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Bihar celebrates own I-Day Act to keep officials,corruption in check

Act for delivery of services on time by officials sees massive response in five days

Around the same time as the Anna Hazare protest in Delhi swelled in momentum and magnitude,a wave of change was sweeping into the corridors of power in Bihar. Starting August 15,the Right to Public Service (RTPS) Act,2011,came into effect in the state. In the five days that have followed,the legislation that ensures that officials down to the lowest level are held accountable for the services they are meant to provide,within a fixed time frame,has received 2.80 lakh applications.

People have written in seeking residential certificates (1,21,617 applications),caste certificates (70,693) and income tax certificates (47,345). The body monitoring the Act’s implementation is the Bihar Prashasnik Sudhar Mission Society (Bihar Administration Clean-up Mission Society).

Realising the import of the Act — first implemented by Madhya Pradesh — at a time when corruption has caught the national imagination,Chief Minister Nitish Kumar says: “The RTPS Act is just another way to curb corruption and to provide services to all sections within a limited time. In a matter of year,people can apply for services online and get certificates online too.”

He adds: “We have now asked the Anna Hazare team to draft a Lokayukta Bill that must cover the chief minister as well.”

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Officials believe that the deluge of applications is a result of the Anna effect. Says General Administration Department (GAD) Principal Secretary Deepak Kumar: “The RTPS Act is very well-received. Very soon,we will have a computerised update on disposals.”

The government claims that successful implementation of the Act would prevent bribes amounting to Rs 200 crore every year. To guard against middlemen,who make money because of the serpentine ways of the bureaucracy,district magistrates and superintendents of police have been told to keep a hawk eye on RTPS counters. The assistant district magistrates,the “nodal officers”,are tasked with ensuring that no one tampers with the desktops used for RTPS works.

Deepak Kumar said a team had gone to Madhya Pradesh to study the Act and held long discussions with social groups,department heads and experts to make the RTPS less cumbersome.

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“RTPS services completely going online — from entry to exit stage — besides keeping it manual is a unique feature of the Bihar Act… Another new feature of the Bihar Act is applicant getting an acknowledgment number even in case of rejection of his application with a right to appeal. ‘Record every thing so that laxity can be detected’ is the thumb rule,” says the officer.

This is how the Bihar RTPS works:

It covers 50 services provided by the 10 key departments of Health,Transport,Education,Food and Civil Supplies,Registration and Social Welfare. It was a conscious decision to narrow down the Act to 50 services,instead of “going for random services”,unlike Madhya Pradesh,says GAD Principal Secretary Kumar.

A devoted team of 1,948 people,besides the existing government set-up,has to ensure that the services sought are delivered within the stipulated time — varying from seven to 30 days — with a provision of right to appeal in case of delays before two layers of appellate authorities. An officer is to pay Rs 250 fine for delay per day,with the maximum penalty not exceeding Rs 5,000.

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Though the primary responsibility for work disposal rests with the designated officers (BDO/SDO/DM/ SP),all employees involved in the process till the lowest level are given a fixed time to dispose of work.

An “Information Technology manager” (who has to be a software engineer) in each district is to coordinate with respective district magistrates. The 10 selected departments also have an IT manager each to coordinate with respective principal secretaries. This works out to two IT managers at the Bihar Prashasnik Sudhar Mission Society,besides 729 IT assistants across the state.

Employees have the right to appeal in case of vindictive behaviour by seniors.

“To avoid crowding,each block counter has to put up a disposal list for the next working day,” says the Principal Secretary. Action would be taken against a block counter in case of reports of massive jump in serial numbers of applications disposed of,indicating involvement of middlemen.

One can know the status of the application online either on the General Administration Department website or by sending an SMS.

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By January 2012,the government plans to allow online applications against registration of an applicant’s mobile number. But certificates would still be handed over manually. By end of next year,the entire process may become online,though manual services will run parallel.

A helpline in Patna guides people on the services. Besides,help counters are to be put up at headquarters of all 38 districts.

First published on: 22-08-2011 at 02:28:54 am
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