…….to make it a vision of excellence in the public services
By Muhammad Abdullah Javed
Acceptance of citizen’s charter by our parliament is a ray of hope. An effective mechanism for its implementation coupled with sincere efforts to broaden its concept, will help build a society free of corruption and corrupt practices.
Good governance — with transparency, accountability and responsive administration as the key elements – is believed to be essential for sustainable growth. Citizen’s charter is a step forward in the public management reform, a rejoinder to solve the problems which citizen faces while dealing with the organisations providing public services. The basic objective of the citizen’s charter is to empower the citizen with regard to public service delivery. Its six principles were: (1) Quality: improving the quality of services (2) Choice: wherever possible (3) Standards: specify what to expect and how to act if services fall short of the set standards (4) Value: for the people who pay taxes and fees (5) Accountability: both individuals and organisations and (6) Transparency: in relation to rules, procedures, schemes, grievances.
Citizen’s charter was first launched in United Kingdom in 1991, in order to improve public services by making administration accountable and citizen friendly.
Initiatives in India
Citizen’s charter was first implemented in India in 1994 when consumer rights activists drafted a charter for health service providers at a meeting in Delhi. In 1996 the government arrived at a consensus on effective and responsive administration. Later at conference of Chief Ministers held in May 1997, an “action plan for effective and responsive government at the centre and state levels” was adopted. One of the highlights of the decision was that the central and state governments would formulate citizen’s charters, beginning with the sectors that have a large public interface (such as Railways, Telecom, water and energy supplies, Hospitals, Posts, Public distribution systems, etc). These charters were supposed to include standards of service and time limits that the citizen can expect.
The task of coordination, formulation and execution of citizen’s charters was given to Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances in Government of India (DARPG). As per the details furnished on the official website of Government of India, www.goicharters.nic.in, at least 729 Citizen’s Charters had been formulated by 24 States and Union Territories so far. The maximum of these were in Gujarat (293), followed by Haryana (89), Delhi (75), Goa and Rajasthan (63) each, Tamil Nadu (57), and Uttar Pradesh (41). Besides, 131 Citizen’s Charters existed in various union ministries, public sector banks, boards, institutes and hospitals.
A brief history of implementation
After approximately 13 years of the inception, citizen’s charters are still in the early stage of implementation in almost all parts of the country. The following main obstacles have been pointed out in a handbook issued by the government:
- The formulation of charter is considered to be a direction from the top. The consultation process was not properly executed. So it became routine activities of the public sector.
- For successful implementation of any Charter the concerned persons should be properly trained, in many cases, the concerned staff were not adequately trained and oriented.
- Transfers and reshuffles of concerned officers at the crucial stages of formulation or implementation severely hampered the progress.
- In some cases, the details and the time limits of services mentioned in citizen’s charter were either too sloppy or too tight and were, therefore, unrealistic and created an unfavourable impression on the clients of the charter.
- The issuance of citizen’s charter will not change overnight the mindset of the staff and the clients. Therefore, persistent efforts are required to bring about the attitudinal changes.
- Instead of trying to reform all the processes at once, it is better to evolve a strategic process to tackle them one at a time.
- The charter initiative should have a built-in mechanism for monitoring and reviewing the functioning of the Charters.
Broadening the Citizen’s Charter
1. The charter is designed with a view to address the problems that citizens are encountered with. As public services are funded by citizens, either directly or indirectly through taxes and fees, they have the right to expect a particular quality of service at reasonable cost and time. Therefore the charter must include words of mutual understanding and affection between the citizen and the service providers. A strict language of law is considered to be a sectarian address and does not make the concept of citizen’s charter complete.
2. Fulfilling of the needs does depend on the proper functioning of the lower bureaucracy and also of those who are their bosses, so inclusion of such persons and hence broadening the area of charter is must.
3. If we examine closely the nature and character of the provisions of the law, we realize that their formation and implementation depend upon the proper functioning of the government, and it is impossible to fulfill the duty without establishing efficient administrative and executive organs.
4. With the globalization and privatization on the rise, how far the objective and goals of the charter can be realized is a matter to look in to for?
Points to Ponder
In view of the present unrest, the overwhelming response of the citizens has given us a hope that the new generation, in particular, persistently thinks over the evils that are prevailing in our society. A noble idea in view, I would like to state the following which form a reliable basis for a society to be governed by values like justice, peace, love, prosperity and human dignity:
1. The absence or ineffectiveness of executive and administrative organs causes the activities of the individuals cross the framework of a prescribed system. As a result chaos and anarchy prevail and social, intellectual and moral corruption arises. The only way to prevent such disorder and to protect society from corruption is to ensure a just government by electing people who believe in justice and human dignity.
2. In addition to general qualifications like intelligence and administrative ability, other essential qualifications for “the persons to be at the helm of affairs” are knowledge of the law and justice. We must have a binocular on our eyes at the time of election.
3. For a society to be reformed, essence of laws alone is not sufficient. For laws to ensure the reformation and well-being of the masses there must be a healthy atmosphere of education, dialogue, assessment and criticism.
4. It’s a fact that laws demand the existence of an enforcement authority. Legislation by itself cannot assure the well-being of human beings. An executive power is must, a power that implements the laws in the right spirit and allows people to get benefited from.
5. The laws demand that the authorities must refrain from irresponsible attitude and unhealthy character. The existence of a non-healthy authority essentially results in the non-implementation of a healthy order.
6. The social unrest created by detrimental thoughts and practices always brings about corruption such as you can observe now in India. If sincere efforts are not made to purify the atmosphere, the extension of such society further deteriorates to which the Holy Quran says Fasaad Fil Ardh (corruption on earth) a broader term which includes moral corruption, rebellion, misappropriation of public wealth, violation of the rights, misuse and abuse of authorities, conspiracies for personal or group benefit, exploitation and oppression, conspiring with the enemies of the country etc. We must try to create a favorable social and ethical environment for the education of good individuals and to ensure mass awareness to overthrow disobedient, corrupt, oppressive, and criminal persons.
Let us discuss and reflect upon the thoughts further and form a favourable atmosphere in our country to find a way to articulate them into reality. Let us shun all shades of indifference, weakness and despair. By means of trust in Allah, selfless service, mutual co-operation and the exchange of views let us develop a method for establishing a just system.
Writer is the president of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Karnataka. He can be contacted by Email: firstname.lastname@example.org