Outline of the problem:
Citizens often face difficulties in accessing benefits provided by the Govt. in vital sectors like pensions, health, and education, etc. For registering such grievances with local authorities the citizens spend both time and money. If timely redressal is not forthcoming at the local level the angry citizens flow to the secretariat. It results in public anger. To reduce citizen footfall in offices Para 14 of the Chief Minister’s Budget Speech, 2018 promises, “Our Government believes in Government at the doorstep of the people. Therefore I announce that all the Ministers of the State Government will regularly organize “Jan Manch” in remote areas of every district to solve the problems of the people at the spot. The officers of all departments will be present to facilitate decision making and grievance redressal.” Hence Janmanch envisages a high level grievance redressal mechanism that improves upon similar initiatives tried earlier like ‘files to field’ and ‘Sarkar Janta ke Dwar Par’. Learning from the gaps in these schemes Jan Manch provides a holistic; IT enabled approach to grievance redressal.
Objectives of Jan Manch:-
- A system with following elements is proposed:-
- That identifies and resolves grievances effectively, especially of the underprivileged.
- That is seen as being equitable, accessible, friendly, and approachable to debunk the perception that only the work of the influential gets done.
- That includes bureaucracy as well as elected representatives of the people so that the innate tendency of the system to protect its functionaries does not become the main obstacle in entertaining public demands and redressing their grievances.
- That Govt. programmes and schemes are implemented with integrity and deliver benefits and services to the intended beneficiaries.
- Reduce foot falls in govt. offices by addressing grievances and demands at the door step of the community.
- Effectively monitor service delivery in terms of the Public Services Guarantee Act and qualitative disposal of grievances through e-samadhan.
Structural Problems with Jan Manch Style of Governance:
- The entire exercise is done with political overtones where the Political Party in power and its multiple fronts do the convergence part of the administration along with its lower-rung leaders for a nexus building.
- Of course, the presence of a cabinet minister provides legitimacy to the exercise.
- One of the ministers warned the officers in the district that they have to be present in these meetings; failing which there will be administrative action against them.
Huge resource deficit:
- The demands emanating out of these Jan Manchs pertain to the huge resource deficit of the state government that has increased over the years.
- The memorandum submitted to the 15th Finance Commission by the Himachal state government and even other major political parties explicitly mentions this.
- The initial years of rapid development during the inception of the state in creating a good social infrastructure is now getting scuttled for want of investment.
- There is huge demand for the continuation of the government propped services in health, education, water, electricity, roads etc.
- With the ever-increasing debt which has crossed Rs. 50,000 crore, the inability of the successive governments to perform is starkly evident.
- On top of that the financial governance model of reducing the fiscal deficit further enhances the demand deficit.
- In the given context, the complaints/ demands for financial solutions is hardly met with. Hence, the ‘Jan Manch’ does not serve that purpose.
Too much centralisation:
- The entire exercise is too centralised i.e., concentrated in the hands of the ministers.
- Probably, that is the model of governance that the BJP intends to develop- strong centre with weak peripheral governance.
- The role of the local bodies, both rural and urban is completely negated in the ‘Jan Manch’ exercise.
- The foremost grievance redressal forum which is directly linked and answerable to the people is local governance through its elected representatives.
- The local level of governance is being bypassed and another ‘novel’ model is getting established which would prove perilous for the entire structure of governance.
The weakening of Local Bodies and District Planning Committee:
- The institution of the district planning committee (DPC) under the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendment should have got strengthened.
- Instead of empowering the DPCs by enabling the district panchayats (Zila Parishad) and the municipal bodies to take over governance and planning in the district and the towns, the successive governments have crippled them.
- The deputy commissioner in the district should be the secretary of the DPC and the leader of the district panchayat, its chair.
- However, in Himachal Pradesh, the DPCs are headed by respective ministers. Now, with the new ‘Jan Manch’ structure, even the little remnant of local governance is getting infringed.
The government must revisit this model and should not leave it to become just a platform to do politics and turn it into a ‘feast function’, where public resources are utilised to serve them. Instead, the existing structures of local governance must be strengthened and empowered to ensure that the system works fast and delivers well. The ministers and members of the legislature have an important role of legislation; they should not encroach on the roles of the local governance structures.
Current Status of Jan Manch:
- In two years, 181 Jan Manch programmes were held in the state.
- Till February 2020, 47,583 complaints were received in these Jan Manch, of which 43,158 had been redressed.