Punjab leads with Citizens' Charter

The perceptible part in Punjab’s model of Right to Service Act is its decision to put in place an apparatus that promises to reign in the Punjab police. The men in khaki in Punjab are arguably infamous for their highhandedness and corrupt ways.

Of the 67 public services that have been included under the Act, there are at least 20 police delivery services that ought to be rendered within the stipulated time frame to citizens. Failure to do so invites action under provisions of the act. The inclusion of a whole range of police delivery services is being seen as an attempt to change the face of the all-powerful police department and make it more people-friendly.

Time bound manner
Here’s what the police is expected to deliver to citizens in a time bound manner: From verification of tenants, registration and verification of servants, passport verifications, police clearance certificate, verification of vehicles, character verification for service, payment of traffic challans, information of impounded vehicles, receiving complaints of community traffic problems in the area, permission for political, sports, religious functions, NoC for arms licence and permission for loud speakers for processions will all be under the right to service act.

Punjab has made a value addition to its process of police reforms being implemented under the right to service act. Deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal said the state would soon become the first state in the country that would provide a copy of FIR online besides copy of cancellation or untraced reports online.

The other police delivery services that have been included under the Act are information on unclaimed bodies, lost vehicles, missing articles and documents, missing mobile sets, missing persons and children.

To make it workable, an important aspect of this citizen friendly initiative in Punjab is that the delivery centres for all such police services have been kept away from police stations.

To begin with 115 community policing centres, titled ‘Saanjh’ (equation), have been opened in Punjab where citizens can avail all these 20 services. All these 115 IT-enabled centres, which have a team of trained persons behind the desk, were set up in a record four months, Badal said. “There was an inherent fear among the common citizens to enter the police station for every such civil work. Therefore, these centres where the staff will dress up in civil and corporate style uniform,” he added.

 A community affairs division headed by an IGP at police headquarters would supervise the functioning of these centres across the state. Another striking part of this initiative is that these would be run by a police-public committee comprising among others members of the civil society.

The committee will include police officers, representatives of government departments, women and representatives of civil society, principals of colleges and professionals. The legislation has taken into account grievances of NRIs as well. These centres would accept applications for registration of foreigners on arrival and departure, MRG enquiries in case of lost of passport abroad, complaint of fraud and cheating by travel agents, NRIs’ complaints and queries besides extension of residential permits to foreigners.

The concept is incentive based. Badal said the cadre for community policing was separate from general police and a fixed quota of 1 per cent promotion for community police personnel has been kept. Five state medals have been earmarked for community police initiatives and performance of senior police officers in this area would be reflected in their ACRs.

Punjab’s format of the Act is not only intended to cleansing the rot within the police, but ensure time bound delivery of public services. The right to service act will render prompt delivery of general services including registration of vehicles, making of licences, ration cards, registration of land deeds, information on land records, transfer of property, approval of building plans and so on.

This the government says will cut down red tape and save citizens from the harassment of going to public offices several times pleading and even bribing to get work done.

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