GUWAHATI, July 8: The Assam Right to Public Services Act has been going awry for the past two years, so is the time-bound public service delivery system in the State.
After coming to power, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal reviewed various activities under the Act and said that he would bring about some changes so as to make the Act vibrant. However as of now nothing has been done towards that end. Activities under the Act have nearly come to a grinding halt in the State.
One of the very important objectives of this Act is time-bound delivery of various public services rendered by the Government to citizens and to provide a mechanism for punishing the errant public servant who is deficient in providing services stipulated under the statute. This apart, this Act is meant to reduce corruption among government officials and to increase transparency and public accountability.
The Right to Public Service Act was enacted by the Centre in 2011 and the Assam Government implemented the Act in 2013. As many as 56 public services, including providing copies of land records, issuing domicile certificates, caste certificates, birth certificates, marriage certificates, power connections, permissions for construction of building, post-mortem reports, migration certificates etc were brought under it. The general public used to get most of these services from their respective Deputy Commissioner offices instead of running from department to department when the implementation of the Act was smooth. At Dispur the nodal department that has to look after all these services under this Act is Personnel. However, lethargy in the department and lack of adequate staff strengths in the offices of deputy commissioners has made this Act lose its very objectives in the State.
Every department has a designated public servant (DPS) for monitoring public services under the Act. However, as often as not, a section of DPS refuses to accept applications from the public for one or the other pretexts. This, in most of the cases, happens because such officials are overburdened. They are bound to deliver the service when they accept applications from the public. If they fail to deliver public service in the stipulated time, they will invite penalty to be slapped on them. Thus, along with the Act, both transparency and public accountability have gone awry in the State.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who is at the helm of affairs of the Personnel Department, has been putting both men and money on ensuring transparency and corruption-free administration in the State. If he really means business, why doesn’t he start from ground zero – reviving the Assam Right Public Service Act with more vigour?