The likes of Remani and Susheela (both names changed) have been frequenting lower-level revenue offices, the prime interface between the public and the government, at least for the last decade. Their plight serves as a stark reminder of the uphill task before the State government to pull of its ambitious Right to Service Act.

When the Right to Service Bill, 2012, entitling citizens to services from government departments as a matter of right in a time-bound manner was being passed in the Assembly on Wednesday, these frail and aged women were making yet another futile visit to the Kanayannur taluk office and the adjoining Ernakulam village office.

An investigation by The Hindu found that red tapism and bureaucratic hurdles remain a stumbling block in the timely delivery of services to the public. 

Bribes being paid

Remani, a septuagenarian, has been shuttling between the twin offices for the last 14 years to get hutment dwelling (Kudikidappu) rights over three cents at Chalikkavattam where she has been living for more than four decades.

She has produced documents demanded of her from time to time, even one to prove that she was a voter at her place in the 70s. In between, she shelled out a bribe of Rs.10,000 as well.

“I am aged now and can no longer keep on visiting these offices. Maybe I should commit suicide so that my daughter will get the rights finally,” a tearful Ms. Remani said.

Susheela, a 60-year-old from Chottanikkara village, has been visiting the offices to get her five cents measured. Left all alone after her husband and two children died years ago, she makes a living by doing household chores in two houses at Panampilly Nagar daily.

With no one to support her, she cannot afford to skip work for frequent visits to offices but somehow manages it. She said that the authorities had come to measure her land more than once but alleged that they always returned pocketing the bribe given by her well-off neighbours.

“A portion of my income is spent on these visits. They want bribe but I can’t afford it even if I want to,” she said.

Incidentally, the citizen’s charter about the services available to the public was missing at many village offices.

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