I. Awareness Generation
1.1 Generally, people are not aware that a system of grievance redressal exists in many of the government departments and its subordinate offices where they are required to visit. Wide publicity to create awareness regarding the redressal mechanism among people is the need of the hour especially the weaker sections of the society, women and those challenged with handicaps.
1.2 Every office should display its organisational structure at a prominent place, indicating names of officers and their functions with location of their rooms, particularly in respect of the grievance redressal officers. Every public servant should wear a name badge and be available during working hours to respond to the public in person or on phone.
2.1 Grievance handling system should be accessible, simple, quick, fair, responsive and effective. It is not uncommon to hear from people complaining against harassment, waste of time and money, repeated visits to offices, and institutionalised systems of informal payments in lieu of services.
2.2 The language and the content of various application/complaint forms should be user friendly, and should be widely available in various outlets, like post offices etc. In addition, the applications or petitions should be acknowledged through acknowledgement slips.
2.3 Time limits should be fixed for approval or rejection of applications on the basis of well publicised and uniformly applied criteria. Also, redressal should be done within a reasonable time period as prescribed for each stage of redressal without indulging in lengthy technicalities of the procedure.
III. Attitudinal Change
3.1 There is a need to bring about a total change in the attitude of public servants towards redressal of public grievances at all levels and to pinpoint responsibility for action against grievances of the people.
3.2 One step towards bringing in attitudinal change lies in improving the motivational levels of public servants through rewarding good work and awarding effective suggestions and punishing deliberate negligence. The Himachal Pradesh Specific Corrupt Practices Act equates omissions on the part of officers to discharge their statutory and bona fide duties with a corrupt practice.
IV. Official Secrets Act
4.1 The Official Secrets Act needs to be amended keeping in view the principles underlying the Right to Information Act, which clearly states that information can only be provided if it is not an official secret. The Official Secrets Act, as on date, supersedes the Right to Information Act.
V. Citizens Charters
5.1 Citizens Charters specify standards of service and time limits that the public can reasonably expect and details avenues of grievances redressal and the provisions for independent scrutiny with the involvement of citizen and consumer groups. In most departments, the Charters are only in the initial or middle stage of implementation. These need to be expedited and put in place on priority.
5.2 Further, in most cases, Citizens Charters are not formulated through a consultative process. There is a need for citizens and staff to be consulted at every stage of formulation of the Charter. There is a need for orientation of staff about the salient features and goals of the Charter. The Charters should be widely publicised through print/electronic media.
5.3 Citizens’ inter-alia ought to include:
a) A charter should not be more than one page, and in simple language.
b) What standards are expected?
c) Where can one get redressal, and in what time period?
d) Independent monitoring, such as by a firm of Chartered accounts.
e) Annual review. A built in mechanism for review should be provided in the Charter itself.
6.1 Redressal mechanism should be encouraged to provide feedback periodically for the management of systemic reform. The state governments could consider setting up independent watchdog committees at the district/block/village levels by involving civil society organisations, which are acknowledged to be closer to the populace.
6.2 These committees should report to the high-powered cells in the state government on the functioning of the local grievances redressal systems, as well as cases of negligence and delay with issues calling for systemic reform.