A small conference room, right opposite Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s office on the third floor of Bhubaneswar’s Lok Seva Bhawan, lights up every day as a giant wall-mounted LED screen starts to brighten.
On the screen is displayed a picture of Patnaik. Next to him is the text “Mo Sarkar” (My Government) written in Odia. The dashboard prompts the user for an id and password, which when entered brings up a home screen that displays the number of calls made to citizens so far. The rest of the giant screen displays a selection menu displaying a gamut of options categorised as Home, H&FW (Health and Family Welfare), Industries, A&FE (Agriculture and Farmers Welfare) etc. The other selection categories, designed as a drop-down menu, are date, district, gender and age group.
Senior bureaucrats working in the Chief Minister’s Office choose names and numbers by applying the various selection criteria. Phone calls are made every single day to collect, record and document conversations with these chosen citizens regarding their feedback on government services and departments.
Launched on October 2, on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, Mo Sarkar is the Odisha government’s citizen-centric project that takes feedback from ordinary people regarding their experience at the government-run facilities in the state. The project places special emphasis on citizens visiting police stations and government-run hospitals, which as per CMO officials, are “two critical places where usually a distressed citizen visits for relief”.
Importance of Mo Sarkar move
At the heart of the Mo Sarkar initiative is the desire of the chief minister to bridge the gap between the highest political decision maker in the state and the most far-flung citizen. By systematically following up on citizens who have complained or reached to the government for any kind of help, the Odisha CM's office is ensuring that it can fix the governance gaps in the state machinery.
“One goes to a police station or a hospital mostly during a crisis. The CM has instructed that visitors to these places be treated professionally and courteously by government officials. CMO, along with all heads of departments, make thousands of phone calls per day to randomly sample feedback from citizens,” says an officer who is part of Mo Sarkar’s backend operations at the CMO. “When people visit these places, their name and number are recorded and uploaded to the Mo Sarkar portal so a feedback call can be made within few days”, he says. Mo Sarkar employs quantitative evaluation criteria with 1 being least satisfied and 5 being most satisfied.
Salhay Baskey, 24, works as a crisis coordinator with a private telephone network company. He had approached the police on behalf of his company, which was regularly facing problems as local miscreants destroyed the optical fibre cable in Odisha’s Boudh district. “I have had to register complaints in other districts before Mo Sarkar was launched but did not get police help we needed. However, when I did so in December, after Mo Sarkar was underway, police were prompt to act,” said Baskey.
Calling the telephone feedback “tech-enabled resurrection of the old durbar system”, the CMO official adds, “Poor people in far-flung areas cannot always bring their grievances up to the CM or his office in Bhubaneswar. But a simple phone call from the CMO can tell us a lot about what is going on in a police station in any part of the state”.
There are others like Moharana, a carpenter, who also visited Saheed Nagar police station earlier this month, who register their anger and disappointment as well. “I had gone to file an FIR against some family members who are harassing me and wife over money. The inspector did not register it… In my feedback call, I gave my experience with police a zero on five,” Moharana said.
According to CMO officials, the first negative feedback regarding a police station or personnel will spark a number of calls to other people, who have visited the same place. Multiple reports of negative feedback will lead to demanding an explanation from the police officer, which if inadequate can result in action or adversely affect the officer’s promotion.
But requesting feedback over the phone can face technical snags such as respondents being “out of coverage area” etc. Similarly, women complainants from lower-income households provide phone numbers that belong to their husbands or other male members of the family and as such, they cannot be reached.
Some high-ranking police officers find the project having “privacy” concerns as well. “People should not be discussing their police complaints over the phone. What if the rival party of a person in a dispute calls posing as someone from the CMO?” said an IPS serving as a district SP requesting anonymity.
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