Bill to provide legal teeth to grievance redressal

Drawing on the Rural Development Ministry-sponsored Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment  Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme, the bill will provide legal teeth for people to lodge complaints against government officials at the village level if public services they are entitled to do not reach them and to get them redressed, he said here.

The draft bill will be made public for a larger debate by the end of this week. Though Ramesh's ministry was drafting the bill, it will be vetted by the law ministry.

"One of the proposals I am working on is a draft bill on grievance redressal. As you know, MGNREGA is one government programme, which has an elaborate system of institutionalised  mechanism for grievance redressal and social audit.

"So what we are working on is a grievance redressal bill that will take the MGNREGA experience and make it applicable across the board. That is, whoever has any grievance as part of an entitlement programme can take recourse to the legislation we are proposing," Ramesh told reporters.

He defended the government over the Lokpal Bill.
"I think the criticism of the government is somewhat unfair. After all it is this government that introduced the Right to Information Act. And the final RTI act has over 150 amendments suggested by civil society," Ramesh said.

He said the grievances grievances bill will be the fifth in the series of legislations, beginning with RTI Act, to ensure transparency and  accountability in government functioning.

"The Lokpal bill that the government has submitted and placed in parliament should not be seen as a stand-alone legislation. There are the Lokpal bill, whisle blowers bill and the judicial accountability bill. These three legislations are in parliament already.

"This (grievance redressal) bill is the fourth that we are working on now and I hope to make this  draft public by the end of this week will address the problem of grievance redressal at the local level," Ramesh said.

Noting that the Lokpal Bill dealt with problems of corruption at high places, the minister said the  grievances redressal bill proposed "to take the MGMREGA experience to put in place a system so that grievances of the ordinary people against government functionaries at cutting edge levels are also addressed."

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