Bribery, delay biggest hurdles in availing government services in Tamil Nadu, reveals NGO survey

Chennai: A survey conducted by anti-corruption NGO Arappor Iyakkam has revealed that bribery, delay and lack of transparency in process were the biggest hurdles in availing government services in Tamil Nadu.

It lays bare the corrupt system in place in government offices, particularly those like E-Seva centres and Revenue and Registration department.

According to the data collected 93% of respondents were asked to pay bribes, 82% were dissatisfied with the experience of accessing services. 84% of the respondents preferred appeals on service-related issues to be probed by an independent commission.

The survey was conducted to help prepare a list of features that are to be included in the Tamil Nadu Right to Service Act.

The NGO had sought promise for passage of the Right to Service Act from all parties contesting this year’s assembly election. The DMK which swept the polls had also promised the passage of this Act in their manifesto and the Governor’s inaugural address also made a mention about the government’s commitment in passing the Act.

The model bill was compiled by the NGO volunteers by incorporating the feedback from the survey and by considering the best elements of similar Acts in Kerala, Karnataka, Punjab, and Madhya Pradesh.

Some of the key features of the draft Bill are the guaranteed right of every applicant to avail services in time. Government offices and online portals must mention a list of services with the time required, eligibility, amount, procedure, designated officer etc. It also says that every applicant must be provided a unique tracking number, using which service status can be checked online.

In case the service is rejected, the applicant must be notified via post and online mode regarding the specific reason.

Under the proposed law, applicants can also make the first appeal against the rejection of service to the first appellate authority within thirty days. This appeal status also would be trackable via an online portal.

The appellate authority is required to decide on the appeal, within 15 days of having received the appeal and must cascade the order to the designated officer. Within five working days of having received the order, the designated officer must provide the service.

It also mentions that the state government must constitute an independent body known as “Tamil Nadu Right to Service Commission”, for appeals on rejection of service/lack of reply etc. This commission would consist of a Chief Commissioner and ten Commissioners who are to be selected by the Chief Minister, opposition leader, or Chief Justice of High Court.

In cases where the applicant has suffered a delay in accessing the service, a compensation of Rs 500 to 90% of the penalty amount must be mandatorily given.

The NGO urged the government to place the draft Bill before the public to seek the feedback of the masses, before tabling it in the state assembly.