Painless delivery

Some light seems visible at the end of the tunnel for the harried Indian. For decades, the public has had to endure endless delays in securing services from government departments. Consequently, getting a ration card, a driving license, a birth or death certificate or a voter’s ID card has been a nightmarish experience for many of us as it has involved innumerable trips, endless running from pillar to post and finally a bribe perhaps for getting a simple job done. Now that could become history if a system the Centre proposes to put in place soon becomes a reality and is implemented efficiently. The proposed system envisages implementation of the concept of ‘service level agreements’ (SLA). This will mean that when an individual seeks a service such as the issue of a driver’s license or a birth certificate, he will have to be provided clear information by the attending official on when the task will be completed. Failure to provide the service on time will make the official liable to a fine. The system is expected to put pressure on officials to attend to their work efficiently and deliver work on time.

The system will be initiated in Delhi by April 2010 after which it will be extended to Union Territories. It is up to state governments to adopt it thereafter. Hopefully, Karnataka will not drag its feet in adopting the system. It holds out the promise of a more responsive, people-friendly and efficient administration. Steps to implement it in the state should be taken immediately.

Delay, inefficiency, red tape, harassment — these are words that have become synonymous with government departments providing public services. Delays in service delivery are not only annoying but also, this has undermined our democracy. If people do not show up to vote in large numbers, it is because getting a voter’s ID requires a person to make a dozen trips to countless offices. If India figures routinely among the most corrupt societies, it is because officials hide files, forcing people to grease their palms to get the work done. That could now change with officials having to deliver services quickly or else pay up. Much will of course depend on how steep the fines are. Our procrastinating babus, long inured in a culture of dragging their feet and sleeping on files might not deliver on deadlines if the punishment is only a light rap on the knuckles.

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