REDRESSER OF GRIEVANCES BY SHANTONU SEN.
All Parties whether Regional or National ,in the General Election 2014 did stress the importance of responding to the challenges that people face in their day to day life. Since some problems require the elected people to intervene, each of these parties saw setting up of a requisite machinery to redress grievances as necessary. Six months later Hindustan Times 15th December has quoted Principal Secretary to the P M as stating “PMO’s grievance handling system was a bit of a farce on the lakhs of people that knock his doors annually”. The reason Nripendra Mishra has been forced to damn the existing system is his conclusion “what purpose the PMO has really served as most people—who knocked at their doors—had first approached the Ministry concerned and had come to the P M O in the last resort. And all that the PMO has done for decades was to essentially return these petitions to the very same agencies and then never checked into figure what happened to them”. This farce has defied common sense since independence of India.
Serious attention to this area of governance has remained mired in red tape . Right to Information Act(R T I ) which came into force in the UPA 1 regime gave the people one avenue to find out what , if any thing, was happening to any reference sent to a particular Department of the Government ( both in the State and Central) . This Act does not oblige the Department concerned to redress the grievance mentioned . It does, however, compel him to inform him the status of his reference and supply copies of documents showing action taken. It is a vast improvement on the earlier era of no replies to the people’s plaints.
A meaningful instrument of redress is very much needed. . People then may/will get their dues without intervention of vigilance / anti- corruption units. Intervention via courts may/will plummet. For all this to happen the redresser machinery set up and its human component has to be special. Presently, the complaints are routinely forwarded for redress. More often than not this method of routine forwarding does not receive any serious attention. For one ,its dealt with in the same section which had taken the decision against which the complainant has a grievance. The usual reaction in the section , in its human element is to find a reason to dismiss the grouse. This is not an unexpected reaction, as one can well imagine. Its this human factor which stands in the way of a genuine answer to any grievances today.
A possible answer is to have an independent Department of Redresser of Grievances. In the Government of India there is already a Minister of Public Grievances. Such a Department can become a part of this Ministry and it can come about without , possibly even one post required to be newly created. All its strength could be assigned from different sections presently dealing with people’s complaints . But all those who become a part of this Department must, by way of a process of interview /psychological assessment, found to be willing to join such a department. They , by nature , should be sympathetic , compassionate, willing to submit themselves to read /appreciate/ hear /listen to grievances; take pains to make the complainant feel he will be heard .In a large percentage of cases the complainant is satisfied if he is heard with patience.
It is equally true that in ninety percent cases he, the complainant, finds himself ignored. Some times he is, agonized by the period that his grievance has remained unattended, aggressive. He is often inarticulate. The person in distress is, often , incapable of either being measured or coherent in his approach at such times . He is sent packing with the bland assurance that he will be receiving a reply . In a great number of other cases he is informed it ( the complaint) is receiving attention. In a few exceptional cases he might have a genuine response after ages and much pursuit.
What the complainant needs is a hearing ; an appreciation of what ails him; some one summarizing his grievance . This will be possible only if the official understands the grievance. This pre supposes that the quality of officials assigned to this Department possess that innate ability to come to terms with the complainant and his grievance , even if he is tiresome and petulant. it is this official who will have the task to try and ensure that the Department concerned either resolves the grievance or gives a very good reason not to do so. Only then the sufferer, and the complainant is a sufferer, let there be no doubt about it, will he get relief. There should also , be a definite time limit. This limit should be to the knowledge of both the complainants and the Department looking into the complaint. The final disposal of the grievance ,may at times extend that time limit, or may not satisfy the complainant but the complainant will , at least, receive an answer . The loop, that is, complainant and the person responding getting connected to each other, is vital to the satisfactory resolving of the grievance . The Department of Redresser of Grievance will/should provide that satisfaction.
The ultimate aim is to reduce grievances from surfacing if not eliminating it altogether ! A tall claim ! Probably, but only if the object is that ultimate goal there is a chance to approximate that object. The Departments of the State and Central Government to whom the grievance is directed can be made to feel uncomfortable by the” inquisition “of the officials of the Department of Redresser of Grievances. How? By compelling them to improve their quality of service. They must come to ” dread” the Department of Redresser of Grievances. Nripendra Mishra does not want the present machinery that redresses grievances to remain a farce. He must , therefore deliver. He has the authority to do so.