Right to Services Act, a great step towards Citizen Empowerment

SAD – BJP (Shiromani Akali Dal- Bhartiya Janta Party), the state government of Punjab has been making its sincere efforts to fulfill the motive of Right to Service Act, which was implemented in the year 2011. The state government has always been focused on the agenda to put service beyond duty.

On 19th October, 2011, the state government of Punjab gave its agreement on the RTS Act (Right to Service Act). The primary motive of RTS Act is to make the delivery of government services to the people of Punjab in the easiest and smooth manner. Also, it was enacted to make sure that the services are delivered within specified set of time span to Punjab’s people. The Punjab RTS Act also ensures the proper and better execution of the services.

Following are the steps/procedure that is followed in the Punjab RTS Act, (as stated in the Information Handbook, under the RTS Act)–

  • Commission will arrange meetings after specified intervals of time to take important decisions.
  • The functioning of Commission will be monitored/supervised by the directions of the Chief Commissioner.
  • Any revision or complaint can be considered or decided by the commission from time to time.
  • Though, the final decision making authority lies in the hands of the Chief Commissioner.

Efficiently providing the effective services within the specified time frame, this Punjab Right to Service Act has been proved to be highly beneficial for the promotion of transparency and accountability in the operation of the government departments, which provide the services to the people of Punjab.

To make sure the timely delivery of services and making suggestions to Punjab government, a Punjab Right to Service Commission has been set up. It also ensures the accurate execution of the Punjab Right to Service Act. Apart from being the leading state to implement this Act, 7.21 Crore people have been benefited from the same. As per the official spokesperson’s claim, around 28, 37,866 applicants have taken the advantage of the notified services during the month of February under the mentioned Act. Also, only 14,160 are the pending applications which are to be cleared as soon as possible.

In addition to this, we can say that the implementation of The Punjab Right to Service Act has been successful in gaining the trust of citizens and it has also empowered the people of Punjab in the most efficient manner possible.

Right to Services Act Empowering Citizens

The farsightedness of the Shiromani Akali Dal – BJP led state government of Punjab, to create an environment of service beyond duty through the vehicle of good governance, The Punjab Right to Service Act which was implemented in the year of 2011 has been conducive in accomplishing it.

Right to Services Act Empowering Citizens The Punjab Right to Service Act, received the assent of the state government on 19th October, 2011. The act was enacted to provide for the delivery of services of the government department to the people of the Punjab state, within the prescribed time limits and for the matters connected with the same. The Punjab Right to Service Commission looks after the opportune and superior implementation of the services.

The precise procedure followed in the decision making process of The Punjab Right to Service Act , as stated in the Information Handbook, under the Right to Information Act is as follows –

  • All decisions are taken in the meetings of the Commission from time to time.
  • The Commission functions under the general supervision and directions of the Chief Commissioner.
  • The Commission is empowered to consider and decide the Revision/Complaint as may be received by the Commission from time to time.
  • However, the final decision making authority lies in the hands of the Chief Commissioner.

The Punjab Right to Service Act has been successful in providing an effective and efficient frame – work for the time bound delivery of services, which are being provided by the various government departments, with the view to promote and inculcate transparency and accountability in the functioning of those departments. In order to ensure the precise implementation of The Punjab Right to Service Act, Punjab Right to Service Commission has been set up which follows the twin task of making  suggestions to the government of Punjab and ensure the well – timed delivery of the services.

In contrast to being the foremost state in the country to implement The Punjab Right to Service Act, Punjab has been facilitative in the execution of the act. Numbers source that athwart 7.21 crore people in the state of Punjab have availed the various services under The Punjab Right to Service Act ever since its inauguration. An official spokesperson claimed that, as many as 28, 37,866 applicants have availed the notified services during February under the Act, and there are only 14,160 applications which stand pending on the threshold of time line and, with the view to curb the same the concerned departments have been asked to function actively towards clearing the pending applications.

It would not be wrong to claim that, the implementation of The Punjab Right to Service Act has been successfully empowering the citizens of the state and moving farther on its path towards achieving the mission of timely delivery of the services and reposing trust in the citizens.

