As reported by Amitabh Sinha in financiaslexpress.com on 30 August 2011:
Your right to be heard: First draft of grievance redressal Bill ready
New Delhi: At a time of national uproar over corruption and the Lokpal Bill, the government is proposing to enact a law making it compulsory for every ministry and department to act within 30 days on complaints from the public.
The law will set up a mechanism similar to the Right to Information (RTI) Act, and dovetails with Anna Hazare’s key demand of a “citizens’ charter” to deal with public grievances.
Under the proposed law, every public authority will have to designate a Grievance Redress Officer (GRO) right from the block level up to the central government. The GRO will receive and act on grievances from the public on services that they are entitled to under any law or government policy, government sources said.
Urgent complaints would have to be disposed of within five days. The GRO would be empowered to identify the reason for the grievance, fix responsibility on a defaulting office or officer, and recommend penalty or punishment.
If not satisfied, applicants will have the right to appeal against action taken by the GRO. At the state and central levels, the law proposes to establish public grievance commissions, to act as quasi-judicial bodies.
The proposed grievance redressal structure is very similar to the hugely successful RTI Act, which has created public information officers in every government department to provide information on request within 30 days. The RTI also provides for information commissions at the central and state levels.
An effective grievance redressal mechanism was a part of Team Anna’s Lokpal Bill, and was seen as an important weapon to fight corruption, especially at the lower levels. Team Anna wanted the office of Lokpal to also look into public grievances. However, the government is in favour of establishing a separate structure for grievances, so as not to overburden the proposed office of Lokpal.
Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh was last week entrusted with the responsibility of preparing the first draft of the new legislation. The draft is now believed to be ready, and in the process of being circulated to other ministries for comments and suggestions. It is likely to be put in the public domain in a few days.
Sources said the draft legislation has provision for clearly defining every public authority’s obligations to citizens with regard to its duties and services. The responsibility of disseminating this information to the people would also lie with the public authority. Timelines would be specified for delivering all government services — for example, the issual of a driver’s licence — and failure to adhere to them would invite penalties.
As of now, the maximum penalty for failure to deliver any government service is proposed at Rs 1 lakh.
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