Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Uttarakhand Government to introduce Right to Services Act

Written by Anil Singh

One thing which goes against the ‘Lokpal demand by Anna Hazare and supporters’ is the tangible resources the country has to put in, if Lokpal is constituted on Mr. Hazare’s proposed draft. Notably the office of Lokpal if constituted will need additional 20,000 employees, to carry on its duties. In addition, the cases filed at Lokpal by common people, will be decided by courts; who are already reeling under stacks of pending cases (about 1 crore 10 Lakh cases are filed in Indian courts in a year; of which, only 10 Lakhs are put to hearing. If Lokpal adds 20 Lakh more cases to Indian courts per year, then courts with their present apparatus will be burdened even more).

Going by the above logic, the concept of Lokpal as proposed by Anna and team is destined for a failure; unless India increases its Court apparatus nearly five times of its current size and is ready to pay variable salaries to at least 20 thousand more employees.

That’s why some experts are recommending strengthening & making transparent the current legislative (political), executive and judicial apparatus, making Government office bearers and officials more accountable to people, strengthening Right To Information at lowest levels, village, slums; instead of making an entirely new department under a Lokpal.

Now, the political parties which are supporting Anna’s agitation outside the parliament (they are most likely not to agree to Anna team’s draft at parliament); are seemed to be acting on the above views in the states ruled by them. In simple, rather than taking the inspiration by the draft proposed by Anna, these political parties are trying to strengthen the current executive apparatus to curb the corruption.

Take this for instance, taking cue from the other NDA-ruled states (that‘s ruled by BJP and allies) like Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, the Uttarakhand government is mulling over enacting the Right to Services Act in the hill state as well. The Right to Services Act provides for a time-bound delivery of services by government employees to the public. The Act would provide for penal action of officials who fail to deliver services on time.

Reports are that the Uttarakhand government has asked its officials to study the Act enacted by other states. While Madhya Pradesh and Bihar have already enacted the law, other NDA-ruled states like Jharkhand and Punjab are in the process of doing so.

The Uttarakhand government intends to bring 75 important services under the ambit of the Services Act.

The new act is intended to cover regular services concerning the common man like issuing residential proof, domicile, dakhil kharij (mutation or the act of putting on record one’s purchase of property and land), caste certificate etc. as well ; the areas, where a common man faces most exploitation and corruption.

Speculations are that the Uttarakhand government may announce its intention of passing the Act on November 9, Uttarakhand Foundation Day.

Call it the Anna effect or the state Government’s genuine desire to ameliorate the common folk of the malice of corruption; but one thing to note here is that, unlike BJP’s stand on Anna’s agitation, which is vehemently supportive, the state government is not going the Lokayukta route. Else it would have strengthened the office of Lokayukta. Making a new act, means the party wants to work the old way rather than the new; and wants to keep the power where it rests up to now.

Notably, Gujarat, another BJP ruled state has not constituted a Lokayukta since the past seven years.

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