Punjab witnesses shrinking poverty – The state government strikes at the root of penury

Ever since time immemorial, Poverty has been a social phenomenon of the society in which a large section is unable to fulfill even its basic necessities of life. In Punjab, the rate of poverty has been large and due to the same the state has been prone to low productivity. The root cause of this menace is rising population, lack of employment opportunities and illiteracy. However, since the last few years of the responsive functioning of the Shiromani Akali Dal – BJP state government the poverty rate in Punjab has witnessed shrinkage.

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The department of planning, government of Punjab has planned a lifelong objective to bring down the poverty rate in the state, as soon as possible so that Punjab continues to be the apex in terms of poverty reduction. Owing to their concentrated efforts, Punjab was seen to have the lowest rate of hunger in the Global Hunger Index, 2008. A number of poverty alleviation programmes have been initiated by the government such as the Integrated Rural Development Programme, Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY), Training of Rural Youth for Self – Employment, Jawahar Rozgar Yojana (JRY) etc. Numbers sourced by the National Sample Survey Organization (NSS0), for the fiscal year 2011 – 2012 the planning commission claimed that Punjab witnessed the fastest and a steep decline of 7.8 % in the poverty rate in the state.

The major cities of Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar, Patiala, Bathinda, Mohali, Rajpura, Faridkot, Mandi Gobindgarh, Firozpur, Rajpura, Moga, Sangrur and Khanna have been contributing progressively towards the development of the state in terms of industrial, financial and agricultural state. Punjab has incredulously fertile land, owing to which the agricultural sector is the apex contributor to the upward movement of the growth trajectory of Punjab in terms of the economic growth as well as the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP).

The ministry of statistics and Programme Implementation estimated Punjab to have 2,213,320 (Indian Rupee/ Ten Million/ Crores) Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) in the year 2011. The extensive efforts of the state government towards the expansion of the textile industry, sugar industry, dairy industry, thermal power plants, multi – national companies, agro – based industry, business and infrastructure has chipped in towards accelerating the macro – economic trend and eradicating poverty in the state of Punjab. Various voluntary organizations are also operating in the state, which help in curbing the menace of poverty in Punjab.

It would not be wrong to claim that, the concentrated efforts by the Shiromani Akali Dal – BJP led state government of Punjab has been successful to a large extent for poverty alleviation in the state by accelerating the agricultural development, economic growth, equal opportunities, human resource development, self-help programmes and the various poverty alleviation programmes. This is clearly evident by the fact, that the state has one of the lowest rate of poverty in the country, which is 6.16% (1999 – 2000 figures), and also bagged the best state performance award.

Electric meters in Punjab bring Transparency

The advent of science and technology has altered the ongoing functions in the country. With such intellect, the state of Punjab has been proving its superiority over the other states in the country. Keeping in view, the menace of exploitation of the consumers owing to defective electric meters, The Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) has been working efficiently towards putting a halt to the consumer’s sufferings.

The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), the statutory body which was formed under the Electricity Supply Act, 1948 has been unbundled into two apex organizations which are –

  1. The Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (POWERCOM)
  2. The Punjab State Transmission Corporation Limited (TRANSCO)

Cognizant to the needs of the consumers, The Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) issued a notification on 21 June, 2013 amended the powers accorded under the Section 181 of the Electricity Act, 2003. The amendments to the regulations comprised of Transfer of ownership and provision of other services, Supply and installation of meters, Replacement of defective meters, within five days of complaint, Inspection regarding unauthorized use of electricity, theft of electricity and assessment of electricity charges in the cases of unauthorized use or theft.

In contrast to these amendments, The Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSCPL) simplified the procedure for the release of electricity connection which contributed in making the electricity supply in the state hassle free, prompt and efficient in providing services to the consumers. One of the major hindrances of electricity supply in Punjab was the defective or spurious electric meters which would lead to inflated bills regarding the electricity consumption.

