammad Mohsin Scholarship
3 months: NBCFDC term loans
30 days: Getting new ration card Modifying or replacing details on ration card Getting duplicate ration card in case of loss or damage
15 days: Submission of ration card for acquiring a new one in case of change of address Making rejected ration cards fit for reuse Getting duplicate marksheets Getting admit cards, marksheets and certificates of Madhyamik and Higher Secondary exams Correction of errors in Madhyamik and Higher Secondary admit cards, marksheets and certificates Getting migration certificates of Madhyamik and Higher Secondary examinees
West Bengal is the fifth state, after Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Karnataka, to adopt rules regarding time-bound provision of public services. This is a major achievement for the state, considering the often lackadaisical attitude of government servants, be it anywhere in India, regarding providing services which every citizen has the constitutional right to. These regulations would stop people from being harassed while accessing government services. A much-needed reform of the working of the government is underway. It is about time rest of India follows suit.
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