At a time when political parties and candidates are mouthing platitudes about the need to develop the city in the wake of the civic polls in Bhopal, the issue of corruption and lack of transparency in the municipal body seems to have been ignored by many in their speeches.
The local government body, which issues significant certificates and documents such as birth and death certificates, property tax registration, ration cards and building permissions among others, is plagued by rampant corruption.
"There is no use talking of development if the civic body is unable to run its existing machinery smoothly. Candidates should address basic issues like documentation work and make these services available online," said president of Bhopal citizen's forum, AC Chandra.
Talking about the terrible experiences he had in trying to secure certificates and documents from the municipal office, Abdul, a resident of Koh-e-Fiza, said, "Birth and death certificates are still easier to get made but if one has to get a building permission, it is unlikely that it would ever be made without a bribe," said.
He further added, "If the certification is for a commercial activity, then you cannot escape without paying. For other certificates, it is an endurance game between the municipal corporation clerk and you. He will keep calling you over and over again pointing out at some deficiency or other in your documentation. You need to tire out the clerk by responding to his queries all the time instead of paying up," he added.
Making these services online has been a long standing plan for the municipal corporation and hefty amounts have been spent on preparing software and buying computers as well. However no serious attempt has been made to implement these plans as it would be a major deterrent to corruption.
"Norms for making services online was a provision in the JNNURM. But there is a lack of will for its implementation which is why people find it difficult to get documents issued from the corporation," said former Mayor Sunil Sood.
"The resistance for making services online comes from within the municipal corporation as officials and the corporators are not keen on bringing transparency to the system. A number of corporators double up as touts acting as facilitators for getting documents made for a commission," said an official, who has served in the municipal corporation previously, on the condition of anonymity.