Do you often feel aggrieved because you have had an inflated electricity bill and when you go to the electricity office for a clarification you are unceremoniously shooed away. Or, you are getting an unfair amount of call drops and you don’t know whom to complain to for a redressal. Or, you have to get your property changed to your name and you are running from pillar to post in the concerned office and it just doesn't seem to be getting done. Most of us, at some time or the other, have had to face such problems which need redressal from some government official or organization. And, every time one attempts to find a solution to the problem or even want a simple clarification, there is no one to give even a proper hearing.
No system is perfect. There are likely to be shortcomings always. However, if these shortcomings start impacting the basic interest of the public, they have legitimate claims for the redressal of their grievances. A complaining customer can be a good opportunity to show how good you are. That is why public grievance redressal is said to be the corner stone of any well governed democracy.
Our Constitution does confer various rights on its citizens. However, the lack of an effective mechanism to deal with everyday grievances of people is still one of the weaknesses of governance in India today. Various governments, in recent years, have attempted to introduce initiatives to address the grievances of the common man as a good governance attempt. One of the earliest attempts to address the situation was the Citizen’s Charter which was first introduced in India in the 1990s. The Department of Public Grievances (DARPG) subsequently took on the task of formulating a Citizen's Charter. The components of the Citizen's Charter as outlined by DARPG include the vision and mission statement of the organization, details of grievance redress mechanisms and how to access them. Unfortunately, the Citizen's Charters of many organizations just remained a dormant document and the consumer was left more or less where he was earlier.
That was when the Right to Information Act was introduced in 2005. The RTI proved to be a landmark reform in public grievance redressal because it put the onus of redressal on the officials dealing with the particular issue and also introduced a penalty clause. This not only forced the concerned official/organization to address the grievance in a time bound manner but also reduced corruption since the complainant had access to all documents relating to the issue including file notings and enforced a situation of accountability.
With the growing concept of e-governance and “Minimum Government, Maximum Governance’, there has, of late been, an increased focus on web and mobile based grievance redressal platforms. Some of the recently introduced systems include the CPGRAMS (Centralised Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System) – a web based public grievance redressal mechanism - initiated by the DARPG to streamline and unify the process of receiving grievances relating to various Ministries/Departments; PRAGATI(Pro-active government and Timely Implementation), an interactive platform to address common man’s grievances and simultaneously monitor programmes and projects of Centre as well as State Governments, MyGov, a citizen engagement platform and E-Nivaran a paperless mode for redressal of tax related grievances etc. Various regulatory mechanisms have also been created to address grievances related to services like telecommunications (TRAI), banking (Banking Ombudsman), health services(MCI and IMA), etc.
Women are often the most vulnerable part of the population, prone to abuse at home and at the work place. Though there are various acts to protect women from domestic violence and abuse at home and at workplaces like the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013; Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961; Domestic Violence Act 2005, etc, women still end up being at the receiving end. To address these issues, the government recently introduced She Box (Sexual Harrassment electronic box), to provide a single window access to every woman to complain against any kind of harassment.
The central theme of democracy is that the government is accountable to the citizens for all policies and activities. And only an effective and efficient public grievance redressal mechanism can build trust with the citizens and assure them that it is a government 'of the people and for the people