Time for Corporation, Police, Railways and the BSNL to have a similar network, which gives better connectivity

The idea of connecting the Madurai district administration with the public from different walks of life through the Facebook has been rated as a big success by its users.

Started on June 18 this year by Anshul Mishra, the District Collector, the Facebook channel is five-months old today.

On an average, 30 to 35 complaints and grievances come through the Facebook to the Collector, according to officials.

Though it is hard to believe, a majority of the Facebook account holders have expressed satisfaction over the swift response from the administrators to their representations.

While civic issues such as non-removal of garbage, encroachment, non-functioning of street lights or vacancies in government institutions such as Primary Health Centres are sorted out as soon as possible, other grievances pertaining to Central government institutions or other districts are forwarded to the respective authorities.

Sharing their experience with The Hindu, S. Shanmuganathan (29), an advocate and an active Facebook member, thanked Mr. Anshul Mishra for starting such a ‘novel’ platform through which public, like him, were able to share common problems and seek the administrator’s attention.

Narrating his point, Mr. Shanmuganathan said, “I am a differently-abled person. I live in the fourth floor of a residential flat allotted by the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board near the Ramakrishna Mutt.

When I wrote to the Collector seeking his intervention for shifting my residence to the ground floor, there was a swift response. Within about two days, officials from the Board came to my home and after examining the vacancies, they got me a dwelling in the ground floor.”

After a pause, the young advocate went on saying, “I had to believe it for myself. Within no time, I conveyed my thanks to the Collector and his team on Facebook…This had been possible through the Facebook only,” he asserted.

Anitha Rajarajan, a resident of Vallabhai Road, came to know of the Facebook channel through some of her friends.

Immediately, she wrote about the hospital waste being dumped by some people right in front of her house…After a day of communicating in the network to Mr. Anshul Mishra, the Madurai Corporation officials swung into action and cleared the garbage and cleaned up the area.

“It was unbelievable that the field staff came to the spot and acted with vigour in no time…Thanks to the Collector and the Corporation officials,” she said and offered to assist the authorities in whatever way possible to keep the city litter-free.

She is the founder of Soroptimist International’s Madurai chapter.

Like Ms. Anitha Rajarajan, there is another Facebook account holder, who brought to the notice of the Collector the installation of a diesel power generator by a private photocopy shop owner in Periyar bus stand.

On seeing the photo uploaded on the Facebook, the Collector forwarded it to the Assistant Commissioner of Madurai Corporation for action, who took steps to remove it.

Now, the Collector has asked the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board authorities to find out how such a gen-set was installed in a public place without permission.

That the inquiry is under way is a different story.

Movie-goers

Civic and other issues related to administration are not the only ones that get highlighted here.

Many youngsters have chosen the Facebook route to complain about the high rates charged by cinema houses in Madurai district.

Many movie-goers have scanned the tickets and pasted them in the Facebook for the Collector's attention. This has resulted in officials undertaking raids in cinema houses.

In fact, as a sequel, fines were imposed and the licence of one cinema house was even suspended.

Still, the menace of collecting high fares keeps recurring, but the youngsters are satisfied that the officials are taking action.

The conversations the youngsters have on the network give an impression that they do not want to remain mute spectators, when it comes to corruption and illegal acts.

Suggestions

Some of the Facebook account holders wanted other government agencies, say the Corporation of Madurai, Commissioner of Police, the Railways or the BSNL, to have a similar network, which gives them better connectivity with the authorities and simultaneous action at a faster pace.

The government can instruct all the District Collectors to follow Madurai, which has been a forerunner in the e-field, Mr. Shanmuganathan opined.

The staff at the Collector’s camp office, who monitor the account, said that on an average 30 to 35 public posts on grievances were received daily.

They are given a feedback with the contact numbers of officials concerned for follow-up.

When contacted, the Collector said, “We are able to address 70 to 80 per cent of the issues directly, if they are within our purview. Issues concerning other departments/Central agencies may take some time.

Other than writing about problems, many public also share their views on adopting safe practices which would help in prevention of dengue.

Recently, when some girl students in a government hostel in Chokkikulam wanted the Collector to help them establish a library on their premises, the request was posted in the Facebook account. On seeing this, a large number of people/philanthropists have come forward to contribute for the noble cause.

The district administration is contemplating setting up a grievance redressal-cum-information centre, with National Informatics Centre server as it would be more authentic. It is basically a unified system, bringing all of them under one umbrella. A proposal has been sent to the government for its nod,” he summed up.

The Facebook is the people-friendly face of the Madurai district administration.