The core message that the Chief Minister’s 24x7 call centre, inaugurated on September 2, gave at the end of the day was that the administration needed an overhaul at the lower levels.

On the opening day itself, about 2.25 lakh calls reached the centre. However, the Centre could attend to only 6,315 calls. Of them, 4,220 complaints were recorded and sent for action.

The large number of complaints indicated serious flaw in the administration that forces people in numbers to reach the Chief Minister’s complaints redressal systems. Though an official release said that most calls were to felicitate the initiative, it was clear that the flow of complaints too was heavy. Many of these were long standing issues which did not get much attention owing to official apathy.

One of the inaugural calls attended by the Chief Minister himself was the case of a missing bride. The case was about six years old and much investigation had not gone into it, though the bride went missing within a few days of the bridegroom taking her to Dubai with him. The other was from the son of a KSRTC driver who had died, earlier, while on duty, following cardiac arrest.

Each complaint recorded at the call centre goes to a section officer who can refer it for decision at the level of the Minister, government secretary, department head or district level officer. The officer concerned is expected to give an interim reply within 48 hours. If the reply is delayed by more than five days, the department head will receive an SMS alert automatically from the system. If the matter is delayed beyond ten days, the government secretary concerned will get an alert. If matter is still pending on the 14th day, an alert will go to the Minister concerned. On the 15th day, an SMS alert will be automatically sent to the Chief Minister’s office if the issue is remaining unresolved. Once a decision is taken, it will be communicated to the Section Officer and the complainant will received an SMS message on disposal of the complaint.

It is obvious that even this computerized system would get bogged down if the number of complaints is high. (A system for filing complaints in the Motor Vehicles Department is yet to be fully effective.) Complaints may only increase, at least for the time being, if the system functions efficiently. A solution would be to have efficient systems for redressal of complaints at least at the district level. Already a proposal had been made that the collectors should set apart a day for attending to complaints.

It is hoped that Right to Services Bill, which the Cabinet has approved in principle, would help to reduce complaints about delays in various services when it is enacted and enforced. It seeks to provide for a fine of Rs. 250 a day on the official responsible for providing the service for delays subject to a maximum of Rs. 5000. This is proposed on the lines of the provisions in the Right to Information Act. However, the enforcement part of the Act remains weak in the State. Officials from the Secretariat services were deputed to the State Information Commission and political appointments were made to the Commission affecting overall functioning of the Commission. What would be worth watching is whether similar situation would arise regarding the right to services also.

Keywords: RTI Act