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Do government departments practise what they preach?

A government’s various departments are mandated with certain duties essential to their core functioning. While central ministries have to broaden their vision for the bigger picture, at times it might help to narrow their gaze.

delhi Updated: Jun 09, 2012 22:22 IST
Samar Khurshid

A government’s various departments are mandated with certain duties essential to their core functioning. While central ministries have to broaden their vision for the bigger picture, at times it might help to narrow their gaze.

Sometimes, one does not need a long-winded report from the Comptroller Auditor General to see if the government is doing it’s job, or rather doing it well. Spot checks of different ministries can reveal that many of them are either failing in their duties or simply ignoring them — that too in their own backyard, Delhi.

Take for example, the ministry of social justice and empowerment. They might have made their website handicap-friendly with screen reader access but most of their offices lack wheelchair ramps. So here’s a look at the four departments that we inspected.


Ministry of social justice and empowerment

The nodal agency separated its disability affairs unit for efficiency. But little things were overlooked. The office of the commissioner for people with disabilities — which redresses grievance — on Canning Lane, has no wheelchair access and the toilets are not handicap-friendly. The district social welfare office in Lajpat Nagar opens to a gentle slope. But the office itself has a large stoop and no ramp. Next door, the office of village cottage home has a concrete ramp, however, blocked by a bench and a small porta-cabin. The head office at GLNS complex, Delhi Gate (below) does have necessary facilities. Unfortunately, the downward path after the gate is crudely concreted, with potholes.

Verdict: It’s a great injustice that the ministry has failed in implementing simple infrastructure

Department of administrative reforms and public grievances

The public grievance branches of the central and Delhi government seem to be a source rather than solution for grievances. At Sardar Patel Bhawan (below), the public grievances office is accessible. But if you believe the receptionist, it can take 2-3 months to investigate claims. At the Delhi secretariat, a reporter was admitted only after revealing her press pass. “We can’t let everybody in because of security concerns,” claims an officer. The same third-floor grievance office was empty. And if one successfully makes it there, the grievance cell merely redirects people, by their own proclamation, to other offices rather than filing the complaint. The easiest thing to do then is to lodge an e-complaint on the website.

Verdict: The title ‘department of public grievance’ seems apt

Urban development ministry

Waste management seems to have been laid by the wayside, literally. CGO complex on Lodhi road houses over two dozen departments. Here, in a central park on a certain day, lay a mountain of leaves and garbage. The Central Public Works Department (CPWD) is responsible for the disposal of this waste, reveals a phone call to the MCD. But the public relations officer at CPWD could not be reached despite repeated attempts. The CPWD which comes under the urban development ministry has failed in its mandate. While some rubbish was from the construction on multiple floors; other offices, where no work is in progress, also sport the ubiquitous pile of brick, sand, ash and debris. The parking even had a snazzy Aston Martin parked near a dusty shell of a car, rusted beyond recognition.

Verdict: The ministry’s functioning seems to be in a mess if they have failed to tackle problems in their own complexes.

Ministry of environment & forests

The current ministry building, at CGO complex, shows a stark contradiction. With at least half a dozen air-conditioners running on each floor, the building is far from eco-friendly. In fact, the only thing green about the building is the outer façade and the sign pointing to the reception. Even the paint, one might argue, is a faded aquamarine. But the ministry is perhaps the first to follow its own advice — Under former environment minister Jairam Ramesh, a new office was commissioned to be built in Jor Bagh. The Indira Pariyavaran Bhawan office will be a one-of-a-kind goverment building. But the R100 crore-odd project (left) is underway and results remain to be seen.

Verdict: The ministry leads from the front, perhaps leaving other departments ‘green’ with envy.

With inputs by Zofeen Maqsood