News : SERP Winds Up Rural Grievance Redress Centre
Hyderabad, India, Oct 29, 2018 -- A call centre established way back in 2008-09 to receive and resolve grievances pertaining to myriad schemes under the Rural Development wing, has been reduced in its scope and function.
Since October 1 this year, the Rural Development call centre under the Commissioner, Rural Development, has stopped receiving and registering complaints related to the schemes for which Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) is the nodal authority.
The grievance redress mechanism of one of its kind has been scrapped at the behest of the SERP authorities, which was partly funding the administration of the call centre through an outsourced agency.
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Officials claim that the call centre was of no use to the SERP schemes, as very few complaints were being received through it, while activists cry foul that the call centre was not being publicised enough for more people to avail the facility. A representation was given to the Chief Executive Officer of SERP by Dalit Bahujan Front and Libtech India, two NGOs working at the grassroot level, seeking revival of the call centre facility.
The toll-free number was receiving grievances related to NREGS, watershed programmes, social audits, Aasara pensions, disability, and others. SERP received complaints mostly about Aasara pensions, and schemes for the disabled. There are a total of 39.53 lakh beneficiaries of Aasara pensions in the State.
"Before 2014, SERP was the nodal agency for a number of schemes, many of which are dysfunctional now. We are now nodal agency mainly for disbursement of Aasara pensions, and the complaints thereof are too few in these schemes. Hence, the decision to shut it down," said an official, adding that the grievance mechanism offline is quite strong. MPDO’s are authorised to scrutinise applications for pensions and to cancel the ineligible ones, and they are the appropriate authority to reach out to in case of grievances, the officer contended. Between June 2, 2014 and October 1, 2018, the call centre received close to 28,000 grievances only about various lacunae in NREGS implementation. About Aasara pensions, there were only 5885 grievances, while the schemes for the disabled got 10,427 complaints.
Through call centre, a grievance would be automatically sent to the MPDO’s login, and if unresolved for a certain number of days, it would be escalated to the Project Director, District Rural Development Agency, and then to the State authorities. Shut down of the call centre means that there is no scope for escalation of grievances to officials.
"Where I work, the villagers do not have easy access to mandal headquarters, and the MPDO’s presence would be uncertain when the villagers are here with grievances. Having a call centre was helpful for activists like us monitoring the delivery of services, but not any more," complained Chakradhar Buddha from Libtech India.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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