All for Creating a more People-Friendly Guwahati
Pallav Jha, Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup Metro is a people's man. He talks to MELANGE about various matters pertaining to the landscape of civic administration and shares a set of profound insights.
The various schemes envisaged under the Panchayat and Rural Development Department are working to transform the rural landscape in terms of livelihood, social security and infrastructure. There are a number of state owned projects like ORUNODOI, Amrit Sarovar, Aadarsh Gram Yojna which have been planned keeping the potential of Assam in mind and the Assamese rural landscape. Most of them are working well through monitoring by a wide network of a DRDA and Zilla Parishad administration apart from support by various line departments.
You took charge as the Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup Metro in November last year. Can you please share your views on how the law and order framework of the district can be strengthened?
The law and order administration in Kamrup Metropolitan is different from other districts of Assam being a Police Commissionerate. Nevertheless civil administration has an important role in terms of intervening on the triggers of crime and breach of public peace. The strengthening of land dispute resolution mechanism, employment generation, drug addiction reduction measures, rehabilitation of child, women in distress and destitute, control of arms licensing, enforcement of excise department, listing of trouble mongers etc are some of the areas of the administration which are constantly reviewed and monitored and it enables to work on those triggers for keeping crime and public nuisance in check. Land related Lok Adalat, constant review of POSCO cases, trafficking cases and child labour rescue by District Task Force, Livelihood and Skill Mission activities, Nasha Mukt Bharat Abhiyan are some of those interventions which act as an important component for strengthening the law and order framework.
Fast tracking criminal cases has become an urgency given the fact that even the victims of very heinous crimes have to await justice in our country for irrational stretches of time. However, ironically despite the emphasis on fast track courts in recent years, justice has not dispensed even today in some of the most sensationally brutal cases. Please share your views on this.
The timely disposal and effective disposal of criminal cases are dependent on coordination of both judiciary and police investigation and the principle adopted by courts in India is presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt and hence smooth coordination between these two wings is of utmost importance to address the pendency issue. Regular workshop, informal discussion group sessions of thana level official, public prosecutors and Judicial Magistrates is the need of the hour for fast tracking cases of clear cut heinous crimes. Judiciary should guide clearly on procedural aspect and its expectations from the police investigation. Capacity building of forensic labs and increase in such labs is also very much needed.
Please share your thoughts in terms of the ongoing Panchayat and Rural Development Schemes. Are these being efficiently implemented? What are some challenges and areas of improvement? In your view how can these improvements be brought about?
The various schemes envisaged under the Panchayat and Rural Development Department are working to transform the rural landscape in terms of livelihood, social security and infrastructure. Apart from flagship schemes of Government of India like MGNREGA,PMAY(G), 14th and 15th Finance Infrastructure Works, Jal Jeevan Mission and various social security schemes there are a number of state owned projects like ORUNODOI, Amrit Sarovar, Aadarsh Gram Yojna which have been planned keeping the potential of Assam in mind and the Assamese rural landscape. Most of them are working well through monitoring by a wide network of a DRDA and Zilla Parishad administration apart from support by various line departments.
Challenges in rural development in Assam come from the terrain and seasonality which affects both the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the works undertaken. Improvements can be brought about by more technological interventions and more regional planning based on terrain analysis, agro climatic zonation, market interventions etc. A good example is how social security schemes have seen a sea change in their effectiveness and efficiency once direct benefit cash transfer has started.
How do you envisage stemming our irregularities and improving the public distribution system of the district?
Public Distribution System (PDS) PDS is the most important social security government scheme and provides food security to a large population and gains more importance in the context of Assam with its constant and perennial vulnerabilities to disaster. At the same time the issue of irregularities and corruption is a major challenge at all the stages in this wide network of taking food grains from godowns of FCI to the food plate of poorest of the poor.
Large scale measures of seeding each and every ration card with AADHAR, mobile number and bank account is going on and aimed at 'One Nation One Ration Card' where inter and intra state portability of ration card becomes a reality along with use of e-POS machines at Fair Price Shops which check the biometrics of the receiver along with quantity supplied which gets reflected on a district level dashboard. In Kamrup Metro most of the Fair Price Shops are already doing these exercise and its pleasure during field visits to see this movement towards transparency and accountability happening in such a crucial sector of public administration.
Please elaborate on some initiatives that have been undertaken/or are to be undertaken in your tenure in terms of stemming out corruption
Corruption has some peculiar causes and there are some grey areas on which middlemen and corrupt individuals operate. A trust deficit emanating from the lack of communication between government and citizens and most importantly a lack of procedural clarity on citizen centric services leads to corruption. Under Kamrup Metropolitan District the maximum chunk of such allegations come from the land and revenue administration. So, bringing more systems into automation cutting down on human intervention, creating open and timely spaces for citizen grievance hearing and redressal, bringing time boundedness in service delivery and strict penal action against individuals involved in corrupt practices are some attempts to reduce the menace.
A major landmark decision on this front came from the Government of Assam in the form of Mission Basundhara which addressed long pending land issues in a time bound and transparent manner. Constant deterrents are also created in form of punitive and police action against individuals. Both these processes are ongoing and strengthening the whole administrative set up backed by the political will.
Locally, we have attempted direct interactions between the chair of Deputy Commissioner and individuals having grievances related to land in the presence of all revenue administration officials starting from circle offices to revenue related branches of the office of Deputy Commissioner. The attempt is to arrive at a collective decision in terms of proceeding on the case along with giving a timeline to the individual for disposal of the grievance.
We have conducted few such LOK Adalats and the results have been a great learning process for officials and translated to hope for the citizens.
We are also revamping the whole Public Facilitation Centre for bringing in more procedural clarity for citizen centric services through information boards, time bound service delivery and bringing in IT tools enabling people to follow up on their applications. This is work in progress.
The citizens of Guwahati often feel that they have to wait long hours and even days to meet officials in the DC office. Many feel that the grievance redressal mechanism is rather sub-optimal. How do you think these concerns can best be addressed?
We are attempting to create a system where people do not have the need to meet the officials and the common citizen centric services are delivered in a time bound manner without hassles.
Nevertheless, it is a fact that officials of the DC office of Kamrup Metropolitan are much more occupied in relation to other districts of Assam and I can vouch for it since it's my fifth district holding the chair of DC. But then the Swagatam portal was launched in the month of December to enable an online appointment system for citizens. Through this they can apply and fix appointment online with the officials on a mutually convenient date and time with options for accommodating last minute changes. It was publicized widely too. The link is available on Kamrup Metropolitan District website and people who know about it are accessing it and using it.
Lok Adalat is another attempt to facilitate such meetings but then it's upon citizens to make use of such opportunities. We are also working to improve this aspect.