Delhi in dire need of a single-point public grievance redressal gateway: Praja Foundation report

Delhi needs a single point public grievance management system to effectively address the numerous complaints raised by its residents regarding civic services, a study conducted by Praja Foundation, an NGO, said.

The report comes in at a time when the newly elected BJP councillors of the three Municipal Corporations of Delhi (MCD) assume their charge, after a keenly fought election that saw the saffron party secure a landslide victory.

The study categorically states: "As Delhi has multiple agencies providing various services, it is difficult for citizens to know which service is provided by which agency. Also, there are certain services, like road management, where an overlap of services takes place. In such cases, it is extremely difficult for citizens to understand which agency to approach for which service."

 Delhi in dire need of a single-point public grievance redressal gateway: Praja Foundation report

Delhi's civic issues are handled by multiple agencies, whose roles often overlap. Firstpost/Debobrat Ghose

Emphasising on the need for a single point grievance clearance system, the report said, "Delhi should have only one gateway for citizens to lodge a request or complaint related to any civic service."

The report highlights that there are seven civic services in the capital city that are provided by the Delhi government, MCD and the central government agencies simultaneously – healthcare, disaster management, slum rehabilitation, education, storm water drainage, gardens and footpaths.

"Similarly, issues relating to big roads/highways are the responsibility of the central/state government, while issues of small roads come under MCD," the report adds.

Every authority has its own grievance redressal system, leaving the complainant confused about where to complain and where not to.

Ashok Agarwal, a lawyer at Delhi High Court and a social activist, told Firstpost that the multiplicity of authorities was the reason behind many confusions in the capital.

"Apart from three Municipal Corporations, numerous departments providing civic services, Delhi has one Municipal Council," he said.

Adding that various areas and functions of the city are distributed among all these agencies, he said, "While travelling across the city, one gets to see boards that read, 'NDMC area begins' and 'PWD road begins'. It is very difficult to understand for a layman exactly which road or which area belongs to which body," he said.

"People often confuse New Delhi Municipal Council with North Delhi Municipal Corporation and end up writing to one body only to discover that it should have been written to the other agency," he adds.

Stating why the state needs a robust complaint grievance management system, the Praja Foundation report says, "It should not be that the onus is on the citizen to find out who provides specific services. The agencies should ensure that citizens are given all the pertinent information."

It also says that in a robust system, all the agencies responsible can be contacted and it should be possible for the grievance redressal to be tracked.

The report further adds, "In order to accomplish this, there will have to be cooperation between the central, state and MCD agencies."

The public grievance management cells of these bodies saw complaints soar by 27 percent during the period starting from the year 2015 to 2016, says the report.

"Overall civic complaints increased by 3,54,788 to 4,51,494 (27 percent) from 2015 to 2016. Highest civic complaints were in the West Zone (61,939) under SDMC in the year 2016. Complaints about water supply increased by 51 percent from 1,50,885 to 2,27,444 from 2015 to 2016," says the report.

Despite an increase in the number of civic complaints, rates of addressing the issues by elected representatives remained abysmally low, said the report.

"Only 24 and eight issues were raised by MLAs on pollution in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Ten MLAs and 32 councillors did not raise even a single civic issue in 2016," the report said.

No wonder then, in the recently released Swachh Bharat rankings, the EDMC, SDMC and NDMC were ranked at 196, 202 and 279 respectively.

"The data such as this indicates why elected representatives must constantly pay heed to citizens' voices. The massive civic problems that Delhi faces, such as pollution, did not arise overnight. On several points, our data suggests consistent apathy on the part of elected representatives in the face of clearly increasing public concern," Nitai Mehta, founder and managing trustee of Praja Foundation, said.

Delhi Civic White Paper 2017 by Firstpost on Scribd

The abysmal rate of public grievance redressal in Delhi's civic bodies was discussed in the media recently, just before the MCD polls, when it was reported that MCDs fared the worst in solving these issues.

Though the report emphasises the need for a centrally managed public grievance management system, the reality is that Delhi already has one. Soon after winning 2015 Assembly election, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal introduced a Public Grievance Monitoring System, that covered all the departments and government agencies providing civic services in Delhi.

Just before the 2017 MCD polls, Firstpost reported that the new system of Public Grievance Monitoring System (PGMS) failed on many fronts, as nearly two lakh cases filed by the citizens remained unsolved.

A source in PGMS said that a total number of 2,26,573 cases were filed in the last two and half years, against all the departments and government agencies providing services in the capital city, out of which nearly 45,000 cases were resolved satisfactorily.

Pending cases related to the MCDs constitute 25 percent of the remaining 1,81,573 cases, which do not fall under the 'closed satisfactorily' category in the system.

The Delhi Police, which comes second to all the MCDs taken together in the number of pending cases, has more than 20,000 cases unsolved. During the above said period, 23,430 number of public complaints was received by the PGMS against the Delhi police and only 2,095 cases were solved satisfactorily.

Neeraj Kumar, a PGMS official, explained the reason behind the low satisfaction rate in solving public issues: "When a complaint is raised against any department of the Delhi government, we can put pressure on them as we are also a part of the same government. But we cannot issue an order to the MCDs and Delhi police as they are not under the Delhi government" he said.

Ashok Agarwal said that the main reason why the public grievance management system in Delhi has failed is the overlapping of powers and functions, which makes the fixing of responsibilities very difficult.

He gave the example of education, where the responsibility of primary education is given to the MCDs as per Municipal Act. But the Right to Education Act makes the state government responsible for its implementation. Similarly, lifting of garbage is the responsibility of the MCDs, but the salary of these employees are paid by the Delhi government.

"In such a confusing situation, on whom will we fix responsibility for Delhi's woes. Apart from a robust public grievance management system, Delhi also needs to streamline the laws clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of the agencies," he adds.

Updated Date: May 24, 2017 12:57:28 IST