CITIZEN’S CHARTER IN INDIA
CITIZEN’S CHARTER IN INDIA
- The United Kingdom pioneered the citizen’s initiative when Prime Minister John Major of the ConserativeGovernment announced it in 1991 as a measure to refocus public services towards the needs and expectations of their users.
- In India, the concept of Citizen’s Charters was first introduced in 1994 a state level conference of Chief Ministers held in May 1997, the “Action Plan for Effective and Responsive Government at the Centre and the State Levels” was adopted.
- The DAPRG defines the Citizen’s Charter in the following manner- ‘Citizen’s Charter is a document which represents a systematic effort to focus on the commitment of the Organisation towards its Citizens in respects of Standard of Services, Information, Choice and Consultation, Non-discrimination and Accessibility, Grievance Redress, Courtesy and value for Money.
Based on the UK model, the DARPG outlined the following six components for inclusion in charters drafted by public agencies:
- Vision and mission statements.
- Details of business transacted by the organization.
- Details of clients.
- Details of services provided to each client group
- Details of grievance redress mechanisms and how to access them.
- Expectations from clients.
Modalities of a Citizen’s Charter
The Citizen’s Charter Hand Bokk published by DPARG. As per the process needs to be followed to create an effective Citizen’s Charter.
- Formation of a Task Force;
- Identification of all Stakeholders and major services to be provided by the Organisation;
- Consultation with Clients/Stakeholders/staff (primarily at cutting-edge level) and their representative associations;
- Preparation of Draft Charter (Circulation for comments/suggestions;
- Consideration of the Charter by Core Group;
- Modification of Charter by Core Group;
- Approval by the Minister-in-charge;
- Submission of a copy of the charter to the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances;
- Formal issue/release of Charter and putting up on website;
- Sending copies to People’s Representatives and all stakeholders;
- Appointment of a Nodal Officer to ensure effective implementation. The process clearly indicates a bottom-up approach involving all the staff of the department especially those who deal with citizen interfaces.
Evaluations of Citizen’s Charters and way Forward
- DARPG, with the Consumer Coordination Council, New Delhi, undertook an evaluation of the Citizen’s Charters programme in 1998. The Public Affairs Centre (PAC) undertook a preliminary assessment of Citizen’s Charters drafted by eight major departments in the Government of Karnataka with substantial public dealings.
- Transparency International (TI), India conducted a study of 10 Citizen’s Charters of the Government of the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi and two departments of the Central Government. The National Productivity Council (NPC) conducted a far-reaching review of Citizen’s Charters in Gujarat.
- Another critical and influential study was the one carried out by PAC again in 2007 that included a comprehensive review of Citizen’s Charters on 10 parameters.
- The finidings from these varied studies threw up some consistent facets, the most important being that many of the Citizen’s Charters were incomplete- details regarding services provided, procedures to be followed for applying for a service, process of grievance redress, names of key officials and their contact details some aspect or the other was either not or only partially provided. The studies that involved with department staff clearly revealed that most members were not involved in the process of drafting their department’s Citizen’s Charter.
- The way forward on the basis of these findings is clear- there needs to be a two-pronged approach to ensure that every department of the government has a Citizen’s Charter- firstly, a revision of existing Citizen’s Charters to ensure that they meet with all the 10 critical parameters, and secondly, a systematic consensus-based formulation of every Citizen’s Charter that is practical and whose commitments are achievable as endorsed by those staff members who are at the cutting edge of citizen interface.
- Any renewed effort will require the following pre-conditions an impetus from within, that includes a strong movement within the department to motivate staff to be part of a ‘Mission’ to set standards and commitments based on current constraints and capabilities; take external assistance by including experts (either individuals or Civil Society Organisation) who have proven track record of consultation based document formulation; put accountability mechanisms in place, especially with regard to grievance redress to ensure that officials handling cases are able to carry out their duties responsibly; and commit to a regular feedback loop, that will help the departments to continuously improve themselves.
- A well-defined Citizen’s Charter backed by a committed department will not need any other crutch, such as new service delivery or grievance redress Bills and Acts, if a final and sincere effort can be made to ensure their formulation and implementation in the next two years. Otherwise, this Programme should be laid to rest forever.