We can hardly miss the ads placed in national dailies by the Department of Consumer Affairs reminding and cautioning the consumers about their rights, while dealing with goods and services offered by the private, co-operative or the government sector, titled ‘jago grahak jago’. Ironically, we really confine our imagination by not applying these very rights while dealing with the services, particularly in the government. Many of the state government have been following the Citizen Charter’s model which talks about some degree of service level agreements in service delivery. But mostly, the review of the efficiency and accountability in case of government to citizen service delivery has been voluntary.
The initiatives taken by some of the state departments towards institutionalising the citizen charter have brought a paradigm shift in state of governance in the country. Madhya Pradesh is the pioneer state to approve the legislation on Right to Services (RTS), thereby setting in accountability and efficiency in the public administration.
Following suite, the states of Bihar and Punjab are working upon a more comprehensive framework, besides seeking public suggestions while drafting of the Bill.
The provision of penalising the designated public servant in case of non-compliance with the law, would act as deterrence to the public administration. Madhya Pradesh Public Service Gurantee Act 2010 goes to the extent of giving back the penalisation fee charged from the salary of the designated public official to the service applicant as compensation.
Reportedly, the ‘tatkal’ provision which is being worked under Bihar’s proposed legislation on RTS deserves appreciation. Under the tatkal provision, one can avail the notified government to citizen services – like obtaining a driving license or a caste certificate – in short duration of time, paying little more from the usual fee. The proposed enactment in Punjab notifies many of services related the police department – that would supposedly change the face of the department, mostly perceived as one most arbitrary wing of the government.
Naturally, the question arises if we can have a similar legislation in place at the Centre, which can encompass all the union ministries and departments. Viewing the movement on right to services gathering momentum, it’s an imperative on the part of Government of India to conceptualise and enact a similar law, since it could be a big motivator for the states, which have so far been watching the RTS quietly.