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Crusade for accountability bears fruit

Satyasundar Barik
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It has taken six years for Baghambar Patnaik to make this happen

It is based on recommendation of Lok Pal It is novel attempt to make administration accountable
It is based on recommendation of Lok Pal It is novel attempt to make administration accountable

One person's six-year-long dogged pursuance to make the administration accountable has fructified in Orissa paving paving the way for scores of people to get their problems redressed.

Meet 62-year-old Baghambar Patnaik who is now successfully following up with each district magistrate and superintendent of police to provide acknowledgement slips to people against their submission of letters or applications in government offices.

His lone fight has now forced 18 district magistrates and more than 16 SPs to convey the message to their line departments to acknowledge applications being received from the general public.

The single letter, which has been in wide circulation in top to bottom administration as a result of the sheer perseverance, is based on recommendation of Lok Pal who had in 2004 expressed displeasure regarding non-acknowledgement of the letters or application received from general public and non-attendance to communication.

Lok Pal had then recommended that, “if this practice is followed, there will be no occasion for the people to feel that their applications are not duly attended in any office. Applications not kept in the file concerned or lost, are the causes of maladministration. People lose faith in administration. Therefore, I have no doubt that Collector will look into the matter and instruct the receiving officer of his office either to give the diary number or to put signature on the slip produced by the applicant indicating details of the document in the brief.”

“In case a copy of the document is produced along with original, a receipt stamp with signature can also be put there in order to eradicate maladministration,” Lok Pal had added.

Recommendations

The set of recommendations was forwarded to the State government when the 62-year-old social activist moved Lok Pal following misplace of one of his letters in the Puri district Collectorate in 2004. But Mr. Patnaik was not given a copy of the Lok Pal letter served to government. When the historic RTI Act was implemented, he retrieved the recommendation letter from the files of office of Lok Pal. He did not sit idle after winning the first round of battle. Taking to the issue to logical end, he started filing scores of RTI applications to know whether respective district Collectors and SPs had conveyed the Lok Pal message to other offices or not.

In 2010, the activist saw to it that even gram panchayat offices received the instruction that people must be acknowledged for submission of their letters.

“My idea is to make people aware that it is their right to get receipt from government offices. If they secure a proof of acknowledgement then only they could follow it up by exercising the RTI Act,” Mr. Patnaik said.

Commenting on the mission, State Information Commissioner Jagadananda said, “It is a novel attempt to make the administration accountable. Every government office must acknowledge people's application.”

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