Right to Services: No uniformity leaves citizens in no man’s land

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Nov 07, 2014 21:20 IST

Sneha G, 19, went to the Regional Transport Office (RTO) at Andheri to get her driving licence earlier this year. She had done the online search and was armed with the documents needed. But there, at the office, she realised that the process would move ahead if she recruited a helpful agent. Even so, when she enquired how many days it would take for her to get her licence, she was told: “From a few minutes to 10 days”. It was nearly two weeks before she held it in her hands.

Curious about the time it should have taken, she looked up the right to services legislations and came up against this: the RTO was in Mumbai, one of the 15 RTOs and 35 deputy RTOs in the state, but the licencing process was governed by the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, a central legislation. “Between so many levels and offices, we citizens get badly tossed around,” she said.

It’s a typical case of how officials across public offices are evading or circumventing delivery of services and stretching time limits even when Citizen’s Charters have been drawn up for the concerned departments.

Citizens use public services from a plethora of offices and departments affiliated to either the central government, state government or their local civic body. The differences between these authorities in their approach to the Right to Services (RTS) mechanism, including the legal mandate it enjoys in each, often ends up confusing citizens and allows the authorities to escape timely delivery of services.

“The Act to provide services is there. But the bureaucracy will use every trick in the book to avoid giving service to citizens on time. If differences of legislation or Rules are being cited to avoid giving service on time, it makes sense to bring all public service departments under one law,” said Vijay Kumbhar, Pune-based social activist and RTS campaigner.

This is particularly noticeable in cases where more than one entity is involved, for example a state government department and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), said activists campaigning for stronger implementation of the existing legislation.

There’s a debate about whether it is best to implement the existing law that governs services and time frames -- the Maharashtra Government Servants Regulation of Transfers and Prevention of Delay in Discharge of Duties Act in 2006 – or enact a new law as proposed by the chief minister.

The law was made applicable to civic bodies through the Maharashtra Municipal Corporations and Municipal Councils (Second Amendment) Act, 2010.

Accordingly, the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act too stands amended to include the right to services and time limits in which they should be provided. The BMC has a Citizen’s Charter and provides some services online. However, the experience of citizens is different.

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