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From a township in Pune, lessons for Delhi on resolving citizen grievances

A 7am-to-10pm helpline, 8888006666, helps resolves grievances in addition to giving information.

Pune | Updated: February 6, 2014 3:03:08 pm
Sarathi helpline staff at work in Pimpri-Chinchwad.Rajesh Stephen Sarathi helpline staff at work in Pimpri-Chinchwad. Rajesh Stephen

In Pimpri-Chinchwad on the outskirts of Pune, the municipal corporation has put in place a system that allows citizens to get their grievances adressed without needing to approach a corporator. The system, called Sarathi, serves as a single window that also provides information on how one gets various civic works done.
Sarathi is among the models Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party government is looking at after Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal promised a system to address citizens’ grievances. Subash Ware, member of the Aam Aadmi Party’s national executive committee, says he had suggested that Kejriwal take a look at Sarathi. “The CM said it seemed an interesting system to resolve grievances,” says Ware. In Delhi, an AAP leader says, “We have looked at several grievance redress mechanisms throughout the country, and the Pimpri model is one  of them. Parts of it are being incorporated in the AAP model as it has seen much success.”
Sarathi has dealt with 71,000 requests and complaints in its first four-and-a-half months, and its managers claim to have resolved 90 per cent of 7,000 civic deficiency-related problems.
Sarathi, short for “system of assisting residents and tourists through helpline information”, thrives on what  Pimpri-Chinchwad  municipal commissioner Shrikar Pardeshi calls “multiple channels of access to citizens”. It guides the citizen how to deal with which question or problem,  with 743 FAQs on 39 civic departments and the answers put up in a book and on a website, An e-book and a mobile app for providing information, too, have been launched.
A 7am-to-10pm helpline, 8888006666, helps resolves grievances in addition to giving information. Twelve operators provide the information and four monitor the complaints.
“The citizen can complain about water shortage, a choked drain or a nonfunctional streetlight,” Pardeshi says. “The grievance is registered by the call operator in the form of an audio file. At the back end, a computer operator transcripts the grievance and an e-mail and an SMS are sent immediately to the concerned engineer or supervisor. Urgent grievances are to be resolved in 24 to 48 hours while others take a little more time. The resolution of grievances is discussed weekly in the meeting of heads of departments.”
A colour coding keeps officials on their toes.  Grievances are marked green the moment they cross 14 days without resolution, yellow after 21 days and red after 30. They fetch the officer concerned 2, 5 and 10 negative points respectively, says Pardeshi. The moment an officer’s score drops below minus 50, he gets a showcause notice. Once it crosses minus 75, he gets a memo; when it drops to minus 100, a departmental inquiry is started.
“In its first four-and-a-half months, the website recorded 49,320 hits, while the helpline received 21,696 calls, a daily average of about 352 website hits and 155 calls,” Pardeshi says. “These included 7,000 complaints about civic deficiencies, and 90 per cent have been resolved. Those that remain pending relate to policy decisions such as setting up a garden or constructing a school.”
Because of the response, Sarathi has also started providing information about government and semi-government organisations and services such as the collectorate, the electricity department, the RTO, ration cards, passports, cooking gas, Aadhaar registration, voters’ registration, buses and food licences.
Several states have shown an interest in Sarathi, says Pardeshi. Last month, the IT secretaries and other officials of 11 states visited Pimpri-Chinchwad to take a look at it. Pardeshi says the visit followed a suggestion by Sam Pitroda, chairman of the National Innovation Council.
Only the local politician has been grumbling. “It is an excellent system for resolving citizens complaints in quick time, but leaves the elected representatives with nothing to do,” says Bhausaheb Bhoir, president of Pimpri-Chinchwad Congress.
Corporators, in fact, recently met deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and urged him to stop the system. Pawar reportedly promised to speak to the civic administration, but officials have pointed out that the system has also started taking on a priority complaints made by the corporators themselves.

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