The Right to Service Act passed by the State government was expected to act as a vital catalyst in transforming bureaucrats into persons capable of empathetically and promptly discharging different services expected from them, K. Jayakumar, Vice-Chancellor of Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University in and the former Chief Secretary said, at a meet in Kozhikode.

Delivering a talk on the Right to Service Act, organised by the District Information Office in collaboration with the Press Club at the Press Club Hall on Thursday, Mr. Jayakumar said a change in the mindset, however, was necessary for the success of any such ambitious legislation.

He stressed the importance of a “new mindset” among the bureaucrats. What was required on the part of government servants was not a sense of eagerness to act according to the strict definitions of the Act, but a willingness to help the public by ensuring them what was the maximum possible by the Act. “It’s not often a law itself that makes a difference, but the kind of people who implement it thoughtfully and imaginatively for the people that make the difference,” he said.

Though at present there were only a few departments notified under the Act, the former Chief Secretary said government employees should consider it (the Act) as an opportunity to serve the people better instead of finding excuses to get away from its fold.

Stating that the discussions he made with various stakeholders prior to the formulation of the bill in his capacity as the Chief Secretary came as a rude “shock” as most of the departments were found to have an “anti-service attitude”, Mr. Jayakumar said bureaucrats seemed to have long forgotten the very meaning of the word ‘service.’ He said it was a shame on bureaucracy that it required a whole new legislation to remind government servants what was already constitutionally expected from them.

He said people should stop sending “unnecessary petitions” to the government since they would only help to “waste” and “distract” the energy of the bureaucrats.

He said there were pros and cons to the Act. He, however, maintained that the Right to Service Act was only a clarificatory act like the Right to Information Act as it only restated more clearly and precisely certain assurance already given by the Constitution.

The Act, according to him, sought to give every eligible person the right to obtain government services in a time-bound manner. “It will provide a system whereby the public can make government servants answerable in terms of their duties commitments and obligations towards the people,” he said. The Act was introduced to ensure transparency, accountability, and responsiveness of the government, Mr. Jayakumar said.

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