Time to deliver

Time to deliver

The bill for time-bound delivery of services, which has been approved by the Union cabinet, is an important step forward in easing the citizens’ difficulties in their interface with government authorities. It mandates that the services to be provided by the government should be delivered within a stipulated period of time and those responsible for delay will be penalised.

The penalty, starting with Rs 250 per day, is to be borne by the official or officials who caused the delay and not by the department, and this is expected to introduce an element of personal interest in avoiding delays. If implemented well, it can improve efficiency and accountability and reduce the scope for corruption. It is in the delivery of services that retail corruption, as in the case of getting a ration card or a birth certificate, is most seen.

This is what affects the citizens most, not big ticket scams of the 2G kind, and the new law should help to improve matters. If the delaying of a decision or giving a service was a means to earn money for officials, it now becomes an offence leading to personal loss. So it should be in interest of officials to be efficient and responsible.

Once the bill is approved by Parliament all government departments and agencies will have to prepare a citizens’ charter, giving the services offered, schedule of delivery and other details. They will also have to create the infrastructure and machinery for implementation of the law and redressal of grievances.

The proposed law has the potential to empower citizens to a greater extent than the Right to Information Act. In many ways it will be more useful for citizens and will create greater transparency in administration than many anti-corruption laws, including the much-debated Lokpal legislation.

Some states already have a similar legislation but the implementation is not entirely satisfactory. The problems in the implementation of the state laws should be studied and it must be ensured that the central law does not suffer from deficiencies.

There is a view that the proposal legislation contravenes federal principles by encroaching into states’ powers. A parliamentary standing committee has studied the bill and found that the apprehensions are unfounded. If necessary, changes can be made in the bill when it is discussed in Parliament. But it must be ensured that it does not become a victim of politics and should not be scuttled.

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