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Three years on rights body in Uttarakhand remains a toothless body

Three years after the Uttarakhand government set up the Right to Service Commission for speedy service delivery, it remains a “toothless body” with politicians and bureaucrats resisting proposals for vesting it with punitive powers to function effectively

dehradun Updated: Feb 20, 2018 21:33 IST
Deep Joshi
Deep Joshi
Hindustan Times, Dehradun
Uttarakhand news,Right to Service Commission,BC Khanduri
The commission was set up in 2014, three years after the then BC Khanduri-led BJP government enacted the Right to Service Act , 2011. (HT File Photo.)

Three years after the Uttarakhand government set up the Right to Service Commission for speedy service delivery, it remains a “toothless body” with politicians and bureaucrats resisting proposals for vesting it with punitive powers to function effectively, officials said.

The commissioRight to Service Actn was set up in 2014, three years after the then BC Khanduri-led BJP government enacted the (RSA), 2011.

Under the law, more than 160 services in 18 departments were notified, legally empowering commission to hear public complaints about delays in delivery services, officials said.

The services included speedy delivery of birth and death certificates or documents required for mutation in cases of inheritance or will among others.

“The basic objective of the law was to ensure delivery of services to citizens within a given time limit and in a transparent manner,” an official at the commission, who did not wish to be named, said.

“It was also aimed to check corruption at all levels of bureaucracies.”

People familiar with the matter said the panel failed to serve the purpose with which it was constituted.

“It remains a body without teeth and claws due to the two fundamental flaws in the law that governs the commission,” one of the person familiar with the matter, said.

“One of these basic flaws is that it (law) doesn’t vest the commission with punitive powers or powers to impose fines on officials it finds guilty of delays in delivering services to citizens,” said another person.

The commission being the third appellate authority is another major flaw in the law, the person said.

“The main problem lies in officials of the (18) departments notified under the law governing the panel acting as the first and second appellate authorities,” an official said, adding that the officials mostly “protect” the interests of their own departments.

Citing an example, he said that if a person approaches the officials with a complaint, they either leave the complaint unacknowledged or dispose it off without resolving the problem.

“This happens at the levels of both the appellate authorities as they tend to protect the flawed procedures, which result in slow delivery of services, ” a bureaucrat, who did not wish to be named, said, adding that district magistrates, sub divisional magistrates and director-level officials act as the first and second appellate authorities.

Such procedures “being lengthy and time consuming are also equally discouraging” for the people, the official said.

Few aggrieved citizens approach the third appellate authority--the commission-- for redressal of their grievances.

In the last three years, since the commission was set up, it has received more than 550 complaints about delays in the delivery of services out of which, 280 complaints are for the (18) notified departments and the rest for the departments that are not notified under the law.

“These complaints were disposed of but largely to no effect as the commission had no powers to impose fine on the guilty officials,” said a source.

The commission repeatedly submitted proposals urging the government to amend the law empowering the panel to impose fine on the guilty officials, but to no effect.

Sources said the commission had also proposed that the state government include 174 more services within the ambit of the RSA.

Alok Kumar Jain, chief commissioner of the commission said: “We have been making suggestions to different administrative departments for procedural reforms. Unfortunately, most of the letters of the commission go unacknowledged,” he said.

“I wish there was stronger emphasis by all the structures of the governance for the betterment of the citizens and not the other way round.”

First Published: Feb 20, 2018 21:33 IST