In order to curb this menace, The Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) gave approval to six private companies from Kolkata, Bengaluru, Udaipur, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Pune to test energy meters of consumers. This initiative has been contributing towards timely check of the electric meters, consumer satisfaction and potent electricity supply in the state.  The Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSCPL), displays all the necessary and valid information such as the email id, address and phone numbers of the private companies for meter checking at all sub – division and division offices, to further annex to the consumer convenience.

Prior to a century from now, the country was not so developed about the means of information and communication. However, with the advent of technology disseminating information has become a child’s play. Needless to say, the responsive contribution of The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), has helped in accelerating the growth of electricity supply and consumer convenience in the state.

SUWIDHA Centres prove to be One-Stop Help Lines for Citizens

SUWIDHA centres are one stop help centres for the citizens. These centres are available in rural as well as urban areas. These provide citizens with services relating to 35 different departments.

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Punjab has been one of the most technologically advanced state in India. Being rich and diverse Punjab has a literacy rate of 75.84% and has used this to make government work effective and efficient. To do that the state government in its past 2 terms under the SAD- BJP alliance has made e-governance a reality.

SUWIDHA centres (Single User-Friendly Window Disposal and Helpline for Applicants) are aimed to provide citizens with convenience. These SUWIDHA centres provide citizens with services at a single point. No matter if the services might be related to any other department too. It is one of the very early initiatives of E-Governance that aims at Government to citizen services. It is a time bound method where citizens get results in a quick and effective manner.

It was started in 2005 with a vision to provide single point receipt and delivery of various services. The payment for the services is also accepted at these very centres. As of 2014 October, there were 115 SUWIDHA centres which are operational. These provide around 35 public services at district and sub district level.

SUWIDHA centres have acted as a real problem solver for the citizens who otherwise need to visit various farfetched departments of the government to get their work done. Providing these centres at village level gives the people residing in those areas a greater edge. They can now use the services without travelling far.

The Gram SUWIDHA Centre service was initiated by the government of India and the state of government of Punjab saw this as an opportunity to connect the rural areas. This can also be seen as a method implemented by the government to lift by the rural population and to provide them ease.

There are currently 2112 rural Gram SUWIDHA centres with total approved outlay of Rs. 3349 lakhs. All these SUWIDHA centres provide citizen generic services. The following are the services provided under Gram Suwidha centres:

  • E-Vidya- In four districts of the state Computer training has been provided through the Gram SUWIDHA centres. More than 6000 women have availed these services till date. These are provided in Patiala, Gurdaspur, Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur. The objective of e-vidya is of providing women with education that will further enable them to get jobs.
  • Electricity Bill Collection- The payment of electricity bills has been made easy through SUWIDHA centres. Currently in more than 7 districts of the state electricity bills can be paid through SUWIDHA centres.
  • UID (ADHAAR) enrolment
  • Gram SUWIDHA Kendras are registering Citizen Grievances on PBPGRAMS portal on behalf of citizens.

There were 115 SUWIDHA centres as per October 2014 for the urban citizens of the state. It has been noted that there should be one SUWIDHA centre for every 1 Lakh citizens. In the rural areas as per allotted there are 2112 Gram SUWIDHA centres.

No affidavits but self-attestation in Punjab

Punjab government in 2010 came up with a policy that was citizen friendly and helped the people save money from a deed which was not so necessary. Doing away with affidavits and accepting self-declarations has been applauded by many.

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Notifying the people of the state, the Punjab government in March of 2010 replaced affidavits with self-attested declaration. This would be applicable for all need based services, admission purpose and other areas where legal documentation was not necessary. It is to take note that the government just decided to do away with affidavits that were not mandatory and those which were required as per law stayed.

As replacement to the affidavit system, the government introduced a system that was less troublesome. It is the self-attestation form, which contains self-declaration by the person who submits the form and even has a photograph. The form has been made available at all Suwidha Kendras by the Punjab government.

In some cases where affidavits are provided by statutory rules, the government made it a point to amend the bylaws.

