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States act on graft, governance – prodded by people’s power

Fixed timeframes for the completion of public works, penalty for officials who fail to deliver, wide-ranging powers to anti-graft bodies. Prodded into action by Anna Hazare’s movement, states across India are taking steps to empower the people and nail corruption.

 The bills and laws are of different names, but largely work on the same premise — ensure that the common man’s work is done or else penalise the erring official. The fines range from Rs.500 to Rs.5,000 depending on which part of the country one is in.

 The services? Delivering on birth certificate, caste certificate, death certificate and every other important piece of paper for which people are made to run from one office to another till they call it quits and pay a bribe.

 It’s the same feeling of helplessness and frustration, fuelled by babudom and abject apathy, which helped social activist Hazare’s movement strike a chord with people through a fast and forced parliamentarians to accept his key demands for a strong Lokpal, or ombudsman, last month.

 While Madhya Pradesh and Bihar already boast of laws dealing with more efficient delivery of public services, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi have followed suit.

 The Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in Madhya Pradesh boasts of disposing of a staggering 3.6 million complaints in less than a year of the Public Service Guarantee Act’s implementation.

 Bihar got its Right to Service Act this Independence Day in a symbolic move to provide freedom to people from inefficiencies in public service. The services guaranteed are broadly the same. The fine? A maximum of Rs.5,000!

 Himachal Pradesh passed its Himachal Pradesh Public Services Guarantee Bill of 2011 in the monsoon session.

 “It aims at providing good governance, transparency and accountability in the administration and services to public in a time-bound manner,” Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal told IANS. The maximum penalty is again Rs.5,000.

 Similarly, Delhi will get the Right of Citizen to Time Bound Delivery of Services Act, 2011, from Sep 15. The departments are still preparing a citizens’ charter with details of the services to be provided, but the maximum penalty on erring official is only Rs.200.

 While the Rajasthan cabinet has sent The Rajasthan Guaranteed Delivery of Public Services Bill, 2011, to the governor for his assent, Chhattisgarh is busy giving final touches to the draft of the Lok Seva Guarantee Act.

 Over 50 services related to 15 departments have been included in the Rajasthan bill. The applicant can appeal against the rejection of his request to the appellate authority.

 “We are going to ascertain that administration is made more active and responsive regarding work related to common man,” Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot told IANS.

 Uttar Pradesh says it already has such a law. Mayawati’s secretary Navneet Sehgal said that on Jan 15, the chief minister announced the Janhit Guarantee Kanoon (Public Welfare Guarantee Law) which is meant to cover basic services for which the common man is made to run from pillar to post.

 Though Orissa has not planned any law, it has asked all departments to give details of services provided by public authorities on their websites.

 In Punjab, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal wants to bring the Right to Service ordinance, which aims to bring governance reforms.

The government has notified 67 timely citizen centric services which will be provided by departments, including revenue, health, transport, food and civil supplies, in a time-bound manner.

 Jammu and Kashmir, which was rather untouched by the Hazare wave, has got a retired judge to head a state accountability commission (SAC) which was headless till recently.

 Meanwhile, Maharashtra is planning to give wide-ranging powers to its Lokayukta.

 In Karnataka, B.S. Yeddyuruppa was forced to step down as chief minister in the wake of corruption charges in the state Lokayukta’s report.

 In Gujarat, though there is provision for a Lokayukta to look into graft cases, the post has been lying vacant for years. On Aug 25, the governor appointed a retired judge as the ombudsman, but the government challenged the appointment and the matter is the subject of an ongoing legal joust.

 Assam is advocating an effective Lokayukta as the existing authority is almost defunct. The post has been vacant and there is only a deputy Lokayukta with a skeletal staff.

 Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has volunteered to let his office come under the purview of the Lokayukta. “If the Lokpal becomes legislation, I am sure the existing Lokayutas in states would get more teeth,” Gogoi told IANS.

 Jharkhand would introduce an anti-corruption bill in the winter session.

 (News source:IANS)

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