This could be the strongest antidote to corruption in recent times.
The Central Vigilance Commission has instructed government departments to put all application forms that lead to interface with public and businesses on the internet by December-end.
The commission has also set a April 1, 2007 deadline for departments to start posting on the website the status of applications received and keep on updating this information on a regular basis.
Significantly, the directive that would make "first-come first-served" principle the norm, casts the net wide; right from applications for a driving licence and approval of building plans to environmental clearances for industrial projects, allotment of petrol pumps, sanction of funds to NGOs and registration of contractors and suppliers and the status of their bill payments.
Central Vigilance Commissioner Pratyush Sinha said the instructions were issued to improve vigilance administration last week. "I think the deadline is realistic… We do not foresee any problem in its implementation," Sinha told Hindustan Times.
Departments would also have to put online all information relating to laws, rules and procedures governing the issue of licenses, permissions and clearances so that applicants know just what to expect.
The instructions, that seek to make systemic improvements to prevent the possibilities of corruption, also go ahead to hit out at a common strategy adopted by babudom to harass applicants and extract a bribe; raising one query after another to delay processing of requests on the pretext of incomplete forms.
"Repeated queries in a piece-meal manner should be viewed as a misconduct having vigilance angle," the 22 November circular that covers central government departments, central public sector undertakings and union territory administrations including Delhi government, said. As far as possible, the commission asked them to put arrangements in place by January 1, 2007 so that applicants are informed of the deficiencies immediately after the receipt of an application.
In the longer term, the commission also asked all organisations to explore the feasibility for accepting forms over the internet and where feasible, come up with a time frame to introduce the facility.
All forms including priced forms should be online by January 1, 2007
Status of applications should be online by April 1, 2007
Repeated queries in a piece-meal manner be treated as misconduct with vigilance angle
Examine feasibility of receiving forms online
Illustrative list of public dealing activities covered by CVC directive
(some of them have been covered in para 4)
Land and Building related issues: Applications for mutation; conversion from leasehold to freehold of land and buildings; approval of building plans.
Income Tax Department: Applications for PAN card, issue of certificates for immigration or public contracts or request for IT exemption from NGOs.
Education: Application for accreditation by bodies like AICTE, recognition of school by Director of Education.
Petroleum: Application for allotment of petrol pumps/gas stations.
Telecom: Applications for establishing STD booths.
Transport: Issue of driving licenses, registration of vehicles and fitness certificates and release of impounded vehicles.
Food and Hotel Industry: Applications for clearances, licenses for hotels etc.
Contracts and Procurements: Application for registration of contractors, suppliers or vendors; status of all bill payments to contractors and suppliers.