iconimg Monday, March 30, 2015

Prasad Nichenametla, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, August 22, 2011
The government is taking steps to show the public rallying for Anna Hazare that it is serious about tackling corruption, although it doesn’t seem to be giving into the demand for the Jan Lokpal bill. Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh on Monday said the government is preparing a grievance redressal bill to address people’s problems in accessing their entitlements at the lowest level.

Ramesh’s announcement came on a day when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, while addressing the golden jubilee function of IIM, Calcutta, said corruption can’t be eradicated in one stroke. “There is no single solution. We need to act on multiple fronts,” Singh told management students.

Then Ramesh threw some light on the grievance redressal bill. “This proposal will enable people to complain against officials blocking their entitlements, from foodgrain issues under the public distribution system to applying for passport,” said Ramesh.

A strong grievance redressal mechanism is what Team Anna also demanded. Although the government’s version of the lokpal bill covers Group A officers, it leaves out lower rung officials. A vast majority of public grievances are against functioning of local-level babus such as VDOs and MROs.

Ramesh said his proposals will be based on the experience of MGNREGA — the largest social entitlement programme in the world. “Mine is not the nodal ministry. I will send the draft bill to the law ministry so that a proper mechanism can be worked out,” added Ramesh. “The bill idea was discussed in the Cabinet meeting.”

Public entitlements fall under two categories, Central and state, but both are delivered by states through various agencies such as panchayats, fair price shops, PHCs, etc. These come under the ambit of various Central and state departments.

“The lokpal should not be seen as standalone solution. We have brought Right to Information Act, which is showing impact. Judicial accountability and whistle-blowers bills are also in Parliament. The fifth, a public grievances bill, will be one more step towards dealing with corruption,” said Ramesh.