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India: Giving Citizens Right to Public Services Through ICT
Source: southasia.oneworld.net
Source Date: Wednesday, November 02, 2011
Country: India
Created: Nov 07, 2011

The Right to Public Services Act in the Indian state of Bihar utilises ICT tools to enable the citizens to demand time-bound services from public servants ensuring corruption-free public service delivery.

In national as well as international policy circles, there is an increasing emphasis on good governance and government's critical role in development processes. Passed in April 2011 and implemented on August 15, 2011, the RTPS in Bihar is first such law in the country directed at tackling corruption, inefficiency and lack of transparency in the conduct of government affairs.

The RTPS in Bihar is an exemplary initiative by the state government to check corruption in public service delivery/ Photo credit: GKC The Right to Service Act 2011, implemented on August 15, 2011, had made it mandatory for the state government and its agencies to extend services to people within a stipulated time frame. Officials failing to meet the deadline can face penalties ranging from INR 500 to 5,000 and dismissal form service, in extreme cases. The Act currently covers 30 services and 10 departments. Information and Communication Technology tools have been utilised to make the process of implementation and monitoring streamlined, corruption-free, centralised, and less labour-intensive.

Primary components of this ICT system are Adhikar- service delivery and monitoring software; mechanisms for tracking applications; an Interactive Voice Response System wherein citizens will be able to call a helpline-Samadhan- and get clarifications about their entitlements and service covered under the Act, procedure for filing applications, track application status and connect to Public Grievance Officers; there is also a provision for on line applications and on line delivery of services.

Acknowledgement receipts are instantly generated at the time of application submission, providing applicants with authentic proof to claim redressal in case of non-delivery of services requested. Provisions for First and Second Appeals act as safety nets for the applicants as well as the penalised Designated Public Officials.

Achievements
The RTPS was introduced in Bihar on August 15, 2011. Despite being in the nascent stage of implementation, there has been a tremendous demand for its use. Figure 2 exhibits the impressive performance of the Act in the first month of its operation. Even though only a little over 50 per cent of the applications received have been disposed, the primary achievement of the programme till now has been to encourage citizens to demand public services from the government.

The way forward
Planned enhancements to the programme include introduction of tatkal (fast track) services that would allow citizens to procure services in a shorter time than the time limit stipulated under RTPS. The details- charges etc- of this provision are still in the development phase. The Government of Bihar has recognised the need to make changes in the existing administrative system with regard to new systems and processes. RTPS will subsequently be up-scaled to include more services and departments.
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