Government of Punjab has been successful in bringing down the number of affidavits in two years. As per the department of Governance reforms in 2009-10 there were around 14.88 lakh affidavits filed and after the government made it clear that affidavits were no longer needed the number in 2011-12 fell to 1.1 lakh.

In services that are mandatory to have an affidavit along under the state and centre laws, like passport service or arms license the rule still stays. Other all affidavit requesting services that were not bound by law have been done away with.

In 2009-10 out of the total services that the citizens availed at the district Suwidha centres (22, 68,439) more than half (65.60%) were affidavits alone. The number as mentioned before was 14, 88,053. In the year after the self-declaration plan was brought up only 9.81% (3.20, 963) services had affidavits.

The estimated cost of the affidavit process is too costly if to look at it in practical manner. Buying the stamp paper, locating a deed writer, payment of the notary for attestation do not come at a very cheap rate if considered. It is estimated that at least half the household file affidavits annually for any service. If the cost of each affidavit is Rs. 400 and if we take around 20 crore citizens as the estimate who do fill affidavits then Rs. 8,000 crore approximately.

Under the affidavit system it was required to be attested by executive Magistrate but under the self-declaration by applicant if attestation is necessary Suwidha centres will be authorised to do so. If an applicant gives wrong content under the affidavit no warning or caution was given. Under the self-declaration the signatory is liable for action under sections 199 and 200 of IPC in case of wrong declaration. Photograph of the applicant is not required in affidavits except for the ones under Suwidha centre this stays in self-declarations too.

The centre government on June 17, 2014 lauded the Punjab government’s efforts to do away with affidavits as a citizen friendly reform. The centre also extended this successful policy to other states as well.

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E-Departments making life Simpler in Punjab

The Punjab government has taken a major step towards making all the government offices connected through E-departments. From transport to rural offices all are being upgraded with the modern technologies.

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E-departments have been set up in the state of Punjab by the government to make the various government departments ‘electronic’, ‘efficient’ and effective in terms of accessibility. E-governance serves the basic aim of carrying out functions of governance through the modern methods and making full use of the information and communication technology.

With the rise of E-Governance the Punjab government has tried to deliver better services to citizens, empower people through information and improve interference with business and industry. Government tries to link the citizen to the e-governance from the moment of birth and till he/she retires and seeks health care and pension.

The e-district project which has been implemented in 2 districts of Punjab as it is in the infant stage with an approved budget of Rs. 600 lacs. It is an incorporation of various offices at districts, sub-district, and tehsil and block level. The vision is to provide the citizens with services without any fail at district level.

The objective of the plan is to make the offices at district and tehsil level computerized and to deliver exceptional level of services to the citizens. E-district also serves as a mode of enhancing the capability of the government and its image. E-interaction has also been promoted and the interaction with the government has been discouraged here. People who wish to get any work done can have it online and this would save them time and is relaxed to be done.

State Portal and State Service Delivery Gateway is being developed with the motive that citizens can be provided with outlets where they will be able to access the services under a single interface mechanism.

It provides easy access which can be used anytime and anywhere. Using this any individual will have to visit a government office very less number of times reducing a factor of problems which occur while visiting. The various departments that fall under this project are: Health & family welfare, Home department, Social security, Food and Civil supplies, rural development, Governance reforms, SC and OBC welfare and Personnel department.

With an objective to make the land records accessible and computerized Fard kendras were set up where all the information of the land is stored. There are around 163 such kendreas in public private partnership. 12780 villages have been cover under this scheme.

The transport department has also set up service delivery counters to provide smart card based driving licenses, permits and learner’s licenses.

In seven districts of Punjab the Punjab state power corporation limited has enabled payment of electricity bills through gram suwidha kendras. The plan to diversify these is in process. Punjab has become the first state for implementation of registration at dealer desk system.

Under the e-courts system all 2500 court complexes have been set up with computer rooms. Digital interconnectivity has been established under all courts now. These range from block level to apex court. E-filing facility might also be made possible under this for Supreme Court and high court.

In future the government has planned to make Agriculture an e-department along with the department of industrial policy and promotion and also the departments of Health and Education.