June 12, 2013 3:02:45 am
In Punjab,ones personal details and income are as good as one declares them to be. The state has been moving towards cutting down on affidavits,with an Aadhar card rather than a village lambardar certifying ones residence,and with senior government officers seeking travel allowance no longer required to testify through 10 affidavits that their tour bills are correct.
Doing away with unnecessary affidavits,Punjabs first step towards governance reforms and undertaken in 2009-10,has helped bring down the number of affidavits at suvidha kendras by 13 lakh in two years. According to data compiled by the Department of Goverannce Reforms,Punjab in 2009-10 saw 14.88 lakh affidavits filed at these kendras. After the government decided self-declarations would be enough for several services a list that is now over 100 the number of affidavits fell to 1.1 lakh in 2011-12.
That amounts to an annual saving of Rs 600 crore for the people,the Punjab Governance Reforms Commission has worked out. And the figure,says commission chairman Dr Pramod Kumar,does not include the harassment one had to undergo to prepare an affidavit.
Other than the 10 or 11 services for which an affidavit is mandatory under state and central laws,such as getting a passport or an arms licence,Punjab has done away with all affidavits that were local inventions.
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Most affidavits were invented by local institutions or departments,the colonial legacy of not trusting Indians. Why should a gazetted officer be more honest than a citizen? says Kumar. So the first step towards bridging the trust deficit between the government and the cititzen was to get rid of the affidavits not required by law. If a person gives a false self-declaration,he is liable to face action under Section 200 of the IPC,the same as for giving a wrong affidavit.
Complaints of government institutions and departments demanding affidavits are,however,still coming up. The commission,which has no powers to take punitive action,only writes to the departments; there is no follow-up action. To ensure that government institutions and departments dont demand affidavits done away with,the commission is banking on the Right to Service Commission,the watchdog for ensuring time-bound delivery of services.
The RTS Commission,in turn,says weeding out affidavits is under the purview of the Governance Reforms Commmisssion. It has so far restricted itself to ensuring delivery of the 69 government services,including 20 police services,and to initiating action against those responsible for any delay.
This month,the number of applications received under the RTS Act will cross the one-crore mark. Up to March,the RTS Commission had imposed fines in five cases against seven officers where harassment was found. It took suo motu action in 60 cases. Pendency is less than one per cent 80 per cent of applications are about birth certificates,SC certificates,copy of FIR and revenue records. which can be quickly disposed of. What takes longer is services such as renewal of an arms licence,or demarcation of land for approving building plans.
So far,the focus was on awareness about the RTS Act. But there are some areas where performance has not been up to the mark. The department of e-governance is working on making the entire system online. Once that happens,the working of both RTS and governance reforms will get streamlined, says S C Agrawal,chief commissioner,RTS Commission.
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