News : Officials to Get Reminders for Public Complaints via Text Message
New Delhi, India, May 3, 2016 -- Secretaries of central ministries will get a text message on their phones this morning, as they have started getting every Tuesday, apprising them about the public grievances pending with their department.
From next month, 12,000 of their subordinates across 90 departments will start getting similar reminders about the pending complaints from a first-of-its-kind call centre. The outsourced call centre conducted a pilot last month, making 15,000 calls to government officials in 20 ministries which have reported the highest number of grievances since 2012 Officials said the exercise is part of the Narendra Modi government's efforts to put in place a mechanism to make all public grievances count.
The government has identified 11 most frequent complaints, from more than 50,000 it receives every month, such as those against faulty BSNL or MTNL phone lines, slow broadband connections or 3G speeds, call drops and delayed railway ticket refunds.
"The call centre is an initiative of this government to reach out to the last-mile officer handling the complaint. It will be upgraded to cover all the 90 central government departments by the end of May," a senior government official told ET, requesting not to be identified. The purpose of making calls to last-mile officers is to speed up redressal of complaints, the official said. ET was the first to report on January 28 that the government had done an analysis of all grievances to bring in systemic changes to its redressal process.
As per rules, all grievances are supposed to be redressed within two months. However, as of February 18, the defence ministry takes 190 days on average to dispose of a complaint, the department of higher education in human resource development ministry takes 173 days, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) takes 154 days and the Ex-Servicemen Welfare Department takes 168 days.
The government's analysis of complaints received between 2012 and 2015 shows that the most frequent one is regarding repair of landline phone connections of BSNL or MTNL or slow broadband facilities offered by these companies.
Nearly 64% of the 1.63 lakh complaints received during the three years in the telecom department pertained to these faults while 16% of complaints were against private telecom operators on account of high call drop or poor 3G services.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had earlier asked telecom operators to pay compensation to customers for call drops. The railways is the most complaint-prone ministry after telecom, with 45% (about 35,000) of complaints pertaining to late refunds for cancelled train tickets, making this the second most frequent complaint.
About 34% of total 78,360 complaints received by the ministry were from its own employees for pension issues while 10% of the complaints pertained to the quality of services on trains and railway stations, as per the analysis.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has lately sharpened focus on cleanliness in trains and stations besides good service.
At CBDT, which is among the top five complaint-prone departments, 70% of 39,535 complaints were regarding tax refunds and 19% related to tax TDS (tax deducted at source) and PAN (permanent account number). Analysis shows 38% of complaints received by CBDT pertain to only three regions — Delhi, Bengaluru and Panchkula.
Other frequent complaints identified by the Centre include delays in parcel delivery, which form 41% of complaints received by the department of posts, and the quality of services offered at post offices. At the health ministry, 20% complaints refer to the problems people face in availing of the benefits of Central Government Health Scheme while another 23% relate to medical education.
The delays in redressing complaints were even higher during the term of the previous United Progressive Alliance government in the worst-performing departments, the official said. The most notable improvement has been in the external affairs ministry under Sushma Swaraj which now disposes of a complaint in 82 days on average against 173 days under the previous government.
Under the present government, 6.65 lakh complaints were received in 2015 and 1.28 lakh till March 7 this year. This is a big jump from 2.21 lakh and 1.58 lakh complaints in 2014 and 2013, respectively, under UPA.
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Minister of State in Prime Minister's Office and Personnel Jitendra Singh, however, said the increase in the number of complaints is due to rising hope among citizens for satisfactory disposal of grievances, pointing to 92% disposal rate in 2015 and 112% disposal rate till March this year.
"To quote Ghalib, 'Jab tawaqqo hi uth gayi Ghalib, kyon kisi ka gila kare koi', meaning when people had no hope in getting a grievance listened to under UPA, why would they even complain," Singh said at the recent Civil Services Day function. The figures, however, show UPA had achieved 99% disposal rate in 2014 and 94% in 2013.
According to the National Democratic Alliance government, though, the number of grievances redressed has gone up substantially. Between January 2012 and May 2014 under UPA, the number of grievances received and disposed of was 4.8 lakh and 4.11 lakh, respectively, while between June 2014 and February 2016 under NDA, the number of grievances received and disposed of was 12.13 lakh and 11.2 lakh, respectively.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Wednesday, May 4, 2016
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