Letter to the PM on Grievance Redressal Bill
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  • November 29, 2011
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November 29, 2011

Dr Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister
Government of India

Dear Dr Singh:

We wish to draw your attention to the urgent issue of an effective grievance redress bill to ensure transparent and accountable delivery of services to the people of the country.

The government (DoPT) has already drafted a grievance redress bill, which has important features such as legally mandated citizen charters, time-bound redress and compulsory action taken reports to the complainant. However the draft Bill suffers from the following four crucial but easily correctable defects, which will cripple the bill’s efficacy:

  1. People’s Support Center has been made optional within each public authority: This set-up dilutes the single-window facilitation approach suggested by the NCPRI and may also lead to harassment of the complainant by making it difficult to raise complaints
  2. No independent appeal at the district level: As per the proposed Bill, appeals against the orders of the GRO of a public authority will lie with the Head of the Department of the Public Authority, and not with an independent District level Authority. This set-up suffers from inherent conflict of interest. Furthermore this may lead to state/central commissions getting overwhelmed with appeals against orders of the GRO and HoD
  3. No compensation to complainant: A nominal amount of compensation (Rs 100/200 for each day of delay) will provide some justice for entitlements denied
  4. Important Opportunity to Codify Section 4 of the RTI Act: The Grievance Redress Bill is an opportunity to codify Section 4 by combining the existing legal mandate for proactive disclosure under the RTI Act with punitive provisions of the Grievance Redress Bill for non-compliance. Successful implementation will require that Section 4 is explicitly included as part of the Citizen’s Charter and Statement of Obligations of the public authority

Effective grievance redress is vital to ensure that the citizen can access entitlements guaranteed under the many progressive social legislations passed by the UPA Government. This Bill will also go a long way to improve transparency and accountability of government functioning, the absence of which has fueled much popular discontent in the public.

The “sense of the house” resolution passed by the Parliament on August 27, 2011 agreed that grievance redress should be passed in concurrence with the Lokpal Bill. There seems to be agreement that the Grievance Redress Bill should be passed as an independent Bill in concurrence with the Lokpal Bill, and it is crucial that they are both passed together. To ensure that the Grievance Redress Bill is passed in the Winter session, the Bill must be immediately tabled in the Parliament and sent to the Standing Committee for urgent public consultation and deliberations.

Also all state matters should be settled at the state level and all central matters end at the centre level, like it does under the RTI. This would mean no conflict between state and centre, and it would prevent the Central Commission from being flooded with grievances.
Setting up the district grievance redress offices and the entire architecture would reduce the bureaucracy because every flagship program is already setting up its own district grievance redressal mechanism. For instance the MNREGA is in the process of appointing an ombudsman in every district. This generic law would allow those mechanisms to be rationalsied in a single platform. Even funds can easily be made available from within existing flagship programs i.e there is an existing office memorandum that says 1% of flagship programs should be spent on transparency measures so 1% of MNREGA, Right to Food, Right to Education and Right to Health would actually give enough to set up and run this entire architecture across the country (over 2000 crores a year).

We request that the PMO urgently intervene in this matter since the bill is being piloted by the DoPT which is under the PMO and thus your intervention would make a big difference.

We also request an opportunity to meet with you with some of our colleagues to discuss this issue in person.

Yours sincerely,
With warm regards,
Aruna Roy                                                                                                      Nikhil Dey
(For the NCPRI)                                                                                      (For the NCPRI)

[Copy of the letter to Prime Minister can be accessed from here]

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